Ruppert-led Bulldogs split pair of one-run games at Hastings

By Jacob Knabel on Mar. 31, 2017 in Softball

HASTINGS, Neb. – Both of Friday evening’s contests were in doubt until the very last at bat in a GPAC doubleheader in Hastings, Neb. Following the Broncos’ dramatic 11-10 come-from-behind game 1 victory, the Concordia University softball team responded by claiming a 5-4 win in the night cap.

The loss in game 1 put a stop to the Bulldogs’ six-game win streak. Fourth-year head coach Todd LaVelle’s squad now stands at 20-8 overall and at 5-3 in conference play.

“Once again I’m proud of the girls. They played well enough to win game 1, too,” LaVelle said. “Anything that could go wrong, did go wrong for us. I don’t know how many times we would surrender the lead and then match it. We fought hard. We didn’t have much time to sit and worry about it. We came out in the second game and it was the same kind of game. Hastings is one of the best hitting teams in the conference. We knew we were going to have to be potent at the plate and score some runs. That’s what the girls did.”

The Bulldogs had to sweat out the final out of game 2. They could finally exhale when Diana Mendoza hauled in Corrin Ziepke’s deep drive to left to close the evening that saw pitcher Kylie Harpst move her season record to 7-1. That fly ball came right after Concordia racked up a crucial 1-6-3 double play. Harpst went the distance, scattering nine hits while striking out five Broncos.

Center fielder Megan Ruppert came to Concordia’s rescue with it facing a 3-1 deficit at the end of four innings in game 2. She went 4-for-4 with a double, a home run and three RBIs in the capper. Her two-run blast in the fifth made it a 3-3 tie. An inning later, she delivered a run-scoring double that proved to be the game-winning hit.

Game 1 unraveled in the late innings in what turned into a slugfest. In the top of the sixth inning, Autumn Owens connected for her second home run of the game (sixth of the season), extending Concordia’s lead to 9-5. But the Broncos (16-16, 3-3 GPAC) didn’t relent. They tied it with four runs in the bottom half of the sixth and then celebrated a walk-off win when Kaitlynn Knott drilled a two-run homer over the right field fence off of Woodward. The Bulldog ace pitcher was tagged for 10 hits and 10 earned runs.

Ruppert ended up 5-for-8 with five RBIs on the day. She’s been red hot while batting out of the No. 2 spot in the lineup. Over the past five games, she’s gone 12-for-20 (.600) with a double, a home run, seven runs scored and eight RBIs.

“Megan’s doing awesome,” LaVelle said. “She’s really taking on that No. 2 role. She had two hits that came in really crucial times. We may have to look at putting her leadoff. We’re lucky enough to have hitters where we can be creative with our lineups.”

Other leaders on Friday were the likes of Taryn Thomas (4-for-7, two runs, one RBI) and Woodward (3-for-8, two runs, four RBIs). Additionally, freshman Ronee Watson slugged her first career home run. Collectively, Concordia pounded out 21 more hits in the twin bill. It had averaged 11 hits per game over its six-game win streak.

Hastings has split each of its first three GPAC doubleheaders. It also split with Briar Cliff and Morningside. The Broncos muscled up for four home runs on Friday.

SCHEDULE CHANGE: The doubleheader versus No. 10 Morningside, originally scheduled for Saturday, has been pushed back one day to allow for better field conditions. The Bulldogs will host the Mustangs (21-6, 3-1 GPAC) at 1 p.m. CT on Sunday (April 2). It will be a matchup between the league’s top two rated teams, based upon the official NAIA conference rankings.