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Season Preview: 2022 Concordia Softball

By Jacob Knabel on Jan. 31, 2022 in Softball

Head Coach: Tatum Edwards (1st year)
2021 Record: 32-13, 15-7 GPAC (T-3rd); NAIA national qualifier
Key Returners: Caitlyn McGarvie (OF); Camry Moore (P/1B); Kylee Nixon (2B); Jerzi Rowe (P); Julia Van Wey (1B).
Key Losses: Hhana Haro (3B); Tori Homolka (IF); Jenessa Jarvis (OF); Regan Karel (OF); Allysia Thayer (C).
2021 GPAC All-Conference: Hhana Haro (First Team); Caitlyn McGarvie (First Team); Camry Moore (First Team); Tori Homolka (Honorable Mention); Jenessa Jarvis (Honorable Mention); Kylee Nixon (Honorable Mention).

After having had the full fall semester to get acclimated, first-year Head Coach Tatum Edwards and members of the Concordia University Softball program are ready to get the 2022 season underway. Not only is there a new leader at the top, but the Bulldogs are also in the process of replacing five regular starters from last season’s national qualifying squad. A former star at the University of Nebraska, the energetic Edwards has begun to put her stamp on the program.

With everything being so new, Edwards isn’t talking about specific expectations in terms of wins and losses. Officially, Concordia did appear at No. 4 in the GPAC in the preseason ratings released by the NAIA. The focus during the preseason has been on internal improvement.

“I’ll see what we have when we step on the field and play some games against somebody else,” Edwards said. “I have an idea of what it looks like for us to compete. For each player to give their best – I’ve seen what that looks like. My expectation is that if I see that from every player on the field, we’re in a good place. Our competition is going to see what we do. It’s not so much about what everybody else is doing. I think they’re ready to compete and show what they’ve got against somebody else. I’m really excited to see it.”

This past season, the Bulldogs graduated two of the top hitters in program history in third baseman Hhana Haro and shortstop Tori Homolka. On the plus side, the ’22 team will be able to lean upon the veteran leadership of returning All-GPAC performers in outfielder Caitlyn McGarvie, pitcher Camry Moore and second baseman Kylee Nixon. All three played a significant role in leading the 2021 Bulldogs to the GPAC Championship Series and a spot in the national tournament (the program’s first national appearance since 2015).

A First Team All-GPAC selection last season, Moore put things together in a big way with both the bat and her arm in 2021. As a pitcher, she went 20-6 with a 1.78 ERA and only 14 walks in 157 innings. At the plate, Moore hit .386 with 22 extra base hits and 41 RBIs. Moore says she’s being pushed by Edwards to elevate her game another rung higher this spring. The Crete High School product also sees progress from the younger players in the program.

“We lost quite a chunk of our starting lineup from last year, but our freshmen have really come in and worked their tails off to compete for those starting spots,” Moore said. “They’re challenging some of our upperclassmen. I think we’re going to be able to compete using everyone we have and finding where people fit in best. That will be cool to see.”

Like Moore, Nixon made an immediate impact upon arriving at Concordia. She’s produced a career .347 batting average and can be counted upon near the top or middle of the order. The York High School alum has accumulated 90 hits in her collegiate career. As for McGarvie, she enjoyed a breakthrough in 2021 when she batted .325 and was named to the GPAC’s first team. McGarvie is the lone returning starter in the outfield with Jenessa Jarvis and Regan Karel having graduated.

Other returning position players who saw extensive action last season were first baseman Julia Van Wey and catcher/outfielder Brena Brown, both of whom made at least 25 starts in 2021. As a freshman, Van Wey batted .314 while Brown belted a pair of homers.

Said Edwards, “They’re all different. It’s been fun to see how they all work. I’m starting to see more personalities come out as we’ve gotten closer to the season. They all bring something different to the table. Cam is going to be that leader by example. Kylee is going to come in and do her job, and she knows exactly what she needs to do. Caitlin just works really hard. I know she holds herself to a standard. All of them bring something different and show it in a different way. They all play different positions so they are impacting people around them, which is great.”

Naturally, there will be some new faces in the lineup. Watch out for the likes of outfielder Lex Campos, catcher Taylor Glause and infielder Kylie Shottenkirk as potential impact newcomers. Glause has a shot at filling the void left by Allysia Thayer, who saw the bulk of the action behind the plate over the past four seasons. A native of Malcolm, Neb., Glause hit .440 with 20 extra base hits and 45 RBIs in 109 at bats last season for Cloud County Community College (Kan.).

Glause is likely to work frequently with Moore, who covered 157 of 286.1 innings pitched by Concordia hurlers last season. Once again, the Bulldogs are working on developing pitching depth behind Moore. As a freshman last season, Jerzi Rowe served as the No. 2 pitcher and went 8-4 with a 3.89 ERA in 81 innings. Rowe worked a fine six innings against Science & Arts of Oklahoma last season at the national tournament. In addition, Brooke Townsend fired 18.2 innings.

Position battles may continue leading up to the season opener in mid-February. Said Edwards, “It’s been healthy competition. We have some depth in a lot of different places. As a coach, you want to push them to be their best every single day and get them to understand why they do that every day. If you’re helping the person next to you do that every day, you’re getting better too. It makes Concordia better. We have some options to move defense around and have some different lineups. I’m really confident that we can make changes if we have to do that. It’s all about being ready when your name is called. If you put in the work, you should feel confident that you’re going to get the job done.”

Moore says she and her teammates are responding well to what “Coach T” has been preaching. Practice plans look a little bit different, but many of the changes have been met positively. “She’s brought a lot of good things to our program,” Moore said. “She’s my first ever head female coach, which has been different. She’s also younger and can relate to us a little bit more. She just has so much knowledge of the game and has different things to incorporate into practice that make us work harder and get better. It’s been cool to learn some new things. She’s added a lot of things in practices that I’ve never seen or done before, which is really cool. It will be good to see all of that work on the field when we start playing games.”

According to the GPAC preseason ratings, Morningside, Jamestown and Midland will be the teams to beat inside the conference. As for the Bulldogs, there are certainly some unknowns, but also plenty of excitement about the opportunities that lie ahead. Of course Edwards wants to win. In order to do that, the fundamentals have to be mastered first.

Says Edwards, “I hope people can say that we play hard. I hope they can say that we do the small things right. That’s really what I take pride in – doing fundamental small things right all the time. I also want us to play for each other. Those are the main things I would say. It’s about the pride you take in the university that you play for and going out and doing my best for Concordia every single time I get a chance. We want to do the small things right and have fun while we’re doing it, and just be really competitive.”

The 2022 season is slated to get underway on Feb. 19 with a doubleheader at the University of Saint Mary (Kan.). If the weather holds, the Bulldogs will make their home debut early on – Feb. 25-26 versus Mayville State University (N.D.). GPAC play is scheduled to get started on March 19 with a twin bill at Midland.