ORANGE CITY, Iowa – One blowout. One white knuckler. Either way, this Concordia University baseball team always believes it can win. The GPAC leading Bulldogs thumped Northwestern, 14-3, and then survived a potential walk-off winner in a play at the plate in a 5-4, nine-inning game two victory. It was day one of two in Orange City, Iowa, for a Concordia team that moved a step closer to locking up a conference championship.
The magic number has shrunk to three for fifth-year head coach Ryan Dupic’s squad. In other words, the Bulldogs (26-14, 20-2 GPAC) need a combination of three wins/Jamestown losses and they will be able to claim the program’s second GPAC regular season title in three years.
“As we were going through the second game I was thinking, I’m thankful we’re in a game like this,” Dupic said. “We need to be in games like this. You can almost feel the guys become more alert and how they compete a little bit more when they’re in a tight matchup like that. It’s just fun to feel that sense of excitement in the dugout to know that every pitch is a big pitch and every at bat is a big at bat. They found ways to win again.”
The second game on Thursday (April 18) could have easily gone the other way. The action especially intensified in the bottom of the seventh of game two when a base hit to center eluded Keaton Candor. The Red Raiders (16-21, 10-11 GPAC) waved around Ben De Boer, only to watch him get gunned down at the plate on a relay from shortstop Logan Ryan. An inning later, Concordia closer Dylan DuRee managed to get out of another jam and send the contest to a ninth inning (scheduled as a seven-inning game).
Finally the Bulldogs broke the tie in the ninth. The sequence went: Wade Council walk, Christian Meza single, Evan Bohman sacrifice bunt, Jesse Garcia intentional walk and Luciano DePamphilis RBI fielder’s choice. Then in the bottom half, DuRee allowed a two-out single, but shut the door by getting Colton Herald to pop out to short.
There is plenty of credit to go around after the latest pair of victories. In that second game, Lukas Diehm got the start and fanned 11 hitters in 5.1 innings with one earned run (four total runs) allowed. Of course, Concordia would not be talking about a sweep without the cool-under-pressure throw to the plate in the seventh.
“This was the best Lukas has ever been,” Dupic said. “He really had his breaking ball going. He was really sharp and focused from the onset. Really proud of the way he pitched. It was fun to see … Logan got the relay and he was very composed. I knew we had him because you could see he didn’t rush it and he wasn’t too slow. Logan made some huge plays defensively for us.”
Meza had a very patient evening that included five walks and a hit-by-pitch. His hit in the ninth inning of game two marked the 200th of his career. Meza joins Zak Goodrich (234 hits) as the only players in program history with 200 or more hits. Meza’s night was representative of a lineup that grinded out at bats and reached base a combined 24 times on either walks or hit-by-pitches against Northwestern pitching.
The Bulldogs blew game one wide open with a nine-run sixth inning. Two hits apiece in the opener were turned in by Candor (2-for-3, one run, two RBIs), DePamphilis (2-for-4, two runs, three RBIs) and Ryan (2-for-4, one run). Council also knocked in three runs.
Dupic got a quality outing from game one starting pitcher Sasha Jabusch, who covered six innings, allowed three runs on eight hits and two walks and struck out eight. Dresden Wilson pitched a scoreless seventh inning to wrap up the win. In game two, DuRee threw 3.2 innings of relief without surrendering a run and picked up the victory.
The four-game series in Orange City will continue on Friday with a 1 p.m. CT first pitch. With Jamestown (14-6 GPAC) in action at home versus Morningside on Friday, it is possible for Concordia to sew up the conference title before leaving northwest Iowa.