Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

College Sports

April 30, 2014

Concord softball team looking to continue historic season

ATHENS — For the first time in the history of Concord softball, the Mountain Lions have achieved a top-10 regional ranking. They were eighth in the Atlantic Region of NCAA Division II in the April 23 poll, but dropped to 10th when the most recent poll was released on Wednesday.

To finish the season in the top eight, and get into the regional tournament, the Athenians will need to perform well in the first Mountain East Conference softball tournament. That double-elimination affair begins today at Moyer Sports Complex in Salem, Va.

The regional ranking is “a big deal,” Concord head coach Alisa Tasler said. “We’re very proud of that accomplishment. They want to finish the season on a high note and see it through.”

Going into the tournament, she said about her team’s mindset, “They are very set and determined. We got the regional ranking and we really want to hold onto that and go on and represent the conference in the national championships.”

Concord (29-21) is 13-15 in conference play, which resulted in an eighth seed in the tournament brackets. Today at noon, the Mountain Lions will face ninth seed Glenville State, a team they beat handily twice in Glenville on April 12.

Tasler said about the Pioneers, “The first part of their lineup definitely has a lot of speed. They have the ability, if they get on a roll, to rattle teams.

“The first time we faced them, we were very fortunate that the beginning of lineup was not able to get an advantage. That’s the key to eliminating their ability to get rolling, to keep the front of the lineup off the basepaths.”

The winner of game one will take on top-seeded West Virginia Wesleyan (38-10, 23-5 MEC), which won the regular-season title, at about 5 p.m. Thursday. The Bobcats are the second-ranked team in the Atlantic Region.

“One of Wesleyan’s biggest attributes is that they have really good pitchers,” Tasler said. “When you face that, you have to have good pitch selections and you’re taking things when they give them to you.”

The Bobcats beat Concord 2-1 and 4-3 on April 13 in Buckhannon. Tasler said, “We are pretty closely matched, so it’s going to be a matter of where the ball bounces on that day.”

Concord has already won eight more games than any other softball team in CU history and has locked up its first winning season since 2000. But the team now has to “turn the corner” and face the postseason.

“Basically, you start again,” Tasler said.

“Once you get to tournament time, all bets are kind of off. It’s almost like starting its own mini-season. What happens this weekend is much more important than the records, or anything else that happens.”

“It will determine whether we get to hold it (the regional top eight status) and whether we keep playing.”

Concord has a team batting average of .293, and four players have averages of .324 or better.

Five Mountain Lions have four or more home runs, paced by nine from sophomore catcher Alyssa Morris.

Sophomore Kristen Rose leads the MEC in runs scored with 51 and is batting .325.

Concord has attempted 69 stolen bases and been successful 58 times.

Tasler said, “We really have had a lot of contributors and that’s definitely a blessing, that you don’t have to rely on one or two kids in the lineup.”

Morris, who has a .352 average and a team-high 20 walks, has been the leadoff batter in recent games.

“We kind of changed it around a little at the end,” Tasler said. “The leadoff is the kid with highest on-base percentage, then we have the speed behind her.”

Having base runners is crucial to scoring multiple runs when the hits happen, and those hits have been coming throughout the lineup.

“One through nine has the ability to put it out, and that definitely helps,” Tasler said.

Speed on the basepaths was the top recruiting priority.

“We had to have those kids,” Tasler said. “You want kids hitting with power, but when you have kids already on base as a table-setter, and you can get one or two more in, that makes a huge difference. That combination has definitely changed the game for us this season.”

The roster took a big loss when junior Lacey McDougall was lost for the season with a dislocated elbow on March 27 — on the first play of the game.

“When that first happened, we kind of went on the skids because she was one of our top players in the circle and at bat as well,” Tasler said.

McDougall was batting .400 and had an ERA of 1.14 in 61 1/3 innings as a pitcher when she was injured.

The team has adjusted to the loss, Tasler said.

With McDougall out, freshman Lauren Lewis has the top batting average at .387, and 24 of her 58 hits have gone for extra bases.

Tasler said, “When Lacey went down, she’s been the kid more than anybody who helped carry the team.”

Allie Reid, a transfer from Radford University who had shared pitching duties with McDougall, took over the bulk of the work in the circle and has gone 6-7 since March 27.

She has 105 strikeouts and a 2.64 earned-run average this season, with 16 complete games. Opponents have batted .280 against her.

“She’s done a fantastic job defensively and offensively for us,” Tasler said.

Concord has lost three of its last four games, all on the road, on the heels of a four-game win streak.

Tasler said, “Two of the three (losses) were one-run ballgames that they came from behind and got it at the end. They had the luxury of playing at home.

“They were tough losses, but when we talked with the team, we told them, let those losses fester and when we see them at tournament time, we’ll get another shot at them.”

— Contact Tom Bone at

tbone@bdtonline.com

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