2016 Softball Schedule/Results

30-18 overall | 10-10 GPAC | Season Stats

2016 Concordia Softball Schedule      
Date Opponent Location Time/Result Record
Feb. 12 Oklahoma City University Fort Worth, Texas L, 2-4 0-1
Feb. 12 Bethel College Fort Worth, Texas W, 8-1 1-1
Feb. 12 Baker University Fort Worth, Texas W, 14-3 2-1
Feb. 13 Tabor College Fort Worth, Texas L, 4-6 2-2
Feb. 13 William Penn University Fort Worth, Texas W, 4-3 3-2
March 6 Aquinas College Tucson, Ariz. W, 12-1 (5) 4-2
March 6 University of Michigan-Dearborn Tucson, Ariz. W, 5-4 5-2
March 7 Siena Heights Tucson, Ariz. W, 9-4 6-2
March 7 University of Great Falls Tucson, Ariz. W, 10-9 7-2
March 7 Ashford University Tucson, Ariz. W, 3-1 8-2
March 9 Purdue University-North Central Tucson, Ariz. W, 20-1 (5) 9-2
March 9 (25) University of Saint Francis Tucson, Ariz. W, 15-2 (5) 10-2
March 11 Cardinal Stritch Tucson, Ariz. W, 9-1 (6) 11-2
March 11 William Penn University Tucson, Ariz. W, 7-5 12-2
March 11 Olivet Nazarene Tucson, Ariz. L, 2-3 12-3
March 16 Bethany College Lindsborg, Kan. W, 6-4 13-3
March 16 Bethany College Lindsborg, Kan. L, 2-4 13-4
March 26 Central Christian College McPherson, Kan. W, 7-0 (forfeit) 14-4
March 26 Central Christian College McPherson, Kan. W, 7-0 (forfeit) 15-4
March 28 Northwestern College Orange City, Iowa L, 3-4 (8) 15-5, 0-1
March 28 Northwestern College Orange City, Iowa W, 7-2 16-5, 1-1
March 30 Doane College Crete, Neb. L, 1-2 (8) 16-6, 1-2
March 30 Doane College Crete, Neb. W, 5-3 17-6, 2-2
April 2 Briar Cliff University Seward, Neb. W, 5-4 (9) 18-6, 3-2
April 2 Briar Cliff University Seward, Neb. L, 3-6 18-7, 3-3
April 5 Hastings College Seward, Neb. W, 11-10 (8) 19-7, 4-3
April 5 Hastings College Seward, Neb. W, 5-4 20-7, 5-3
April 6 Peru State College Peru, Neb. W, 7-2 21-7
April 6 Peru State College Peru, Neb. W, 8-1 22-7
April 7 Grace University  Seward, Neb. W, 11-0 (5) 23-7
April 7 Grace University Seward, Neb. W, 14-4 (5) 24-7
April 9 (14) Morningside College  Sioux City, Iowa L, 8-10 24-8, 5-4
April 9 (14) Morningside College Sioux City, Iowa W, 13-3 (5 inn.) 25-8, 6-4
April 10 (23) Grand View University Des Moines, Iowa L, 4-5 25-9
April 10 (23) Grand View University Des Moines, Iowa L, 4-5 25-10
April 13 Nebraska Wesleyan University Lincoln, Neb. L, 3-4 (9 inn.) 25-11, 6-5
April 13 Nebraska Wesleyan University Lincoln, Neb. W, 5-4 26-11, 7-5
April 16 Dakota Wesleyan University Seward, Neb. L, 2-12 (5) 26-12, 7-6
April 16 Dakota Wesleyan University Seward, Neb. L, 0-12 (5) 26-13, 7-7
April 23 Mount Marty College Yankton, S.D. W, 5-3 27-13, 8-7
April 23 Mount Marty College Yankton, S.D. L, 3-13 (5) 27-14, 8-8
April 25 Midland University Seward, Neb. W, 7-3 28-14, 9-8
April 25 Midland University Seward, Neb. L, 5-6 28-15, 9-9
April 29 College of Saint Mary Omaha, Neb. L, 1-5 28-16, 9-10
April 29 College of Saint Mary Omaha, Neb. W, 10-0 29-16, 10-10
GPAC Tournament (May 4-5, 7)      
May 4 Hastings College Sioux City, Iowa L, 9-10 29-17
May 4 Midland University Sioux City, Iowa W, 3-1 30-17
May 5 Hastings College Sioux City, Iowa L, 1-3 30-18

2016 Softball Roster

Softball enters 2016 seeking third-straight trip to nationals

At a glance
Head coach: Todd LaVelle (61-39, 3rd year)
2015 record: 29-23, 10-10 GPAC (7th); GPAC tournament champions
Key returners: Diana Mendoza (OF); Autumn Owens (3B); Julia Tyree (1B/P); Michaela Woodward (P)
Key losses: Palmer Bosanko (IF/OF); Regan Doiel (OF); Molly Madsen (1B); Shelby Schacher (C); MaKenna Tracy (OF); Becca Walker (SS/3B)
Key newcomers: Nicole Dobernecker (IF); Kylie Harpst (P); Taylor Huff (C); Leah Kalkwarf (IF); Mikaela Keene (IF); Jamie Lefebure (IF); Megan Ruppert (OF); Amanda Wygant (P)
2015 GPAC all-conference: Julia Tyree (first team); Michaela Woodward (second team); Molly Madsen (honorable mention)

Season Outlook
Following a disappointing seventh-place GPAC regular-season finish in 2015, the Bulldogs played their best softball at an opportune time. Then freshman Michaela Woodward starred with the bat and with her pitching arm in leading Concordia to its first conference tournament title since 2007 and a return trip to the national tournament. Under head coach Todd LaVelle, the Bulldogs have won a combined 61 games while reaching the GPAC final in each of the past two seasons.

LaVelle and company hope to take things to another level in 2016, but they will have to do so while mixing in 19 new players.

“It’s a work in progress as far as getting the team to mesh and bond,” LaVelle said. “There’s no doubt the talent is there. It’s up to us as coaches not only to mesh, but to develop the skillset. That’s what we’ve done. We have four, possibly five freshmen that could play key roles. We also have a couple junior college transfers that could play key roles. They’re going to have to mature throughout the year. We’re going to have to have some patience and understand that each inning they play they’re going to get better.”

Despite the losses of many of last year’s starting position players, LaVelle is confident his squad can compete with anyone in the country. The third-year skipper is hardly starting from scratch. He welcomes back first team all-conference selection Julia Tyree, who will shift to first base in her fourth season as a starter. She batted .397 with seven homers and a .652 slugging percentage as a junior and provides a big bat in the middle of the order. She teams with Woodward (.392/.439/.562) for the makings of another powerful one-two punch.

Junior Diana Mendoza, a career .301 hitter in 97 games as a Bulldog, has the potential to blossom into a star. She will get the majority of time in left field while also serving as a backup catcher. The other key returner is third baseman Autumn Owens, who made 38 starts as a freshman and delivered four long balls. This core group will combine with the impressive class of fresh faces that figures to elevate the overall talent level on the diamond.

“I think we’ve gotten better every year I’ve been here, which is an absolute blessing,” Tyree said. “I think this year has more potential than any year I’ve ever been part of. We definitely have more depth this year than we’ve ever had.”

The Bulldogs are eagerly anticipating the debut of transfers Kylie Harpst (Pittsburg State) and Taylor Huff (Creighton/Colorado-Colorado Springs), who both played for LaVelle at Lincoln North Star High School. Harpst will take some weight off the shoulders of Woodward in the circle while also bringing an impact bat. Harpst will work with Huff, who is expected to take on most of the duties behind the plate.

Huff is part of a transformation that has taken place up the middle. Concordia will also have new starters at second base, shortstop and in centerfield. LaVelle and his staff like the athleticism of Crete High School product Jamie Lefebure at shortstop. Her double-play partner is another rookie in Leah Kalkwarf (Omaha). In center, McCook Community College transfer Megan Ruppert takes over. She batted .357 in her two seasons with the Indians. Senior Nicole Dobernecker, freshman Maddie Fousek and senior Brianne Liebelt are all candidates to see time in right field.

“Hopefully it’s better,” LaVelle said of this year’s roster. “You hate to say it because each year you feel like you have a good nucleus of players. On paper I really feel like this could be the best out of the three (years at Concordia). There are so many different components that go into making a great team. They have to bond. They have to gel as a team. They have to overcome the obstacles that are going to face them. We’ll have some. Every team does. How they handle those obstacles is yet to be seen. I sure do like what I see so far.”

Woodward already proved herself to be a workhorse in throwing every inning for Concordia during last year’s GPAC tournament run, but she’ll be fresher down the stretch this time around thanks to the additions of Harpst and others such as junior Amanda Wygant, who found her way to Seward via Central Arizona College. Harpst has made her way back after redshirting last season following shoulder surgery. She and Huff already understand the ins and outs of the program having sat in the dugout for the 2015 journey to the national tournament.

Concordia’s preseason placement of fifth in the GPAC poll is a reflection of last year’s up-and-down regular season. Under LaVelle, the Bulldogs have done their best work in the conference tournament, winning 10 of 13 GPAC postseason games over the past two seasons. The trick this year is to figure things out sooner while several prime ingredients introduce themselves to college softball.

“Right now if we played tomorrow there’s a good chance that three freshmen would start at pretty key positions,” LaVelle said. “We could have a freshman at shortstop, one at second base and possibly one in the outfield. Those are key components. They played a high level of high school ball. At the same token, it’s a big jump. They will have to continue to develop and know how to handle everything.”

The Bulldogs will not be able to simply ease into the start of the regular season. They will meet up with No. 6 Oklahoma City University in the season opener in Dallas, Texas, on Friday (Feb. 12). Concordia also matched up with the Stars in the opening round of last year’s national tournament. The conference season begins March 30 with a doubleheader at Doane, the defending GPAC regular-season champ and 2016 preseason conference favorite.

Though winter weather like last week’s snowstorm has forced the Bulldogs to practice indoors, LaVelle believes his team is ready for primetime.

“I’m going to say we’re right up there,” LaVelle said. “I feel like we can beat anybody in the nation. Doane got the nod (in the preseason). They got 11 first-place votes. I think we can play with anybody. What we have to do a better job of this year is bringing our ‘A’ game every time we take the field. I didn’t think we did that last year. I think we might have taken some innings off. If we compete hard we can be there at the end.”

Bulldogs take two in opening day

FORT WORTH, TEXAS – The Concordia softball team went 2-1 in its opening day of the season. The Bulldogs played the first of two days of the Cowtown Classic on Friday. Concordia defeated Bethel College (8-1) and Baker University (14-3) and dropped a 4-2 game to sixth-ranked Oklahoma City.

Head coach Todd LaVelle said, “When you look at the overall day, you have to be really happy with it being the first day out. We have some things to work on but we’ll go out tomorrow and it’ll be business as usual.”

In the first game of the day, the Bulldogs went up against sixth-ranked Oklahoma City. The Stars outscored the ‘Dogs, 4-2. Kylie Harpst led off the sixth frame and scored for the Bulldogs. Leah crossed the plate after Jamie Lefebure batted a double in the final inning.

“We had a big one go up against with the No. 6 team in the nation,” LaVelle said. “They knocked us out of the national tournament last year…I was really pleased with how the girls competed. We had a chance at the end of the game with runners on second and third down by two runs with no outs but we didn’t quite get it done. We at least put ourselves in the position at the end to do so. That spring boarded us into the next games.”

Bethel was up next for the Bulldogs. Concordia topped the Threshers, 8-1 with six different players scoring. The Bulldogs scored four runs in the fourth inning and nearly batted through the order in the frame. The defense contributed by committing just one error and allowed one runner to make it past second base. Five of the seven innings, four or less Threshers came up to the plate. The Bulldog pitching crew struck out seven batters.

In the final contest, Concordia trounced the Baker Wildcats, 14-3. Baker had just knocked off the fourth-ranked team in the nation prior to facing the Bulldogs and were on a wave of momentum but the ‘Dogs didn’t seem to notice. The fourth inning explosion saw nine runs on 13 at bats. Julia Tyree went 3-for-4 in the box and batted in one run.

LaVelle said, “We went against a team that wasn’t the same status as Oklahoma City but we still came out and took care of business. The girls went to the plate and attacked. Multiple players hit well and we hung 14 points on them. We played good defense to hold them to three also.”

The squad will be back in action tomorrow as it faces Tabor College at 9 a.m. and William Penn University at 11 a.m. in the Cowtown Classic in Texas.

Softball splits two on final day in The Lone Star State

FORT WORTH, Texas – The Concordia University softball team’s stay at the Cowtown Classic came to a conclusion on Saturday with a split of two morning contests. After a 6-4 loss to Tabor College (Kan.) to begin the day, the Bulldogs responded with a 4-3 win over William Penn University (Iowa) in rounding out a weekend that included three wins in five tries.

Third-year head coach Todd LaVelle’s squad’s only other loss at the event came in Friday’s season opener versus No. 6 Oklahoma City University. The Bulldogs followed that up with blowout wins over Bethel College, 8-1, and Baker University, 14-3, as part of a solid two-day stretch in The Lone Star State.

Tabor capitalized on inopportune Bulldog errors to take the early-morning affair. The Bluejays took an early 2-0 lead on Concordia pitcher Kylie Harpst, who worked out of multiple jams to keep her team close. But the Bulldog bats were held to just four hits.

LaVelle’s squad bounced back in the weekend capper by knocking off a Statesmen team that had won its previous two games in Texas by counts of 11-2 and 11-1. Third baseman Autumn Owens starred at the plate with a home run and a double to fuel the Concordia attack. Owens began the bottom of the seventh with a two bagger that sparked a three-run rally from two runs down.

“The girls really competed well in that situation,” LaVelle said. “It was a good weekend overall. I was happy to be in 70 degree weather and playing on dirt. We’ll bring it back to the snowy grounds of Concordia and try to fix the problems we witnessed over the weekend.”

LaVelle was encouraged by how his team meshed with a large number of new starters, including freshmen in the middle of the infield in shortstop Jamie Lefebure and second baseman Leah Kalkwarf.

“The freshmen started all five games in the middle infield. I think that was a strength,” LaVelle said. “You just never know how they’re going to react when they jump up a level. They played extremely well. We had the question mark of who was going to start in right field and we tried three or four people there. I think they all played well. A strength of ours was our defense.”

Last year’s workhorse Michaela Woodward got the victory in the circle in game 2. The sophomore from Cortland, Neb., whirled a complete game.

The Bulldogs will wait until March 6 to return to game action. They are scheduled to play 10 games in Tucson, Ariz., from March 6 – 11.

Owens completes 2-0 day with walk-off winner

TUCSON, Ariz. – The Concordia University softball team blew one team away and then rallied for a nail-biting win to close its first day of action in Tucson, Ariz., on Sunday night. After a 12-1, run-rule victory over Aquinas College (Mich.) in the opener, the Bulldogs got a walk-off RBI single from Autumn Owens to complete a 5-4 win over the University of Michigan-Dearborn late in the evening.

Third-year head coach Todd LaVelle’s squad went 21 days without playing entering the Tucson Invitational. Now on a three-game win streak, Concordia has moved to 5-2 overall.

“We’re going to have quite a few of those games down here,” LaVelle said of the tense night cap. “That was a good one to win. The girls showed a lot of enthusiasm throughout the day and did what they had to do.”

The Concordia bats were quieted in game 2. That is until there were two outs in the bottom of the fifth inning with Michigan-Dearborn leading 3-0. Kylie Harpst spurred the rally with an RBI double. Julia Tyree followed a two-run single to even up the score at 3-3. Taylor Huff then singled in the go-ahead run.

Down to their final out in the top of the seventh, the Wolverines (4-4) got a clutch base hit to tie it up, 4-4. In the bottom half, the Bulldogs loaded the bases to set the stage for Owens, who capped a perfect start to the trip. The bags were chalk full of Bulldogs after Harpst doubled, Michaela Woodward was intentionally walked and Bri Liebelt got drilled by a pitch.

It was something of a game of attrition. Said LaVelle, “Both teams nearly drained the bench. We brought 19 players and all 19 contributed in both games.”

Harpst, a Lincoln native, enjoyed a big day. She homered and got the win in the circle in the rout of Aquinas. After four innings of work in the first game, Harpst gave way to AJ Wygant for the final frame of the five-inning victory. Then in game 2, Woodward fired all seven innings.

“Everybody played well. We were really relaxed at the plate,” LaVelle said of the win over Aquinas. “I felt we were really disciplined and hit the ball extremely well, something we’ve been working on for the last two weeks of practice.”

The Bulldogs will be back in action in The Grand Canyon State on Monday when they have a trio of contests scheduled. The tripleheader begins with a matchup with Siena Heights University (Mich.) (2-2) at 11:30 a.m. MT / 12:30 p.m. CT and continues with contests versus the University of Great Falls (Mont.) (5-2) at 2 p.m. MT / 3 p.m. CT and Ashford University (Iowa) (8-6) at 6:30 p.m. MT / 7:30 p.m. CT.

Arizona magic carries into day two

TUCSON, Ariz. – The desert storm marches on for Concordia University softball. On Monday the Bulldogs won three more times to move to 5-0 halfway through their road trip in Tucson, Ariz. The latest victories came over Siena Heights University (Mich.), 9-4, the University of Great Falls (Mont.), 10-9, and Ashford University (Iowa), 3-1, all in contests played at Lincoln Park.

Third-year head coach Todd LaVelle’s squad came from behind to win the final two games of the day. In the process, Concordia improved to 8-2 overall and to 21-6 in the state of Arizona over the past three seasons. The Bulldogs now own a six-game winning streak.

“Any time our opponent took the lead we just bounced right back,” LaVelle said. “That’s what I’m most proud of. That’s a great sign for the year. It’s a very resilient team. Once again we played really good team ball. We had some girls come in and make plays and our pitching staff did well.”

As part of a 22-run day offensively, third baseman Autumn Owens blasted a pair of home runs and catcher Taylor Huff doubled, tripled and drove in five runs in the middle game of Monday’s action. In addition, leadoff hitter Kylie Harpst hammered an RBI double in the win over Siena Heights and punished Great Falls with a trio of hits, including a two-run single. Harpst then fired a seven-inning complete game to close out another big day in The Grand Canyon State.

Up against the Argos (5-2 entering Monday’s action) in the second game, Concordia rallied back from deficits of 4-0 and 9-6. Great Falls put up five runs in the top of the sixth to go up three. The Bulldogs then responded with a Huff two-run triple and an RBI single from Owens, whose run-scoring hit made Concordia a walk-off winner late on Sunday night. Leading 10-9 in the seventh, the Bulldogs recorded the final out of the game after Great Falls put runners on the corners.

It took a while for the Concordia bats to get going in Monday’s finale. Ashford got a run in the second and led 1-0 until Owens belted a ringing solo homer in the bottom of the fourth. The Bulldogs gave Harpst all the runs she needed in the fifth when Bri Liebelt’s leadoff triple preceded run-scoring singles from Megan Ruppert and Diana Mendoza.

Harpst and Michaela Woodward again covered the lion’s share of the innings in the circle. Harpst got the win in the first and third games while Woodward was credited with a victory over Great Falls. Woodward closed out the opening contest after Harpst ran into trouble versus Siena Heights.

It was a long, but successful day for the Bulldogs, who celebrated by dining at Kentucky Fried Chicken afterwards.

“We saw some really good teams today,” LaVelle said. “They fought hard. And when you’re up early and get to the ball field at 9 o’clock and you’re leaving at almost 9 o’clock – that’s 12 hours at the field. Sometimes you lose your focus, especially with the cooler weather. The girls really did a nice job.”

The Bulldogs will take Tuesday off before returning to action in Tucson on Wednesday with two more games. Concordia will take on Purdue University-North Central (Ind.) (3-7) at 1:30 p.m. MT / 2:30 p.m. CT and then the University of St. Francis (Ill.) (6-2) at 3:30 p.m. MT / 4:30 p.m. CT on Wednesday. All games can be heard live via the Concordia Sports Network. Mike Meyer will call the play-by-play.

Bulldogs post 35 combined runs in offensive onslaught

TUCSON, Ariz. – The Concordia softball team outscored its opponents 35-3 over two five-inning games Wednesday afternoon. The Bulldogs defeated the University of Purdue-North Central 20-1 and 25th-ranked St. Francis 15-2 to keep a perfect 7-0 mark in Arizona.

The Bulldogs are now 10-2 on the season. The Panthers fall to 3-9 and the Fighting Saints drop to 8-4 this year.

Head coach Todd LaVelle said, “We’re excited with the things that the ladies did today. We’re mid-week and we have to stay focused through that-they’re playing a lot of ball this week…We played solid defense and made some outstanding catches in the outfield. Our infield turned some good plays and the pitching staff did really, really well today also. Overall, we’re really happy.”

After scoring nine runs and allowing one in the first inning against Purdue, the Bulldogs took over both defensively and offensively to insure a huge victory. The lone Panther run was the only time the team scored in the contest. The first six Concordia batters all crossed the plate in the opening frame. Three more runs were added to take a 9-0 lead. Both Nicole Dobernecker and Taylor Huff jacked two-run homeruns later in the contest to contribute to the 20 runs.

Michaela Woodward pitched the first three innings of the game with Amanda Wygant finishing up the five-inning outing.

“I thought we were really dialed in the first game with Purdue,” LaVelle said. “I think we combined for 21 hits and scored 20 runs. We played all 19 girls and they all contributed which is exciting to see. We kind of looked at it as a warmup because St. Francis made the ratings.”

The Bulldogs also exploded offensively in the second game of the day against a top-25 team. The Fighting Saints did not score until the fourth inning when they crossed the plate twice. Concordia scored in all but one inning and recorded at least three runs in the other frames.

Kylie Harpst was in the circle for the first four innings. Woodward came in for the final inning to bring her total to four innings on the day.

LaVelle said, “The girls were prepared to play them (St. Francis) and we really wanted to come after them. We scored five runs right off the bat and never let up. We have some room for growth but when you have 15 hits, that’s a very good offensive day.”

The Concordia softball team will be back on the diamond this Friday as it closes out its spring break trip in Arizona with three contests. The squad will take on Cardinal Stritch, who is receiving votes in the national coaches’ poll, at 10 a.m. to start off the day. The second game will be played at Noon against William Penn University and the final tilt will be at 4:30 p.m. versus Olivet Nazarene. Audio coverage for the games will be available HERE

“Friday will be a tough day. We’ll see two teams that were rated so we’re going to take the day off tomorrow and come back Friday and try to win a couple more ball games,” LaVelle said.

Bulldogs nearly perfect in Arizona

TUCSON, Ariz. – Wrapping up its Arizona spring break trip, the Concordia softball team went 2-1 on the day, suffering its first loss of the trip. The Bulldogs defeated Cardinal Stritch and William Penn while falling to Olivet Nazarene. Concordia finished the week 9-1.

The Bulldogs move to 12-3 this season after the two victories and one loss Friday.

Head coach Todd LaVelle said, “We’ve known since May last year what freshman, transfers and red shirts we had coming in, so our bar was set very high with this team. We wanted to come down here and make our identity to the rest of the softball community known. I think the girls did that…We came down here and got everyone’s best shots.”

After scoring in every inning, the Bulldogs took a 9-1 victory in six innings against Cardinal Stritch who is receiving votes in the national poll. Taylor Huff ripped a two-run double to left center in the first inning to start things off for the Bulldogs. In the third inning, Autumn Owens jacked a two run homer over the left field fence to score Concordia’s fourth and fifth runs. In the final inning, Megan Ruppert hit a sacrifice fly to bring in Kerrigan Anspauch to score the ninth run to end the game. All of the Bulldog starters recorded at least one hit in the game.

Kylie Harpst was in the circle facing the Wolves and got the win.

William Penn was the next opponent for Concordia. The game lasted a full seven innings, breaking the three-game streak of shortened contests. The ‘Dogs entered the third inning with a 4-0 lead. The Statesmen scored in each of the third through sixth innings to threaten Concordia’s lead. However, the Bulldogs were able to hang on to the lead thanks to two doubles from Huff and Julia Tyree and a triple from Michaela Woodward in the third and fourth innings. All three scored to lift the Bulldogs’ score to a final seven runs.

Woodward took care of pitching duties during the middle game of the day, recording a win.

The last game of the day and of the spring break trip, Concordia suffered defeat for the first time in Arizona. Olivet Nazarene outscored the Bulldogs 3-2. The Bulldogs’ runs came late in the game in the form of Ruppert in the fifth inning and Woodward in the sixth. Woodward’s tally was a homerun.

Harpst started the final game in the circle and was relieved by Woodward in the fourth.

“Obviously 9-1 is a good tournament. The girls showed a lot of fight through tough games throughout the week. We’re excited to get back to Nebraska and play a few more non-conference game and then head into in the conference,” LaVelle said.

On March 16 the Concordia softball team will play its next contests. The Bulldogs will travel to Bethany College for a double header beginning at 4 p.m.

Owens mashes her way to GPAC player of the week honors

GPAC release

SEWARD, Neb. – The hot bat of Autumn Owens helped the Concordia softball team to an impressive 9-1 record during its stay at the Tucson Invitational (March 6-11). On Tuesday the sophomore third baseman was recognized as the GPAC/Hauff Mid-America Sports Softball Player of the Week. It’s the first conference award in the career of Owens.

A native of Henderson, Nev., Owens is off to a big start for third-year head coach Todd LaVelle’s squad. While starting all 10 games at third base at the Tucson Invitational, Owens went 16-for-32 (.500) with three home runs, two doubles, six runs, 14 RBIs and an .844 slugging percentage. She played the role of hero in the 5-4 win over the University of Michigan-Dearborn on March 6 when she delivered a walk-off RBI single. She also singled in the game-tying run in a come-from-behind victory over the University of Great Falls on March 7.

On the year, Owens leads the team in home runs (4), RBIs (19), total bases (37) and slugging percentage (.841). She also ranks second in batting average (.477). Among all hitters nationally, Owens ranks 21st in slugging percentage and 22nd in RBIs per game. Last season as a freshman, Owens batted .289 with four home runs and 17 RBIs as Concordia advanced to the opening round of the NAIA national championships for the second-straight year.

Owens and company (12-3 overall record) also rank highly nationally in several team categories, including third in hits per game (10.7), third in batting average (.385), fourth in slugging (.545) and fourth in runs per game (8.3). The Bulldogs are set to return to action on Wednesday when they travel to Bethany College (Kan.) (8-16) for a 4 p.m. doubleheader in Lindsborg, Kan.

Bulldogs split first road doubleheader of 2016

LINDSBORG, Kan. – After junior Kylie Harpst delivered a game-winning two-run triple in game 1, the Concordia University softball team fell just short of a doubleheader sweep in its first action since a successful spring break run at the Tucson Invitational. In Wednesday’s twin bill at Bethany College in Lindsborg, Kan., the Bulldogs triumphed 6-4 prior to a 4-2 loss to conclude the evening.

Third-year head coach Todd LaVelle’s squad had won 10 of 11 games entering the nonconference doubleheader. Concordia now stands at 13-4 overall.

“We played a good offensive team tonight. They really made us work for our outs,” LaVelle said. “We played solid defense. In that second game we just couldn’t get anything going and were swinging at some bad pitches. We left some pitches up and they took advantage. It was a small ballpark. They’re used to it. I think that was part of our impatience. We were trying to hit home runs instead of doing our job.”

Wednesday’s opening contest moved to the seventh tied at 4-4 after the host Swedes rallied back from a 4-1 deficit against Harpst, who made her ninth start of the season in the circle. The Lincoln North Star High School product then served her own cause by drilling a two-run triple into the left center gap, allowing Jamie Lefebure and Leah Kalkwarf to score the go-ahead runs.

Hapst, a transfer from Pittsburg State, fired her fourth complete game of the season, scattering seven hits and a walk. She shut the door in the bottom of the seventh by working around a two-out single before a pop out to short ended the game. At the plate, Harpst went 2-for-5 and recorded her eighth multi-hit game of the year.

Early on it appeared Concordia would continue the torrid offensive pace it displayed in Arizona. With the bases loaded and no one out in the top of the first of game 1, catcher Taylor Huff lined into a double play. The Bulldogs recovered nicely thanks to Michaela Woodward’s two-run single and GPAC player of the week Autumn Owen’s RBI double. Harpst, Kalkwarf (2-for-3), Lefebure (2-for-3), Diana Mendoza (2-for-3) and Woodward (2-for-4) all registered two hits apiece, but the Bulldogs left 10 runners on base in game 1.

Meanwhile, the Swedes (9-17) got most of their runs via the long ball. Shortstop Ashley Montoya cracked a two-run homer in both ends of the doubleheader. Designated player Anna Crawford surfaced with the game-winning, two-run homer off of Woodward in the bottom of the sixth in game 2. Concordia went down 1-2-3 in the top of the seventh as Tiffany Dennison polished off a seven-inning, four-hit gem for Bethany.

Having been a national tournament qualifier two-years running, the Bulldogs are taken lightly by no one. Part of this team’s development centers around handling the target.

“We’re getting everyone’s best shot,” LaVelle said. “You can see it in the way the team’s that have beaten us have celebrated. We have to be able to bring our ‘A’ game every time we play. It’s part of the learning process. This was our first doubleheader of the season. We’ve been playing in tournaments until tonight.”

The Bulldogs now break for more than a week before opening up GPAC play next Thursday (March 24) at Northwestern (6-9). First pitch from Orange City, Iowa, is set for 4 p.m. The Red Raiders were picked by league coaches to finish fourth in the GPAC, one spot ahead of Concordia’s preseason placement.

North Star products homer in GPAC-opening split

ORANGE CITY, Iowa – After surrendering a walk-off home run in game 1 of Monday’s GPAC-opening doubleheader at Northwestern, junior Kylie Harpst made amends with a masterful pitching performance in game 2. Harpst helped the Concordia University softball team salvage a split. The Bulldogs followed a 4-3, eight-inning loss with a 7-2 drama-free victory in the capper.

Third-year head coach Todd LaVelle’s squad had gone 11-straight days without a game before returning to action on Monday. Concordia, now receiving votes in the national poll, moved to 14-5 overall and 1-1 in conference action.

“The big thing we told the girls between games was not to dwell on the result, but look at the process,” LaVelle said. “We battled (in game 1) and that’s what we expected them to do in the second game. We came out like gangbusters and got two runs. Then in the last inning we were able to string some hits together. Every time you come up to Northwestern, it’s just tougher.”

Heartache in game 1 gave way to a more comfortable victory in game 2 thanks to a five-run explosion in the top of the seventh. Junior Megan Ruppert drove in the first run of the frame with a single prior to a Julia Tyree sacrifice fly and a double steal that brought in another. Catcher Taylor Huff then punctuated the game with a two-run home run off the left field foul pole to open up a 7-1 advantage.

The seven runs were plenty for Harpst, who took the loss in game 1. The Lincoln North Star High School product bounced back with a complete game effort that resulted in her eighth win of the season. She scattered seven hits while striking out four.

After getting out of a seventh-inning jam left behind by starter Michaela Woodward, Harpst fell victim to a walk-off homer that ended game 1. One out away from victory, Harpst watched as Laura Hurley’s blast sailed over the center field wall to spark the host into celebration mode. The Hurley long ball spoiled Kalkwarf’s go-ahead RBI single in the top of the eighth.

Kalkwarf’s run-scoring hit came on the heels of Ruppert’s clutch at bat with Concordia trailing 2-1 and down to its final out in the seventh inning of game 1. Ruppert drove a triple to right, plating Autumn Owens from second. Then in the bottom half, Harpst relieved Woodward in the circle and induced Clare Ipema to line into an inning-ending double play with the potential winning run on second.

Concordia missed an opportunity in the top of the sixth of game 1. Huff’s one-out single up the middle resulted in Diana Mendoza being cut down at the plate on a strong throw from center field. Pitcher Kayla Tindall then got Tyree to pop out to short to end the threat.

Huff ended up 3-for-8 on the day with three RBIs in the game 2. Kalkwarf (3-for-6) and Ruppert (3-for-6) provided solid production near the bottom of the order. Harpst led off the first game with a homer (second of the season) to left. In the circle, Woodward took the ball for game 1 and limited the Red Raiders (10-11, 1-1 GPAC) to two runs on eight hits and a walk.

For much of the day, Northwestern held down a Concordia offense ranked in the top 10 nationally in runs per game. Tindall allowed just one earned run while spreading around nine hits.

The Bulldogs are back on the road for GPAC play on Wednesday when they travel to nearby Doane (11-6, 0-0 GPAC). First pitch from Crete is slated for 4 p.m. The Tigers are the defending GPAC regular-season champion and were the preseason favorite as selected by league coaches.

Bulldogs take one in battle of defending GPAC champs

CRETE, Neb. – Taylor Huff pounded out four more hits, Megan Ruppert homered for the first time in her career and the Concordia University softball team narrowly missed on a chance at a road doubleheader sweep of defending GPAC regular-season champion Doane (12-7, 1-1 GPAC). Instead, the defending GPAC tournament champion Bulldogs settled for a split after giving back a late 1-0 lead in a 2-1, eight-inning loss in Crete on Wednesday. In the second game, Concordia rebounded with a 5-3 victory.

Following two GPAC road trips, third-year head coach Todd LaVelle’s squad sits at 17-6 overall and 2-2 in conference action. Both league losses have been suffered in eight-inning affairs.

“I tip my hat to Doane. They’re a really good program,” LaVelle said. “They were voted preseason No. 1 in the conference. We knew this would be a good challenge for us. Overall I thought we competed really hard. We played tense a little bit in the first game. They didn’t dwell on it. We got in positions with runners on in the second game and did a lot better scoring them. Defensively we played well.”

Huff played big in game 2, going 3-for-4 with an RBI single as part of the two-run fifth inning. Concordia never trailed in the capper after Diana Mendoza doubled home Leah Kalkwarf in the second. The Bulldogs added on with an Autumn Owens RBI single in the third prior to Ruppert’s homer leading off the fifth and Julia Tyree’s run-scoring single in the sixth.

Junior Kylie Harpst, the pitcher of record in both games, made sure there were fewer tense moments in the late innings of game 2. She completed a 1-2-3 bottom of the seventh to close out her sixth complete game of the season. Harpst (9-4) allowed just a single earned run on five hits and a walk. The win was capped by a sliding grab in center by Ruppert. It was just one of many standout defensive plays on the day by the Bulldogs. Kalkwarf also made a sprawling catch towards the right field line while ranging from her spot at second base.

Sterling defense nearly won the opening contest for Concordia. Sophomore Michaela Woodward struck out just one hitter, meaning she relied upon her teammates to catch seven fly balls and turn nine groundballs into outs. After hitting a batter to begin the fourth, Woodward made amends by starting a 1-6-3 double play in which shortstop Jamie Lefebure delivered a perfect throw to first despite a hard slide into second.

The Tiger bats finally got to Concordia with the tying run on the bottom of the seventh on Makaela Moore’s RBI single to right off of Harpst. Having relieved Woodward two batters earlier, Harpst kept the Bulldogs alive by recording a strikeout and a fly out. Concordia then went scoreless in the eighth and the Tigers capitalized with Taylor Helton’s bases-loaded, walk-off single off of Woodward, who re-entered in the circle.

The Bulldogs couldn’t quite muster enough offense to pull off a sweep in back of hurlers Harpst and Woodward and a strong defensive effort. Harpst and Woodward allowed a total of three earned runs in 14.1 innings on Wednesday. It’s clear they have a good rapport with Huff behind the plate.

“They’re doing unbelievable,” Huff said. “They’re really putting aside the stress and anxiety of being a pitcher. They’re throwing hard and making the ball move more than they ever have before. It’s showing in all of our games.”

The lone Bulldog run of game 1 came in the top of the third when Huff stroked a single to left, chasing Harpst to the plate. Harpst had two of Concordia’s four hits off of Doane ace Ellie Doughty. Three Bulldogs had exactly two hits in game 2: Mendoza (2-for-3), Owens (2-for-4) and Ruppert (2-for-4).

After 21 games on the road to begin 2016, the Bulldogs will finally take the field at Plum Creek Park when Saturday’s action gets underway at 1 p.m. CT. Briar Cliff (9-13, 0-2 GPAC) will serve as the opponent for Concordia’s home-opening doubleheader.

Harpst-Woodward make up formidable one-two punch

Head softball coach Todd LaVelle had little choice but to lean upon workhorse pitcher Michaela Woodward for every inning of the 2015 GPAC softball tournament. In throwing all six games in a four-day span, Woodward served as a monumental reason why the Bulldogs hoisted the conference tournament trophy. In the aftermath, a teammate referred to Woodward as a “stud.”

It’s an appropriate word for the player who was essentially the unofficial MVP of the GPAC tournament and shouldered nearly 200 innings in 2015. Now she’s got help. It just takes a little time to get used to it.

“I was a little jealous at first,” Woodward said. “But it’s a blessing.”

When it comes to softball, what Woodward and co-ace pitcher Kylie Harpst want more than anything is to compete and to win. They’ve done plenty of that so far. With Harpst and Woodward eating up nearly every inning in the circle, the Bulldogs are off to 17-6 start while sporting a 2.73 team ERA.

It would only be natural for an intense competitor like Woodward to be reluctant in regards to turning over some of her pitching duties to someone else. But the two have complimented each other nicely both on and off the field.

“Having us together has been great,” said Harpst, a transfer from Pittsburg State. “If I’m having a bad game or I’m not getting it done, I know she’ll come in and do great. She’ll take over. I’m all about winning. If I’m not having a good game I want her to come in and shine. She’s the same way. I feel like we’re both on the same page. We both want to win. We want to succeed.”

Harpst is the type of person and player that garners instant credibility. She twice earned all-state recognition while playing for LaVelle at Lincoln North Star High School and fired nearly 100 innings at Pittsburg State in 2014. She spent last season lending moral support to her Concordia teammates while recovering from shoulder surgery. Her addition has been huge in obvious ways.

“It’s really nice having Kylie,” Woodward said. “This year is completely different. Now I have more trust in my defense. It’s even more of a relief to have Kylie backing me up. If my spin’s not working it’s a lot harder to rely on my defense because they’re probably going to hit it a lot harder. With Kylie we can just switch.”

Harpst and Woodward are excelling despite collectively averaging fewer than three strikeouts per game. They know they can trust a defensive unit that ranks second in the conference in fielding percentage. On Wednesday Woodward held Doane to just one hit over the first six innings even though she had struck out only one Tiger hitter.

Even more impressive is that Concordia has played such stellar defense while employing two freshmen – second baseman Leah Kalkwarf and shortstop Jamie Lefebure – in the middle of the infield. In the doubleheader at Doane, Lefebure turned a nifty double play with a Tiger charging at her.

“It’s incredible what they’re doing,” Woodward said. “Everything’s working well. We’re turning double plays. It’s so much more of a relief. They helped me hold Doane to one hit in six innings, which is pretty incredible considering Doane is the No. 1 team in the conference.”

Added Harpst, “I’m not a strikeout pitcher. They’re going to hit it. I have so much trust in my teammates – every one of them. We all trust each other.”

That trust extends to catcher Taylor Huff, another transfer and former high school teammate of Harpst. Huff, like Harpst and Woodward, has killed it at the plate so far in 2016. But her biggest value may be in what she provides behind the dish. It’s been a happy reunion for the pair that led North Star to a state runner-up finish in 2009.

“She knows how I am,” Harpst said of Huff. “She knows my personality and what works when I get frustrated. If I have a bad pitch or am freaking out a little bit, she takes timeout and comes and talks to me. We’re on the same page. She knows what’s working and we figure out what needs to be done. We have that bond.”

Harpst and Woodward will be back in the circle on Saturday when Concordia plays at home for the first time this season. The Bulldogs and Briar Cliff go head-to-head at 1 p.m. from Plum Creek Park.

Woodward walk-off, Wygant pitching highlight home-opening twin bill

SEWARD, Neb. – Nailbiters have become the norm for the Concordia University softball team. On Saturday afternoon the Bulldogs split a GPAC doubleheader for the third-time this season while hosting their 2016 home opener. Sophomore Michaela Woodward’s walk-off RBI single put away a pesky Briar Cliff team by a count of 5-4 in a nine-inning affair in game 1. The visiting Chargers then took game 2, 6-3.

Third-year head coach Todd LaVelle’s squad has already played three extra-inning contests since GPAC action began on March 28. Concordia, which has received votes in the national poll each of the last two weeks, now stands at 18-7 overall and 3-3 in league play.

“I thought Michaela Woodward finished the game extremely well,” LaVelle said of the game 1 performance. “I came out there and she thought I was going to take her out. She really wanted to finish it and showed a lot of heart.

“With us being in a lot of close games this year I think the girls had the confidence to get that one done. We were probably lucky in some aspects to get that win.”

The Bulldogs persevered after letting a 3-0 lead slip through their fingers in Saturday’s opener. With Concordia trailing 4-3 in the bottom of the seventh, center fielder Megan Ruppert singled and then stole second. Nicole Dobernecker followed by guiding a base hit through the left side of the infield to send Ruppert to the plate for the game-tying run.

Also the game 1 starting pitcher, Woodward stranded the bases loaded in the eighth inning and then navigated a scoreless ninth after allowing a leadoff single. Then in the bottom half, Autumn Owens got things going with a base hit to center. Maddie Fousek pinch ran and swiped second to set the stage for Woodward’s game-winning groundball single through the middle of the infield.

Woodward (7-2) limited the damage to four runs despite surrendering 10 hits and six walks. The Chargers (10-14, 1-3 GPAC) got a run apiece in the fourth, fifth and sixth innings but were doomed by the 13 runners they left on base. They spoiled three-hit games by both Katlin Briley (3-for-5) and Amy Anderson (3-for-3).

Concordia dug itself too big of a hole in game 2. Briar Cliff scored at least once in each of the first four innings while building a 6-0 advantage. Ashley Del Alto played a starring role for the Chargers. She went 2-for-3 with a trio of RBIs.

The Bulldogs settled in behind relief pitcher Amanda Wygant, who retired the final 10 hitters she faced. Concordia got back into the game with a three-run fifth inning. Wygant singled in a run, Kylie Harpst tripled in another and Julia Tyree drove in the final Bulldog run with a base hit to left. The Bulldogs then went quiet over the final two innings as Ciara Dotzler fired a complete game for Briar Cliff.

Wygant served as a bright spot in the game 2 loss.

“They came out and hit Kylie hard,” LaVelle said. “If you’re in the game of softball long enough you understand that you’re not always going to have your ‘A’ game. Kylie knew she didn’t have her good stuff today. That gave Amanda a chance. After she got settled in, I think she did an amazing job. We now have another pitcher we can throw in the mix down the road.”

Owens enjoyed the best offensive day for Concordia. She went a combined 4-for-7 with a pair of runs batted in. Ruppert and Woodward also collected two hits in game 1.

The Bulldogs return to Plum Creek Park on Tuesday when they welcome Hastings (22-10, 0-4 GPAC) to Seward. First pitch is set for 5 p.m.

Dogs walk it off in sweep of Hastings

home pinch runner Bri Liebelt for the game-winning run.

The excitement was only getting started. Concordia found itself trailing 4-3 in the bottom of the seventh of game 2. Taylor Huff singled, Julia Tyree got hit by a pitch and Woodward singled home the tying run. With no one out and the bases loaded, LaVelle turned to Fousek, a freshman with only 13 at bats entering the night. She promptly lined a base hit up the middle to spark another walk-off celebration.

“It’s not the first time we’ve come back,” Mendoza said. “We do this all the time. We always put ourselves in that position somehow, but we always come back. It’s just fighting. We’re a good fighting team. We’re the fighting LaVelles.”

The opening contest was a wild affair in which Hastings (23-13, 0-6 GPAC) racked up four runs on four hits, including a Heather Sabata homer, in the top of the first. But Concordia returned fire with a 16-hit performance. Six different Bulldogs collected at least two hits – three apiece for Ruppert, Tyree and Woodward – and Autumn Owens pushed her team-leading home run total to six with a two-run big fly in the third. Owens and company tagged Bronco pitcher Taylor Erlenbusch for nine earned runs over her 7.2 innings.

Concordia got a better pitching performance in game 2 as Kylie Harpst delivered a solid 6.2 innings. Wygant then got the final out of the seventh and ended up earning her first two career wins as a Bulldog on Tuesday. She did not allow a run over three total innings versus Hastings.

The likes of Fousek and Wygant have helped make for a team with great depth.

“It’s a team,” LaVelle said. “It’s great to see those girls come in and do that. Let’s take Maddie. For two games straight, for almost three hours she’s over there swinging a bat just waiting for her time to come in and help the team.”

Woodward made up for a rough pitching outing by going 5-for-7 with three RBIs on Tuesday. Harpst was 4-for-7 with three RBIs. Concordia pounded out 25 total hits in the twin bill.

Snake-bitten Hastings remained winless in the conference. Morgan Fisher had a huge doubleheader in going 7-for-9 at the plate.

The stretch of 10 games in six days continues for the Bulldogs on Wednesday with a trip to Peru State College (9-23) for a twin bill set for 3 p.m. Concordia will also be in action Thursday (vs. Grace University), Saturday (at No. 14 Morningside) and Sunday (at No. 23 Grand View University).

No late heroics needed in sweep of Peru State

PERU, Neb. – After each of its last three wins came via walk-off hits, the Concordia University softball team gladly rolled up a doubleheader sweep by an average win margin of six runs on Wednesday afternoon. The Bulldogs defeated host Peru State College, 7-2, and 8-1.

Concordia has won four-straight games and has moved to 22-7 overall. Wednesday’s action wasn’t nearly as exciting as Thursday’s twin bill that saw the Bulldogs sweep Hastings courtesy of walk-off hits by Diana Mendoza and Maddie Fousek. Third-year head coach Todd LaVelle enjoyed the lack of drama in Peru.

“That was kind of nice for once,” LaVelle said. “You always worry about having a lull after two exciting wins the night before. The girls just came out and played solid D. I thought we hit the ball really well.

“Amanda Wygant did a really nice job keeping them off balance in the second game. I was pleased to see her continue to develop as a go-to pitcher.”

The Bulldogs simply took care of business in dispatching of Peru State on Wednesday. Five different players collected at least two hits in the opening game. After the Bobcats closed within 4-2, Concordia broke the contest open with a three-run fifth that included RBI singles by Mendoza and center fielder Megan Ruppert. Also in game 1, third baseman Autumn Owens went 3-for-4 with a pair of runs.

After Kylie Harpst and Michaela Woodward split pitching duties in game 1, Wygant, a junior from Oceanside, Calif., continued her fine work in the circle with a complete game effort in the capper. She’s Each of her three wins as a Bulldog have come in the last two days. In her latest outing, Wygant sprinkled eight hits and two walks over seven innings. She’s allowed only three earned runs over 18.1 innings this season.

Wygant also helped herself at the plate by going 2-for-2 with three RBIs in game 2. Freshman Leah Kalkwarf enjoyed a 3-for-6 day with a pair of RBIs. Ten different Bulldogs had at least one hit, including senior Amanda Snider, who recorded her first hit of the year. Ruppert had two hits in game 1 and now has multiple hits in five of her last nine games.

Peru State entered the game 1-3 against GPAC opponents. The Bobcats got good production out of the No. 9 spot occupied by catcher Hannah Mitchel. She went 2-for-3 in both ends of the doubleheader.

The hectic week continues for the Bulldogs on Thursday when they host Grace University (3-32) for a doubleheader beginning at 5 p.m. Concordia will then gear up for a weekend road trip complete with four games against top-25 foes: No. 14 Morningside and No. 23 Grand View University (Iowa). Said LaVelle, “We have to keep fine tuning with Morningside on the horizon.”

Solid pitching and big bats leads to sweep of Royals

SEWARD, Neb. – The Concordia softball team swept Grace University Thursday evening to extend its win streak to six. The Bulldogs shortened both games to five innings winning 11-0 and 14-4. The Concordia pitching crew combined for 19 strikeouts.

The ‘Dogs improve to 24-7 on the season while the Royals fall to 3-35 this year.

Head coach Todd LaVelle said, “I was happy with how the girls played, especially with the big week of games. We didn’t allow playing back-to-back nights with it being cold and windy to become a factor. We pounded the ball hard which is always nice to see. We got a chance to see some other girls and they came to play. I’m happy with both our offensive and defensive play.”

Kylie Harpst started in the circle for the first game. No other Bulldog besides Harpst and catcher Diana Mendoza touched the ball until the final out of the third inning. Harpst sat down eight Royals in a row and struck out 11 in total. The junior threw the entire game and is now 4-0 on the season.

In the 11-0 victory, eight different Bulldogs crossed the plate at least one time. The second inning was the only frame that Concordia did not score in. The final offensive half inning for the ‘Dogs saw the most runs when they plated five on five hits.

Thanks to an explosive second inning, the Bulldogs had no problems grabbing another victory in game two. Just one batter shy of batting through the order twice, Concordia scored 12 runs on 10 hits in the frame. The inning featured five singles (AJ Wygant (2), Mikaela Keene, Leah Kalkwarf and Taylor Huff), two doubles (Julia Tyree, NiCole Dobernecker) and three triples (Dobernecker , Keene and Kalkwarf). All but two Bulldogs scored in the second part of the twin bill.

Kalkwarf said, “We came ready to play today and prepare for the weekend…We have mentally prepared this week and pretty much told ourselves that we just have to be ready.”

Kalkwarf led the team in scoring with five runs on two hits (single and triple) over the day.

Wygant had pitching duties for the game two of the day. The junior recorded eight strikeouts, including five in the first two innings. Wygant moves to 4-0 this season.

“Our sights are set on Morningside now, they’re ranked 14th in the country. The girls know we have to go through them to be conference champs. We’re going to rest up, warm up and heal up to be ready for Saturday,” LaVelle said.

The Bulldogs will return to GPAC play this weekend and travel to 14th-ranked Morningside College on Saturday. The conference double-header will begin at 1 p.m. in Sioux City, Iowa.

Owens' grand slam propels Bulldogs to victory over 14th-ranked Mustangs

SIOUX CITY, Iowa – The Concordia softball team split with 14th-ranked Morningside College Saturday afternoon. The Bulldogs won the second game 13-3 in five innings while the Mustangs took the first, 10-8. The Concordia win was aided by a 12 run lead off inning in which Autumn Owens hit a grand slam to left field.

The Bulldogs move to 25-8 overall and 6-4 in the GPAC. The Mustangs’ 15-game win streak comes to an end and the team is now 28-6 and 9-1 in the conference.

Head coach Todd LaVelle said, ““Definitely a good win today. Anytime we play Morningside, we’re going to bring out the best in each other. I think everyone got to see our best today.”

Right out of the gates of the second game, the Bulldogs held nothing back and scored 12 runs in the first inning. Michaela Woodward batted in the clean-up position and smoked a double to right field, scoring Julia Tyree and Kylie Harpst. After Megan Ruppert was hit by a pitch, Owens came to the plate with the bases full and sent the ball over the left field fence. The Bulldogs found themselves up 6-0 with no outs. After scoring two more runs off a double from Harpst, the Mustangs switched pitchers. Sixteen batters came to the plate in the inning. A total of 12 runs were scored on eight hits.

The third inning saw the remainder of scoring from each team. In the top half of the frame, Ruppert sent a single to center field to score Huff. Morningside scored all three of its runs in the inning off a three-run home run.

Morningside was threatening Concordia’s 10-run lead in the fourth inning with bases full and no outs. A ball from a Mustang was hit to third baseman, Owens who stepped on her bag and then threw it in to get the runner at home for the first and second outs. The next batter up flied out to right field to end the inning. Each team had four batters come to the plate in the final stanza and no runs were scored to give Woodward her ninth win of the season.

“I’ve been coaching softball for 22 years and I’ve never seen a team explode with their bats the way we did the first inning of that game. That was just flat out hitting the ball. They’ve had it in them all year, so it was nice to see Morningside bring it out in them. We got to knock off the 14th-ranked team in the country, so that was exciting,” LaVelle said.

In the first half of the twin bill, the Bulldogs faced a heart breaking 10-8 loss. After being down 6-2 heading into the fourth inning, Concordia came back and scored six runs to Morningside’s zero in the next two and a half innings to take an 8-6 lead. Then in the bottom half of the sixth, Morningside loaded the bases with one out and hit a grand slam to center field. The Mustangs had a 10-8 lead going into the final frame and Concordia couldn’t get a run across the plate.

“Obviously the first one was a heart breaker,” LaVelle said. “We came back to work really hard and then tie it up and take an 8-6 lead. To give up a grand slam was definitely hard but the girls didn’t dwell on it.”

The Bulldogs will wrap up their six day, five double-header span tomorrow, traveling to No. 23 Grand View University. First pitch is slated for 1 p.m. in Des Moines, Iowa.

Concordia drops a pair of heart breakers to No. 23 Grand View

DES MOINES, Iowa – The Concordia softball team fell just short on Sunday afternoon to 23rd-ranked Grand View University. The Vikings won both of the double-header contests in the bottom of the final inning with a score of 5-4.

Concordia is now 25-10 on the season while Grand View improves to 30-6.

Head coach Todd LaVelle said, “These two hurt. Whenever you take the lead in the seventh inning, you expect to win and we found a way to lose both of them. It was disappointing. I’ll take the loss as the coach. We will learn from it and prepare the girls for more pressure situations in the future.”

After three innings of play, the Bulldogs led the Vikings 4-1 in the first half of the twin bill. Bri Liebelt and Diana Mendoza each singled in the third and then advanced a base each on a wild pitch. Kylie Harpst then got an RBI double scoring Liebelt. Taylor Huff came to the plate with two outs and hit a three-run homer to bring Mendoza and Harpst home. Coming down to the seventh, the Bulldogs held a 5-2 lead. With two outs the Vikings hit a three-run, walk-off homer to win the game, 5-4.

 Harpst pitched for Concordia the entire game and recorded two strikeouts.

In the second game, the ‘Dogs led off scoring three runs. The tallies came by the way of another three-run home run this time from Michaela Woodward. After full six innings, the score was tied at three. Megan Ruppert singled to center field to score Jamie Lefebure. The Bulldogs again had the lead going into the final half inning. With one out, a Viking hit a sacrifice fly to right field to tie the score up again at four. The bases were loaded with two outs and Grand View was able to draw a walk to advance all runners and score the winning run.

In the circle for the Bulldogs was Woodward who pitched 3.2 innings. AJ Wygant took over for the remainder of the game. Each pitcher struck out two Vikings in the tilt.

As a team over the two games, the Bulldogs recorded 14 hits with Liebelt and Huff leading the squad with three each. The pair also led the team in scoring, each crossing the plate twice.

“We can’t dwell on the negatives. The positive part is we know we can hang with good teams and take that with us into the last games of the season,” LaVelle said.

The Bulldog softball team will return to the diamond this Wednesday. Concordia will travel to Lincoln to take on Nebraska Wesleyan in a GPAC double-header beginning at 5 p.m.

Woodward stays hot in split at Wesleyan

LINCOLN, Neb. – After letting an extra-inning lead melt away in game 1, the Concordia University softball team salvaged yet another GPAC doubleheader split with both of Wednesday evening’s contests being decided by a margin of a single run. Host Nebraska Wesleyan won game 1, 4-3, in nine frames before the Bulldogs bounced back with a 5-4 victory in the capper.

Third-year head coach Todd LaVelle’s squad has played 13 one-run games already this season. Five of Concordia’s first 12 conference games have gone to extra innings. The Bulldogs are now 26-11 overall and 7-5 in GPAC action.

“It’s the same song, second verse,” LaVelle said. “We’re right there. Again we had the lead. In the first game I was definitely proud of the girls for battling and coming back and tying it up. This time we went nine innings. We got out of some jams and in the games you lose you have to look at the positives. We did what we do best and that’s regroup and battle in the second game.”

Wednesday marked the third time that Concordia has lost the opening contest of a conference twin bill and then won the second. In game 2, the Bulldogs built a 4-0 second-inning advantage behind Leah Kalkwarf’s RBI double, Kylie Harpst’s RBI single and Taylor Huff’s two-run base hit. Then in the sixth, Autumn Owens mashed her seventh homer of the season to make it a 5-2 lead.

With Kylie Harpst aiming for a complete game, the Bulldogs held on in the bottom of the seventh. With the potential tying run on third, Harpst coaxed Danelle Snyder into a fly out to right, inciting an exhale from LaVelle’s bunch.

“I’ve been around a lot of teams in my life that would have lost two,” LaVelle said. “We’ve come back and won a lot of second games. That shows their resilience. We came out and took a 4-0 lead. We never panicked.”

Each of Concordia’s last four losses have now been of the walk-off variety. The Bulldogs were seemingly on their way to a game 1 victory after back-to-back homers by Huff and Michaela Woodward staked them to a 3-1 lead in the top of the ninth. Heartache ensued as Madi Francis’ infield single off Harpst chased home the winning run in the bottom half.

Woodward tossed 8.1 innings in game 1 while allowing three runs on six hits and five walks. She struck out seven. In a winning effort, Harpst scattered 11 hits and a walk in a complete game performance in the circle.

The red-hot Woodward went 4-for-6 at the plate. Harpst was 3-for-8. The Bulldogs collected 14 total hits on the evening.

The Bulldogs will be back at Plum Creek Park on Saturday to host Dakota Wesleyan (27-17, 10-6 GPAC) for a 1 p.m. doubleheader. Concordia has lost only one of its six home contests thus far in 2016. Picked 11th in the preseason coaches’ poll, the Tigers currently sit in third place in the league standings.

Bulldogs swept in GPAC doubleheader for first time

SEWARD, Neb. – After Michaela Woodward’s two-run homer in the first inning of game 1, nothing went right the rest of the day for the Concordia University softball team. Red hot Dakota Wesleyan exuberantly danced to between-innings music while launching six home runs in a doubleheader sweep at Plum Creek Park on Saturday afternoon. The Tigers won by scores of 12-2 and 12-0 in contests that both ended by way of the run rule.

Saturday marked the first time this season that third-year head coach Todd LaVelle’s squad has lost both ends of a GPAC twin bill. The Bulldogs slipped to 26-13 overall and 7-7 in conference play.

It was clear which team was more free and spirited. Dakota Wesleyan (29-17, 12-6 GPAC), now riding a six-game win streak, tagged Concordia pitchers for a total of 22 earned runs on 26 hits. In game 1, cleanup hitter Karly Severance twice drilled home runs off the scoreboard in right center. Her three-run blast in the fifth made it a 12-2 runaway. Catcher Hailey Unger also connected for two long balls out of the leadoff spot on Saturday. Savannah Ahumada and Katy Lazenby collected five hits apiece in the doubleheader.

Things weren’t much better on the offensive end. The Tigers muzzled Concordia bats with a pair of freshman pitchers in Hallie Misiaszek and Sierra Haage. Misiaszek surrendered nine hits and three walks, but somehow wiggled out of every jam. Concordia stranded a small village worth of base runners in the opening game. In game 2, Haage allowed only two hits – a Kylie Harpst double and Autumn Owens single.

The Woodward homer provided the lone highlight of the day. It gave the Bulldogs a 2-0 lead at the time. They then went scoreless over the final nine innings versus Dakota Wesleyan.

In the circle, losses were charged to Harpst and Woodward. A second team all-conference choice in 2015, Woodward allowed 11 earned runs on 14 hits. Her eight strikeouts were a season high.

The Bulldogs will dip outside the conference on Monday when they head to nearby York College (12-32) for a doubleheader. First pitch from York is scheduled for 5 p.m.

Bulldogs settle for split at Mount Marty

YANKTON, S.D. – NiCole Dobernecker homered and Leah Kalkwarf rapped out a pair of hits as part of the Concordia University softball team’s game 1 victory at Mount Marty on Saturday afternoon. The Lancers then exploded in the fourth and fifth innings of game 2 to salvage a split with the Bulldogs. Concordia won the opener, 5-3, then fell, 13-3, in five frames in the second contest.

A sweep would have placed third-year head coach Todd LaVelle’s squad into sole possession of fourth place. Instead, Concordia is tied with both Dordt and Midland for fourth with an 8-8 league mark. The Bulldogs are 27-14 overall.

“We’re going to try to continue to improve each and every time we take the field,” LaVelle said. “We want to try to enjoy these last two weeks. I just feel like the girls are playing with a lot of pressure right now. We’re not going to dwell on the loss. We’re just going to move forward. I have faith in the girls. There are better times ahead.”

Concordia got off to a rousing start thanks to an RBI double from Autumn Owens and RBI single by Kalkwarf in the top of the first of game 1. The Bulldogs never trailed in the contest though Mount Marty made it a 3-2 ballgame with a pair of fourth-inning tallies. Dobernecker responded by homering to lead off the fifth. The Bulldogs got another insurance run via Bri Liebelt’s run-scoring fielder’s choice in the seventh.

Starting pitcher Michaela Woodward went five innings and picked up the win. She gave way to Kylie Harpst after allowing a leadoff single in the sixth. Harpst earned the save by firing two scoreless innings. However, Mount Marty ripped Harpst for 10 runs over four innings in game 2. The second game ended in the fifth when Jennifer Mitera cracked a grand slam off Harpst to enact the run rule.

A first team all-conference selection in 2015, senior Julia Tyree did not play on Saturday due to injury. Maddie Fousek and Woodward shared first base duties on Saturday. With players shuffled around, junior Taylor Huff played shortstop and Diana Mendoza played catcher. Jamie Lefebure also sat out.

The Bulldogs return to Plum Creek Park on Monday to host Midland (20-23, 8-8 GPAC) in a doubleheader that was originally scheduled for April 19. Monday’s action is slated to get started at 5 p.m. Concordia is 5-3 at home in 2016.

Owens, Bulldogs rediscover hitting strokes in split with Midland

SEWARD, Neb. – Hoping to gear up for another late-season run, the Concordia University softball team piled up 21 hits while putting itself in position for a doubleheader sweep of Midland on Monday evening. However, the Bulldog rally fell short in game 2 and Concordia settled for a split for the seventh time during GPAC play. Following a 7-3 win in the opener, the Bulldogs dropped game 2, 6-5.

There were plenty of encouraging signs for third-year head coach Todd LaVelle’s squad in light of recent sluggish outings. Concordia now sits at 28-15 overall and 9-9 within the conference, tying it for fifth in the league standings.

“This was nice to see. Our girls came out and competed and that’s all we’ve asked,” LaVelle said. “We played well the first game. Michaela (Woodward) pitched a great first game and kept them off balance with her changeup most of the night. We hit the ball well. Even in the second game I thought we hit the ball hard.”

Sophomore third baseman Autumn Owens enjoyed a productive night, going 4-for-5 with three RBIs at the dish. She drove in the day’s first run with an RBI single in the top of the first of game 1. Two innings later she added another run-scoring base hit as part of a three-run third that included NiCole Dobernecker’s two-run single. Leah Kalkwarf also chipped in a two-run knock up the middle as Concordia built a 7-1 lead.

Joining Owens with four hits in the doubleheader were Kalkwarf (4-for-6) and Kylie Harpst (4-for-8). The production was a welcome sight after Concordia had averaged only 2.7 runs per game over its previous six GPAC contests.

“Basically we needed to just get back in our rhythm,” said Owens, who leads the team with seven home runs this season. “We believed we could do it and believed in each other. We came up and did our jobs when we needed it.”

Woodward put together one of her best outings in GPAC play this season. She went the distance while striking out seven and limiting the Warriors (21-24, 9-9 GPAC) to four hits in game 1. She managed to limit the damage despite six walks. She really settled in in the fourth, fifth and sixth innings when she retired nine-straight hitters.

Satisfied with game 1, LaVelle used the exact same lineup in game 2. This time the Warriors had better success against Woodward, racking up 11 hits and four runs off her in 4.2 innings. Harpst ended up taking the loss after giving up two unearned runs in relief of Woodward.

Down 6-4 in the bottom of the sixth, Dobernecker connected on a solo blast, marking her third home run of the season. The native of Charter Oak, Iowa, went a perfect 3-for-3 with four runs driven in on the day. She played a key role although she did not start either contest.

Midland’s Skyler Peterson, a Seward native, was the pitcher of record in both games. After being charged with the loss in game 1, she fired four innings in relief in game 2 and picked up the win. Five different Warrior hitters notched exactly two hits apiece.

The Bulldogs are in the midst of the final week of GPAC regular-season play. Concordia will travel to College of Saint Mary (18-18, 6-14 GPAC) for a 4 p.m. doubleheader on Wednesday. Then on Saturday, five Bulldog seniors will be honored as LaVelle’s club hosts Dordt (22-20, 8-10 GPAC) for 1 p.m. twin bill.

Concordia hopes to soon lock up its spot in the eight-team GPAC tournament, where it has a record of 11-3 over the past two years.

“The GPAC has gotten a lot tougher in softball,” LaVelle said. “Anybody can beat anybody any given night. I think you’re seeing that with all the splits.”

Harpst tosses shutout; Owens continues hitting streak

OMAHA, Neb. – Now in the final weekend of GPAC regular-season play, the Concordia University softball team continues to seek the magic it discovered in conference tournament play in each of the past two seasons. In Friday’s final road trip of the regular season, the Bulldogs came back from a 5-1 loss in game 1 to blow out host College of Saint Mary, 10-0, in game 2 behind a shutout by pitcher Kylie Harpst.

Third-year head coach Todd LaVelle’s squad now stands at 29-16 overall and 10-10 in league play. Currently tied for fifth in the GPAC standings, Concordia has clinched a berth in next week’s eight-team conference tournament (May 4-5, 7). As the top two seeds, Morningside and Doane will host pods of the bracket.

“Right now we have some people playing different positions so I think it maybe took them a game to get comfortable,” LaVelle said of the team’s eighth GPAC doubleheader split of the season. “I have to give credit to Kylie. She came back in the second game and pitched really well. It makes it easier to pitch when you’re up six, seven runs. We were able to get the timely hits we needed in the second game that we didn’t get the first game.”

Third baseman Autumn Owens, who extended her hitting streak to 11 with a 4-for-8 day, busted the second game wide open with a three-run blast to left center as part of the six-run second inning. Included in that frame was a bunt RBI single by Maddie Fousek and a two-run base hit by Harpst. Fousek, a native of St. Paul, Neb., was just getting started. She drove in another run in the fifth and then two more in the seventh on her way to a 3-for-3, four-RBI performance.

The Bulldog bats forced the Flames (19-19, 7-15 GPAC) to use four different pitchers in game 2. Concordia rapped out 14 hits as five different players collected multiple knocks: Fousek, Harpst (2-for-5), Taylor Huff (3-for-4), Owens and Michaela Woodward (2-for-2). Woodward accounted for the team’s lone run in game 1 with a solo homer to center in the sixth.

Harpst’s work in the circle is just what Concordia will need to make a deep postseason run. She allowed just three hits (no walks) and struck out six in earning her second complete-game shutout of the season. She’s now 13-10.

Owens has been this year’s biggest breakout offensive star. She entered the day ranked fourth among GPAC players in slugging percentage. She’s now slugging .699 with a team high eight home runs on the year. On Friday she thrived while taking on the No. 3 spot in the lineup.

“We expect that out of all our hitters,” LaVelle said. “For us to be a force in the playoff we’re going to all have to hit like that. It’s just part of it. We’re excited for her. To be honest though, it’s an expectation we all have. We just need to relax at the plate and go up and have fun. (The hitting streak) is great for Autumn.”

Woodward threw game 1 and was tagged with the loss. She allowed five earned runs on 10 hits. Nicolette Larson whirled a complete game and picked up the win for College of Saint Mary, whose season came to a conclusion on Friday.

The Bulldogs are slated to host Dordt (24-20, 10-10 GPAC) for Senior Day on Saturday. If the doubleheader gets rained out on Saturday, it could possibly be moved to Monday. Dordt, like Concordia, has sewed up a spot in the conference tournament.

Owens raises game to new level in sophomore campaign

After starting 38 games as a freshman in 2015, Autumn Owens received no playing time guarantees heading into her sophomore campaign. She would need to hold off talented incoming freshmen and earn the starting job at third base. “Bring it on,” she said.

It’s exactly what head coach Todd LaVelle wanted to hear.

“Probably the best thing I could say about her is that she enjoys competing for a position,” LaVelle said. “She knew firsthand that we had freshmen coming in that also played some third base. She told me about this time last year, ‘bring it on. I’m ready to step up.’ That’s the kind of attitude she’s played with this year. She knew she had to practice hard day in and day out because other people want that spot. That was cool to see.”

The native of Henderson, Nev., just south of Las Vegas, has come on like gangbusters in 2016. Everything in her game is about power. She immediately draws attention for her rocket launcher of a right arm. Says Owens, “I don’t ever remember playing without hearing comments about that.” But it’s her bat that has really taken flight this season. She’s put together a season that’s historically impressive for a Bulldog hitter.

She tops the team with eight home runs, 43 RBIs, 93 total bases and a .699 slugging percentage. She carries an 11-game hitting streak into the opening of Wednesday’s GPAC tournament action. Those numbers are major upticks from her solid freshman campaign.

“Honestly, yes, a hundred percent I am,” Owens said when asked if she’s surprised by her own success. “I hoped that working endlessly on my hitting over the summer would do some good, but I didn’t realize how good it would be. When I’m up there, I just swing.”

Owens is all about softball. Ball is life for The Silver State native, who was influenced in her love of the game by her mother Debe and her aunt. Owens didn’t waste time with other sports. She earned all-state honors three times during her high school career and played on a number of travel teams. She still works with one of her coaches during the summer.

She had the background, but yet it’s not black and white in regards to explaining Owens’ rise to middle-of-the-order slugger. One thing is clear: she’s more relaxed and confident in her approach.

“I think I’m more in tune with everything. Last year I was more in that what-if-I-mess-up kind of stage,” Owens said. “I worked hard over the summer with my coaches back home with my hitting. I think that’s contributed a lot, too. I’m just more comfortable in the box. Coach has told me many times he knows that I can get the job done. When I’m up there I’m just thinking that it’s for the team.”

Comfortable at the plate and comfortable in her surroundings, Owens is glad she made the decision to come to Concordia. She looked at some schools in California, the state she was born in, but she wanted to see what Concordia had to offer. She heard many positives from good friend and fellow Henderson native Palmer Bosanko, a member of the 2014 and 2015 Bulldog softball teams.

Once Autumn became interested in Concordia, her summer coach got the ball rolling with a series of calls to LaVelle, who had just recently been announced as Bulldog head coach. Owens also sent emails to LaVelle. She had recruited Concordia instead of the other way around.

“I actually forgot about (the call from the summer coach) and he called back and told me what a special player she was,” LaVelle said. “It was by the grace of God that we got connected. He was exactly right. I tell that story a lot to certain recruits and our team now. They were persistent. I give her summer coach a lot of credit because he kept calling me, saying this is a girl you want.”

In her very first season with the Bulldogs, Owens helped the team win the GPAC tournament and reach the national tournament for the second-straight year. There have been some frustrating moments and some rollercoaster swings of emotion, but Concordia has put it all together at the right time under LaVelle. Owens and company hope to recapture that magic this week.

“I think we definitely like to keep Coach on his toes,” Owens said. “As far as why, we’re not sure why. I think it’s just a mind over body kind of thing. We all know that we’re tired, but we realize that this is the end for certain people. We want to give it all we have for them. It’s about working hard for each other. That’s one of Concordia’s greatest aspects. We all work together.”

Owens’ hot bat will again be on display on Wednesday when the Bulldogs open up GPAC tournament play at either top-seeded Morningside or second-seeded Doane. Complete pairings will be released when all regular-season conference games have been completed.

Bulldogs remain in hunt at GPAC tournament

SIOUX CITY, Iowa – Concordia University softball has thrived amidst the pressure of GPAC tournament elimination games over the past few seasons. On Wednesday the Bulldogs moved to 7-0 in conference tourney win-or-go-home situations under third-year head coach Todd LaVelle. Concordia regrouped after a heartbreaking 10-9 walk-off loss to Hastings with a 3-1 win over Midland on day one of league bracket play.

As the GPAC’s No. 5 seed, the Bulldogs (30-17) were sent to Sioux City as part of the Morningside Bracket. Concordia now must win three contests on Thursday to advance from its four-team pod and play the winner from the Doane bracket.

Wednesday afternoon’s win was a start for a program that reached the 30-win mark for the sixth time in school history.

“It was a tough loss (to Hastings) but I don’t think it was that hard to regroup,” LaVelle said. “The girls are here to win. They played hard. We didn’t get things done in the first game. They know now it’s just a little tougher road to get there. We have to take one game at a time to do that.”

After some struggles in game 1, Michaela Woodward got rolling in the circle in the capper. She tossed all seven frames while scattering seven Midland hits and striking out four to go against just one walk. She also blasted a solo homer (sixth of the season) to tie the game in the second inning. She’s no stranger to postseason success having started all six games in the circle during last year’s GPAC tournament title run.

“She pitched well and I think that home run kind of propelled her,” LaVelle said. “It added a little life to her arm. She pitched a really good game. I thought she did the first game. We went into that knowing we were going to pitch by committee. Hastings got the hits when they needed them.”

Woodward got the offensive support she needed when the Bulldogs struck for two runs in the fifth off Warrior pitcher Skyler Peterson, a Seward High School product. Harpst got the wheels turning with two outs by singling and then stealing second. Leah Kalkwarf followed with an RBI double and Owens then drove in Kalkwarf with a base hit to right.

Midland (22-29) threatened with a leadoff single from Peterson in the seventh, but Woodward induced three-straight fly outs to put the game on ice and extend the season by at least one more day. It was Woodward’s sixth career conference tournament win.

It was only fitting that both of Wednesday’s games came down to the wire in a season of close calls. Concordia suffered its eighth one-run loss of the season in the opening contest played in the Morningside Bracket. The Broncos (36-20) came all the way back from a 9-6 deficit in the bottom of the seventh. Hastings took advantage of an error and then tied the game up on Anna Gerhard’s two-run single off Kylie Harpst. The winning run came across on Katlynn Behnk’s sacrifice fly to right.

Hastings’ seventh-inning comeback spoiled a solid offensive game by the Bulldogs. Third baseman Autumn Owens, who extended her hitting streak to 13 on Wednesday, drilled her ninth home run of the season to tie Clarissa Eloge’s program single-season record. Trailing 6-5 in the sixth, Concordia took a 9-6 advantage thanks to two-run singles from Megan Ruppert and AJ Wygant.

The Bulldogs are attempting to repeat their feat of 2014 when they lost their opening game of the GPAC tournament and then won five-straight elimination contests before settling for conference runner-up status while earning an automatic bid to the national tournament. LaVelle has guided Concordia to an 11-4 record in GPAC postseason play.

Action continues from the Jensen Softball Complex at 12 p.m. on Thursday when Concordia tries to avenge Wednesday’s loss to Hastings. The winner will move on to play top-seeded Morningside (41-8) at 2 p.m. The loser will see its season come to an end.

“Both us and Hastings are at the top of the conference in a lot of offensive categories,” LaVelle said. “It’s just going to be a slugfest every time we play them.”

Season ends at hands of Hastings

SIOUX CITY, Iowa – Leah Kalkwarf’s first career home run leading off the top of the fourth provided the day’s biggest highlight as the 2016 campaign came to an end for the Concordia University softball team. The Bulldogs had hoped to repeat their 2015 GPAC tournament title run but instead, Hastings won 3-1 in Thursday afternoon’s postseason elimination game at the Jensen Softball Complex in Sioux City, Iowa.

It was the first time under third-year head coach Todd LaVelle that Concordia has dropped a conference tournament elimination game (7-1). The sixth team in program history to reach the 30-win mark, the Bulldogs concluded the season with an overall mark of 30-18.

“I’ve told the girls here for the last week. Success isn’t just wins and losses,” LaVelle said. “I think this team was a success. Obviously we set the bar high with the last two years. We expect to go to nationals. I’m sure major league teams expect to go to the World Series. We’ll get better and learn from this, but I’m excited. I think there were a lot of successful moments this year.”

The fourth-seeded Broncos (37-20) did not wait long to even up after Kalkwarf’s solo blast. Corrin Ziepke connected on a solo shot of her own with one out in the bottom of the fourth. It marked the first Hastings hit of the game off pitcher Michaela Woodward, who has started in the circle for each of Concordia’s last nine GPAC tournament games.

Hastings then got the go-ahead run in the fifth on Cara Williams’ sac fly and an insurance run one frame later on Madi Fischer’s RBI single to deep left. Concordia’s sluggers in the middle of the order were unable to muster a rally in the late innings against Taylor Erlenbusch, who surrendered just three hits all game.

Two of those hits came via Kalkwarf, who ended her freshman season with a hot bat. She also made a nice running catch into shallow right center field as part of a clean game on both sides. In an error-free contest, third baseman Autumn Owens dazzled at third base in back of Woodward. The sophomore pitcher allowed six hits and two walks while striking out five over six innings.

A senior class of five members appeared in Bulldog uniforms for the final time on Thursday. That group included 2015 first team all-conference selection Julia Tyree, who played through pain for much of the latter stages of the season. Tyree had a big hand in the team’s 91 wins since the start of 2014. That number ties for the most victories over a three-year stretch in program history.

“I hate it for the seniors. You never want to have this conversation this early,” LaVelle said. “We have five seniors that gave this program and this university everything. I appreciate them.”

LaVelle went on to note Concordia’s youth. Of the 10 players who started the game on Thursday, Tyree was the lone senior. The Bulldogs employed three freshmen in the infield in Kalkwarf at second, Maddie Fousek at first and Mikaela Keene at shortstop. All four Concordia regulars who batted better than .350 are underclassmen. Said LaVelle, “the future looks bright. Even though this chapter has closed, I’m looking forward to the next one.”

Had the Bulldogs defeated Hastings, they would have advanced to play Morningside in another elimination contest. As Concordia departed from Sioux City, Morningside and Hastings were battling for the right to play in the GPAC Championship Series.

Owens, Woodward selected to All-GPAC First Team

GPAC Release

SEWARD, Neb. – The Great Plains Athletic Conference (GPAC) has announced the All-GPAC softball team for the 2016 season. Headlining Concordia’s selections are designated player Michaela Woodward and infielder Autumn Owens, receiving first-team accolades. Also claiming GPAC honors were Julia Tyree and Taylor Huff who received second-team recognition and Kylie Harpst who was named to the honorable mention team.

This marks the most all-conference selection in one season for head coach Todd LaVelle and most since the 2012 season.

Owens has been named to an all-league team for the first time in her career and started 45 games at third base. The sophomore slugger tied for a team-high batting average (.392) and slugging percentage (.692) with over 100 at bats. The Henderson, Nev., native led the team in RBI (45), home runs (nine) and total bases (99) and was second in hits (56) and doubles (14). Owens also proved to be a force on the field with a 92.7 fielding percentage and a team-best 70 assists.

Woodward received her second career all-conference honor after being named to the All-GPAC First Team as a designated player. Woodward finished the season with a .380 batting average and a .606 slugging percentage. The Cortland, Neb., native was also one of the starting pitchers for Concordia this season and led the team in innings pitched (149), appearances (28) and batters stuck out (78) among numerous other pitching categories.

Tyree finished out her Concordia career with her second All-GPAC honor after being named to the second team. The Benicia, Calif., native compiled a .273 batting average in 110 at bats this year. Tyree made a shift to first base and marked a 97.6 fielding percentage. She also recorded a team-high 152 put outs while committing just four errors.

Huff received second-team honors in her first season as a Bulldog. As the team’s primary catcher, Huff ranked second on the team in total putouts (143). At the plate, Huff registered a .355 batting average and .574 slugging percentage. The Eagle, Neb., native led the team in doubles (15).

Harpst was named to the honorable mention team for the first time in her career at Concordia. As another one of Concordia’s go-to pitchers, Harpst recorded a 3.34 ERA and ended the season with a 13-11 record in 27 appearances. The Lincoln native led the squad in several pitching categories including opposing batting average (.269) and wins (13). Harpst also was impressive in the batter’s box, recording a .392 average in a team-high 158 at bats.

The Concordia softball team ended the season with a 30-18 overall mark and a 10-10 GPAC record. In the GPAC tournament, the Bulldogs went 1-2, finding a victory over Midland. The two losses came from Hastings.