Little tosses gem in season-opening split

By Jacob Knabel on Feb. 25, 2017 in Baseball

LINDSBORG, Kan. – It was a long season-opening day at the ballpark for the Concordia University baseball team, which outlasted host Bethany College, 5-4, in a 12-inning game 1. The Swedes then rallied for a 6-5 victory in the second game of Saturday afternoon’s doubleheader in Lindsborg, Kan.

Third-year head coach Ryan Dupic’s squad had the task of going up against a Bethany team that already had 14 games under its belt. He liked the way his team responded.

“I thought it went pretty well. I think we’re a little further along than I thought we would be,” Dupic said. “We pitched very well. Nick Little was really, really good. I thought we had some pretty good at bats at times. I was really happy with the way we competed. I really wish we could have gotten that second one, but it wasn’t too bad.”

Dupic had the confidence to give Little the ball as the team’s No. 1 starter. The freshman righty from Lithia, Colo., covered the first eight innings of the marathon opener. He surrendered only two runs on seven hits and one walk. He had a shutout working into the sixth inning until Irving Ocasio connected on a two-run homer with two outs in the frame.

The Bulldogs entered 2017 feeling good about what they possess from an offensive perspective. The hope is that Little’s emergence will help solidify a pitching staff that was inconsistent in 2016.

“He’s such a steady kid,” Dupic said of Little. “He never changes emotion. From the day that he came here, he just placed himself among the best on our staff. He makes pitches. He’s always under control. He commands the ball. He changes speed. Today he was one pitch away from throwing a shutout. We’re glad to have him.”

In game 1, Concordia relinquished a 3-2, 10th-inning lead, but atoned by putting up a pair of runs in the top of the 12th. Newcomer Jason Galeano made it a 4-3 game with an RBI single that plated Kaleb Geiger. Jake Adams tacked on with a sacrifice fly that drove home Galeano.

That extra run proved crucial when an unearned run came across in the bottom of the 12th with Wade Council on the bump. Council threw the final four innings after Little finished his day. The game came to a conclusion when a Swede baserunner was tagged out by catcher Ryan Fesmire on the final play. That gave Council his first career collegiate victory.

Fesmire singled four times in game 1. Additionally, Kaleb Geiger drilled a two-run homer and Galeano was 3-for-6 with a pair of RBIs in the opener. Galeano then reached base three more times with three walks in game 2.

Senior left-hander Josh Prater took the mound in game 2. After allowing three runs in the first inning, he settled in and pitched four scoreless frames in a row before running into trouble in the sixth. He fired 5.1 innings, allowing four runs (three earned) on five hits and four walks. He struck out six. Dylan DuRee and Nic Seaman worked in relief of Prater. Seaman was tagged with the loss when a Dalton Bidon single chased in the walk-off run in the bottom of the seventh.

Galeano was one of seven Bulldogs to make their debuts in a Concordia uniform. The top six in the lineup in both games were Casey Berg (third base), Christian Montero (right field), Geiger (first base), Galeano (DH), Adams (center field), Tyler Nelson (left field) and Thomas Sautel (second base).

The Swedes (11-5) appear to be a much-improved team after going 25-32 last season. Bethany is a member of the Kansas Collegiate Athletic Conference.

The Bulldogs and Swedes will complete their four-game series with another doubleheader (a nine-inning game and then a seven-inning game) on Sunday. First pitch is set for 1 p.m. CT.