In-state rivals Doane, Hastings up next on GPAC slate

By Jacob Knabel on Mar. 27, 2023 in Softball

SEWARD, Neb. – Bragging rights within the state will be on the line this week as the Concordia University Softball team continues play within the GPAC. Coming off a doubleheader split with Morningside, the Bulldogs will head to nearby Doane on Tuesday afternoon before welcoming Hastings to Plum Creek Park on Saturday. Head Coach Brock Culler’s squad made its 2023 home debut last week while dropping two games with Nebraska Wesleyan on March 23. The split with Morningside (2-1 win; 3-1 loss) also occurred at home as Concordia opened conference play on March 25. The Bulldogs stand at 12-13 overall (1-1 GPAC) entering the week.

This Week

Tuesday, March 28 at Doane (14-10, 1-1 GPAC), 3 p.m. DH
--Live Webcast | Live Stats | Location: Doane Ballfield Complex (Crete, Neb.)

Saturday, April 1 vs. Hastings (8-12, 3-1 GPAC), 1 p.m. DH
--Live Webcast/Stats | Location: Plum Creek Park (Seward, Neb.)

By the numbers

·        Part by design and part due to a cancellation (of a doubleheader scheduled at Mount Mercy University on March 19), the Bulldogs went nearly two weeks without playing a game. They wrapped up the Tucson Invitational on March 10 with wins over Olivet Nazarene University (Ill.) and Siena Heights University (Mich.). Culler’s bunch then waited until last week’s home doubleheader versus Nebraska Wesleyan to get back to action. On the plus side, Concordia managed to play each of its scheduled nonconference games (with the exception of the doubleheader at Mount Mercy).

·        The story of the evening on March 23 was Nebraska Wesleyan pitcher Elise Warneke, who covered all 12 innings of the doubleheader without surrendering a single run. The visitors from Lincoln won by scores of 4-0 and 8-0 (five innings). Warneke limited the Bulldogs to a combined nine hits on the day. Offensively, the Prairie Wolves did nearly all of their damage in the fifth innings of the two games, scoring four in the fifth of game one and seven in the fifth of game two. At the top of the lineup, Hanna Bowers had the most success for Concordia in going 3-for-7 for the day. Megan Eurich pitched solidly in allowing only one earned run in game one.

·        The offensive results were similar for the Bulldogs two days later, however, they were able to tighten up their defensive play and rally for a win over Morningside (14-7, 1-1 GPAC). Concordia committed just one error over the two games that day. In the victory, the Bulldogs rallied from a 1-0 deficit with two runs in the bottom of the sixth. That frame started with a Bowers single before Caitlyn McGarvie then reached on an error. Kylie Shottenkirk followed with an RBI single and Taylor Glause drove home what proved to be the winning run on a sacrifice bunt. Those two runs were enough for Eurich, who fired a seven-inning complete game. She allowed just the one run on six hits and five walks while striking out eight. In game two, Morningside pitcher Morgan Secora earned the win while allowing just one unearned run in six innings. Shottenkirk notched two hits for Concordia.

·        Culler remains confident in his offensive lineup despite the team going 14-for-89 (.157) at the plate last week. He believes some minor adjustments will make the difference going forward. Despite last week’s struggles, six Bulldog regulars are hitting above .300 on the season: Bowers (.402), Shottenkirk (.368), McGarvie (.324), Zoie Isom (.314), Aubrey Bruning (.310) and Julia Van Wey (.306). Other team leaders are Bowers in doubles (eight), Shottenkirk in home runs (three) and slugging percentage (.579) and Isom in RBIs (23). As a team (through 25 games), Concordia is hitting .298 with a .362 on-base percentage and a .418 slugging percentage.

·        A sophomore from Gretna, Neb., Eurich now sports an 8-3 pitching record while serving as the team’s ace to this point in the season. She has already surpassed the 42.2 innings she threw in 2022. So far in 2023, Eurich has covered 73 innings and sports a 2.78 ERA in 14 appearances (11 starts). She’s recorded 54 strikeouts and sports a .283 opponent batting average. The next most relied-upon pitchers have been Jerzi Rowe (45.1 innings) and Brooke Townsend (30.1 innings). Rowe has gone 3-5 with a 4.79 ERA. She’s the most experienced pitcher on the staff having appeared in 21 games in 2021 and 22 games in 2022.

·        Massey Ratings currently lists Concordia as the 98th rated team out of 212 softball squads in the NAIA. According to Massey, the Bulldogs have played the nation’s 98th most challenging schedule. Based on Massey, Concordia’s best wins have come over the likes of No. 45 Morningside and No. 52 University of St. Francis (Ill.). The formula judges that the top team the Bulldogs have faced so far was No. 10 Baker University (Kan.), which topped Concordia by a score of 5-3. The Bulldogs also lost a 5-4 nailbiter to No. 29 Indiana Wesleyan University.

·        In recent series meetings, Concordia has had Doane’s number. The Bulldogs have won each of the past seven matchups with the Tigers. Doane’s most recent win over Concordia came at the 2018 GPAC tournament, nearly five full years ago. Meanwhile, the Bulldogs split last year’s doubleheader at Hastings (lost 6-3 and wont 10-6). The victory in game two was critical in allowing Concordia to qualify for the GPAC tournament. As a program, the Bulldogs have qualified for the GPAC tournament in 20 of the 21 years it has been held.

The opponents

Doane is clearly improved from last season when it went 11-28 overall and placed last in the GPAC (5-17). Former four-year Bulldog star Camry Moore has been a major reason for the Tigers having already surpassed last year’s win total. The Crete, Neb., native has been the team’s best hitter and pitcher so far this spring. Moore is hitting .303 with five home runs and 30 RBIs and owns a 10-2 pitching record with a 1.69 ERA and 72 strikeouts in 83 innings. The next biggest standout on the team statistically is outfielder Grace Dowding, who is hitting .371 and has stolen 16 bases. Head Coach Jordan Olson’s squad has averaged 5.1 runs per game offensively and sports a team ERA of 3.45.

Hastings is another program that fell short of the qualifying for the GPAC tournament a year ago. The Broncos have jumped out to a 3-1 conference mark that has included a doubleheader sweep of College of Saint Mary and a split with Doane. Now in his 17th season as head coach of the Broncos, Troy Baker led the program to a national tournament appearance in 2009. Culler assisted Baker during the 2022 season before taking over at Concordia. So far in 2023, Hastings has hit a rock solid .300 as a team while led by the .446 average from outfielder Sydney Schelkopf. Lexie Mudloff has produced four of the team’s eight homers. The team’s top pitcher has been Kyleigh Boever, who is 5-4 with a 3.34 ERA in 58.2 innings.

Next week

Easter weekend will be a busy one at Plum Creek Park as the Bulldogs will host Midland at 1 p.m. CT on April 7 and then will welcome No. 15 Northwestern to town for another 1 p.m. doubleheader on April 8.