MITCHELL, S.D. – The rewards that became official on the final day of the regular season on Sunday (May 2) are the result of a historically great campaign for the Concordia University Baseball program. The only thing that would have made it more satisfying would have been a sweep of Dakota Wesleyan. The Bulldogs trounced the Tigers in game 1, 15-4, before settling for the split with a 4-3 defeat in game 2 in Mitchell, S.D.
Head Coach Ryan Dupic’s squad has locked up the No. 1 seed in the GPAC tournament, a berth to the NAIA National Championship Opening Round and has tied a school record for wins in a single season. Concordia (34-9, 21-7 GPAC) has won the GPAC regular season title for the third time in four seasons.
“We were hoping to win that last game so it’s hard to recognize that achievement in the moment,” Dupic said. “I think as time passes and we reflect more, we’ll really think about what the program has been able to accomplish both this year and over the course of the past three championships in four years that we’ve finished a season. I’m very proud of our guys and the program and everybody involved. I never want to take for granted the opportunity to play in the national tournament. What a great blessing. We’re very excited about that.
As for Sunday, the Bulldogs wish they could have saved some runs for game 2. They jumped all over DWU pitching in Sunday’s first contest that featured 18 hits from the visitors. Beau Dorman went a perfect 4-for-4 with three runs, two doubles and an RBI. Meanwhile, Ben Berg went 3-for-5 with two runs, a home run and five RBIs, Joey Grabanski collected two hits, a run and three RBIs and Jayden Adams enjoyed a 2-for-4 performance that included two runs and an RBI. Berg’s grand slam highlighted a seven-run fifth inning that put the game out of reach.
Not only did Concordia score seven times in the fifth, it also plated two in the first, four in the third and two in the sixth (seven-inning game). Six of the 18 hits went for extra bases. In addition to the homer by Berg and the two doubles for Dorman, Carlos Benavides, Jesse Garcia and Teyt Johnson notched a double apiece in the victory.
Trent Wood threw the first 5.1 innings of game 1 and picked up the win. He notched seven strikeouts before giving way to Jacob Lycan (1.1 IP) and Zach Pinkerton (0.1 IP), who helped hold the Tigers in check.
DWU pitcher Jared Jones went all nine innings in game 2 in a sharp contrast to Sunday’s opener. Keaton Candor (3-for-3 in game 2) attempted to rev the Bulldog offense back up when he crushed a no-doubter two-run homer (10th of the season) in the fourth inning. Concordia led, 2-1, at the time. Johnson also produced a go-ahead RBI single in the sixth. The Tigers put up the day’s final runs in the bottom of the seventh when Jacob Hammons and Cameron Quigley emerged with RBI singles.
On the mound, Alex Johnson (3 IP), Caden Bugarske (2 IP), Ryan Samuelson (1.2 IP), Shane Whittaker (one batter) and Nathan Buckallew (1.1 IP) all made appearances in game 2.
Said Dupic, “We played very well in game 1. We swung the bats very well and were able to stretch the lead. In game 2, we just didn’t quite scratch across enough runs.”
As the No. 1 seed in the conference tournament, the Bulldogs will welcome No. 4 Morningside, No. 5 Briar Cliff and No. 8 Hastings to Seward as part of the Concordia Bracket (May 6-8). On Thursday, Concordia will take on Hastings (13-29, 11-17 GPAC) with first pitch at 3 p.m. CT. Pod play features a double-elimination format. View the tournament bracket HERE.