2018 Softball Schedule/Results

21-21 overall | 10-10 GPAC | Season Stats

Twenty-one regular season dates make up 2018 softball slate

2018 Softball Schedule | PDF

SEWARD, Neb. – The fifth season of head coach Todd LaVelle’s tenure as head softball coach at Concordia University is set to get underway on Feb. 17 when the Bulldogs begin a nonconference slate heavy on opponents from the Kansas Collegiate Athletic Conference. The 2018 schedule was made available on Thursday (Sept. 7). The new slate is made up of 17 doubleheaders in addition to what has become an annual trip to the Tucson Invitational.

LaVelle’s squad is coming off an impressive 2017 campaign during which it went 34-14 overall and placed in a tie for second in the GPAC. The 34 wins equaled the second most in a single season in program history. The headlining returner from the 2017 squad will be second baseman Leah Kalkwarf, who batted a team best .366 and earned first team all-conference honors as a sophomore.

Kalkwarf and the Bulldogs are scheduled to play seven doubleheaders at Plum Creek Park. Based on last season’s records, Kansas Wesleyan University (35-16) and Tabor College (33-19) will provide significant road tests during the February portion of the schedule. Concordia’s showdown with defending GPAC regular season champion Morningside will take place in Sioux City, Iowa, on April 7. Four days earlier, the Bulldogs will welcome defending GPAC tournament titlist Hastings to Seward.

Concordia will play at the Tucson Invitational on March 5, 6, 7 and 9. Specific opponents and game times have not yet been announced. Under LaVelle’s direction, the Bulldogs have gone a combined 32-9 in games played in Arizona over the past four seasons.

The GPAC postseason tournament will play out May 4-5 with the championship series set for May 7. Once again, the top two seeds will both host pods as part of the eight-team tournament format. The two pod winners then advance to the championship series. Dates for the national tournament are May 14-16 for the opening round and May 21-25 for the NAIA Softball World Series.

Update: groundwork for winning softball culture begins in fall

The 2017 Concordia softball team put together one of the winningest seasons in program history. Now the page has been turned and the Bulldogs are moving on after saying goodbye to many key figures from last season. Concordia has played seven games this fall with an eye on remaking the pitching staff and renewing a winning culture.

Heading into his fifth season leading the program, head coach Todd LaVelle says the approach has been altered in noticeable ways since the Bulldogs returned to campus for the fall semester.

“We’ve done things quite a bit different this year,” LaVelle said. “In my first couple years I felt it was important to establish a winning attitude right away. It wasn’t necessarily win at all costs, but we believed we needed more of a laid back approach this year. That starts with practices. We’ve tried to practice fairly hard Monday and Tuesday, have a team bonding activity on Wednesday, practice again Thursday and have an intrasquad scrimmage on Friday. That’s what a typical week has looked like.”

No longer will you find the faces of former reliable veterans Kylie Harpst, Autumn Owens, Megan Ruppert or Michaela Woodward. In other words, it’s time for a new wave of Bulldogs to make their mark. Their time has begun this fall with promising results. In wins over conference rivals Hastings and Northwestern, Concordia piled up a combined 20 runs.

Of course the rock in the Bulldog lineup figures to be junior second baseman Leah Kalkwarf, who batted a team high .366 last season in a first team all-conference performance. Crazy hot over the second half of 2017, Kalkwarf looks to be even better in 2018, according to LaVelle. She’s been awarded captain status and will be counted upon heavily as a leader.

“Her confidence level is there,” LaVelle said. “I haven’t had to pay too close attention to her this fall because every time I put her in, she hits the ball extremely well. Last week at Morningside she almost hit for the cycle. She’s a natural leader. The girls follow her. Her confidence level is through the roof right now and we want to continue to see that.”

Kalkwarf and others like fellow middle infielder Jamie Lefebure (junior from Crete, Neb.) are the known commodities, but the unknowns will have much to say about the trajectory of the 2018 team. Nearly half the roster is comprised of a freshman class that will be needed for significant contributions.

That’s why this time in the fall is so crucial. LaVelle and his staff will also have the cold winter months to continue to prepare a team with just one senior: outfielder Janey Pasold, another captain alongside Kalkwarf, Kaitlyn Buresh and Brittany Woolridge. Crete native and speedy outfielder Mackinsey Schmidt is one member of the talented class of rookies.

“I’m cautiously optimistic,” LaVelle said. “There are times when I see us in midseason form like when we played Northwestern this fall. I think we had 13 or 14 hits in that game and played really well. Other times we look like a young team starting to develop. I brought in 16 freshmen. Anytime you do that and try to mix them with 16 or 17 returners, you’re going to have some growing pains. We want to get them out of the way this fall.”

Such growing pains will be more quickly overcome if Concordia can find solutions in the circle. Over the past three years, the Bulldogs relied upon the rubber-armed Woodward to throw a combined 510 innings. In a legendary effort in 2015, Woodward threw every inning of GPAC postseason play while leading the Bulldogs to a conference championship and national tournament appearance.

LaVelle and company would like to believe that transfer Brittany Woolridge will be the next strong-armed hurler to help rekindle that championship glory. Woolridge, a transfer from NCAA Division II Texas A&M University-Commerce, is one of four pitchers LaVelle has used during fall action.

“Brittany Woolridge has had an outstanding fall,” LaVelle said. “She’s hit the ground running. We also have some other exciting options. Baily Clear has really impressed me. As a coach you always look for players to give you that confidence to put them in. She has my confidence. She’s thrown a lot of innings for us this fall and has gotten tremendously better than she was a year ago. Then we have a promising freshman Grace Bernhardt from the St. Louis area. She’s going to throw some innings for us. I’ve been impressed with our pitching staff.”

Like many teams at Concordia, the softball team has immersed itself within the community. On one particular day this fall, the Bulldogs worked with the Krieser family to clean up trash over a three-mile stretch along Highway 34 just outside of town. It’s a very meaningful goodwill gesture to the Kriesers, who lost a daughter in a car accident on Highway 34.

Such community outreach is part of how the Bulldogs hope to build a winning culture both on and off the diamond. Despite the youth, Concordia aspires to be a top-of-the-GPAC contender once again. LaVelle’s teams have averaged more than 30 wins per season. What his players do between now and the season opener on Feb. 17 will prove critical.

“You always walk a fine line between whether we’re doing too much or too little,” LaVelle says of the offseason focus. “Our attitude this fall was to be more laid back than we have in the past. We moved our weight room times to the afternoon to they can sleep. We’re doing our conditioning after practice. We’re trying to keep them fresh for this spring. End of April and beginning of May, we want them to be hungry. We don’t want them burned out.”

Crete's Moore chooses Concordia based on family, right fit

CRETE, Neb. – Cam Moore couldn’t hide an ear-to-ear grin on Monday (Nov. 20) when she made her college choice official. With her family and high school coach and teammates and future college coach gathered inside the lobby of Crete High School, Moore signed on the dotted line. She’ll soon trade her Cardinal red for Bulldog blue and join head coach Todd LaVelle’s softball program.

Considering the large support group in attendance on Monday, it’s no wonder Moore switched her college pledge in an effort to be closer to home. Proud mom and dad and sister were on hand and high school teammates cheered loudly as Moore finished scribbling her signature on her official letter. Current Bulldog freshman Mackinsey Schmidt made goofy faces alongside Moore as they posed for pictures. The family also handed out cookies beautifully crafted in the form of the Concordia “block C.”

It's a day Moore and her family will likely never forget.

Explained Moore, “I just wanted to be closer to home, closer to all my friends and family that have shown me so much support over the past year. That home feeling was something I needed more than being so far away.”

According to both LaVelle and Crete softball coach Shawn Carr, Concordia is getting a fine softball player, student and person. Moore’s credentials are inarguably impressive. The Lincoln Journal Star named her to its Super-State Softball First Team while the Omaha World-Herald tabbed her a First Team All-Nebraska selection. She led Crete to the Class B state championship, went 28-8 with a 1.00 ERA in the circle and hit .487 and recorded eight home runs and 39 RBIs at the plate as a senior.

In other words, LaVelle sees Moore as the type of player that can make an immediate impact.

“Cam is the all-around package,” LaVelle said. “We’re very lucky to have her at Concordia. Her accomplishments on the field speak for themselves – all the strikeouts and the .400 batting average. She had some outstanding statistics and then you throw in a state championship. The main reason that I’m enthused about having her is what she’s like off the field and what she stands for. She’s a 4.0 student and she excels with a lot of different groups. She’s one of those kids that makes your day a little bit brighter. She elevates her entire team.”

Moore’s high school coach will back up all of those sentiments. Carr saw first-hand how Moore rose to the status of one of the top high school players in the state.

“You’re going to see the best Class B softball player that I’ve seen the past couple years on and off the field,” Carr said. “Camry Moore came into our program and resurrected it, basically putting it on her shoulders. The word that I use is composure. I’ve never coached a kid that’s been as composed as Cam, whether it’s on the mound or at the plate. What you saw here – kids come into the room and they’re all cheering and screaming for her. People just gravitate to her.”

Moore recently re-opened her college recruitment after initially giving a commitment to a NCAA Division II school. It wasn’t something she wanted to make a big deal about. She wasn’t out seeking to have colleges fawning over her. She knew she had what she wanted close to home.

She’s looking forward to catching back up with Schmidt, a close friend for many years and she relishes the chance to play for LaVelle, who she says is “so personal and easy to have conversations with.” Moore, Schmidt and infielder Jamie Lefebure will make for three Crete High alums on the Bulldog softball team next season.

“It’s comforting, especially with Mack,” Moore said. “I’ve played with her since I was like eight years old. Just to be reunited with her is going to be great.”

The hope is for Moore to bring Concordia softball closer to winning another championship of its own. Moore knows a little something about winning. As Moore signed her letter of intent, a glitzy state championship trophy sat to her right. Said Moore of winning the whole thing, “It was unreal. I’ve never experienced anything like that. I got to experience it with my best friends. Going all the way – we did not think we were going to go all that far. It was pretty awesome.”

Moore is already a hero in her hometown. Said Carr, “All the little kids in Crete say they want to be Camry, my daughter included. My daughter Kinsley ends all her prayers by throwing Camry in there somehow just because Cam’s meant that much to her.” Added LaVelle, “We got the total package in Cam Moore.”

In Moore’s eyes, the total package is not far from her backyard. Concordia will become her new home.

Heath listens to voice calling her back to Seward

Independently, each of the Heath sisters, all talented softball players, migrated away from hometown Seward. Kallie, the oldest, stayed close to home and attended the University of Nebraska. The middle sister Kasey landed at Texas A&M University. Finally, in the fall of 2016, youngest sister Kenna enrolled at the University of Sioux Falls, where she was a member of the softball team.

Todd LaVelle, who is entering his fifth season leading the Concordia softball program, had coached each of the Heath sisters for traveling softball teams during his long run as a high school coach and teacher. LaVelle recruited both Kasey and Kenna to Concordia, but they decided they wanted to experience college in new surroundings.

A friend of Kenna's parents, John and Janice Heath, LaVelle always left the door open should any of the Heaths decide to reconsider.

Said Todd of Kenna, “She’s an outstanding player. She had one of the highest batting averages on the team at Sioux Falls, playing at a very high level. Her high school coach thought she was a borderline Division I athlete, but that’s only half of it. What impresses me the most is just who she is. She’s an outstanding individual with high character and is a great Christian. That’s why we thought this would be a great place for her.”

It took three college semesters before it became a reality, but the time has come. Kenna is a Concordia Bulldog. Said Kenna, “If I am being completely honest, Concordia wasn’t in my plans I had for myself at all.”

So what changed? Something didn’t feel quite right about her initial college choice. It wasn’t due to a lack of friends. Kenna already misses the friendships she developed in Sioux Falls. She just couldn’t ignore the voice inside her head. Kenna returned to Sioux Falls for her sophomore year. While it’s difficult to pinpoint an exact moment when her mind was made up, she began another semester this past fall with uncertainty in her future.

In the back of Kenna’s mind, she knew Concordia would always be there for her. “I’ve known Coach (LaVelle) for a very long time,” Kenna said. “As soon as my sisters started playing travel softball, he was their coach. I played for him one summer.

“I remember I really liked how aggressive he was as a coach and how passionate he was. He wasn’t afraid of anyone. He wanted us to play the best we could and he was always really straight up with us. I liked that a lot.”

With open arms, LaVelle welcomed Kenna as a member of the Bulldogs. She’s just starting to get comfortable in a new environment that includes new professors and new teammates. Thankfully, she has the skills to cope. She proved during her freshman season at Sioux Falls that she can play college softball. She hit .346 and stole 10 bases over 51 games in her only season with the Cougars. Plus, the exercise science major (pre-physical therapy) has smarts.

Still, there were reservations about how much she could grow as a collegian in her hometown and how her teammates would react to her joining the team in the middle of a school year.

“I wasn’t so sure about it at first but now that I have been back it’s been nice to be closer to family and be able to spend more time with them,” Kenna said. “I still miss friends up there a ton. I was just a little nervous about joining a new team at semester and changing schools in the middle of the year. I was the new kid without being a freshman with other new kids surrounding me, but it’s been really good so far.”

While mulling over her decision to leave Sioux Falls, Kenna had several conversations with her parents, John and Janice, and with sisters Kallie and Kasey. Judging by the divergent paths taken by each sister, it’s quite clear there was never any pressure placed upon any of them to go to any certain place. As it turns out, the right place for Kenna is Concordia. Her family, in addition to Coach LaVelle, was going to be proud of her all the same.

But this feels different now. This feels like home. Her father has often served as public address announcer for Bulldog softball games over the past few seasons. Wouldn’t that be something for Kenna to stride to the plate and have her own father proudly bellow out her name?

“They just want what’s best for me, whatever makes me happy,” Kenna said of her parents. “They would come to all my games even if I was playing across the world. They’re so great and are so supportive of me no matter what. I think they’re excited. They’ll put less miles on the car this year.”

Kenna is the next in a long line of recent Seward Bluejays to find out that a whole new world is waiting for them right in their own backyard at Concordia. Finally, one of the Heaths is staying home. Said LaVelle, “They were very up front with me that they wanted to leave home. They’ve always known that they had a place here at Concordia and could play for me if anything didn’t work out.”

Less than two weeks into her life at Concordia, Kenna says things are working out just fine.

Says Kenna, “God really showed me that I needed to do something different and I am working on trusting Him and His plan for me. After my first week-and-a-half or so, I’m feeling pretty good about it.”

LaVelle's squad picked second in GPAC preseason poll

GPAC release

SEWARD, Neb. – Based on preseason projections, the 2018 Concordia University softball team is expected to contend for a conference regular-season title. Fifth-year head coach Todd LaVelle’s squad checked in second in the GPAC Softball Preseason Coaches’ Poll released on Thursday (Jan. 18) by the conference. Concordia also received votes in the preseason national poll unveiled on Tuesday (Jan. 16). The Bulldogs were pegged third in the GPAC preseason poll in 2017.

In terms of overall victories, the 2017 team was the most successful since LaVelle became head coach prior to the 2014 season. Last year’s group went 34-14 overall and placed in a tie for second in the conference regular-season standings. Concordia hopes for a return to the national tournament, where it landed in 2014 and 2015. The 2015 squad won the GPAC tournament title.

The ’18 edition of Bulldog softball will have junior second baseman Leah Kalkwarf to build around. LaVelle also expects a lot out of the newcomers, who will have to help replace all-conference players like Kylie Harpst, Autumn Owens, Megan Ruppert and Michaela Woodward. Kalkwarf and fellow middle infielder Jamie Lefebure are the team’s most experienced players.

The 2018 season is scheduled to get underway on Feb. 17 with a trip to Hillsboro, Kan., for a doubleheader with Tabor College. The team’s first home appearance is slated for March 13 when a doubleheader with the University of Saint Mary (Kan.) is scheduled.

2018 GPAC Softball Preseason Coaches’ Poll
1. Morningside – 72 (7)
2. Concordia – 68
3. Hastings – 66 (2)
4. Dordt – 55 (1)
5. Midland – 49 (1)
T6. Northwestern – 42
T6. Dakota Wesleyan – 42
T8. College of Saint Mary – 38
T8. Doane – 38
10. Mount Marty – 16
11. Briar Cliff – 9

SEASON PREVIEW: 2018 Concordia softball

Head coach: Todd LaVelle (125-71, 5th year)
2017 record: 34-14, 14-6 GPAC (T-2nd)
Key returners: Maddie Fousek (IF); Leah Kalkwarf (2B); Jamie Lefebure (SS); Delaney Nance (IF/P); Janey Pasold (OF).
Key losses: Kylie Harpst (OF/P); Diana Mendoza (OF); Autumn Owens (3B); Megan Ruppert (OF); Ronee Watson (IF); Michaela Woodward (P/1B).
Key newcomers: Hhana Haro (IF); Kenna Heath (IF); Tori Homolka (IF); Elanna Osthoff (OF); Mackinsey Schmidt (OF); Allysia Thayer (C); Brittany Woolridge (P).
2017 GPAC all-conference: Leah Kalkwarf (first team); Megan Ruppert (first team); Michaela Woodward (first team); Kylie Harpst (second team); Autumn Owens (second team). 

The GPAC preseason poll is a clear sign of the respect the Concordia softball program has earned under fifth-year head coach Todd LaVelle. Despite the departures of four first or second team all-conference choices, including the 2017 team’s top two pitchers, the Bulldogs checked in at No. 2 in the conference rating. LaVelle has proven that his program can withstand roster turnover. His teams have won at least 29 games in each of the past four seasons.

The 2017 campaign delivered 34 wins (second most in school history) and a tie for second place in the GPAC standings. This team will look totally different, but the expectations are largely the same. Concordia hopes to make a run at getting back to the national tournament, where it appeared in 2014 and 2015.

Said LaVelle, “We’re going to look at a lot of things. I think our two trips down to Kansas are going to tell us a lot. We’re probably going to play 15-16 girls. We’re going to get ready. That’s going to springboard us into Tucson, Arizona, where we play 11 games.

“It’s a tough conference and anybody can win. I was definitely pleased, but yet surprised, with the No. 2 preseason ranking because we lost two pitchers. I told the girls that a lot of coaches are respecting you. We also know we’re going to have to bring it every day.”

A lot of the thunder from last year’s lineup is gone with Kylie Harpst, Autumn Owens, Megan Ruppert and Michaela Woodward having moved on. That makes second baseman Leah Kalkwarf the headlining returner. Voted a team captain, Kalkwarf starred as the team’s most consistent hitter last spring. She may be small in stature, but Kalkwarf packs a punch. She hit .366 with 16 doubles and three home runs in a first team all-conference sophomore season.

While Kalkwarf is the anchor of the lineup, she admits that there are some question marks that can’t be answered until the games are played.

Said Kalkwarf, “I could see us being very good and upholding that second place (preseason ranking) or even being No. 1. As we always say, when a team gets on the field it’s whoever wants to win the most and be there the most. We’ve seen it a few times the past few years. You might lose to a team that you thought wasn’t very good. It just kind of depends. Everything is kind of unknown until you step on the field.”

In LaVelle’s eyes, the hitting ability of this team is not an unknown. He’s confident the new-look 2018 lineup can be just as productive as the 2017 group that averaged more than six runs per game. Jamie Lefebure returns at short, where she’ll again team with Kalkwarf for an experienced middle infield combo. Lefebure improved significantly as a sophomore, batting .306 while again showcasing a rocket launcher of an arm. Other returners who played extensively last season are senior Janey Pasold (.320 BA) and junior Maddie Fousek (37 games in 2017).

A talented recruiting class factors in next. Kalkwarf and Lefebure could very well have a freshman next to them at the corner spots. LaVelle has raved about rookie Hhana Haro (Garden Grove, Calif.), who appears ready to contribute in a big way with the bat. Freshman Tori Homolka (Swanton, Neb.) has made a strong case for the third base job. In the outfield, transfer Elanna Osthoff (Lebadie, Mo.) and freshman Mackinsey Schmidt (Crete, Neb.) are in competition for starting spots. Additionally, LaVelle will have to make room for University of Sioux Falls transfer Kenna Heath, a Seward native who hit .341 as a freshman at the NCAA Division II level.

“It’s no secret that we’re going to be leaning on the youth of this team,” LaVelle said. “We have four or five freshmen that have the ability to start for us. Hhana Haro from California has been doing a great job. She has probably some of the quickest hands that I’ve ever coached. She’s going to be a great hitter.”

Freshman Allysia Thayer (Etiwanda, Calif.) has the inside track on the catching spot. She’ll be working closely with a pitching staff that is retooling after the graduation of Harpst and Woodward, who threw a combined 267.1 innings last season. The new ace of the staff is Brittany Woolridge (Tucson, Ariz.), a transfer from Texas A&M University Commerce. LaVelle also has confidence in calling upon sophomores Baily Clear and Delaney Nance and freshman Grace Bernhardt (St. Charles, Mo.).

“The whole pitching staff is probably deeper than it’s ever been in my five years here at Concordia,” LaVelle said. “Brittany came in and had a great fall. She had a little injury in the last couple weeks that may sideline her until we get down to Arizona (spring break trip), but if that happens it’s going to open the door for three other pitchers. Baily Clear, a left-handed thrower, has done a good job and had an outstanding fall.”

Some questions will begin to be answered on Feb. 17 when the Bulldogs are scheduled to open up the 2018 season with a doubleheader at Tabor College. Between now and then, LaVelle will continue to try to mesh all the aforementioned pieces together. Based on the past four years, it’s a good bet that Concordia will find a way to be in the 30-win ballpark and to be a dangerous team by the time postseason play rolls around.

LaVelle can’t help but talk excitedly about his lineup. Hitting has been a primary focus during the offseason.

“We used to use maybe 60 percent of practice time on hitting,” LaVelle said. “We bumped that up to probably 70-75 percent. Even though pitching and defense are important, you’re going to find out that we’re going to be pretty strong one through nine in our order. I think I also have four or five girls that I can bring in from the bench when someone’s not up on their game. That’s exciting.”

The Bulldogs are hoping a potent lineup can help lead them back to the national tournament. No current players were on the roster when Concordia earned its first-ever national tournament win in 2015. The Bulldogs are allowing themselves to dream about experiencing that kind of glory in 2018.

Said Kalkwarf, “If we made it to the national tournament it would be something great. I think we’re preparing ourselves. We’re working at it right now in the preseason to mentally say that we can do it. If we got there it would be awesome. It would not only help us get ready for next season, but having that experience being able to go to a national tournament with Concordia and my teammates would be awesome.”

Kalkwarf starts hot, Bulldogs split at Tabor

HILLSBORO, Kan. – Junior second baseman Leah Kalkwarf picked up where she left off in 2017 while leading the Bulldog bats in a season-opening doubleheader split at Tabor College on Saturday afternoon (Feb. 17). The Concordia University softball team rebounded from a 5-4 loss in game 1 with a 15-6 run-rule shortened win in game 2 in Hillsboro, Kan.

Fifth-year head coach Todd LaVelle’s squad is coming off a 34-14 campaign in 2017. The Bulldogs made a solid debut while showcasing a lineup chalk full of newcomers.

“We hit really well,” LaVelle said. “That’s been a point of emphasis in the last six to eight weeks. I thought we executed really well. We just have to clean up the errors on the defensive side. I felt like the pitching staff did well enough to win both games. We have to shore up our defense, but we did play all 16 girls today. We’re still looking at a lot of different things.”

Kalkwarf rapped out five hits on the day, including a home run as part of the game 2 victory. The returning first team all-conference performer led the way for a squad that knocked three balls over the fence in the win. Freshmen corner infielders Hhana Haro and Tori Homolka both went deep. Haro connected for a grand slam and Homolka blasted a three-run homer. They were two of four freshmen starters on Saturday.

In the circle, sophomore Baily Clear started the opener and also got the final two outs of the capper. All five runs that Clear surrendered in the first game were unearned due to a sloppy defensive inning that saw a 3-0 Concordia lead melt away. Delaney Nance and Grace Bernhardt also got work in the circle.

Bulldog hitters combined for 18 hits and 16 walks on the day. LaVelle’s lineup included additional newcomers such as Allysia Thayer at catcher, Mackinsey Schmidt in center field and Kenna Heath in right field.

The Bulldogs will remain in the state of Kansas for Sunday’s doubleheader at Kansas Wesleyan University in Salina, Kan. First pitch will be at 2 p.m. CT. The Coyotes went 35-14 overall last season and reached the national tournament. Two of their losses came at the hand of Concordia last April in Seward.

Concordia drops two at Kansas Wesleyan

SALINA, Kan. – After building a 5-1 lead in the first game of Sunday’s (Feb. 18) doubleheader at Kansas Wesleyan University, the Concordia University softball team faltered the rest of the day while being swept by the host Coyotes in run-rule shortened contests. The Bulldogs fell by a 15-7 score in game 1 and then by an 8-0 final in game 2 during their stay on a windy day at Bill Burke Park.

Fifth-year head coach Todd LaVelle’s squad has finished four-game weekend trip on the road against members of the Kansas Collegiate Athletic Conference. Concordia also split a twin bill at Tabor College on Saturday.

There may be growing pains at times for a young Bulldog lineup that collected 12 hits in Sunday’s first game. The bats then went silent in game 2, getting held to two hits. Concordia’s offensive attack was sparked by Hhana Haro, Kenna Heath and Tori Homolka, who each notched three hits in the opener. Heath drove in a pair of runs with a two-run single in the second inning. After the Bulldogs closed to within 8-7 in the top of the fifth, Kansas Wesleyan (4-3) ended the game early by exploding for three runs in the fifth and four in the sixth.

Baily Clear and Grace Bernhardt got the starts in the circle for Concordia. They both pitched complete games while being tagged with losses. Taylor LaGrange burned the Bulldogs with a 4-for-5, five-RBI performance in game 1. In game 2, three different Coyotes recorded exactly two hits.

Kansas Wesleyan got Concordia back for a doubleheader sweep that went the other way in April 2017. The Coyotes were a national tournament qualifier last season.

The tour of KCAC schools will continue next week with a trip to Sterling College (Feb. 23) and to Bethany College (Feb. 24) for doubleheaders both days. Those contests will lead into the team’s spring break trip to Tucson, Ariz.

Haro stars in split at Bethany

LINDSBORG, Kan. – An offense that relies on a host of newcomers looked just fine despite a layoff of nearly a week-and-a-half for the Concordia University softball team. In the middle of the lineup, freshman Hhana Haro enjoyed a 5-for-9 day while highlighting Tuesday’s (Feb. 27) doubleheader split at Bethany College in Lindsborg, Kan. After a 12-10 slugfest loss in game one, the Bulldogs rebounded with a 10-6 victory in game two.

Due to postponements, fifth-year head Todd LaVelle’s squad had not played since a twin bill at Kansas Wesleyan University on Feb. 18. Concordia is now 2-4 overall.

“We’ve been hitting it really well all six games out,” LaVelle said. “I think we shored up our defense a lot better. That was good to see. We’re playing a lot of freshmen. There’s going to be a learning curve. Hhana’s been hitting really well. Tori (Homolka)’s been hitting well. I’ve been impressed with how they’ve been patient with their pitch selection. We’re making solid contact. I’m pretty excited about that.”

The Bulldogs rallied from an early 4-0 hole in the capper. Concordia took the lead thanks to a four-run fifth inning that included a two-run single by catcher Kaitlynn Carter. Carter’s drive down the right field line cleared the bases with the third run coming around with the help of a bobble in right field. Haro also added a two-run base hit in the sixth to provide some breathing room.

Haro and leadoff hitter Leah Kalkwarf both rapped out three hits in the first game. Kalkwarf drilled jer second home run already this season. Concordia fell despite 16 hits and five different Bulldogs with multiple hits. The Bulldogs also pushed across eight runs in the second inning of that contest. Right fielder Elanna Osthoff, who held down the No. 4 spot in the lineup, also notched a pair of hits in both ends of the doubleheader. Carter knocked three runs in game two.

Baily Clear started both games in the circle. She and Grace Bernhardt covered all innings from a pitching perspective. Bernhardt did a solid job in the second game, limiting the damage to two runs in four innings of work while earning credit for the win.

Concordia continues to play without ace pitcher Brittany Woolridge, who hopes to make a return to the diamond in March. The Bulldogs need to improve upon their run prevention. The Swedes (5-9) recorded 31 hits on the day. Second baseman Courtney Fudge collected five hits for the host. Bethany is the third Kansas Collegiate Athletic Conference member that Concordia has played already this season.

The next time the Bulldogs take the field it will be in Tucson, Ariz., for the Tucson Invitational (March 5-9). Concordia will play three times on Monday, March 5 as part of the opening day of the event. Fisher College (Mass.), Aquinas College (Mich.) and Northwest University (Wash.) will serve as the opponents on day one.

Softball opens up Tucson Invitational on Monday

SEWARD, Neb. – The Concordia University softball team is readying for a flight to Arizona and the beginning of a hectic 11-games-in-five-days stretch at the Tucson Invitational. That run will begin on Monday, March 5 with a trio of games against NAIA competition. During their stay in Tucson, the Bulldogs will play 10 different opponents, including Roosevelt University (Ill.) twice.

For coverage during games, follow @CUSB_dawgs and @cunebulldogs on Twitter for updates as they are made available. Live coverage will be limited, but full recaps will be provided at the conclusion of action each day.

Fifth-year head coach Todd LaVelle’s squad stands at 2-4 overall after three separate doubleheaders versus teams from the Kansas Collegiate Athletic Conference. Three regulars, in particular, in LaVelle’s lineup have been red hot at the plate: junior Leah Kalkwarf (10-for-17 with two home runs) and freshmen Hhana Haro (11-for-23 with four doubles and one home run) and Tori Homolka (9-for-23 with two triples and one home run). Concordia hopes to shore up its run prevention with debut of ace pitcher Brittany Woolridge, who has been sidelined so far due to injury. Woolridge is a Tucson native while Dalaney Nance is a Gilbert native.

Over LaVelle’s first four seasons, the Bulldogs have gone 33-6 at the Tucson Invitational. They won eight of nine games in Tucson last spring.

Tucson Invitational Schedule
-All games played at Lincoln Park
-All games seven innings

March 5 vs. Fisher College (Mass.), 11 p.m. MT / 12 p.m. CT (Field 8)

March 5 vs. Aquinas College (Mich.), 3:30 p.m. MT / 4:30 p.m. CT (Field 4)

March 5 vs. Northwest University (Wash.), 6 p.m. MT / 7 p.m. CT (Field 4)

March 6 vs. University of St. Francis (Ill.), 8 a.m. MT / 9 a.m. CT (Field 5)

March 6 vs. Roosevelt University (Ill.), 12 p.m. MT / 1 p.m. CT (Field 5)

March 6 vs. William Penn University (Iowa), 2 p.m. MT / 3 p.m. CT (Field 5)

March 8 vs. Roosevelt University (Ill.), 9 a.m. MT / 10 a.m. CT (Field 7)

March 8 vs. Madonna College (Mich.), 1:30 p.m. MT / 2:30 p.m. CT (Field 8)

March 8 vs. Saint Xavier University (Ill.), 3:30 p.m. MT / 4:30 p.m. CT (Field 5)

March 9 vs. Olivet Nazarene University (Ill.), 9 a.m. MT / 10 a.m. CT (Field 2)

March 9 vs. Presentation College (S.D.), 11 a.m. MT / 12 p.m. CT (Field 2)

Bulldogs open up Tucson Invite with three wins in 24-hour stretch

TUCSON, Ariz. – By the time the Concordia University softball team completed action at approximately 4:30 p.m. local time in Arizona on Tuesday (March 6), it had played five games in a stretch of just over 24 hours. During that time in the desert, the Bulldogs claimed wins over Northwest University (Wash.), Roosevelt University (Ill.) and William Penn University (Iowa). They also suffered defeats at the hands of Aquinas College (Mich.) and 11th-ranked University of St. Francis (Ill.).

Tucson Invite Results (March 5-6)
March 5 vs. Aquinas – L, 5-7
March 5 vs. Northwest – W, 7-6
March 6 vs. St. Francis – L, 1-3
March 6 vs. Roosevelt – W, 4-2
March 6 vs. William Penn – W, 4-3

Fifth-year head coach Todd LaVelle’s squad is 3-2 on the trip and 5-6 overall this season. Concordia is scheduled to play five more times before leaving Arizona.

The only loss on Tuesday actually provided encouragement. Freshman pitcher Grace Bernhardt threw all six innings and kept her team right in it against the nationally-ranked Fighting Saints. Concordia even put the potential game-tying run in scoring position in the top of the seventh as part of a rally spurred by Kenna Heath’s pinch hit RBI single.

“I thought we battled really well. We played great defense,” LaVelle said. “That was Grace’s best outing so far in a Bulldog uniform. You always want an opportunity to win at the end and we had a chance with runners at second and third and two outs. We didn’t get it done, but I was really proud of how the girls battled during that game.”

Throughout most of the early season, the top four in the lineup have been on a tear. LaVelle appears to have a fearsome foursome in Leah Kalkwarf, Tori Homolka, Hhana Haro and Elanna Osthoff. The latter three are all new to the Bulldogs this season. Osthoff enjoyed a 4-for-4 performance in Monday’s game against Aquinas and then added a double and a steal of home that seemed to spark the team in the victory over William Penn. Said LaVelle of Osthoff’s run in Arizona, “It’s just amazing how she’s hit.”

Osthoff and company had to come back from a 3-0 deficit early on against William Penn. In that contest, Tucson native Brittany Woolridge made her first career start in the circle. The Bulldogs waited to get on the board until the bottom of the sixth when Homolka’s triple sparked a four-run rally. Haro followed with an RBI double. After Osthoff stole home, Tricia Tripp walked and rounded the bases on Dalaney Nance’s double. Some sloppiness on the part of the Statesmen actually allowed Nance to score on the play, allowing Concordia to grab a 4-3 lead.

The Bulldogs needed the heroics of Homolka in Monday’s 7-6 win over Northwest. She delivered a three-run homer in the top of the sixth to turn a 4-3 deficit into a 6-4 advantage. An inning earlier, Homolka had doubled and scored on a Haro two-bagger. Kalkwarf, along for the ride on Homolka’s blast, notched two hits in both of Monday’s contests. In the victory over Northwest, Baily Clear battled through all seven innings in the circle while earning the win.

The Concordia lineup has shown plenty of potential for explosiveness. Now it’s up to its pitching and defense to make a leap forward. Tuesday was a positive step. Its three opponents combined for only eight runs.

“Our defense is shoring up pretty nice,” LaVelle said. “And our pitching staff has kind of settled down. Baily Clear got the win against Roosevelt and each girl pitched well today. That’s nice to see. I think we’re ready to break out at any time. We’re seeing a lot of the other teams’ best pitchers. We’ll embrace it and keep getting better.”

The Bulldogs will have Wednesday off before picking back up on Thursday with three more games. The slate includes Roosevelt at 9 a.m. MT / 10 a.m. CT, Madonna College (Mich.) at 1:30 p.m. MT / 2:30 p.m. CT and Saint Xavier University (Ill.) at 3:30 p.m. MT / 4:30 p.m. CT.

Bulldogs slug out two wins in Tucson

TUCSON, Ariz. – Two 19-run outbursts bookended a 4-3 loss as the Concordia University softball team continued its spring break week at the Tucson Invitational on Thursday (March 8). The Bulldogs began the day with a 19-13 slugfest victory over Roosevelt University (Ill.) prior to a 4-3 loss to Madonna University (Mich.). In an eight-inning evening affair, Concordia put up a seven-run eighth to run away with a 19-12 triumph over Saint Xavier University (Ill.). The Bulldogs were 2-1 on the day.

Fifth-year head coach Todd LaVelle’s squad stands at 7-7 overall (5-3 on the trip).

“It’s not what you hope for,” LaVelle said of the wealth of recent high run-scoring battles. “The nice thing is that our players are reacting positively. If there’s an error or the other teams scores, we just do what needs to be done. We talked a lot today about having the grit. We were at the ballpark at 7 o’clock this morning until about eight tonight. Those girls could have made excuses about being tired, but they just kept battling. I’m proud that we’ve come down here and are competing with good teams.”

In the final game of the day, the Bulldogs piled up 27 hits. Hhana Haro went 5-for-6 with four RBIs, Mackinsey Schmidt went 4-for-5 with three doubles and four RBIs and Janey Pasold went 4-for-5. After the Cougars tied it in the bottom of the seventh with a grand slam, Concordia responded with a massive game-winning push.

Before going down with an injury, Elanna Osthoff continued her scalding hot streak with a 4-for-6 performance in the win over Roosevelt. She homered and drove in six runs. Haro and Tori Homolka also blasted a homer in the win. Haro collected three hits and four other Bulldogs notched two hits apiece as part of a 19-hit attack.

Brittany Woolridge put together the best pitching performance of the day. She allowed only one earned run over 5.2 innings in a tight loss to Madonna. She scattered six hits and four walks and struck out three.

Time is running out in regards to Concordia’s stay at the Tucson Invitational. The Bulldogs will wrap up action in Arizona on Friday by playing Olivet Nazarene University (Ill.) at 9 a.m. MT / 10 a.m. CT and then Presentation College at 11 a.m. MT / 12 p.m. CT. Friday’s action will conclude a 10-game swing in Tucson.

Tucson Invite closes with wins over Olivet Nazarene, Presentation

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Concordia splits with former GPAC rival Nebraska Wesleyan

LINCOLN, Neb. – It’s been a busy start to the week for the Concordia University softball team, which made its first home appearance of the 2018 season on Tuesday. The result was a doubleheader split with the University of Saint Mary (Kan.). The Bulldogs also split a twin bill in Lincoln on Wednesday night (March 14). Concordia regrouped from an 8-0, five-inning loss to Nebraska Wesleyan by topping the Prairie Wolves, 8-5, in the night cap.

Fifth-year head coach Todd LaVelle’s squad will enter the first weekend of conference play at 11-9 overall.

“That first game was not how Concordia plays softball,” LaVelle said. “We’re in a grind here coming off the road trip in Tucson, but we expect more out of the girls when we take the field. I was very encouraged. We had some girls step up in the huddle in between games and speak up. I loved how we came out and jumped out to a lead and kept adding on.”

LaVelle also liked what he saw from freshman pitcher Grace Bernhardt, who tossed 6.1 innings in a winning effort in Wednesday’s second game. Nebraska Wesleyan (11-7) made some noise in that final inning, but Brittany Woolridge recorded the final two outs to stamp out the fire.

At the plate, freshman outfielder Mackinsey Schmidt went 2-for-2 with a triple and a sacrifice bunt while spurring the victory. Additionally, LaVelle lauded shortstop Jamie Lefebure, who enjoyed a 3-for-4 second game that included some highlight reel worthy glove work in the field. Hhana Haro also went 2-for-3 with a run. The likes of Lefebure and Schmidt forced the Prairie Wolves to burn through three pitchers during a six-run fifth inning.

That offensive surge came after Concordia managed only four hits while being shut out in game one. The Prairie Wolves enacted the eight-run rule with one out in the bottom of the fifth. Katie Stanzel wore out Bulldog pitcher Baily Clear. Stanzel went 3-for-3 with a pair of RBIs and Danelle Snyder homered for the Prairie Wolves.

A chance at sweep slipped through the Bulldogs’ fingers on Tuesday. They knocked off the Spires, 11-5, in game one before letting a 5-1 lead get away in an 8-7, eight-inning loss in game two. Leah Kalkwarf went 4-for-7 with four RBIs in the twin bill. Lefebure put together a 3-for-4, three-RBI effort in game two. Bernhardt picked up a win, going all seven innings in the opener.

The start of conference play looms on Saturday when the Bulldogs are scheduled to be in Orange City, Iowa, for a doubleheader at Northwestern (11-4). First pitch is set for 1 p.m. CT. The Red Raiders received votes in the national poll released this week. They got a signature win in Tucson, toppling No. 11 University of St. Francis (Ill.), 10-6.

Conference play arrives for softball

SEWARD, Neb. – The start of conference play continues to be pushed back by inclement weather. Originally scheduled to play this past weekend at Northwestern, the Concordia University softball team now appears poised to open up GPAC action Thursday at Doane. The Bulldogs are also slated to host Briar Cliff on Saturday.

This week’s schedule
Thursday, March 22 at Doane, 3 p.m. (DH)
Saturday, March 24 vs. Briar Cliff, 1 p.m. (DH)

For live coverage of Thursday’s twin bill at Doane, check the school’s athletics website HERE. Saturday’s home doubleheader will be streamed live via the Concordia Sports Network.

Even after 20 games, there’s still much to be learned about fifth-year head coach Todd LaVelle’s squad, which enters the GPAC season at 11-9 overall. It’s still difficult to get a read on how the conference race will play out. The most recent GPAC ratings (March 12) pegged the top three teams as Morningside, Northwestern and Concordia. The Bulldogs were listed among others receiving votes in the preseason.

There have been encouraging signs for a team that has relied heavily upon freshmen such as Hhana Haro, Tori Homolka and Mackinsey Schmidt and transfer Elanna Osthoff. LaVelle hopes to get Osthoff back soon from the injury she suffered near the tail end of the Tucson Invitational. Osthoff went 15-for-21 (.714) in Tucson and leads the team with a .538 batting average. Haro (.514 BA, 2 HR, 23 RBI, .757 SLG) and Homolka (.375 BA, 5 HR, 20 RBI, .750 SLG) have been similarly impressive in their first seasons in Seward. Junior Leah Kalkwarf (.424 BA) has simply picked up where she left off after a first team All-GPAC sophomore campaign.

Ranked 14th nationally in runs per game (7.4), Concordia could be a major threat in the GPAC if it can solidify a pitching staff that also looks much different in 2018. Freshman Grace Bernhardt continues to make strides. She picked up wins in both doubleheaders last week. She leads the staff in innings pitched (50.1). The Bulldogs also have high expectations for Texas A&M University Commerce transfer Brittany Woolridge, who made her Concordia debut in Tucson.

Doane (16-10) looks to be improved after slipping to eighth place in the GPAC last season. The Tigers have twice run-ruled teams receiving votes nationally this season. Nicole Fernandez (.478) and Jordan Van Roy (.453) both sport batting averages above .450. Meanwhile, Briar Cliff has struggled to a 3-12 start. The Chargers have averaged only 3.0 runs per game and are hitting .262 as a team. They have gotten solid work from pitcher Isabella Gonzalez (2.26 ERA in 34 innings).

As part of next week’s action, Concordia is now scheduled to head to Northwestern (13-4) for a 4 p.m. doubleheader on Thursday, March 29. The Bulldogs will be off for Easter weekend.

Lefebure, Schmidt shine in hometown Crete

CRETE, Neb. – Jamie Lefebure and Mackinsey Schmidt both raked while starring in their hometown of Crete, Neb., on Thursday (March 22). After an 8-6 eight-inning loss in the first game of the doubleheader, the Concordia University softball team held an 11-6 lead when play was suspended in game two at Doane. The contest will be resumed in the bottom of the fifth at a later date.

Both teams opened conference play on Thursday. Fifth-year head coach Todd LaVelle’s squad now stands at 11-10 overall after dropping a game that it had led in the bottom of the seventh.

“I thought we battled all game long,” LaVelle said. “Their top hitters are as good as we’ve seen. We had a chance to win it and we walked in a run. That was pretty hard to take but these girls regroup really quick. That second game we get down four-zip and we come back in the third inning and score eight runs.”

Lefebure and Schmidt wore out Tiger pitching. Both Crete High School products collected five hits before the suspension of play that resulted from a bizarre play and due to darkness. Schmidt boomed a two-run double that tied game one, 5-5, in the top of the seventh. A pair of groundouts then brought Schmidt home for the go-ahead run.

In the bottom half, righty pitcher Brittany Woolridge came within one pitch of sewing up a Bulldog win. After a bases loaded walk evened up the game, Woolridge got a fly out to left to necessitate an eighth inning. Doane (17-10, 1-0 GPAC) won the game in the bottom of the eighth on Jordan Van Roy’s two-run homer just over the center field fence. Van Roy burned Concordia with an 8-for-8 day.

The Bulldogs appeared to stand a strong chance of winning the second game after piling up eight runs in the fourth and then three in the fifth. Holding down the 1-2 spots in the lineup, Schmidt and Lefebure both doubled as part of the fourth-inning onslaught. Elanna Osthoff also delivered a two-run single, helping knock starting pitcher Josie Schnakenberg out of the game.

Schmidt is now batting nearly .400 after her big day on Thursday. She looked comfortable once again in a town in which she’s drilled many hits.

“Just going up with that mentality that I’m going to rip it, I think, always helps me as a person,” Schmidt said. “I think we all went up with that attitude. The second game we really picked it up.”

Hhana Haro, Lefebure and Schmidt all recorded three hits in the defeat. Leah Kalkwarf registered a hit in both games while driving in three runs. Should the score hold up upon completion of the suspended game, Baily Clear would be in line for a pitching win. Four the six runs she allowed were unearned.

Lefebure and Schmidt looked so good with the bat in the first game that LaVelle bumped them up in the order for the latter contest. The Crete connection, which will also funnel all-state pitcher Camry Moore to Seward this fall, has been good to the Bulldogs.

“Jamie and Mackinsey played really well,” LaVelle said. “We know they have that kind of ability and they played well in their hometown. I’m happy for them. That’s the level that we want to play at. We need to get one through nine stroking that ball like that.”

The second game came to a halt in the bottom of the fifth when Doane’s Brittney Amezquita went down with an injury after being struck at second base by Haro while attempting to turn a double play. An ambulance was required in order to tend to Amezquita. Both teams gathered in prayer as she rested on the infield.

Concordia is scheduled to be back at home on Saturday to host Briar Cliff (3-12, 0-0 GPAC) in a 1 p.m. CT doubleheader. The Chargers placed 11th in the GPAC last season.

Softball postpones Saturday doubleheader

SEWARD, Neb. – Due to rainfall over night, the softball field at Plum Creek Park is unplayable. As a result, the Concordia University softball program has postponed its scheduled Saturday (March 24) home doubleheader versus Briar Cliff. A makeup date is yet to be determined.

Up next for head coach Todd LaVelle’s squad is Thursday’s twin bill at Northwestern. First pitch is set for 4 p.m. CT from Orange City, Iowa.

Softball slated to head to Northwestern on Wednesday

SEWARD, Neb. – Chilly and rainy weather has made it difficult from a scheduling perspective over recent weeks, but the Concordia University softball team hopes to play at least one doubleheader before breaking for Easter weekend. The Bulldogs (11-10, 0-1 GPAC) are getting set for Wednesday's trip to Orange City, Iowa, for a 2 p.m. CT twin bill at Northwestern (14-5, 1-1 GPAC). The Red Raiders will have a live webcastHERE. (The doubleheader has twice been rescheduled).

Wet conditions forced fifth-year head coach Todd LaVelle’s squad to postpone the doubleheader that had been scheduled for March 24 at Plum Creek Park. The only action that took place last week occurred in Crete, where Concordia dropped an 8-6, eight-inning decision in game one. The Bulldogs held an 11-6 lead in the middle of the fifth inning when play was suspended. The contest will be picked up at a later date.

Concordia’s offense kept on humming with the start of conference play. In 13 innings of action at Doane, the Bulldogs collected a combined 21 hits. Five apiece came from Crete natives Jamie Lefebure and Mackinsey Schmidt. Before the suspension of play, Schmidt had gone 5-for-7 with two doubles, four runs, four RBIs and one walk. Lefebure also went 5-for-7 while adding three runs and three RBIs.

Lefebure and Schmidt have been two of the constants for an offense that ranks 15th nationally in runs per game (7.3). On the NAIA leaderboard, Concordia also ranks eighth in hits per game (10.7), 14th in batting average (.352), 15th in doubles per game (2.0) and 20th in slugging percentage. Elanna Osthoff (.524), Hhana Haro (.519) and Leah Kalkwarf (.408) all possess batting averages above .400. Haro leads the GPAC in batting average (Osthoff has not played in the required 75 percent of the team’s games to qualify). Osthoff went 15-for-21 (.714) at the plate during the team’s stay at the Tucson Invitational.

Northwestern opened the conference season with a showdown versus 22nd-ranked Morningside, the GPAC preseason favorite. The Red Raiders split the doubleheader which featured two one-run decisions. In the victory, Emma Schnell allowed only one unearned run and four hits in a seven-inning complete game. Pitching has been the strength of the team. Schnell is 7-1 with 1.30 ERA while Kayla Tindall is 6-3 with a 2.20 ERA. Northwestern ranks 12th nationally in ERA (1.83). Currently receiving votes in the national poll, the Red Raiders’ pitching will provide another measuring stick for the potent Bulldog offense.

Concordia will be idle this weekend for Easter break. Coming up next week will be a home doubleheader versus Hastings (5-15, 0-0 GPAC) at 5 p.m. on Tuesday, April 3, and then a trip to Morningside (13-8, 1-1 GPAC) for a 1 p.m. twin bill at 1 p.m. on Saturday, April 7.

Haro keeps slugging; Bulldogs fall twice by one run in Orange City

ORANGE CITY, Iowa – The first three GPAC games of 2018 for the Concordia University softball team have all been nailbiters, up for grabs until the final out has been recorded. Unfortunately, those games have yet to turn in favor of the Bulldogs, who dropped two one-run decisions at Northwestern on Wednesday (March 28). The host Red Raiders won by scores of 5-4 and 7-6.

It’s a process for fifth-year head coach Todd LaVelle and his squad. LaVelle has to keep reminding himself about the youthful nature of a lineup that starts just one senior on a regular basis. Concordia now sits at 11-12 overall and 0-3 in conference play.

“I learned everything about what they stand for,” LaVelle said. “Every time today that they scored or took the lead we came right back and answered. Those are characteristics you look for in a good team. The more this team plays and believes in one another the more fun it’s going to be at the end.”

A lot of fun can be had watching freshman third baseman Hhana Haro swing the bat. She went 6-for-8 with a pair of home runs on Wednesday. Her blast leading off the seventh inning broke a 5-5 tie in game two. The Bulldogs failed to hold the advantage and suffered a walk-off defeat for the second time in three contests when Cheyenne Wilcke’s base hit drove home the winning run for Northwestern (16-5, 3-1 GPAC).

Haro’s six-hit day pushed her impressive GPAC best batting average to .540. She’s also slugging .828 on the strength of 16 extra base hits (11 doubles, a triple and four home runs).

“She’s playing really, really well,” LaVelle said. “She has so much confidence in what she does. I’m extremely proud of her. We moved her to third and she had a lot of good defensive stops there. She’s playing well in all areas.”

Kenna Heath and Jamie Lefebure also left the yard as part of a four-homer day for Concordia. The big fly marked of the first for Heath as a Bulldog. Collectively, Concordia pounded out 20 hits on the day. Lefebure went 2-for-3 in game one while Jenessa Jarvis went 2-for-3 with a run in game two.

In the circle, LaVelle used Grace Bernhardt and Brittany Woolridge as starters. Baily Clear wound up pitching in relief in both ends of the twin bill. The continued improvement of the pitching staff will be a key for a team that entered the day ranked 12th nationally in runs per game (7.3).

It’s been a fine line between winning and losing so far in conference play. The Bulldogs have held a lead in the sixth inning or later in each of their three GPAC games. Concordia also holds an 11-6 lead in the suspended contest at Doane that will be finished on Monday, April 9.

The Bulldogs have Easter weekend off before returning to action on Tuesday, April 3 when they are slated to host Hastings (5-15, 0-0 GPAC) in a doubleheader set for a 5 p.m. CT first pitch from Plum Creek Park. The Broncos are coming off an opening round national tournament appearance in 2017.

Softball ready to host Hastings Thursday

SEWARD, Neb. – Here we go again. With the weather not cooperating, the Concordia University softball team still has yet to host a GPAC opponent at Plum Creek Park. The Bulldogs hope that will change on Thursday when they are scheduled to welcome Hastings (7-17, 1-1 GPAC) at 5 p.m. CT on Thursday. Head coach Todd LaVelle’s squad is also slated to travel to Morningside (13-8, 1-1 GPAC) on Saturday, but the weather forecast looks ominous as of the start of the week.

This week’s schedule
Thursday, April 5 vs. Hastings, 5 p.m. (DH)
Saturday, April 7 at No. 25 Morningside, 1 p.m. (DH)

Concordia (11-12, 0-3 GPAC) dropped below .500 overall after being swept in last week’s doubleheader at Northwestern (16-5, 3-1 GPAC). The Bulldogs simply need to figure out how to reverse their fortunes in close games. Each of their three conference defeats have been decided by margins of one or two runs with two ending in walk-off fashion. Overall this season, Concordia has suffered eight losses by one or two runs.

Most of those downers have not been a result of lack of offense. The Bulldogs enter the week ranked 15th nationally in runs per game (7.1) behind hot hitting freshman Hhana Haro. The native of Garden Grove, Calif., went 6-for-8 with a pair of home runs at Northwestern, boosting her GPAC best batting average to .540 (No. 2 among all NAIA players). Haro has averaged more than two hits per game and is slugging .828. Others such as Elanna Osthoff (.490), Leah Kalkwarf (.390), Mackinsey Schmidt (.368) and Jamie Lefebure (.344) have also put up impressive numbers.

Morningside has ruled the GPAC in recent seasons and carries a No. 25 national ranking into the week. The Mustangs opened up conference play on March 22 with a doubleheader split at Northwestern. Led by the likes of Hallie Misiaszek (3.52 ERA) and Alex Nelson (1.84 ERA), the Mustangs have a deep pitching staff that sports a 3.79 team ERA. Meanwhile, Hastings has ramped things up since an 0-9 start to the season. The Broncos have not had the same level of offensive firepower as they had last season. Their star is Corrin Ziepke, who is hitting .392 with six home runs.

Looking ahead to next week, the Bulldogs are scheduled to finish their suspended game at Doane (18-11, 2-1 GPAC) next Monday (April 9). Concordia owns an 11-6 lead heading to the bottom of the fifth. Play will resume at 3:30 p.m. Dakota Wesleyan (5-15, 1-1 GPAC) is also slated to be at Plum Creek Park for a 1 p.m. doubleheader on Saturday, April 14.

Home varsity games can be streamed live via the Concordia Sports Network.

Bernhardt, Woolridge pave way for sweep of Broncos

SEWARD, Neb. – While hosting for the first time in conference play, the Concordia University softball team scratched across a sufficient number of runs on an evening when its pitchers were stellar. Brittany Woolridge recorded her first shutout as a Bulldog and Grace Bernhardt was nearly as effective in game two. Their efforts allowed Concordia to notch wins by scores of 2-0 and 7-3 over visiting Hastings on Thursday evening (April 5).

After beginning GPAC action with three-consecutive nail-biting defeats, this was exactly what fifth-year head coach Todd LaVelle had hoped to see. The Bulldogs have improved to 13-12 overall and to 2-3 in league play.

“I was very proud of our pitching staff tonight. They did an awesome job,” LaVelle said. “This whole week we’ve been challenging the kids. The big thing we said is we need to play as one unit. It’s been one phase of our game, our hitting, that’s been doing really well. It was nice to see our pitching and defense step up. Every time we play Hastings the last five years it’s a battle.”

A native of Tucson, Ariz., Woolridge has had to adapt to the cold in her first two home appearances. She did just fine on Thursday when she rarely found herself in trouble. She scattered five hits (all singles) and walked only one hitter in a masterful performance. Even a seventh-inning error would not phase Woolridge, who induced a grounder right back to the circle to preserve the shutout.

Considering the team’s run scoring production to this point, the steady growth of Woolridge could make the Bulldogs a dangerous team down the stretch.

“It’s been hard. It’s just been frustrating,” said Woolridge of battling through injury at the beginning of the season. “But I definitely have my teammates to lean on and our coaching staff has helped me so much. Coming here has been a blessing.”

At the plate, freshman leadoff hitter Mackinsey Schmidt enjoyed a nice day. She delivered an RBI single to put Concordia in front in the third inning of game one. She went 4-for-7 in the doubleheader. After a rare 0-for-3 effort in game one, GPAC batting leader Hhana Haro heated up with a 3-for-4 game two that included a pair of doubles.

The Bulldogs turned a nerve-wracking 3-2 game two lead into a 7-2 advantage with a run in the fifth and then three in the sixth. The team’s final turn at bat got started with back-to-back doubles from Kenna Heath and Maddie Fousek.

Bernhardt tossed six innings and got the win in game two. She left the contest after allowing a single to begin the seventh. Baily Clear then got the final three outs. Bernhardt surrendered just one earned run on four hits and five walks. She struck out three while picking up her sixth victory of the campaign.

If weather allows, the Bulldogs will play at league favorite and 25th-ranked Morningside (15-8, 3-1 GPAC) on Saturday. The doubleheader is slated to begin at 1 p.m. CT in Sioux City, Iowa. One of last season’s highlight moments occurred when Leah Kalkwarf’s walk-off RBI singled lifted Concordia to a victory over the then 10th-ranked Mustangs in the second game of a twin bill.

Full plate greets Bulldogs

SEWARD, Neb. – As long as the weather allows, the Concordia University softball team will be in action Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday this week. The Bulldogs are slated to host Briar Cliff today (April 9) and also welcome Dakota Wesleyan to Plum Creek Park on Saturday. Fifth-year head coach Todd LaVelle hopes his squad has found a groove after last week’s doubleheader sweep of Hastings.

This week’s schedule
Monday, April 9 vs. Briar Cliff, 5 p.m. (DH)
Tuesday, April 10 at Morningside, 3 p.m. (DH)
Thursday, April 12 at Doane, 2 p.m. (completion of suspended game)
Saturday, April 14 vs. Dakota Wesleyan, 1 p.m. (DH)

LaVelle’s pitching staff took a positive step forward last week in limiting the Broncos to a combined three runs in the twin bill. In game one, junior Brittany Woolridge recorded her first shutout since becoming a Bulldog this season. She allowed five hits and only one walk while striking out five. In the second game, freshman Grace Bernhardt covered six innings in a 7-3 victory. Concordia hopes to continue to improve upon its 5.80 team ERA that ranks eighth among GPAC teams.

The strength of the Bulldogs for most of 2018 has been its offensive attack, which ranks 20th nationally in runs per game (6.9). Freshman Hhana Haro tops the GPAC with a .532 batting average. She cranked out three hits, including two doubles, in last week’s game two victory over Hastings. At the top of the lineup, outfielder Mackinsey Schmidt has been red hot. During her active six-game hitting streak, Schmidt has gone 11-for-21 (.524) with six runs and five RBIs. She also made a highlight reel worthy diving catch in left in last week’s action.

Both teams scheduled to visit Plum Creek Park this week have struggled this season. Briar Cliff (4-17, 1-3 GPAC) and Dakota Wesleyan (5-17, 1-3 GPAC) have the lowest overall win percentages among GPAC teams. The Chargers are hitting just .250 as a team. However, they have solid pitchers in Summer Williams (2.70 ERA) and Isabella Gonzalez (3.96 ERA). While the results have not been stellar for the Tigers, they possess dangerous hitters in Sierra Haage (four home runs, 1.034 slugging percentage) and Amber Budmark (six home runs, .734 slugging percentage).

This week’s road foes appear to be teams capable of competing for the GPAC title. Morningside (15-8, 3-1 GPAC) is ranked 25th in the national poll. The Mustangs lean heavily upon workhorse pitcher Hallie Misiaszek, who is 10-3 with a 3.32 ERA over 71.2 innings. At the plate, they are hitting .305 and averaging 6.3 runs per game. On Thursday afternoon, Concordia and Doane will finish a game that had been suspended in the middle of the fifth back on March 22. The Bulldogs lead the game 11-6. Since then, the Tigers have gone 4-2 while up against GPAC opponents.

Next week will be lighter with games scheduled versus Midland (16-9, 3-1 GPAC) on April 17 and at Mount Marty (7-13, 3-3 GPAC) on April 21. Home varsity games can be streamed live via the Concordia Sports Network.

Bulldogs push GPAC win streak to four with sweep of Briar Cliff

SEWARD, Neb. – For the second outing in a row, Brittany Woolridge and Grace Bernhardt were masterful in the circle while leading the Concordia University softball team to a GPAC doubleheader sweep at Plum Creek Park on Monday (April 9). On an evening when temperatures hovered in the 30s, the Bulldogs stayed hot with victories by scores of 8-2 and 6-0 over visiting Briar Cliff.

Fifth-year head coach Todd LaVelle’s squad was coming off a pair of wins over Hastings in its most recent action. The four-game win streak moves Concordia to 15-12 overall and to 4-3 in conference play.

“I’m very proud of how the pitching staff has stayed the course and just continued to improve each and every day,” LaVelle said. “When you start getting a little confidence, these are the things that can happen. We have three great pitchers. We didn’t have to use Baily Clear tonight so she’s fresh for tomorrow. Both Brittany and Grace did an awesome job.”

A Tucson, Ariz., native, Woolridge has made herself comfortable on some chilly Nebraska evenings. Her latest performance saw her toss another complete game. Briar Cliff managed two runs on six hits and a walk. Her previous start against Hastings resulted in the first shutout of her career.

On this particular night, it was Bernhardt’s turn to blank an opponent. She got great plays behind her from the likes of shortstop Jamie Lefebure and center fielder Mackinsey Schmidt while firing a four-hit shutout. She struck out only one hitter but coaxed 10 groundouts and nine fly outs. Bernhardt’s 16th appearance of her freshman season turned out to be her best so far.

“I think a lot of it’s mindset,” Bernhardt said. “It’s just about being ready, preparing your mind and playing with everything you got.”

With the way Woolridge and Bernhardt were spinning the ball, the Bulldogs did not need a whole lot of offense. They broke open game one with a four-run third that included a Hhana Haro RBI double and Dalaney Nance two-run double. Concordia came up just short of enacting the eight-run rule in the sixth when it pushed a pair of runs across and left a runner on third base. Haro went 2-for-2 and reached base in all four of her plate appearances in the opener.

In game two, Allysia Thayer provided the game’s big blow with a two-run homer in the fourth. The Bulldogs then broke the game wide open with a three-run sixth. Lefebure drilled a two-run double and Haro smacked an RBI single through the right side.

The Bulldogs totaled 18 hits on the night. Nance and Haro collected two hits apiece in game one while Kenna Heath, Lefebure and Elanna Osthoff all had two hits in the second game. For the Chargers (4-19, 1-5 GPAC), Nicole Romero went 2-for-3 with a solo homer in game one.

A significant test awaits the Bulldogs on Tuesday (April 10) when they will journey to Sioux City, Iowa, to take on GPAC favorite Morningside (15-8, 3-1 GPAC) at 3 p.m. CT. Due to the rough spring weather conditions, the Mustangs have played only two games since March 22. They swept a doubleheader from Dakota Wesleyan on April 5.

“We look forward to that every year. We can’t wait to play them,” LaVelle said of Tuesday’s matchup. “It’s the next game on our schedule. We just need to get better every game. A lot of these girls are younger and they may not understand there’s a little bit of a rivalry between Morningside and us. We’re excited about getting in the vans in the morning and giving it our best shot.”

Offensive attack muzzled by Mustangs

SIOUX CITY, Iowa – Hallie Misiaszek and 25th-ranked Morningside effectively put a stop to a four-game Concordia University softball win streak in Sioux City, Iowa, on Tuesday afternoon (April 10). Misiaszek covered all 13 innings in the circle for the Mustangs while firing a no-hitter in game one of the doubleheader. Morningside won by scores of 8-0 and 5-1.

Fifth-year head coach Todd LaVelle’s squad has dipped below .500 in conference play and stands at 15-14 overall and at 4-5 in conference play.

“Obviously we’re disappointed we didn’t think we played up to our potential,” LaVelle said. “On the flip side, we tip our hat to Morningside and their pitcher. She just owned us. We’re not going to quit. We’re going to work that much harder to come back. It was a good measuring stick for us. We have a ways to go to get to where we want to be.”

A hefty workload is nothing new for Misiaszek, a transfer from Dakota Wesleyan. The junior entered Tuesday having logged 71.2 innings this season. The Bulldogs finally dented the scoreboard in the sixth inning of game two when Dalaney Nance doubled home Mackinsey Schmidt. At that point, Concordia trailed by a 3-1 score. Nance, Schmidt and Hhana Haro notched one hit apiece in the second game.

Meanwhile, Morningside (17-8, 5-1 GPAC) pounded out 20 hits while facing three different Bulldog pitchers. The biggest thorn in Concordia’s side was freshman second baseman Lexie Stolen, who went 4-for-7 with a home run and four RBIs in the doubleheader. Mackenzie Lose also homered for the Mustangs.

Bulldog pitchers had allowed a combined five runs over the previous four GPAC contests. Baily Clear got the start in game one. She covered 5.2 innings, surrendering eight runs (five earned) on 11 hits and one walk. Brittany Woolridge, Grace Bernhardt and Clear all appeared in the circle in the capper.

Action will continue this week with the Bulldogs heading to Doane (21-12, 5-3 GPAC) on Thursday to finish a suspended game that began back on March 22. Concordia owns an 11-6 lead in the middle of the fifth. The Bulldogs are also scheduled to host Dakota Wesleyan (5-17, 1-3 GPAC) for a doubleheader at 1 p.m. on Saturday.

Bulldogs complete win at Doane

CRETE, Neb. – Officially, the game finished on Thursday (April 12) in Crete, Neb., between the Concordia University softball team and Doane will be recorded in history as having been played on March 22. The suspended contest picked back up in the bottom of the fifth with the Bulldogs barely holding onto a lead they built exactly three weeks ago. Concordia won, 11-10.

In that doubleheader that began on March 22, the Bulldogs dropped the first game, 8-6, in eight innings. Fifth-year head coach Todd LaVelle’s squad stands at 16-14 overall and at 5-5 in conference play.

Baily Clear resumed in the circle after working the first four innings back on March 22. She worked scoreless fifth and sixth innings before running into trouble in a drama-filled bottom of the seventh. The Tigers (23-13, 7-3 GPAC) loaded the bases with no outs for Jordyn Stearns, who drove in all three runners with a double. Suddenly, Doane had the tying run at the plate down two (11-9).

Brittany Woolridge then relieved Clear. Woolridge proceeded to allow an infield hit before striking out back-to-back hitters. Three batters later, with the bases full and Concordia hanging onto a one-run lead, Woolridge got Tiger star Jordan Van Roy to ground back to the circle for the game’s final out. Woolridge earned credit for the save.

The Bulldog offense did not score on Thursday, but their eight runs in the fourth and three in the fifth back on March 22 were enough to do the trick. Kenna Heath (2-for-4), Jamie Lefebure (2-for-3) and Mackinsey Schmidt (2-for-4) all collected two hits in the contest. Lefebure knocked in three runs while Elanna Osthoff and Schmidt notched two RBIs apiece.

A home doubleheader originally scheduled for this Saturday has now been rescheduled twice. The Concordia and Dakota Wesleyan (7-17, 3-3 GPAC) will not play this weekend due to impending inclement weather. The two sides are working on finalizing a makeup date.

UPDATE: Softball moves doubleheader with DWU to April 23

UPDATED April 12 at 5:20 p.m. CT.

Concordia's scheduled home doubleheader with Dakota Wesleyan has been moved once again. Originally slated for Saturday (April 14), the twin bill has been pushed back to Monday, April 23 due to impending inclement weather. Start time on April 23 is set for 5 p.m. CT from Plum Creek Park.

Much to be decided during softball stretch run

SEWARD, Neb. – The majority of GPAC softball squads still have at least half of their conference schedules left to be played during a spring that has featured unforgiving weather throughout the league’s footprint. The Concordia University softball team postponed a home doubleheader that had been scheduled for this past weekend. Fifth-year head coach Todd LaVelle’s squad enters the week with six doubleheaders, including one outside the conference, left on the regular-season slate.

This week’s schedule
Tuesday, April 17 vs. Midland, 5 p.m. DH
Saturday, April 21 at Mount Marty, 1 p.m. DH

LaVelle’s team last took the diamond on April 12 at Doane in the completion of a suspended game that began on March 22. The Bulldogs (16-14, 5-5 GPAC) hung on for an 11-10 nail-biting win after nearly seeing an 11-6 lead melt away. With the bases loaded, Brittany Woolridge got Tiger star Jordan Van Roy to ground back to the circle for the game’s final out. Earlier in the week, Concordia swept a home doubleheader from Briar Cliff and then got swept by No. 25 Morningside in Sioux City, Iowa. The Bulldogs had won four in a row until being cooled off by the GPAC co-leading Mustangs.

Despite a 1-for-5 doubleheader versus Briar Cliff and a 1-for-5 performance at Doane that is now officially in the books, Hhana Haro remains in the thick of the race for the GPAC batting title (second behind Van Roy). She is 55-for-110 (.500) in her freshman campaign. Haro has been the team’s most reliable source of power, sporting a .764 slugging percentage and 84 total bases. With 15 doubles, Haro needs only three more to break the program’s single-season record shared by Clarissa Eloge (2011), Melissa Morrison (2005) and Meredith Peters (2003). Haro has been a standout for an offense that ranks second in the GPAC in runs per game (6.6).

Midland (20-11, 7-3 GPAC) is enjoying a resurgent season after tying for eighth place in the GPAC last season. The Warriors have gotten a big shot in the arm from University of Nebraska-Omaha transfer Jaylee Hinrichs, who is 12-6 with a 2.37 ERA and 152 strikeouts in 109.1 innings. Hinrichs is the ace of a staff that ranks second in the GPAC in ERA (3.03). Midland has gone toe-to-toe with the GPAC leaders in recent action. The Warriors split twin bills last week with Northwestern and Morningside.

Mount Marty (9-15, 5-5 GPAC) sits in a tie with Concordia for fifth place in the GPAC standings. Among conference teams, the Lancers rank eighth in both ERA (5.41) and in runs scored per game (4.42). Mount Marty’s top hitters have been Jennifer Mitera (.411 batting average, two home runs, .671 slugging) and Amber Writer (.375 batting average, five home runs, .694 slugging). In their most recent time out, the Lancers swept a doubleheader from Hastings.

Four doubleheaders are slated for next week with Dakota Wesleyan (April 23), York (April 26) and Dordt (April 28) all visiting Plum Creek Park. Concordia will be at College of Saint Mary on April 25. Home varsity games can be streamed live via the Concordia Sports Network.

Midland takes two from Bulldogs

SEWARD, Neb. – A much improved Midland squad visited Plum Creek Park on Tuesday (April 17) and emerged with two lopsided wins over the host Concordia University softball team. The Warriors ended game one, 9-1, in five innings and then ran away with the second contest, 12-2.

Officially, fifth-year head coach Todd LaVelle’s has lost four games in a row and has slipped to 16-16 overall and to 5-7 in GPAC action. Five doubleheaders remain on the regular-season slate.

The Warriors (22-11, 9-3 GPAC) humbled the Bulldogs on this particular night. Midland pitchers Jaylee Hinrichs and Madison Plummer limited Concordia 12 combined hits while the Warriors collected 24 hits. Midland’s top four hitters in the lineup each recorded at least two hits in the second game and No. 9 hitter Jamie Phares had herself a night. She went 4-for-7 with a home run and four RBIs.

One of the lone bright spots for the Bulldogs was the continued hot hitting of freshman Hhana Haro, who went 4-for-7 with two doubles and a triple. She entered the night second in the GPAC with a .500 batting average. Teammate Maddie Fousek put up a hit in each of the twin bill.

Concordia failed to grab a lead at any point on Tuesday. It watched as the Warriors went wild for five innings with three or more runs. Midland has now pulled into a tie for first in the GPAC after sharing eighth and missing the GPAC tournament in 2017.

Next up on the schedule is Saturday’s trip to Mount Marty (9-15, 5-5 GPAC) for a doubleheader at 1 p.m. CT. The two sides have discussed the possibility of moving the matchup to Seward due to snow in Yankton, S.D. Follow @cunebulldogs on Twitter for the latest schedule updates.

Haro continues torrid hitting in split at Mount Marty

YANKTON, S.D. – Hhana Haro keeps on mashing in her new spot at the top of the lineup. She collected five more hits, including a home run, as part of Saturday’s (April 21) doubleheader split at Mount Marty. The Concordia University softball team’s rally fell short in a 7-6 loss in game one. The Bulldogs then ran away with a 10-2 victory in game two.

Fifth-year head coach Todd LaVelle’s squad is still trying to assure itself of a spot in the eight-team GPAC tournament. Concordia will enter a busy final week of regular-season action with records of 17-17 overall and 6-8 in conference play.

“We had to break through the ice,” LaVelle said in referencing what had been a five-game losing skid. “I felt they really came together and did that the second game. We need to use that as we move forward. We have a big week ahead of us. We have a chance to still move up in the standings. Everybody is battling for the same thing.”

Haro did her part in game one. Her fourth-inning three-run homer in the top of the fourth tied the score at 3-3. She also singled, walked and scored two runs as part of a 2-for-3 effort in the opener. The native of Garden Grove, Calif., then went 3-for-5 with a double, two runs and three more RBIs in game two. By day’s end, Haro had broken the program’s single-season doubles record. She now has 18 two-baggers in 2018. She is the GPAC leader in batting average (.520), on-base percentage (.542) and slugging percentage (.816).

Concordia paraded around the bases in game two with 10 hits and six walks. Not only did Haro pound out three hits, Kenna Heath went 2-for-4 and drove in three runs and Mackinsey Schmidt went 2-for-3 with three runs scored. The second contest had been close until the Bulldogs broke it open with three runs in the sixth and four in the seventh.

In the pitching circle, freshman Grace Bernhardt enjoyed the most success on Saturday. She threw a complete game for the win in game two. She struck out six Lancer hitters while allowing two runs on five hits and two walks. Brittany Woolridge threw game one and surrendered four earned runs on 10 hits and two walks. Mount Marty standout Amber Writer hit a home run in both ends of the doubleheader. She knocked in four runs in game one.

The Bulldogs are set to return to action on Monday (April 23) and host Dakota Wesleyan (10-18, 6-4 GPAC) in a makeup doubleheader. First pitch is set for 4 p.m. CT from Plum Creek Park in Seward. The Tigers had Saturday off but will be at Midland for a Sunday twin bill in Fremont.

Eight games on tap for final week of regular season

SEWARD, Neb. – The final week of regular-season action has arrived for the Concordia University softball team. It will be the busiest week of home games all season. The Bulldogs are scheduled to play the role of host today (April 23), Thursday and Saturday. The program’s three seniors (Brittany Arent, Kaitlyn Buresh and Janey Pasold) will be honored between games of Saturday’s doubleheader with Dordt.

This week’s schedule
Monday, April 23 vs. Dakota Wesleyan, 4 p.m.
Wednesday, April 25 at College of Saint Mary, 3 p.m.
Thursday, April 26 vs. York, 6 p.m.
Saturday, April 28 vs. Dordt, 1 p.m. (senior day)

Fifth-year head coach Todd LaVelle’s squad begins the week in eighth place, but will have an opportunity but could realistically finish as high as fourth place with a successful push down the stretch. Concordia snapped a five-game skid in the second game of this past Saturday’s split at Mount Marty. The Bulldogs ran away with a 10-2 victory spurred by outbursts of three runs in the sixth and four in the seventh. Hhana Haro, Kenna Heath and Mackinsey Schmidt each had at least two hits in the victory.

A freshman from Garden Grove, Calif., Haro just keeps hitting. She went 10-for-15 with three doubles, a triple, a home run and six RBIs over last week’s action. By week’s end, Haro became the program’s new record holder for most doubles in a single season (18). Haro is the current GPAC leader in batting average (.520), on-base percentage (.542) and slugging percentage (.816). Five other regulars in the lineup are hitting better than .300: Elanna Osthoff (.380), Schmidt (.348), Jamie Lefebure (.329), Leah Kalkwarf (.311) and Tori Homolka (.307).

Pasold (Norfolk, Neb.) is the lone senior on the roster who has seen extensive playing time. The exercise science major transferred to Concordia after attending Central Community College for two years. In two seasons with the Bulldogs, Pasold has batting .270 (30-for-111) over 69 games.

All three GPAC opponents this week – Dakota Wesleyan (10-20, 6-6 GPAC), College of Saint Mary (13-23, 4-10 GPAC) and Dordt (18-15, 7-7 GPAC) – are ones that Concordia is jockeying with for positioning in the standings. The Defenders have been hot, winning six of their last seven, including an upset at No. 25 Morningside. The respective leading hitters for these foes are Dakota Wesleyan’s Andriana Sprakel (.430), Dordt’s Marissa VandenBerg (.408) and College of Saint Mary’s Brittney Banks (.381). York College will enter Thursday’s action with an overall record of 8-31.

Postseason play will begin next week with the top two seeded teams in the GPAC hosting separate pods of the conference tournament (May 4, 5, 7). The two teams that emerge from those pods will meet in the GPAC championship series on Monday, May 7. Concordia’s most recent conference title came in 2015 in the GPAC tournament.

Home varsity games can be streamed live via the Concordia Sports Network.

Hometown Heath delivers walk-off in Monday split

SEWARD, Neb. – A split seemed fitting on an evening when both teams had their chances to taste victory in games one and two of Monday (April 23)’s doubleheader. Some late heroics from the likes of Elanna Osthoff and Kenna Heath pulled the Concordia University softball team out of the depths of despair. Visiting Dakota Wesleyan took game one, 3-2, in a 10-inning marathon. The Bulldogs needed just eight frames to pull out a 7-6 win in game two.

The split was good enough to move fifth-year head coach Todd LaVelle’s squad just a little bit closer to locking up a spot in the GPAC tournament. Concordia is now 18-18 overall and 7-9 in league play (eighth place).

“I think we turned a corner on the grit and the fight,” LaVelle said. “That’s been questionable here in the last few weeks of the season so that’s what made me the most proud. Obviously you want to win every game you play. The way we battled on defense – I mean we had girls making diving catches and making plays. That’s what I want Concordia softball to be about.”

Things looked bleak as the bottom of the seventh of game two rolled around. The Bulldogs had already dropped one heartbreaker and were staring down a 6-3 deficit. Heath drove in a run with a sacrifice fly and Osthoff then knotted the score by lacing a two-run double to the left center gap. An inning later, Heath drilled a walk-off base hit off the wall in left center.

Finally, Concordia had delivered the knockout blow that it had failed to come up with all day long. It was a big moment for Heath, a Seward native who just joined the softball team this semester after transferring from NCAA Division II University of Sioux Falls.

“I was just trying to stay calm,” Heath said. “I had a pretty rough day at the plate so I kind of owed it to my teammates. I just wanted to get on base anyway I could and take a calm approach.”

Of course Dakota Wesleyan (11-21, 7-7 GPAC) left its share of runners on base in game one, but it walked the ultimate tight rope in the bottom of the ninth inning of game one. With the bases loaded and one out, Mackinsey Schmidt lined a shot to center that resulted in a double play to end the threat. Amber Budmar’s RBI double in the 10th proved to be the game winner.

The Bulldogs would not have lived to talk about the 10th inning without Schmidt’s impressive ninth-inning, diving catch racing towards the gap in right center. The play by the Crete native was about as good as you’ll see in a collegiate softball game. Catcher Allysia Thayer also made a highlight reel worthy lunging catch in game two.

Osthoff went 3-for-4 with two doubles and two RBIs in game two. Heath drove in three runs in the second contest. Out of the leadoff spot, Hhana Haro keeps on hitting. She went 4-for-9 with two more doubles, two runs and two RBIs on the night. In addition, Jenessa Jarvis went 2-for-2 in the capper. A home run apiece was recorded by the Tigers’ Karly Severance and Paige Kinley.

In the circle, Brittany Woolridge wound up getting the win while working five innings in relief of Baily Clear in game two. Woolridge allowed three runs on four hits. Grace Bernhardt was tagged with the loss in game one despite another solid outing.

Concordia hopes to springboard to more wins on the heels of the walk-off hit by Heath, who is enjoying her time as a Bulldog.

“It’s been such a blessing,” Heath said. “I love being around these people and this school at Concordia. They’re just the most welcoming group. This team is so much fun to play with. I’ve loved every moment. It’s good to be back home to see some familiar faces.”

Conference play will continue on Wednesday with a trip to Omaha for a doubleheader at College of Saint Mary (13-25, 4-12 GPAC). First pitch is set for 3 p.m. CT.

Bulldogs ensure spot in postseason with sweep at CSM

OMAHA, Neb. – According to head coach Todd LaVelle, the Concordia University softball team put together perhaps its best doubleheader performance all season in Wednesday (April 25)’s sweep at College of Saint Mary. The Bulldogs roared with four runs in their first turn at bat and rode the hot start to wins by scores of 7-2 and 8-2 in Omaha, Neb.

LaVelle’s squad has moved to 20-18 overall and back to .500 (9-9) in GPAC play. Already likely to be included in the eight-team GPAC tournament, Concordia has now clinched a spot in the conference’s postseason.

“Those were probably our most complete two games of the year,” LaVelle said. “We put all phases together. It started in the circle. Grace (Bernhardt) threw a complete game and then she threw the first two innings of the second game. Then Brittany (Woolridge) came in and just picked up where Grace left off. We had some great at bats. What I’m most proud of is that when we had runners in scoring position they brought them across the plate.

“When you put all three phases together this time of year, that’s going to put a smile on a coaches’ face.”

A freshman from St. Charles, Mo., Bernhardt has been particularly good in conference play. She whirled her sixth complete game of the season while holding CSM to two runs on seven hits. She did not walk a single hitter. Bernhardt allowed one run in 2.1 innings of game two before giving way to Woolridge, who fanned eight Flames and earned credit for the victory after tossing 4.2 innings.

The Bulldogs pounded out a total of 21 hits on the day. Kenna Heath (RBI double) and Tori Homolka (RBI single) were key contributors in the four-run first that got Concordia rolling in game one. Two innings later, Maddie Fousek drilled a two-run homer that provided a commanding 7-0 lead. Elanna Osthoff recorded two hits and scored twice in the opener.

Leah Kalkwarf and company filled the base paths with 14 hits in game two. Mackinsey Schmidt (3-for-3), Kalkwarf (2-for-3), Homolka (2-for-4) and Janey Pasold (2-for-4) each had two hits or more in the capper. Concordia made it a runaway with a seven-run fourth inning. Tricia Tripp and Heath both emerged with two-run singles in the frame.

College of Saint Mary (13-27, 4-14 GPAC) faced a must-win scenario on Wednesday if it was going to sneak into the GPAC tournament. The Flames have now been eliminated from contention and will end their season by hosting Dakota Wesleyan on Saturday.

The Bulldogs will conclude the regular season on Saturday by hosting Dordt (20-16, 9-7 GPAC) for a doubleheader at Plum Creek Park. First pitch is set for 1 p.m. CT. It will be senior day in Seward, where Concordia will celebrate the careers of Brittany Arent, Kaitlyn Buresh and Pasold.

Kalkwarf's walk-off wraps up regular season

SEWARD, Neb. – Nail biters have been a theme in this week’s home action. All four contests played at Plum Creek Park since Monday have been decided by just a single run. After missing an opportunity in a 4-3, eight-inning loss in game one, the Concordia University softball team rebounded with a 2-1 victory of the walk-off variety on Saturday afternoon (April 28). Dordt served as the guest on this particular day.

Fifth-year head coach Todd LaVelle’s squad will move on to postseason play with an overall record of 21-19 and a final GPAC regular-season mark of 10-10 (seventh place).

“It’s been the theme all year,” LaVelle said. “We’ve been in a lot of close games. I just told the ladies after the game that there have been some valleys but in those valleys we have learned lessons. It all came to this game. I’m certainly proud of them. We were already in the tournament. We were just jockeying for seeding. We came in and battled both games.”

The Defenders (22-18, 11-9 GPAC) appeared on their way to a doubleheader sweep behind pitcher Tianna Top in game two. With a shutout still intact, Topp retired the first two Bulldogs she faced in the bottom of the seventh. Down 1-0, Concordia suddenly had life when Maddie Fousek and Janey Pasold reached on back-to-back infield singles. Mackinsey Schmidt then drove in the game-tying run with a base hit through the left side of the infield.

It set the stage for a second walk-off win at home this week. Dordt chose to intentionally walk Hhana Haro, bringing up veteran Leah Kalkwarf with the bases loaded. She promptly lined the ball back up the middle to send Pasold to the plate for the game winner.

“It’s pretty great (to experience a walk-off hit),” Kalkwarf said. “We just won. We should have won that first game, but we did it together as a team. We really needed to come through and get that win and improve our seed in the tournament.”

In the victory, freshman pitcher Grace Bernhardt was masterful once again. She coaxed 14 fly outs while tossing a seven-inning complete game that featured only three Defender hits. Bernhardt struck out three hitters and did not issue a single walk.

Concordia also had its chances to walk off with a win in game one. Trailing 3-2 in the bottom of the seventh, the Bulldogs loaded the bases against Dordt pitcher Rachel Evavold. Kenna Heath’s RBI fielder’s choice tied the game but Evavold escaped the jam with a pair of ground outs. She then played the role of hero in the eighth back blasting a solo homer that proved to be the game winner.

Haro and Kalkwarf both went 2-for-3 in game one. Heath added a two-run double in a three-RBI effort in game one. The team’s seven hits in game two were spread out between seven different players.

The regular season is in the books for the Bulldogs, who now look ahead to the start of the conference tournament next Friday (May 4). Complete GPAC postseason pairings were released shortly after games were completed on Saturday. As the No. 7 seed, Concordia will play second-seeded Morningside (28-11, 16-4 GPAC) at 12 p.m. on the tournament’s first day as part of the Morningside bracket.

“We are peaking at the right time,” LaVelle said. “We’re going to get in the tournament and everybody’s 0-0. I like the way our pitching staff is pitching – all three of them. Grace is pitching well. Britt (Woolridge) had a great outing today. And then I can bring Baily (Clear) in and she’s going to roll us some ground balls. If we can put our pitching and hitting together it’s going to be a fun tournament.”

Saturday was senior day for the program. LaVelle started each of his three seniors – Brittany Arent, Kaitlyn Buresh and Pasold – in game one.