SEWARD, Neb. – A whopping 687 days had passed since the Concordia University Baseball program played official home games. That drought ended on Sunday (March 21) as the 24th-ranked Bulldogs split a doubleheader with Midland while finishing up a four-game weekend series. The Warriors spoiled the home opener with a 15-8 win before Concordia rebounded with an 11-0 blanking in the series finale. Jesse Garcia pulverized two home runs and Nick Little fired five shutout frames in the victory.
Sunday’s game 1 wasn’t what Head Coach Ryan Dupic had in mind, but he still has plenty of reason to be confident in his team moving forward. He believes Concordia (16-3, 3-1 GPAC) is going about things the right way in the aftermath of the program’s first ever top 25 ranking in the NAIA poll.
“I think we’re going to be one of the competitors. I think we have a chance to be in that mix to compete for a conference championship,” Dupic said. “It’s going to be about us being able to make plays, make pitches and stay clean in the way that we play baseball. We’ve been pretty consistent offensively so far. You have to be able to win tight, close games at times and let your offense score a lot of runs in some games. We have to get a little bit better each day.”
Three of the four games this weekend were complete washouts in favor of the Bulldogs, who are the favorite in the GPAC. Garcia may be the conference’s most pure slugger. The native of El Cajon, Calif., delivered a three-run blast in the third and then a two-run shot in the fourth of Sunday’s game 2. Garcia collected three of the team’s 12 hits in the contest. It was also a big game for center fielder Kyle Berg, who went 3-for-3 with three runs, a double, a triple and an RBI.
Nick Little surely appreciated the run support as he made his first appearance of 2021. Little earned the win while allowing only two hits (no walks). He also struck out four hitters over his five innings. Little did some of his best work in the fifth when he worked around two errors that put runners on second and third with only one out. Little is ace material when healthy.
“Nick has such good tempo,” Dupic said. “He finds a way to get it done. He has good tempo that keeps the defense in good rhythm. It’s just great to see him out there competing and making pitches. He did a really nice job keeping guys off balance. It’s certainly good to have him back in the rotation this weekend.”
As part of the game 2 attack, leadoff hitter Jayden Adams went 2-for-4 with two runs and three RBIs. Shortstop Jose Cevallos chipped in with a pair of hits, a run and an RBI and Evan Bohman drove an RBI double to right.
Concordia got enough offense to win game 1, but it had to play catch up all afternoon after a nightmare of a second inning. A leaky left side of the infield resulted in five unearned runs in that particular inning. In relief, Nolan Johnson threw a solid 4.1 innings (one run allowed) to help the Bulldogs crawl back within two (9-7) before the Warriors rattled off six runs in the top of the seventh.
Three Concordia hitters notched two hits in game 1: Ben Berg (2-for-3, double), Garcia (2-for-4, two runs) and Teyt Johnson (2-for-4, run, double, two RBIs). In pinch hit opportunities, Keaton Candor (RBI double) and Bohman (RBI single) both came through in the sixth.
Worth noting, Garcia now stands in second place on the program’s all-time home run list with 23 career big flies (eight this season). Garcia’s two homers on Sunday pushed him in front of Ross Wurdeman (22) and moved him within four of Jarrod Pimentel (27) for the school record. As a team, the Bulldogs have already sent 35 balls out of the yard in 2021.
Midland (11-12, 1-3 GPAC) got a 3-for-4, four-run, four-RBI performance out of leadoff hitter Chase Reynolds in game 1. The Warriors posted 11 hits in their victory and took advantage of four Concordia errors.
The Bulldogs are slated to host Dordt (9-13, 2-2 GPAC) for a four-game series this coming weekend (March 26-27). First pitch is set for 4 p.m. CT on Friday and 1 p.m. on Saturday.