GPAC champion Bulldogs destined for Louisiana, set for rematch with KWU

By Jacob Knabel on May. 9, 2024 in Baseball

2024 NAIA Opening Round Schedule

VIDEO: Bulldogs react during NAIA selection show

SEWARD, Neb. – The Concordia University Baseball program’s sixth all-time appearance at the NAIA National Championship Opening Round will be staged in Shreveport, La., home to Louisiana State University-Shreveport. Opening round assignments were made official on Thursday (May 9) by the NAIA. The Bulldogs were rewarded with a No. 2 seed in the opening round and will take on No. 3 seed Kansas Wesleyan University on Monday, May 13. First pitch is set for 2:30 p.m. CT. The opening round features a double-elimination style bracket.

The field for the 2024 Shreveport Bracket includes:

·        No. 1 LSU-Shreveport (42-9)

·        No. 2 Concordia (41-13)

·        No. 3 Kansas Wesleyan (45-10)

·        No. 4 Talladega (36-15)

·        No. 5 Blue Mountain Christian (31-21)

Location: Pilot Field | Shreveport, Louisiana

Head Coach Ryan Dupic has guided Concordia to national tournament berths in 2017, 2019, 2021, 2022, 2023 and 2024. The ’21 team made history by advancing to the NAIA World Series while the ’22 squad came within one game of a return trip to Lewiston, Idaho. The 2024 Bulldogs have earned an automatic national tournament berth as the GPAC regular season and postseason champion. During the regular season, Concordia matched up with five teams that have qualified for the 2024 opening round: Bellevue, Doane, Kansas Wesleyan, Keiser (Fla.) and Oklahoma City. The Bulldogs went to Salina on Feb. 20 and came away with a doubleheader sweep of Kansas Wesleyan, winning by scores of 14-5 and 5-2.

On Wednesday, all-conference teams were announced by the GPAC. Five Bulldogs landed on the first team: Jay Adams, Alec Blakestad, Joey Grabanski, Jaidan Quinn and Matt Rhoades. Grabanski and Quinn shared the GPAC Player of the Year award. Meanwhile, second team honors went to Christian Gutierrez, Jacob Lycan, Ty Nekoliczak and Tanner Tompkins. Honorable mention selections included Jimmy Blumberg, Brad Hallock and Caden Johnson. Dupic was recognized as the GPAC Coach of the Year for the third time in his career.

The winners of all 10 opening round sites will head to Lewis-Clark State (Idaho) for the 67th annual Avista NAIA Baseball World Series in Lewiston, Idaho, May 24-31. For more information on the World Series, click HERE.

This year’s championship field includes 30 automatic qualifiers, 15 at-large selections, and one host berth allocation. Automatic berths were given to teams that either won their respective conference tournament title, or regular-season championship or finished runner-up at the conference tournament or regular season as determined by each conference qualification plan.

The at-large bids were determined by the NAIA Baseball National Selection Committee. This committee consists of one representative from each Area Rating Committee (ARC), a representative from the National Administrative Council, an officer of the NAIA Baseball Coaches Association, and three at-large members. The committee evaluated teams throughout the year on various criteria.

Facts about Concordia at the national tournament

·        A 2021 NAIA World Series qualifier, Concordia will appear in the opening round of the national tournament for the sixth 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, to Bellevue, Neb., in both 2021 and 2022, and to Lawrenceville, Ga., in 2023. Concordia is 12-9 all-time in opening round games and has won at least one national tournament game in each of the five prior appearances. Opening round wins have come over Jamestown (2017), Clarke University (2019), MidAmerica Nazarene University (twice in 2021), Bellevue (twice in 2021 and once in 2022), Central Methodist University (2022), Judson University (2022), Tabor College (2022), Saint Xavier University (2023) and Midway University (2023).

·        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.

·        The ’22 Bulldogs came within one win of a return trip to the World Series. While being sent to Bellevue for a second year in a row, Concordia dropped its first game of the tournament (5-1 to Judson) and then rallied back to claim four straight victories. The Bulldogs turned some heads when they routed host and sixth-ranked Bellevue, 16-2, to force a winner-take-all contest. In that blowout, Concordia went deep six times with one home run apiece coming from Jay Adams, Joey Grabanski, Jaidan Quinn, Keaton Candor, Jesse Garcia and Teyt Johnson. Caden Johnson fired seven strong innings in the triumph. Ultimately, the Bruins took the next game, 5-2, and booked their trip to the NAIA World Series. In 2023, the Bulldogs traveled to the home of Georgia Gwinnett and went 2-2. They were eliminated by Freed-Hardeman University in a game they led 8-5 after eight innings. A win in that contest would have put Concordia in the finals of the opening round against the host team.

·        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 six national tournaments, Dupic (323-176-1) became the winningest coach in program history this season. During Dupic’s tenure (2015-present), the Bulldogs lead all GPAC baseball programs in overall wins (323), GPAC regular season wins (159), overall winning percentage (.650), conference regular season winning percentage (.674) and total GPAC championships (seven).

·        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. This will be the fourth national tournament for the program’s fourth/fifth-year seniors such as Jay Adams, Carlos Benavides, Jose Cevallos, Joey Grabanski, Caden Johnson and Jacob Lycan.

Shreveport Bracket Schedule
All times CDT

Monday, May 13
Game 1 – (4) Talladega vs. (5) Blue Mountain Christian, 11 a.m.
Game 2 – (2) Concordia vs. (3) Kansas Wesleyan, 2:30 p.m.
Game 3 – (1) LSU-Shreveport vs. Game 1 Winner, 6 p.m.

Tuesday, May 14
Game 4 – Game 1 Loser vs. Game 2 Loser, 11 a.m.
Game 5 – Game 1 Winner vs. Game 2 Winner, 2:30 p.m.
Game 6 – Game 3 Loser vs. Game 4 Winner, 6 p.m.

Wednesday, May 15
Game 7 – Game 5 Loser vs. Game 6 Winner, 11 a.m.
Game 8 – Game 5 Winner vs. Game 7 Winner, 2:30 p.m.

Thursday, May 16
Game 9 – Game 8 Winner vs. Game 8 Loser (if necessary), 11 a.m.