SEWARD, Neb. – The magic number for the Concordia University baseball team in regards to clinching the GPAC regular season title stands at two with four games left until postseason play. Head coach Ryan Dupic’s first place squad currently owns a three-game lead over Jamestown at the top of the GPAC standings. The Bulldogs are getting set to entertain Dordt at Plum Creek Park for a four-game series this Friday and Saturday. Meanwhile, the Jimmies will close GPAC regular season action with four games at Doane.
Concordia has rebounded impressively after placing seventh in the conference in 2018. Now the Bulldogs are on the cusp of taking the league’s regular season crown for the second time in three years (picked fifth in the preseason). The 2017 team went 19-9 in league play while claiming the program’s first conference championship since head athletic trainer Randy Baack played for the 1986 NIAC champions. In its first season as a GPAC member, Jamestown entered the league as the conference favorite following a stellar 2018 campaign that saw them go 45-11 overall and come within one game of reaching the NAIA World Series.
Concordia is coming off a rare instance in which it was swept in a doubleheader. It fell twice at Northwestern on April 19 as part of a four-game series split in Orange City, Iowa. For most of conference play, the Bulldog pitching staff has been much too brilliant to allow for back-to-back defeats. In GPAC games only, Concordia’s team ERA of 2.32 is far and away the best in the league (No. 2 stands at 4.13). In terms of results, the top two starters have been juniors Jason Munsch (4-3, 2.11 ERA, 42.2 IP) and Jake Fosgett (6-1, 3.32 ERA, 43.1 IP), who are both capable of making hitters look foolish. Their strikeout rates per nine innings – Munsch (14.77) and Fosgett (13.50) – are video game like.
The lineup is also more than adequate with right fielder Wade Council (.331 BA) and second baseman Christian Meza (.358 BA) having been the team’s most consistent performers. Last week Meza joined Zak Goodrich (234 career hits) as the only two players in program history to reach 200 hits in a career. In addition, Meza has progressively improved his approach at the plate and currently has the highest walk rate of his career. In the middle of the lineup, freshman Jesse Garcia was solid last week with at least one hit in each of the six games (including April 15 versus Morningside). Garcia tops the team with 34 RBIs while his seven homers are even with Keaton Candor for a Bulldog best.
Dordt hasn’t found much of a rhythm this season. Within conference play, the Defenders rank tied for 10th in runs per game (3.22) and 10th in ERA (7.77). Dordt’s GPAC wins have come against Midland (twice) and Hastings. The player in the Defender lineup to watch out for is second baseman Logan Cline, who is hitting .352 with 10 extra base hits. As a team, the Defenders have hit only four home runs this season and are slugging .315.
In between games of the doubleheader on Saturday, Concordia will honor its senior class of 10 (names listed below). With the help of the seniors over the past four seasons, the program has gone a combined 113-87 with the aforementioned GPAC title in 2017. In that senior group, Meza and shortstop Logan Ryan have been mainstays in the middle infield while Dylan DuRee and Tanner Wauhob have enjoyed solid senior seasons as part of the impressive pitching staff.
Seniors to be honored on Saturday:
Russell Bunting (Kingsburg, Calif.)
Dylan DuRee (Elkhorn, Neb.)
Clayton Holcomb (Johnston, Iowa)
Johnny May (Johnston, Iowa)
Christian Meza (San Diego, Calif.)
Jesse Pugh (Steamboat Springs, Colo.)
Logan Ryan (Johnston, Iowa)
Jared Schipper (Omaha, Neb.)
Tanner Wauhob (Sioux City, Iowa)
Keith Wolverton (Seward, Neb.)
No matter what happens in the final week of the regular season, the Bulldogs are guaranteed to host a four-team pod as part of the GPAC tournament May 2-4. The GPAC postseason championship game will be held on Tuesday, May 7.