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Season Preview: 2024 Concordia Softball

By Jacob Knabel on Jan. 19, 2024 in Softball

Head Coach: Brock Culler (15-30, 2nd year)
2023 Record: 15-30, 4-18 GPAC (T-10th)
Key Returners: Hanna Bowers (MI); Aubrey Bruning (OF); Megan Eurich (P); Jayden Fernau (3B/C); Taylor Glause (C); Zoie Isom (1B); Kylie Shottenkirk (UTIL); Julia Van Wey (1B/3B); Delanie Voshell (OF).
Key Losses: Caitlyn McGarvie (OF); Jerzi Rowe (P).
Key Newcomers: Madison Cushing (INF); Kaylie Denison (P); Laycee Josoff (SS); Jennifer Katz (OF/P); Aubriana Krieser (1B).
2023 GPAC All-Conference: Hanna Bowers (Honorable Mention); Aubrey Bruning (Honorable Mention); Kylie Shottenkirk (Honorable Mention).


Just listen to the enthusiasm and energy with which Head Coach Brock Culler speaks and one would be hard-pressed to guess that the Bulldogs finished last season tied for 10th place in the GPAC. Concordia has quickly turned the page while retooling a 2024 roster that features a balanced mixture of veterans and newcomers. The feeling inside the program is that it won’t take long for the results to return to what is expected of a softball program that has a history of winning seasons and three recent national tournament appearances. The Bulldogs won 32 games just three years ago.

Returning to that level – or even surpassing it – starts with the right attitude. Culler is emphasizing a fast start to 2024. An early string of victories would help set the tone and allow Concordia to forget about some of the struggles of last spring.

“The biggest thing for this group is to have some success right out of the gate,” Culler said. “We’re going to go like crazy to get wins. They’ve done it in the fall – practices and workouts have been great. They have the confidence and momentum. We need to go out and get wins right away so we can keep that momentum going. If we can get something going early, it’s going to be a lot of fun.”

Indeed, fun is part of the equation for the Bulldogs, who expect to play free and loose on game days. Culler sees a veteran group that knows how to provide an example. There are three all-conference returners to this squad, all juniors: middle infielder Hanna Bowers, outfielder Aubrey Bruning and the versatile Kylie Shottenkirk. Since the fall, Culler has gotten a good look at how such veterans will combine with the infusion of talent provided by freshman like Laycee Josoff (Yutan, Neb.) and transfers like Jennifer Katz (Southwestern CC).

The early returns during the fall season revealed a team built upon pitching and defense. Megan Eurich is taking steps forward as the team’s pitching ace and the addition of Josoff at shortstop has helped the defensive alignment fall into place. At the same time, the development of the offensive lineup continues after the Bulldogs hit only .216 over their 22 conference games in 2023. Should it take time for the offense to blossom, Concordia believes it can still find ways to hang tight with the best of the GPAC.

“I was really pleased with our fall,” Culler said. “Defensively, this group is very sound and very athletic – lot of speed defensively. We’re going to make some plays. With Megs in the circle getting us ground balls and flyballs, this defense is going to have her back for sure. I love the way our defense plays. We tell our defense to play fast and play very energetic and just go make outs. Go for the big play, play loose and have fun. That’s exactly what they’re doing. They’re flying all over the place. It’s a lot of fun to watch.”

The team’s most consistent offensive threat last spring, Bowers (.361 BA in 2023) is preparing to play primarily at second base in 2024. She will team up in the middle infield with Josoff, one of the top high school shortstops in the entire state of Nebraska in recent years. At first base, there are a wealth of options, including Shottenkirk, Zoie Isom and freshman Aubriana Krieser. The same could be said about third base, which could wind up being held down by mainstay Julia Van Wey, who has recorded 98 hits in her Concordia career. Meanwhile, the team’s most experienced catcher is senior Taylor Glause. She is also fully capable of playing outfield while Jayden Fernau worked at catcher and third as a freshman.

The outfield includes returning starters in Bruning (.363 BA in 2023) and Delanie Voshell. Culler also likes what he sees in Katz, who hit 13 home runs over two seasons at Southwestern Community College. Depth will be supplied by the likes of Deleesi Bartling and Creighton Taylor (fifth-year player). The program’s 13 freshmen will also factor into the competition in both the infield and outfield.

Culler hopes this is the year that core veterans such as Bowers, Isom and Shottenkirk are able to fully realize their vast potential in 2023. If so, the Bulldogs will be tough to deal with. Said Culler, “We’re doing a lot of hitting work. I think we left anywhere from eight-to-10 wins off our schedule from last year because we couldn’t string together hits. That’s something we really focused on – getting depth in our lineup so we can be a threat. Zoie is on a different planet right now offensively. She is locked in. We do a lot of live hitting and a lot of mechanical stuff. They’re really hitting the ball. I just tell them, if we can average five-six runs per game with our pitching and defense, we’re going to be a tough out this year in the GPAC.”

Concordia would do well to follow the lead of Bowers, who routinely draws rave reviews from Culler. Bowers has reason to believe the program is on the rise. Said Bowers, “I think the biggest takeaway (from 2023) was just trying to be more positive in defeat and work on what didn’t work last year. We want to zone in on what we can control. We’re ready to get rolling and we’re ready to see what we have. We’ve kind of been cooped up inside. We’re excited to see what we can do together and to see what the outcome can be.”

Bowers will have a good look at a pitching staff headed by the aforementioned Eurich, a Gretna native who posted a 3.76 ERA in 136 innings last season. Eurich will team up along with other hurlers like senior Brooke Townsend and freshman Kaylei Denison. The one major departure from last season in this area is Jerzi Rowe, who logged 257 innings in her Concordia career.

Said Culler of Eurich, “She’s added about two miles per hour to her fastball over the fall and so far this winter. Megan is completely locked in. She looked good last year – she looks amazing right now. She was tough last year, but she’s going to be a big surprise to the GPAC this year. Brooke Townsend has really made a lot of progress and our freshman Kaylei Denison is a fireballer. She throws really, really hard. She wants to be successful, she knows what it takes. I’m really anxious to see what she’s going to be like a s a freshman. She’s a very talented kid.”

Now that Culler (formerly the head coach at Grand Island Central Catholic for a decade) has had one full season under his belt at Concordia, he and the team have found a higher level of comfort. Explains Bowers of Culler, “He’s very understanding about academics, injuries and the mental side of everything. He’s very positive and very enthusiastic at practices. All of that transfers into the team – that positive energy that he brings.”

If anything, the Bulldogs learned last season that there’s work to be done if they are to compete on the level of defending GPAC regular season champion Northwestern or 2023 NAIA World Series qualifier Midland. The hard lessons learned in ’23 just might pay off in ’24.

Said Culler of what he hoped his team took away from last season, “Just be ready to compete at all times. Hopefully we learned about what it takes to compete and win. Winning is not easy and sustaining it is definitely not easy. The biggest thing is understanding how much hard work it takes to be successful.”

The 2024 season is slated to get started with a doubleheader at Ottawa (Kan.) on Feb. 10. View the complete schedule HERE.