North Star products homer in GPAC-opening split

By Jacob Knabel on Mar. 28, 2016 in Softball

ORANGE CITY, Iowa – After surrendering a walk-off home run in game 1 of Monday’s GPAC-opening doubleheader at Northwestern, junior Kylie Harpst made amends with a masterful pitching performance in game 2. Harpst helped the Concordia University softball team salvage a split. The Bulldogs followed a 4-3, eight-inning loss with a 7-2 drama-free victory in the capper.

Third-year head coach Todd LaVelle’s squad had gone 11-straight days without a game before returning to action on Monday. Concordia, now receiving votes in the national poll, moved to 14-5 overall and 1-1 in conference action.

“The big thing we told the girls between games was not to dwell on the result, but look at the process,” LaVelle said. “We battled (in game 1) and that’s what we expected them to do in the second game. We came out like gangbusters and got two runs. Then in the last inning we were able to string some hits together. Every time you come up to Northwestern, it’s just tougher.”

Heartache in game 1 gave way to a more comfortable victory in game 2 thanks to a five-run explosion in the top of the seventh. Junior Megan Ruppert drove in the first run of the frame with a single prior to a Julia Tyree sacrifice fly and a double steal that brought in another. Catcher Taylor Huff then punctuated the game with a two-run home run off the left field foul pole to open up a 7-1 advantage.

The seven runs were plenty for Harpst, who took the loss in game 1. The Lincoln North Star High School product bounced back with a complete game effort that resulted in her eighth win of the season. She scattered seven hits while striking out four.

After getting out of a seventh-inning jam left behind by starter Michaela Woodward, Harpst fell victim to a walk-off homer that ended game 1. One out away from victory, Harpst watched as Laura Hurley’s blast sailed over the center field wall to spark the host into celebration mode. The Hurley long ball spoiled Kalkwarf’s go-ahead RBI single in the top of the eighth.

Kalkwarf’s run-scoring hit came on the heels of Ruppert’s clutch at bat with Concordia trailing 2-1 and down to its final out in the seventh inning of game 1. Ruppert drove a triple to right, plating Autumn Owens from second. Then in the bottom half, Harpst relieved Woodward in the circle and induced Clare Ipema to line into an inning-ending double play with the potential winning run on second.

Concordia missed an opportunity in the top of the sixth of game 1. Huff’s one-out single up the middle resulted in Diana Mendoza being cut down at the plate on a strong throw from center field. Pitcher Kayla Tindall then got Tyree to pop out to short to end the threat.

Huff ended up 3-for-8 on the day with three RBIs in the game 2. Kalkwarf (3-for-6) and Ruppert (3-for-6) provided solid production near the bottom of the order. Harpst led off the first game with a homer (second of the season) to left. In the circle, Woodward took the ball for game 1 and limited the Red Raiders (10-11, 1-1 GPAC) to two runs on eight hits and a walk.

For much of the day, Northwestern held down a Concordia offense ranked in the top 10 nationally in runs per game. Tindall allowed just one earned run while spreading around nine hits.

The Bulldogs are back on the road for GPAC play on Wednesday when they travel to nearby Doane (11-6, 0-0 GPAC). First pitch from Crete is slated for 4 p.m. The Tigers are the defending GPAC regular-season champion and were the preseason favorite as selected by league coaches.