TUCSON, Ariz. – A hectic 13-games-in-five-days stretch began on Sunday for the Concordia University softball team. The Bulldogs kicked off their Arizona road trip with wins by scores of 8-3 over Great Falls University (Mont.) and 13-8 over NCAA Division II Bemidji State University.
Second-year head coach Todd LaVelle’s squad evened up its overall record at 2-2 on the young season.
Freshmen played a big role in the win over Great Falls (14-8). Rookie Michaela Woodward, who tripled in both games, earned her first career victory in the circle. She went a combined 5-for-7 at the plate and also closed out the second game in relief. Fellow freshman Autumn Owens nailed her first career home run versus Great Falls and additional first-year Bulldogs in Jordana Goncalves (3-for-5 in game 2) and catcher Shelby Schacher also pitched in.
Senior Becca Walker, who has already moved around between shortstop and third base, went 4-for-4 as part of a 19-hit Bulldog attack unleashed upon the Beavers. Walker matched Woodward with a 5-for-7 performance on the day.
It was the type of offensive outburst LaVelle expects from a team that entered 2015 with lofty expectations.
“That’s what we know we can do,” LaVelle said. “We some youngsters step up today and we have several veterans who can do better than what they did today. If we’re clicking one through nine we will have a pretty potent lineup.”
In the day’s second contest, Concordia rallied all the way back from an 8-3 deficit. The Beavers (3-4) piled on seven runs on only two hits in the bottom of the second inning to build the five-run advantage. Concordia eventually regained the lead in the top of the seventh with a five-run frame that gave the Bulldogs 10 unanswered tallies. Both Molly Madsen and Julia Tyree had run-scoring singles in the inning.
Defensively, Concordia improved immensely compared to its season-opening doubleheader when it was swept at Kansas Wesleyan University on March 3. LaVelle praised sophomore Courtnay Serve, who turned in two diving catches, for her work at second base. Serve spelled Tyree, who was scratched from the lineup after a grounder in warm ups hit her in the mouth and cause her to need stitches.
Concordia’s deep and talented roster did not blink after losing Tyree for one game – or after its humbling twin bill at Kansas Wesleyan.
“We talked about it a little bit in practice,” LaVelle said. “We had to let that one go and chalk it up as a learning experience. We knew we were a better team than what we showed. Our girls are confident. We really didn’t dwell on it. Our expectations are high.
“As happy as I am about today, we need to improve. We can be better on the base paths and clean some things up defensively. We’ll learn a lot about our team over the next four-five days.”
LaVelle opened his first season as head coach with nine-consecutive wins in Tucson. The 9-0 start for the 2014 team set a school record for the longest unbeaten run to begin a season.
The Bulldogs continue play from Tucson on Monday with a trio of games:
11 a.m. MST / 1 p.m. CDT vs. University of Saint Francis (Ill.)
1:30 p.m. MST / 3:30 p.m. CDT vs. No. 13 Olivet Nazarene University (Ill.)
6 p.m. MST / 8 p.m. CDT vs. Ashford University (Iowa)
All 13 games of Concordia’s Arizona trip can be heard live via Stretch Internet. Mike Meyer provides the play-by-play.