SEWARD, Neb. – Keaton Candor and Ben Berg cleaned up in the bottom third of the lineup and the Concordia University baseball team capitalized on a bushel of walks in a blowout victory on day one of the 2019 GPAC tournament. The top-seeded Bulldogs looked like conference champions in pummeling visiting Doane, 12-1, at Plum Creek Park on Thursday (May 2) evening. Both Berg and Jesse Garcia homered for the victors.
Head coach Ryan Dupic’s squad has an opportunity to add to the trophy case after capturing the GPAC regular season title. The 2019 team has moved to 30-17 overall while becoming the second in program history to reach the 30-win mark.
“We want to keep some momentum going. We want to play good baseball,” Dupic said. “That’s been the case all year. Our focus has been on execution and playing well. Obviously it’s a nice opportunity to be able to host at our field and play this at home. It’s a nice night and it’s a chance to go play and compete. Fortunately we played well today.”
Part of the key on Thursday was simply waiting out wild Doane pitching. Tiger starter Travis Cowan lasted only 1.2 innings due to his control struggles. One of his four free passes came back to roost in the bottom of the first when Garcia hit a towering two-run homer to left. Doane wound up using six different pitchers who combined to allow nine walks and one hit batter.
Following Garcia’s blast, a great deal of the offensive production came courtesy of Berg and Candor. Both have gone through some peaks and valleys, but they stung the ball on Thursday. Berg went 3-for-4 with a home run, two doubles and five RBIs. Meanwhile, Candor reached base in all five plate appearances (3-for-3) while collecting two runs, two doubles and two RBIs. They were the headliners for a lineup that scored in six of the eight innings it batted in.
“That was probably the best game of my life, to be honest with you,” Berg said. “After the first at bat, (brother and assistant coach) Bryce (Berg) pulled me aside and told me to take every at bat pitch-by-pitch and see what happens. I was just trying to hit the ball hard. We did that and I guess it paid off today.”
Berg has had a front row seat for viewing the GPAC’s best pitching staff. On this particular night, he had the honor of catching lefty ace Jason Munsch, who became the first player in program history to record 200 career strikeouts. Munsch worked 6.2 innings versus Doane, surrendering one unearned run on four hits and two walks. He struck out eight. Another lefty in Dresden Wilson then came on to get the final seven outs.
At the top of the lineup, Wade Council added two hits for the Bulldogs. Evan Bohman, Christian Meza and Logan Ryan each drove in a run apiece as part of a 12-hit attack. Together they helped Concordia move to 5-0 this season against eighth-seeded Doane (18-29). The Tigers got their only run on a passed ball that occurred on a strikeout of Eduardo Yanez.
Even in a one versus eight matchup, it’s never easy to know what to expect in a tournament setting. Dupic certainly wouldn’t have predicted such a lopsided victory, but he will gladly take more offensive outings like this one.
“They were awesome,” Dupic said. “They’re both really talented guys (Berg and Candor). For them to create that lineup depth is huge. I was so proud of the offense today. I thought they did a really good job and had some terrific at bats. When we’re able to get some production up and down the lineup, obviously that puts a lot of pressure on the opposing team.”
Concordia can really put itself in the driver’s seat of its own bracket if it can win again on Friday afternoon. The Bulldogs will be up against fourth-seeded Dakota Wesleyan (23-21) in a contest set for a 2 p.m. CT first pitch in Seward. Three games will be played at Plum Creek Park on Friday.