Schedule break comes after return from Tucson Invite

By Jacob Knabel on Mar. 13, 2023 in Softball

UPDATE: The scheduled doubleheader at Mount Mercy on Sunday has been canceled due to forecasted inclement weather.

SEWARD, Neb. – On the heels of playing 13 games in eight days, the Concordia University Softball team will enjoy a much-needed break in the schedule. The Bulldogs returned from the Tucson Invite over the weekend and were encouraged by the two victories they captured on the final day of the road trip. Concordia went 5-4 over four days in Tucson, Ariz., where they played seven NAIA opponents and two NCAA Division III foes. Head Coach Brock Culler’s squad has moved to 11-10 overall with two more nonconference doubleheaders left on the slate.

This Week

Note: Unfavorable weather forecast for the weekend could result in changes to the schedule. Please check back for updates and follow @cunebulldogs on Twitter for the latest information.

Sunday, March 19 at Mount Mercy (7-4), 12 p.m. CT DH ** CANCELED
--Live Webcast | Stats: G1 | G2 | Location: Busse Field (Cedar Rapids, Iowa)

By the numbers

·        Coach Culler has a much better handle now on the strengths and weaknesses of his roster. The recent stretch of hectic road trips also included four games in Wichita, Kan., at the Friends Invite. With 21 games in the books, Concordia has totaled 122 runs for an average of 5.8 per game. Meanwhile, its pitchers have combined for a 4.06 ERA through 134.1 innings. In terms of batting average, the Bulldogs’ leading hitters are Hanna Bowers (.414), Caitlyn McGarvie (.368), Aubrey Bruning (.360), Kylie Shottenkirk (.354), Delanie Voshell (.346), Julia Van Wey (.344) and Zoie Isom (.339). Shottenkirk was honored as the GPAC Player of the Week on March 7 after her run of hot hitting at the Friends Invite. A native of Fillmore, Calif., Isom has been an RBI machine with 23 runs driven in so far. Shottenkirk has supplied impressive extra base power with six doubles and three home runs.

·        Over the nine games in Tucson, the Bulldogs claimed victories over (in order) Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (N.Y.), Dickinson State University (N.D.), University of St. Francis (Ill.), Olivet Nazarene University (Ill.) and Siena Heights University (Mich.). Three of the nine games ended in walk-off fashion. McGarvie struck for a walk-off, two-run double to edge St. Francis, 5-4, while Bruning singled home the winner in the 2-1 triumph over Siena Heights. Concordia also fell victim to a walk-off in its 5-4 defeat at the hands of NAIA No. 2 Indiana Wesleyan University. So far this season, the Bulldogs have played in the states of Arizona and Kansas only.

·        McGarvie recorded her 100th career hit on March 4 at the Friends Invite. The Lincoln North Star High School product got out to a bit of a slow start due to a minor injury, but she heated up considerably in Tucson. Over the nine games at the invite, McGarvie went 13-for-29 (.448) with two doubles, two triples, a home run and nine RBIs while slugging .759. On the season, McGarvie is hitting .368 with a .471 on-base percentage and .632 slugging percentage. Not only did she have a walk-off double in Tucson, she also ended the win over RPI by gunning down a runner at the plate. She’s a two-time First Team All-GPAC award winner on track for more honors as a fourth-year player.

·        To this point, Megan Eurich has been the team’s most effective pitcher. The sophomore from Gretna, Neb., appeared in five games in Tucson and recorded a 3-1 record and 2.59 ERA in 24.1 innings (12 strikeouts). Eurich entered the final two games of the trip in relief and was credited with the win in both instances. Eurich has moved her season record to 7-1 with a 3.07 ERA. Her 57 innings are most on the team. Culler also feels confident in Jessie Bestenlehner, Jerzi Rowe and Brooke Townsend in the circle. Rowe has the most college experience of the bunch. Just a freshman, Bestenlehner has allowed only three earned runs in her first 11.1 innings.

·        Shottenkirk seems to have picked up where she left off at the end of the 2022 season when she went 8-for-8 at the plate during the GPAC tournament. A Lincoln North Star alum like McGarvie, Shottenkirk put together a recent run with at least one hit in at least 10-straight games. Included in that stretch was a 4-for-4 performance with a homer and three RBIs in a win over York. She’s part of a nucleus of sophomores that includes Bowers, Bruning and Isom. Shottenkirk is hitting .354 with a .432 on-base percentage and .585 slugging percentage.

·        Concordia is one of seven GPAC teams that entered the week with nonconference records above .500. The other six are Northwestern (23-2), Dordt (17-5), Briar Cliff (14-6), Morningside (13-6), Midland (12-6) and Midland (13-8). In the official GPAC ratings released on March 6, the top five teams in the league were Northwestern, Midland, Morningside, Dordt and Briar Cliff. The Bulldogs were pegged eighth in the GPAC preseason coaches’ poll.

The opponent

Mount Mercy (scheduled to play a doubleheader at Bethel College of Tennessee on Monday) entered the week with a 7-4 overall record. Head Coach Larry Yoder’s program is coming off a 2022 season that saw it finish at 35-19 overall and as the Heart of America Athletic Conference tournament runner up. The strength of the ’23 team to this point has been the pitching of Jayna Witzany, who is 5-1 with a 1.11 ERA and 71 strikeouts in 44 innings. The Mustangs are still looking for an offensive breakout having batted .242 while averaging 3.3 runs per game. Mount Mercy is slated to play eight times prior to Sunday’s twin bill in Cedar Rapids.

Next week

If things go as scheduled, the Bulldogs will be at home on March 23 to host Nebraska Wesleyan University (4 p.m. doubleheader) and then on March 25 to welcome Morningside (1 p.m. twin bill) to town. The matchup with Morningside will kick off the 20-game GPAC regular season schedule.