TUCSON, Ariz. – The Concordia University Softball team knew its depth would be tested on Thursday (March 9) with three games scheduled at the Tucson Invitational. The Bulldogs came up 1-for-3 while nearly knocking off the NAIA’s No. 2 rated team. Ultimately, Concordia sandwiched a 4-3 win over the University of St. Francis (Ill.) between losses to second-ranked Indiana Wesleyan University, 5-4, and to NCAA Division III Bethany Lutheran College (Minn.), 4-0. Caitlyn McGarvie’s walk-off, two-run double made the Bulldogs a winner in the day’s second contest.
Head Coach Brock Culler’s squad has gone 3-4 through its first seven games at the Tucson Invite and stands at 9-10 overall.
“It’s not often you say, we went 1-2 and we played really good softball,” Culler said. “We played really well today. Against Indiana Wesleyan, we came back and tied that thing – our team played its tail off. That game was a lot of fun. We had a chance to beat the No. 2 team in the country. They knew we were there to play, no question about it.
“I thought it was a home run (on McGarvie’s walk-off hit). Creighton (Taylor) scored from first. I wasn’t stopping her. That was a really well-played game by both teams. The last game, we played well but hit it right at them.”
The Bulldogs picked up one of their most impressive wins so far this season in walking it off against a St. Francis squad that received votes in the NAIA coaches’ poll released on Wednesday. In that contest, Concordia trailed the entire way after allowing two runs in the top of the first – until McGarvie’s heroics. Down 3-2 in the bottom of the seventh, the Bulldogs put two on base via an Aubrey Bruning walk and then a Hanna Bowers bunt in which the Fighting Saints failed to record an out. McGarvie then stepped up and smacked a double to center, chasing home Bruning and Taylor (pinch runner) and igniting a Concordia celebration.
The clutch hit from McGarvie made a winner out of pitcher Megan Eurich (5-1), who went all seven innings and gave up only one earned run on six hits and two walks to go along with three strikeouts. At the plate, Bruning went 2-for-2 with a walk and two runs scored while Zoie Isom contributed with an RBI single.
That victory helped lessen the disappointment of the walk-off loss that came at the hands of Indiana Wesleyan. In defeat, the Bulldogs showed their mettle in rallying from a 3-1 deficit to take a 4-3 lead in the top of the sixth. Isom doubled in two runs to knot it at 3-3 and then Delanie Voshell followed with a go-ahead RBI double. However, the Wildcats responded with a run in the sixth and then walked it off when Kamryn Buck sent an RBI double to right. Jerzi Rowe threw all 6.1 innings for Concordia and the freshman Voshell rapped out three hits.
Although the Bulldogs were making no excuses, fatigue may have been a factor in the third game of the day. Kayla Senne spun a four-hit shutout to lift Bethany Lutheran to the victory. On the other side, Brooke Townsend covered all seven innings, allowing four runs on nine hits and four walks (three strikeouts). At the plate, Bowers collected two hits.
Culler wasn’t discouraged by the results. He believes some of the close losses will go the other way as the season progresses. Culler likes the way the team chemistry is coming together. Said Culler, “This team is getting along so well. They’re doing everything together. It’s a really good environment that we’ve got going here. They’re building up some confidence. I know they’re excited about finishing out tomorrow. As tired as they are today, they have the attitude of, ‘let’s go get it.’ That’s where we’re at.”
Friday’s action will wrap up Concordia’s stay at the Tucson Invitational. On the final day of the journey, the Bulldogs will take on Olivet Nazarene University (Ill.) at 9 a.m. MT (10 a.m. CT) and Siena Heights University (Mich.) at 11 a.m. MT (12 p.m. CT). The Bulldogs will attempt to avenge the 4-0 loss they were handed by Siena Heights on Wednesday.