SEWARD, Neb. – For the second time in three seasons, the Concordia University baseball program can call itself champion of the GPAC regular season. Unlike the title two years ago, the Bulldogs got to celebrate this one at home with a dogpile just to the left of the mound. That seventh place finish from a year ago faded with the unforgiving wind gusts on a brisk day at Plum Creek Park. Wins by 3-0 scores in both ends of the doubleheader versus Dordt warmed the soul on Saturday afternoon (April 27).
Fifth-year head coach Ryan Dupic’s squad will tackle the postseason with an overall mark of 29-17. At 23-5 in conference play, Concordia owns the GPAC record of league victories in a single season (GPAC schedule expanded to 28 games in 2017).
“I really wanted it - and I really wanted it for them,” Dupic said of the latest championship. “They've worked so hard and they've really done the things we've asked them to do and even beyond that. When it happened, I just sat back and watched and soaked it in. It’s still kind of a blur, but very happy for them and what they got to experience.”
It was a senior day to remember for star second baseman Christian Meza, who collected five hits on a day that was decidedly unfavorable for hitters. Bulldog pitchers took full advantage of the situation. It was rather fitting that Concordia clinched a conference title with stellar pitching. To say Sasha Jabusch dominated on Saturday is putting it lightly. He fanned 17 hitters (one off a school single game record) in a seven-inning two-hit shutout.
In a season of masterful pitching performances, this one takes the cake. The Bulldogs finished the regular season with an ERA of 2.31 in GPAC games. The league’s top pitching staff was a major reason why a celebration took place in the middle of the diamond on Saturday.
“They’ve been awesome,” Dupic said of the pitching staff. “Sasha was just amazing today, probably as good as I’ve ever seen him. Obviously it was a tough day to score today. In that type of situation he was able to pound the zone with a few different pitches and keep guys off balance. They have pitched so well all year. They deserve all the credit.”
If Concordia was feeling any pressure to get that clinching win out of the way, it dissipated in the bottom of the first of game one when Meza delivered an RBI double and then scored on a sacrifice fly by Evan Bohman. The Bulldogs could have stopped there with Jabusch mowing down the Defenders (8-28, 5-23 GPAC). Meza wasn’t done. He recorded another RBI double an inning later as part of a 3-for-3 effort in game one.
Meza is now at 210 hits in a career that will put him with the all-time greats in program history. He and fellow senior in shortstop Logan Ryan have been constants in the middle of the diamond. Another senior, Tanner Wauhob, fired six shutout innings in the game two victory on Saturday.
“It was amazing. It’s been a fun year,” Meza said. “It’s a long season. We’ve been grinding all year. It makes me so happy to do this with these guys. It’s really special.”
Game two was locked in a 0-0 tie until Keaton Candor delivered an RBI single in the bottom of the fourth. Then in the sixth, Ryan and Meza emerged with an RBI base hit apiece. The timely hits were enough. Jared Schipper worked two scoreless innings in relief and Dylan DuRee nailed down the final two outs for the save.
With the regular season in the books, the No. 1 seed in the GPAC tournament and a national tournament berth locked up, Dupic will allow a bit of time for his guys to enjoy this. Says Dupic, “I’m going to give them a day or two. We talk about staying on an even keel and taking it a day at a time – I’m going to let them enjoy this a little bit.”
The GPAC tournament bracket will be announced early next week after all regular season games have been played. Concordia will host one of the two four-team pods in the GPAC postseason.