Tucson Invite closes with wins over Olivet Nazarene, Presentation

By Jacob Knabel on Mar. 9, 2018 in Softball

TUCSON, Ariz. – The Concordia University softball team will fly back to Nebraska feeling good about itself. The Bulldogs wrapped up a 10-game swing at the Tucson Invitational by winning six of their last seven outings in The Grand Canyon State. The run concluded on Friday (March 9) with wins by scores of 4-3 over Olivet Nazarene University (Ill.) and 9-7 over Presentation College (S.D.).

Fifth-year head coach Todd LaVelle’s squad now stands at 9-7 overall after going 7-3 on the road trip. Eight of the 10 games were decided by two runs or less in a valuable week-long experience for a team attempting to integrate a host of newcomers.

“We were in every game and got to see some good competition,” LaVelle said. “Every year this trip is super beneficial for us because you get to play a lot of games and the weather is nice. Probably the biggest thing is our team gets a chance to bond together and be with each other all week. You learn how to grow as a team and support each other. We need to bring all that back and continue to get better.”

In a battle between two teams receiving votes in the preseason national poll, the outcome was in doubt until the very last at bat. After a leadoff double by Dalaney Nance, Kenna Heath delivered a walk-off RBI double to break a 3-3 tie in the bottom of the seventh. The loss was just Olivet Nazarene’s sixth in 18 games at the time.

Heath’s heroics made a winner out of freshman pitcher Grace Bernhardt, who went all seven innings while allowing three runs on seven hits. From an offensive perspective, Leah Kalkwarf (3-for-3, two runs) and Hhana Haro (3-for-4, double, two RBIs) were the key players. Haro enjoyed a monster day. She also went 3-for-3 in the win over Presentation.

In that victory, the Bulldogs held on after jumping out to a 7-0 lead. Maddie Fousek, who was sidelined early this season by injury, exploded with a 2-for-3 performance that included a home run and four RBIs. In the circle, Brittany Woolridge started and worked three innings.

LaVelle appears to have a potent lineup. Concordia amassed 75 runs over its 10 games in Tucson. The Bulldogs won twice on Friday despite the absence of the red hot Elanna Osthoff, who suffered an injury on Thursday.

“We knew we had some talent. You just wondered how they would grow into their roles,” LaVelle said. “They’ve adapted extremely well. They’re only going to get better. They’re a pretty confident bunch. It makes it hard to fill out a batting lineup.”

The Bulldogs are scheduled to make their first home appearance of the spring when University of Saint Mary (Kan.) visits Plum Creek Park on Tuesday (March 13). First pitch is set for 5 p.m. CT in a nonconference doubleheader.