Benson works masterpiece, Dawgs let second game get away

By Jacob Knabel on Mar. 9, 2023 in Baseball

LAKE WALES, Fla. – From a statistical standpoint, transfer pitcher Blake Benson put forth the best outing of his Bulldog career thus far in helping lead the Concordia University Baseball team to a victory in its first day at the Warner Invitational hosted by Warner University. As part of Thursday (March 9)’s action, the Bulldogs defeated Lawrence Tech (Mich.), 9-1, before surrendering a late lead in a 4-3 loss to host Warner, located in Lake Wales, Fla.

Head Coach Ryan Dupic’s squad owns a 5-4 record on its Florida road trip and has moved to 11-8 overall.

“I thought we came out strong in the first game and did a really nice job offensively,” Dupic said. “We were able to put some pressure on the other team. Blake Benson threw a good ballgame and kept the opponent off balance. Game two was disappointing. Weren’t not good enough yet in close games because we can’t play clean enough. There were too many situations where we left guys on base. Hopefully we’ll learn our lesson on that.”

The day got going in rousing fashion as Concordia plated six runs in the bottom of the first in the matchup with Lawrence Tech. The Bulldogs stung the Blue Devils with the help of a Joey Grabanski RBI single, Jesse Garcia RBI double, Alec Blakestad RBI single, Tanner Tompkins RBI single and Teyt Johnson two-run homer. For good measure, the Bulldogs tacked on with a run in the second and two more in the fourth. Ben Berg capped the team’s scoring with a run-scoring base hit. Grabanski led the way with three hits while Blakestad (three RBIs) and Garcia notched two apiece.

The support provided plenty of breathing room for Benson, who fired the seven-inning complete game. The Springdale, Ark., native allowed one run on six hits and a walk while striking out five. It was the longest outing for Benson in four starts for Concordia. Lawrence Tech got its lone run in the fifth inning.

The Bulldogs came away feeling like they should have gotten two on Thursday. They built a 3-0 advantage heading into the bottom of the sixth. Tompkins came through with a clutch two-out, two-RBI single in the fourth for the game’s first run. Concordia added one run in the fifth, though it could have done more damage considering the bases were loaded with no one out.

The bottom of the sixth is when things went awry. The Royals (15-9) got the benefit of an error to start the frame and eventually took the lead on JJ Gonzalez’s two-run single with one out. Starting pitcher Frankie Cresta kept the Bulldogs within a run by recording a ground out and then a strikeout to end the threat. Cresta wound up with the loss despite a strong six innings that saw him surrender three earned runs on six hits and four walks (four strikeouts).

The pitching staff has made strides since opening day on Feb. 11. Said Dupic, “I thought Blake did a good job of executing his pitches. Frankie was pretty good – he competed really hard. He was focused on what he needed to do. We still have a pitch or two we need to be a little better at, but he battled well. Those guys gave us a shot to win two games today.”

The Warner Invitational will continue on Friday when the Bulldogs will take on Calumet College of St. Joseph (Ind.) at 2:30 p.m. ET (1:30 p.m. CT) and St. Thomas University (Fla.) at 7 p.m. ET (6 p.m. CT). The first game will be played at Lake Wales High School and the second game will shift back to Royals Field in Lake Wales. Concordia saw St. Thomas on Tuesday and came away with a 12-6 win.