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Tigers set for conference tourney

Dakota Wesleyan University's Andriana Sprakel fires over to first for an out against Hastings College earlier this season at McWhirter Field. (Matt Gade / Republic)

The Dakota Wesleyan University softball team used a 10-win month of April to turn its season around.

The Tigers hope the winning continues in May.

DWU plays Dordt College in Fremont, Nebraska, in the opening round of the Great Plains Athletic Conference tournament on Friday.

The Tigers salvaged their season with a 10-8 record in April and enter the tournament as the No. 5 seed. DWU won four of its last six games to close the regular season.

"We kind of look toward the end of the season as getting our best team out there toward conference and hopefully they are able to play together and we can get some wins," DWU softball coach Ed Kieff said.

DWU (15-23) plays No. 4 Dordt College (22-18) at noon on Friday in the Midland bracket of the double-elimination tournament. No. 1 Midland (28-11) plays No. 8 Mount Marty (13-21) at 2 p.m. in other first round game in Fremont.

In the Morningside bracket, No. 3 Northwestern College (30-9) plays No. 6 Doane (27-19) at 10 a.m. in the opening game. No. 2 Morningside College (28-11) plays No. 7 Concordia (21-19) at noon in the other game.

The Tigers went 2-1 against Dordt College this season, including a recent split in Mitchell.

"They are very similar to us," Kieff said. "They hit the ball well and they have got really solid pitching. They don't make a lot of mistakes. They are just very similar to us and they are different in a lot of ways."

Kieff isn't sure who will pitch in Friday's game against Dordt. He said it will be a game-time decision between Sierra Haage and Alyson VanderPol. Haage hasn't face Dordt or Midland, which the Tigers would likely face in the second round. On the flip side, VanderPol has pitched well against both teams, said Kieff.

"Alyson pitched a great game against Dordt and she beat them and they struggled with her pitching," Kieff said. "She throws a lot offspeed stuff. So I have 100 percent confidence that she could do it again and that would allow for us to save Sierra for what would likely be Midland."

Offensively, Andriana Sprakel is batting a team-high .396 and Karly Severance has a team-best seven home runs this season.

"We haven't really had a hard time scoring runs," Kieff said. "We just need to keep that going. I think we've really had a solid lineup top to bottom and I feel good about it."

The Midland and Morningside bracket winners will meet on Monday at the highest remaining seed in the GPAC Championship Series. The final series will be a best two out of three format.

Midland has secured the league's first berth to the NAIA Opening Round, while the GPAC Tournament Champion will receive the second berth. If the Warriors win the GPAC Tournament, then the tournament runner-up will receive the second GPAC berth to the NAIA Opening Round on May 14-16.