FREMONT, Neb. – Everything on Tuesday evening went according to script for the Concordia University softball team, which has caught fire at the right time of the year. The surging Bulldogs kept raking while sweeping away host Midland by scores of 11-1 (five innings) and 7-2 in a conference doubleheader played in Fremont, Neb.
Fourth-year head coach Todd LaVelle’s squad has won seven times in a row and has improved to 28-10 overall and to 10-4 in conference play. The recent hot streak has helped Concordia reappear among others receiving votes in the national coaches’ poll.
“We wanted to just go in and do what we do best,” LaVelle said. “We knew they were a good hitting team (GPAC best .348 batting average). We were going to do what we had to do whether it was going to be a slugfest or not. Overall I was pleased by what the girls did on the road. We continue to be hot with the bats and play well.”
The Bulldogs outhit the Warriors (13-21, 3-9 GPAC), 21-9, on the evening in a dominant outing. Sophomore second baseman Leah Kalkwarf remains scalding hot. She scorched Midland with a 3-for-5, three-double, four-RBI performance while extending her hitting streak to 11 games. There were plenty of other fireworks with Autumn Owens and Michaela Woodward both going deep in game 2 and Ronee Watson striking for three hits and three RBIs in game 1. Similarly, Diana Mendoza went 3-for-4 with three runs driven in as part of the first contest.
Neither game was particularly close for long. In the opener, Concordia fell behind 1-0 after two innings. The Bulldogs exploded with six runs in the third, three in the fourth and two in the fifth, enacting the eight-run rule. Concordia never trailed in game 2, racing out of the gates with a four-run first sparked by a two-out double by Woodward. Taryn Thomas singled in a run, Kalkwarf doubled in another and Owens blasted a two-run shot.
Kalkwarf, who has 18 hits over her last 11 games, has found a home in the No. 5 position in the lineup. “Leah’s always been a good hitter,” LaVelle said. “She’s really taken off in the No. 5 spot. I really like our lineup. Like I was telling our coaches, we have some good hitters that are on the bench. It’s a good problem to have.”
In the circle, Woodward dominated. She threw all five innings of game 1 and then the first two of game 2. She allowed only one run on five hits and struck out six. Midland couldn’t even muster a hit in the night cap until there was one out in the bottom of the fifth. Kylie Harpst (9-1) threw the final five innings of game 2 and picked up the win. She surrendered two runs (both earned) on four hits and one walk.
Owens now has eight home runs this season, putting her one off a school single-season record shared by herself and Clarissa Eloge. Owens has slugged 21 home runs over her three seasons as a Bulldog.
With six games left in the conference season, second-place Concordia has kept pace with first-place Morningside (28-7, 10-2 GPAC) near the top of the GPAC heap. The highest regular-season finish under LaVelle was a third-place claim in 2014, a year before the Bulldogs won the GPAC tournament title.
The Bulldogs will return to Plum Creek Park on Saturday for their scheduled conference doubleheader with Mount Marty (14-17, 6-10 GPAC). First pitch is set for 1 p.m. in Seward. Concordia is 7-3 with a win over No. 10 Morningside in home action this season.