SEWARD, Neb. – For the second time in three seasons, head coach Ryan Dupic will lead his team into the opening round of the NAIA Baseball National Championship. On Thursday (May 9) afternoon, the Bulldogs learned that they would be headed to Henderson, Tenn., for the start of opening round action on Monday. As the No. 4 seed in the Henderson Bracket, Concordia (32-18) will go head-to-head with fifth-seeded Clarke University (Iowa) at 11 a.m. CT on Monday. The rest of the bracket includes No. 1 seed Oklahoma Wesleyan University, No. 2 seed and host Freed-Hardeman University and No. 3 seed Texas Wesleyan University.
The NAIA Opening Round is made up of nine separate host sites, each with five teams for a total of 45 squads in the entire event. The Bulldogs earned an automatic bid as winner of the GPAC regular season.
Six Concordia players on the current postseason roster saw action when the program made its first-ever national tournament appearance two years ago: Wade Council, Jake Fosgett, 2019 GPAC Player of the Year Christian Meza, Jason Munsch, Logan Ryan and Tanner Wauhob. The highlight of that particular appearance was an 8-7 victory over Jamestown.
Recalls Fosgett, “Last time as a skinny freshman going into that my thought was, ‘You’re pitching in a national tournament and this is probably one of the coolest experiences you’re going to have.’ At that point I was just taking it all in. This year we want to go and show teams what we’ve got, go out there and win some ballgames. We have a good staff with a lot of experience. We want to show teams what we’re all about.”
The opening round consists of a double-elimination format. That means every team is guaranteed to play at least once on both Monday and Tuesday. From a pitching standpoint, Dupic’s 2019 team is more equipped to hold up to the rigors of tournament play. The rotation has been stellar with lefties Sasha Jabusch (6-2, 3.10 ERA, 58 IP, 75 K) and Munsch (5-4, 2.62 ERA, 58.1 IP, 94 K) and righty Fosgett (6-2, 3.09 ERA, 55.1 IP, 85 K) all worthy options as potential game one starters in the national bracket. Those three and ace reliever Dylan DuRee (0.61 ERA in 29.2 IP) accounted for four of the GPAC’s five first team all-conference pitchers.
For Jabusch and the majority of the roster, this excursion down south will be a new experience. Said Jabusch, “It feels great. We get to get out of here and play in good weather and see some great competition. I think we’re going to see exactly how we play as a team and how we can respond from those moments of adversity.”
Clarke (28-21), located in Dubuque, Iowa, defeated Concordia, 19-8, in national tournament action in Hutchinson, Kan., in 2017. The Pride are back in the opening round via an automatic bid (Heart of America Athletic Conference tournament runner up). It seems likely that the Bulldogs will see Clarke ace pitcher Jakob Kirman (10-2, 2.42 ERA, 96.2 IP, 93 K), who has been a workhorse this season. Head coach Dan Spain has guided the Pride to four-straight opening round trips.
The Concordia-Clarke winner will move on and play at 7 p.m. on Monday versus Oklahoma Wesleyan, ranked 12th in the most recent NAIA coaches’ poll. In that same April 30 poll, Freed Hardeman was ranked ninth and Texas Wesleyan checked in at No. 14.
For additional details, visit the NAIA baseball web page HERE. The teams that emerge from the opening round will meet in Lewiston, Idaho, for the Avista-NAIA World Series, May 24-31.
2017 Concordia Opening Round Results
*First national tournament appearance in program history
May 15, 2017 – W, 8-7 vs. Jamestown
May 15, 2017 – L, 8-19 vs. (6) Clarke
May 16, 2017 – L, 11-12 vs. (13) Tabor
May 13-16 | Carnes Field | Henderson, Tenn.
Hosted by Freed-Hardeman
1. Oklahoma Wesleyan
2. Freed-Hardeman (Tenn.)
3. Texas Wesleyan
4. Concordia (Neb.)
5. Clarke (Iowa)
*All times central
Monday, May 13
Game 1: 11 a.m. – No. 4 Concordia (Neb.) vs. No. 5 Clarke (Iowa)
Game 2: 3 p.m. – No. 2 Freed-Hardeman vs. No. 3 Texas Wesleyan
Game 3: 7 p.m. – No. 1 Oklahoma Wesleyan vs. Winner Game 1
Tuesday, May 14
Game 4: 11 a.m. – Loser Game 1 vs. Loser Game 2
Game 5: 3 p.m. – Winner Game 2 vs. Winner Game 3
Game 6: 7 p.m. – Loser Game 3 vs. Winner Game 4
Wednesday, May 15
Game 7: TBA – Loser Game 5 vs. Winner Game 6
Game 8: TBA – Winner Game 5 vs. Winner Game 7
Thursday, May 16
Game 9: TBA – Winner Game 8 vs. Loser Game 8