SEWARD, Neb. – A large crowd convened upon Plum Creek Park for Concordia’s first home appearance since claiming the GPAC regular-season crown. The game got a little too exciting for fans of the Bulldogs when Briar Cliff loaded the bases in the ninth. In the end, top-seeded Concordia eked out a 6-5 victory over the conference tournament’s No. 8 seed on Thursday evening.
Third-year head coach Ryan Dupic’s squad has won eight of its last nine games and now stands at 31-19 overall as it moves forward in GPAC postseason action.
“We certainly made it exciting,” Dupic said. “I’m just proud of our toughness and our grit to continue to compete. Our offensive guys put some really good at bats together and really competed. It was a terrific finish and a fun night at the ballpark. We got a terrific crowd. I’m so happy to have so much great support here. Hopefully we can keep this thing going.”
The ninth inning was wild – and a bit scary. Charger third baseman Michael Wagaman got hit in the face by pitch from Desmond Pineda, loading the bases with only one out. Then came a controversial call on a play that resulted in the second out. Pineda followed that up by inducing a pop out to second base, resulting in sighs of relief at Plum Creek Park.
Nothing came easy against a squad that split a four-game series in Seward late in the regular season. Briar Cliff (18-33) tagged Concordia starting pitcher Josh Prater for five hits and three runs in the top of the first. The Bulldogs waited until the fifth inning to take their first lead of the day when Tyler Nelson tucked a no doubter of a home run inside the right field foul pole for a two-run homer. Suddenly, Concordia had a 6-4 advantage.
It was also a big night for freshman Wade Council, who delivered a two-run homer of his own and was along for the ride on Nelson’s big fly. Council evened the game at 4-4 when his deep drive caromed off the glove of a leaping Jacob Hom in right and went over the fence. Council also doubled as part of a 2-for-4 evening.
“I was just thinking, stick to my approach and good things will happen,” Council said. “He threw me my approach pitch and I took it. I needed every inch, but I’ll take it.”
Tanner Wauhob saved the Bulldogs’ bacon out of the bullpen. After Prater allowed a pair of hits to open up the third inning, Dupic turned to Wauhob. He limited the damage in the third and proceeded to fire 6.1 innings while surrendering six hits, two walks and one earned run. He handed the ball off to Pineda with runners at first and second and one out in the ninth.
Concordia opened up its scoring in the second inning when Jake Adams doubled and scored on an RBI single by Ryan Fesmire. A second run came in on Casey Berg’s run scoring base hit off Briar Cliff starter Andrew Stover. At that point, the Charger lead had been cut to 3-2.
Council, Nelson, Jason Galeano and Christian Meza each had two hits. Concordia got outhit by Briar Cliff, 14-11.
The Bulldogs will be back at it at 12 p.m. CT on Friday as action continues in the Concordia Bracket. Concordia will take on fourth-seeded Hastings (27-22), which defeated No. 5 Mount Marty, 5-0, in the opening game at Plum Creek Park on Thursday. Because the Broncos won the coin flip, they will be the home team on the scoreboard.
The Bulldogs hope for another strong fan turnout on Friday. A total of three games will be played in Seward on day two.
“It was a good feeling throughout the day,” Council said. “It’s always nice to host and have home field advantage. That helps, and we’re confident in ourselves.”
*All games nine innings; no run rules
Thursday, May 4, 2017
Game #1 – No. 4 Hastings def. No. 5 Mount Marty, 5-0
Game #2 – No. 1 Concordia def. No. 8 Briar Cliff, 6-5
Friday, May 5, 2017
Game #3 – No. 1 Concordia vs. No. 4 Hastings, 12 p.m.
Game #4 – No. 5 Mount Marty vs. No. 8 Briar Cliff (elimination game), 3 p.m.
Game #5 – Winner Game #4 vs. Loser Game #3, 6 p.m.
Saturday, May 6, 2017
Game #6 – Winner Game #3 vs. Winner Game #5, 12 p.m.
Game #7 – Game #6 winner/loser, 3 p.m. (if necessary)