SEWARD, Neb. – The Concordia University baseball team continues to do no wrong. On Sunday the Bulldogs completed a four-game weekend series sweep of Dakota State University to run their winning streak to 10. Behind a stellar game 1 pitching performance from freshman lefty Taylor Bickel and a 5-for-5 day from junior Taylor Dudley, the Bulldogs won by scores of 4-2 and 7-1.
Just one win shy of the program record for lengthiest winning streak ever, head coach Ryan Dupic’s squad sits at 14-5 overall and 4-0 to begin its 2015 home schedule.
“(Bickel) was outstanding,” Dupic said. “He threw the ball well, kept them off balance. We kind of rode him. Even when they were getting some hits, we didn’t really feel like they were hard hit. He just kept mixing pitches and changing speeds.
“We told the guys after the first game that we were actually more happy with the first win today than even the two wins yesterday because we know conference is coming and there are going to be a lot of tight games. It’s good for us to see that we can really play good baseball.”
A starting rotation headed up by senior Jaydee Jurgensen and a trio of freshmen kept the momentum rolling on Sunday. In a swift-moving game 1, Bickel worked an efficient seven-inning complete game. The native of Surprise, Ariz., allowed six hits, one walk and two runs (both earned) while striking out five.
Bickel (3-1) made his biggest pitches after allowing the first two hitters in the sixth to reach safely. He proceeded to retire the next three Trojans (3-18) to end the threat and maintain Concordia’s two-run lead.
The top two hitters in the Bulldog lineup provided the bulk of the game 1 offense. On-base machine Alex Alstott (reached base in four of six Sunday plate appearances) went 2-for-2 with his sixth triple of the season and scored three times out of the leadoff spot. No. 2 hitter Taylor Bigandt collected two hits, a run and an RBI in three at bats. Alstott got Concordia on the board immediately when he tripled and then came around on an errant throw to the cutoff in the first.
Dudley then starred in game 2. He singled in a run in the first, fifth and sixth innings and also doubled and scored in the fourth. Dudley, whose perfect day at the plate bumped his season average to .362, also notched a pinch-hit single in the opening contest.
“I think the key for my success today was just being patient at the plate and waiting for my pitch that’s up in the zone,” Dudley said. “That’s a pitch I can drive real well. It worked out today.”
Also in game 2, second baseman Alex Cargin went 2-for-2 with a walk and three Bulldogs drove in a run apiece: Alstott, Casey Berg and Sean McCartney. Concordia pounded out nine hits in the second game after putting up seven in game 1.
Another freshman left-hander took the hill for Concordia in game 2. After loading the bases to begin the second, left-hander Cade Moring induced a fielder’s choice and then an unconventional 6-3-2 double play that limited the damage to a single run. In relief Mark Harris (winning pitcher) and John-Jay Silva turned combined to get seven outs. Silva retired each of the four hitters he faced.
The foursome of Harris, Silva, Heath Benker and Edwin Izumigawa held Dakota State hitless over the final 3.1 innings to close out win No. 14.
By allowing just a combined six runs over four games with the Trojans, Concordia lowered its GPAC-leading ERA to 3.38. The quick adaptation of freshmen like Bickel has been crucial to the team’s winning streak.
“First of all they’re great kids,” Dupic said. “They’re very high character kids. They work extremely hard in practice every day. They really have a great sense of purpose with what they do and they’re super competitive kids. It’s hard to take the ball from Taylor Bickel. I love the way they compete. I love how great their character is and how hard they work.”
The Bulldogs return to action on Tuesday when they play at nearby York College for a single nine-inning contest. First pitch is set for 5 p.m.