Bulldogs win another elimination game, take out 2021 national runner up

By Jacob Knabel on May. 17, 2022 in Baseball

BELLEVUE, Neb. – More than six hours separated the first pitch and the last pitch of Tuesday (May 17)’s elimination game, but the wait was worth it. A lightning/rain delay of nearly three-and-a-half hours was sandwiched in the middle of an eight-run eighth inning that carried the Concordia University Baseball team to a 10-3 victory over 11th-ranked Central Methodist University (Mo.). The Bulldogs are now 1-1 at the 2022 NAIA National Championship Opening Round and remain alive in the Bellevue Bracket being held at Roddy Field in Bellevue, Neb.

Head Coach Ryan Dupic’s squad (37-16-1) got a sterling pitching performance from Alex Johnson and a home run apiece from Teyt Johnson, Jay Adams and Keaton Candor on Tuesday. Concordia has claimed its seventh all-time national tournament win.

“It started with Alex Johnson. He did a great job on the mound,” Dupic said. “If you’re going to pitch deep into a game in a regional against this caliber of teams you have to be really good. He pitched really well. He was mixing his stuff, changed speeds and really executed. I was really proud of him and then we got something going late offensively. I’m really proud of the guys after the long rain delay to come back and jump right on them again. That really stretched our lead.”

What had been a tight contest all the way through gave way to Bulldog fireworks in the eighth inning. Ben Berg and Tanner Tompkins helped ignite the outburst with back-to-back one-out singles. After Ty Nekoliczak drove in a run with a sac fly, Teyt Johnson delivered a two-run homer to right and Jay Adams blasted a solo shot to left center. Joey Grabanski followed with a double before lightning strikes put the game on pause. Concordia held a 6-2 advantage at that point.

A wait of three hours and 28 minutes failed to cool down the Bulldogs. They immediately went back to work. The next three batters resulted in Jesse Garcia being hit by a pitch, Jaidan Quinn hammering a two-run triple and Keaton Candor launching a two-run homer to left. All of a sudden, Concordia had built a 10-2 advantage. Eagles starter Beau Atkins was tagged with six of the 10 runs.

By the time the delay hit, Alex Johnson had finished his day’s work. The righty from Olathe, Kan., navigated seven innings and surrendered just two runs on five hits and four walks (two intentional). The breaking ball heavy Johnson also notched five strikeouts while up against a lineup that averages more than 8.0 runs per game. Ben Coldiron came on in relief after the delay and recorded the final six outs. Johnson worked carefully to star Central Methodist shortstop Robbie Merced, who went 1-for-3 with an RBI. Merced was intentionally walked twice.

The First Team All-GPAC Johnson moved his season record to 7-1. Said Johnson, “Me and Dupic talked about hitting spots inside-outside with the fastball. That was my main priority – and throwing my slider for a strike comes with it. That’s what my game plan was going into it.”

Candor and Grabanski led the offensive attack with three hits apiece as part of a 14-hit day as a team. Candor notched the 46th homer of his career. Adams, Candor and Grabanski have each homered 17 times this season. The Bulldogs got their first two runs of the ballgame in the fifth when Grabanski doubled home Nekoliczak and Garcia singled in Grabanski. Central Methodist (42-15) had owned a 1-0 lead prior to that frame.

Concordia effectively knocked out the Eagles, last year’s national runners up. The Bulldogs have won at least once in each of their four trips to the national tournament under Dupic. The seven national tournament wins since the start of 2017 are the most of any GPAC baseball program.

“It means a lot to me,” Dupic said of that national tournament success. “I told the kids I hope it means a lot to them too. You want to represent yourself well at the national level. I have the highest respect for Central Methodist. Nate (Breland) and their staff do an incredible job. They have a great team. They were national runner up a year ago and one of the best teams in the country this year. It’s nice to get a win and we’ll see if we can keep it going for a little bit.”

The dream of returning to the NAIA World Series remains alive but it will take four more wins for Concordia to reach Lewiston, Idaho again. The focus for the players and coaches rests solely on Wednesday’s 11 a.m. CT matchup with Judson University (Ill.) (22-29). The fifth-seeded Eagles defeated the Bulldogs, 5-1, on Monday. Judson then fell later in the day to top seed Bellevue, 4-0, before having Tuesday off. The Concordia-Judson winner will play again at 2:30 p.m. on Wednesday. Counting the GPAC tournament, the Bulldogs have won six-straight elimination games.

Bellevue Bracket (updated)

Monday, May 16
Game 1 – (5) Judson def. (4) Concordia, 5-1
Game 2 – (3) Tabor def. (2) Central Methodist, 5-2 (10 inn.)
Game 3 – (1) Bellevue def. (5) Judson, 4-0

Tuesday, May 17
Game 4 – (4) Concordia def. (2) Central Methodist, 10-3
Game 5 – (1) Bellevue def. (3) Tabor, 7-2

Wednesday, May 18
Game 6 – (4) Concordia vs. (5) Judson, 11 a.m.
Game 7 – (3) Tabor vs. Game 6 Winner, 2:30 p.m.

Thursday, May 19
Game 8 – (1) Bellevue vs. Game 7 Winner, 11 a.m.
Game 9 – Game 8 Winner/Loser, 2:30 p.m. (if necessary)