SEWARD, Neb. – Champion of the 2021 Bellevue Bracket at the NAIA National Championship Opening Round, the Concordia University Baseball program will take aim at repeating last year’s historic achievement. The Bulldogs have been assigned to the Bellevue Bracket for the second year in a row, as announced by the NAIA during a live selection show on Thursday (May 12). As the bracket’s No. 4 seed, the GPAC tournament champions will take on fifth-seeded Judson University (Ill.) on Monday (May 16). Opening round play will run May 16-19.
The field for the 2022 Bellevue Bracket includes:
· No. 1 Bellevue University (45-10)
· No. 2 Central Methodist University (42-13)
· No. 3 Tabor College (37-17-1)
· No. 4 Concordia (36-15-1)
· No. 5 Judson University (21-28)
Head Coach Ryan Dupic’s squad is riding a high after winning five-straight conference tournament elimination games on the way to claiming the program’s second-consecutive GPAC postseason championship. After falling in the opening game of the 2022 GPAC tournament, Concordia defeated Mount Marty, 7-5, Briar Cliff, 25-6, Northwestern, 20-10, Northwestern, 5-4 and then Jamestown, 7-6 (10 innings), in the championship game. Second baseman Jay Adams emerged as the unofficial MVP of the GPAC tournament. Over six games, Adams went 16-for-30 (.533) with 12 runs, a double, four home runs, a .548 on-base percentage and .967 slugging percentage. Adams delivered walk-off base hits in each of the final two games of the tournament.
Game time for Concordia and Judson is set for 11 a.m. CT on Monday. During the regular season, the Bulldogs played three of the other four teams in their opening round bracket. Back in February, Concordia played a doubleheader at Tabor and lost one game and tied the other (due to darkness). Over spring break, the Bulldogs rallied to beat Judson, 10-9, on March 8. Just a few days later, Concordia dropped a 3-0 decision to then 10th-ranked Bellevue in Lake Wales, Fla.
The winners of all 10 opening round sites will head to Lewis-Clark State (Idaho) for the 65th annual Avista NAIA Baseball World Series in Lewiston, Idaho, May 27 – June 3. For more information on the World Series, click here.
The field consists of 31 automatic qualifiers – given to conference regular-season champions, tournament champions or tournament runners-up – and 15 at-large teams. Conferences with 10-or-more members receive two automatic qualifiers, while leagues with less than 10 get one.
At-large teams were determined by the NAIA Baseball National Selection Committee (NSC). The NSC consists of one representative from each geographic area, a representative from the National Administrative Council, a member of the NAIA-Baseball Coaches Association Executive Committee and three at-large members. The committee evaluated teams throughout the year on various criteria.
NAIA National Championship Opening Round Schedule
Bellevue Bracket | Don Roddy Field
Monday, May 16:
Game 1: #4 Concordia vs. #5 Judson, 11 a.m.
Game 2: #2 Central Methodist vs. #3 Tabor, 2:30 p.m.
Game 3: #1 Bellevue vs. Winner of Game 1, 6 p.m.
Tuesday, May 17:
Game 4: Loser of Game 1 vs. Loser of Game 2, 11 a.m.
Game 5: Winner of Game 2 vs. Winner of Game 3, 2:30 p.m.
Game 6: Loser of Game 3 vs. Winner of Game 4, 6 p.m.
Wednesday, May 18:
Game 7: Loser of Game 5 vs. Winner of Game 6, 11 a.m.
Game 8: Winner of Game 5 vs. Winner of Game 7, 2:30 p.m.
Thursday, May 20:
Game 9: Same teams as Game 8, noon (If Necessary)
Facts about Concordia at the national tournament
· Concordia has qualified for the opening round of the national tournament for the fourth time in program history. Each of those appearances have come during the tenure of Ryan Dupic, who first took the Bulldogs to the opening round in 2017. In previous appearances, the Bulldogs made their way to Hutchinson, Kan., in 2017, to Henderson, Tenn., in 2019 and to Bellevue, Neb., in 2021. Concordia is 6-5 all-time in opening round games and has won at least one national tournament game in each of the three prior appearances. Opening round wins have come over Jamestown (2017), Clarke University (2019), MidAmerica Nazarene University (twice in 2021) and Bellevue (twice in 2021).
· It’s been extremely rare for a GPAC team to reach the NAIA World Series. In fact, only once before Concordia reached that stage in 2021 had a GPAC squad advanced to the World Series – Briar Cliff accomplished that feat in 2005. Two current GPAC members appeared in the World Series either before the GPAC formed or prior to joining the league: Jamestown (2004 and 2008) and Morningside (1960). Briar Cliff went 0-2 in its 2005 trip to the World Series. No GPAC team has ever won a game at the World Series.
· While going 4-1 during the 2021 opening round, the Bulldogs outscored their opponents, 38-32. Four of the games were played at Brown Park in Omaha while one contest was played at Don Roddy Field in Bellevue. Keaton Candor paced the team at the plate in the opening round by going 8-for-23 (.348) with four doubles, three home runs and eight RBIs. Jakob Faulk also pounded three home runs (including two in the clinching game) and Jesse Garcia belted two blasts. Twelve different pitchers were used. Nick Little (9 IP) and Caden Bugarske (8.1 IP) logged the most innings during the opening round. Nathan Buckallew earned credit for two wins.
· Dupic has brought about what is certainly the golden age of Concordia Baseball. Prior to Dupic’s arrival in 2015, the Bulldogs had never been to a national tournament. The program had also not experienced a winning season since 1979 and had not won a conference championship since 1986 (8-4 in NIAC play) when Athletic Trainer Randy Baack pitched and played first base. In addition to leading Concordia to four national tournaments, Dupic (234-140-1) is closing in on becoming the winningest head coach in program history. Only one other coach in program history (Jeremy Geidel with 250 wins) has reached the 200-win mark.
· The 2017 Bulldogs won the GPAC regular season title (tournament runner up) and became the first national tournament qualifier in program history. As part of that run, Casey Berg recorded the program’s first-ever hit at the national tournament with a single in the bottom of the first versus Jamestown on May 15, 2017. That appearance helped pave the way for the success Concordia is enjoying now. The Bulldogs won’t have any fear of the national stage. Seven Bulldogs who started the program’s first-ever World Series game are on the current postseason roster: Jay Adams, Ben Berg, Keaton Candor, Jakob Faulk, Jesse Garcia, Joey Grabanski and Teyt Johnson.