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Season-In-Review: 2024 Concordia Softball

By Jacob Knabel on May. 20, 2024 in Softball

Outside the Concordia dugout, not much was expected of Bulldog Softball in 2024. Head Coach Brock Culler’s program had just come off a 2023 season that saw Concordia fall short of reaching the postseason. Inside the program, Culler and company knew they were trending in the right direction. Megan Eurich was about to take the next step as an undisputed pitching ace and a class of newcomers had infused the Bulldogs with a jolt of talent.

Concordia knew it had a more competitive team, but it still hadn’t turned a corner as the calendar flipped to the month of April. With the season at a crossroads, the Bulldogs dug deep.

“We started conference play 2-6 and we had a meeting,” Culler said. “I said, ‘Look, we’re better than this. We’re better than this. You have to believe it. You need something other than me to tell you. You have to believe it yourself.’ We went back to the basics with our offense. The offense was the biggest key. We had to get that going. They responded well and took it well. You saw how it shook out. This team has a lot of fight in it.”

As Culler stated, the GPAC record slipped to 2-6 (12-20 overall) after Concordia was shut out twice by eventual GPAC champion Northwestern on April 5. Instead of crumbling, the Bulldogs went 10-1 over their next 11 games while averaging nearly eight runs per game. Lincoln North Star alums Aubriana Krieser and Kylie Shottenkirk scorched the ball during that stretch as Concordia rocketed up the conference standings. Shottenkirk was even named the NAIA National Player of the Week on April 23. On the pitching rubber, Eurich racked up strikeouts at a school record-breaking rate (194 for the season).

Ultimately, the Bulldogs vaulted into a tie for third place in the final GPAC regular season standings (13-9 GPAC record). The thrilling April run included conference doubleheader sweeps of Jamestown, Dakota Wesleyan, Briar Cliff and Mount Marty. In postseason action in Sioux Center, Iowa, on May 1, Concordia saw its campaign end with losses to Morningside, 3-1 in eight innings, and to Mount Marty, 6-3. The Bulldogs were doomed by one rough inning in the elimination defeat.

For Culler, it was a difficult ending, especially considering a series of surgical procedures prevented him from being present at the GPAC tournament. Said Culler, “You put in all this work and you want to be there for them in the end. It just wasn’t meant to be for me, which was really sad. I really wanted to be there with them so badly. Recovery is going well. I’m glad we got this taken care of. I can put it behind me and get back to work.”

Culler did indeed return to the office soon after the spring semester concluded at Concordia. The enthusiasm for what’s to come hasn’t waned in spite of the unexpected surgeries. The aim now is to seize upon the momentum that was built during that 10-1 stretch in April. The talent on the roster came into picture during that time. Following the regular season, Eurich was named to the GPAC’s first team and four Bulldogs garnered second team all-conference accolades: Aubrey Bruning, Taylor Glause, Krieser and Shottenkirk.

The final strikeout of the season pushed Eurich past the previous school standard of 193 strikeouts by Nicole Sempek in 2010. During the regular season, Eurich threw more innings than any other pitcher in the GPAC and finished with a stellar 2.53 ERA in her 36 appearances. The Gretna, Neb., native fired 20 complete games and recorded nine shutouts as part of one of the best pitching seasons ever turned in by a Bulldog.

“Really incredible,” Culler said of Eurich’s junior season. “She’s got the physical talent to do this. The biggest thing for us this year was her maturity compared to last year. She was able to deal with adversity, learn how to respond to challenges and she understood how to work hitters. We really challenged her in the offseason, and she responded well to it. This is what you get when you work hard. I’m really proud of her.”

The small senior class in 2024 featured Glause, Van Wey and Creighton Taylor. A four-year starter out of San Diego, Calif., Van Wey notched her 100th career hit early in the season. Other Bulldogs who reached 100 career hits in 2024 were Bruning and Shottenkirk. As a junior, Shottenkirk moved over to a more natural spot at first base while Van Wey started all 48 games at the hot corner. Meanwhile, Bruning (left) and Delanie Voshell (right) provided veteran stability in the corner outfield spots. Behind the plate, Glause hit .322 and enjoyed her best season as a Bulldog.

The infusion of youth made Concordia a deeper, more talented team this spring. Freshman Laycee Josoff was a starter at shortstop from day one and flashed the potential for future stardom. In addition, Krieser took off during the month of April and wound up hitting a team best .389 in 24 games. Krieser came to Concordia after breaking the home run record at Lincoln North Star. Another freshman in Madison Cushing saw extensive time at second base, along with Hanna Bowers, and transfer Jennifer Katz started all 48 games in center field.

“Aubriana Krieser is one that stands out because she finished the season incredibly,” Culler said. “There was a lot of hype for her coming into the season. We got her some starts and she struggled putting the bat on the ball. We had her play some JV games. She just needed to see the ball hit the bat again. She bought into that. Holy moly, that kid is unbelievable. She had a great year. She’s going to be a big part of what we’re doing going forward. Then you have Laycee at shortstop, another freshman. She’s going to be absolutely fantastic. Taryn Ganstrom came in and threw some really good innings this year. Kaylei Denison has big upside to her. We have a lot players coming back and we have a real nice class coming in.”

After transferring from Southwestern Community College, Ganstrom settled into the No. 2 pitching role behind Eurich. She made eight starts and posted a 3.72 ERA in 64 innings. As for Denison, she threw 49 innings and is capable of making a jump from her freshman to sophomore year in 2025.

With so many of the key players in place for next season, Concordia figures to take on increased expectations heading into 2025. The Bulldogs should open next spring as a more confident bunch. The senior class will be a large one led by the likes of Bruning, Eurich, Katz, Shottenkirk and Voshell.

“We finished 10th last year and we were picked ninth this year,” Culler said. “We started 2-6 in the conference. This team could have given up. The assistant coaches and myself kept pushing this team. We never gave up on them. The way we ended it built some momentum for us going forward. That was just so huge for the direction that we’re going to be going.”