NAIA World Series Preview: Bulldogs set for first-ever appearance

By Jacob Knabel on May. 24, 2021 in Baseball

SEWARD, Neb. – It’s starting to sink in now as the Concordia University Baseball team prepares for the program’s first-ever appearance at the NAIA World Series. The 10th-seeded Bulldogs will take to Harris Field in Lewiston, Idaho at 3 p.m. PDT / 5 p.m. CDT on Friday for a matchup with seventh-seeded Indiana University Southeast. As champion of the Bellevue Bracket, Concordia will be one of 10 teams to convene in Lewiston, home to the World Series for the 29th time in the event’s history (which dates back to 1957).

2021 Avista NAIA World Series

First Game – (10) Concordia vs. (7) Indiana Southeast
Friday, May 28 | 3 p.m. PDT / 5 p.m. CDT
Harris Field | Lewiston, Idaho
Live Streaming: NAIA Network (all games)
Live Stats: Dakstats
-Fan/Ticket Information

View Complete Bracket (PDF)

Concordia will play on Saturday (May 29) at either 11:30 a.m. PDT/1:30 p.m. CDT or 6:30 p.m. PDT/8:30 p.m. CDT, pending the result on Friday.

Bellevue Bracket Champions

·        While Concordia dominated the GPAC tournament (going 4-0 with a 39-10 runs scored advantage), it played a series of nail-biters throughout the Bellevue Bracket of the NAIA National Championship Opening Round (May 17-20). After defeating MidAmerica Nazarene (Kan.), 4-2, on day one of the opening round, the Bulldogs dropped a 7-3 decision at the hands of Bellevue on day two. Concordia then proceeded to win three-straight elimination games: 11-10 over MidAmerica Nazarene, 13-8 over Bellevue and 7-5 over Bellevue. The top seed in the bracket, Science & Arts (Okla.), went 0-2 and was quickly eliminated.

·        Head Coach Ryan Dupic’s program is still basking in the glow of its first-ever advancement to the NAIA World Series. Dupic also led the Bulldogs to opening round appearances in 2017 and 2019. In both of those instances, Concordia went 1-2 and was eliminated from its respective brackets. The rise of Bulldog Baseball has happened rapidly since Dupic arrived prior to the start of the 2015 season. Dupic helped the program end a streak of consecutive losing seasons that dated back to 1979. Concordia also had not won a conference championship since 1986.

·        The Bellevue Bracket championship final produced the most drama of any of the opening round conclusions. The Bulldogs found themselves in an early 3-0 hole and still trailed Bellevue, 5-3, heading into the bottom of the eighth. That’s when the fireworks were set off. Keaton Candor spurred the rally with a solo homer. Three batters later, Jakob Faulk crushed the most significant home run in program history – a two-run blast that proved to be the game winner. For insurance, Teyt Johnson added a solo homer to push the lead to 7-5.

·        It’s been extremely rare for a GPAC team to reach the NAIA World Series. In fact, only once before had a GPAC squad advanced to the World Series – Briar Cliff accomplished that feat in 2005. Two current GPAC members appeared in the World Series either before the GPAC formed or prior to joining the league: Jamestown (2004 and 2008) and Morningside (1960). Briar Cliff went 0-2 in its 2005 trip to the World Series. In other words, Concordia has a shot to become the first GPAC team to ever win a game at the World Series.

·        It would be hard to imagine a more epic way for a coach to earn a milestone victory. Dupic reeled in win No. 200 as head coach of the Bulldogs in the walk-off victory over MidAmerica Nazarene on May 19. In that particular game, Jesse Garcia’s three-run homer in the bottom of the eighth turned an 8-7 deficit into a 10-8 lead. The Pioneers then tied the game with two runs in the top of the ninth. In the bottom half, Beau Dorman delivered the walk-off RBI single. Dupic now owns an overall record of 202-126 in seven seasons at the helm of the program.

·        In the middle of the opening round, the GPAC released all-conference teams. Jake Fosgett was voted the GPAC Pitcher of the Year while a total of 10 Bulldogs were rewarded with some form of all-conference accolades. The full list can be found HERE. Fosgett became the second Concordia hurler ever to earn GPAC Pitcher of the Year accolades, joining teammate Nick Little (2018). Fosgett has moved to 9-0 with a 1.36 ERA and 96 strikeouts in 53 innings.

·        While going 4-1 in the opening round, the Bulldogs outscored their opponents, 38-32. Four of the games were played at Brown Park in Omaha while one contest was played at Don Roddy Field in Bellevue. Keaton Candor paced the team at the plate in the opening round by going 8-for-23 (.348) with four doubles, three home runs and eight RBIs. Jakob Faulk also pounded three home runs (including two in the clinching game) and Jesse Garcia belted two blasts. Twelve different pitchers were used. Nick Little (9 IP) and Caden Bugarske (8.1 IP) logged the most innings during the opening round. Nathan Buckallew earned credit for two wins.

Program records broken in 2021

·        Team, single season:

o   Wins: 42 (previous record was 34 in 2017).

o   Home runs: 90 (previous record was 40 in 2019).

o   Runs scored: 466 (previous record was 395 in 2016).

o   Pitcher strikeouts: 513 (previous record was 501 in 2019).

o   Current batting average of .342 tops the record of .338 in 1983.

·        Individual, single season:

o   Home runs: 17 by Joey Grabanski (previous record was 11 by Jarrod Pimentel, 2000, and Tony Sanchez, 1983); three other Bulldogs have surpassed the former record: Jesse Garcia (14), Keaton Candor (13) and Jakob Faulk (13).

o   Runs batted in: 60 by Joey Grabanski (previous record was 51 by Jarrod Pimentel in 2000).

o   Hits: 76 by Jayden Adams (previous record was 72 by Casey Berg in 2017).

o   Runs scored: 65 by Jayden Adams (previous record was 57 by Casey Berg in 2017).

o   Stolen bases: 24 by Peyton Scott (ties the record of 24 by Jerry Dittenber in 2004).

o   Wins: nine by Jake Fosgett (tied the record of nine by Nick Little in 2018).

·        Individual, career:

o   Home runs: 29 by Keaton Candor/Jesse Garcia (previous record was 27 by Jarrod Pimentel).

o   Wins: 27 by Nick Little (previous record was 25 by Jim Juergensen).

The NAIA World Series qualifiers

(1) Southeastern (Fla.)
Head Coach: Adrian Dinkel
Record: 50-7
NAIA Ranking (May 12 poll): 2
Conference: The Sun Conference
World Series Appearances: 3rd
Top Hitter: Nick Bottari (.422 BA, .556 OBP, .854 SLG, 21 HR, 52 RBI)
Top Pitcher: Ryan Munoz (11-0, 1.79 ERA, 55.1 IP, 72 K, .184 Opp BA)

(2) Central Methodist (Mo.)
Head Coach: Nate Breland
Record: 46-6
NAIA Ranking (May 12 poll): 4
Conference: Heart of America Athletic Conference
World Series Appearances: 1st
Top Hitter: Sergio Macias (.412 BA, .507 OBP, .808 SLG, 18 HR, 67 RBI)
Top Pitcher: Nick Merkel (12-0, 1.96 ERA, 82.2 IP, 113 K, .217 Opp BA)

(3) Lewis-Clark State (Idaho)
Head Coach: Jake Taylor
Record: 41-4
NAIA Ranking (May 12 poll): 5
Conference: Cascade Collegiate Conference
World Series Appearances: 39th
Top Hitter: Ephan Brock (.422 BA, .516 OBP, .850 SLG, 18 HR, 75 RBI)
Top Pitcher: Eric Chavarria (8-1, 2.43 ERA, 63 IP, 65 K, .246 Opp BA)

(4) Oklahoma Wesleyan
Head Coach: Kirk Kelley
Record: 49-9
NAIA Ranking (May 12 poll): 7
Conference: Kansas Collegiate Athletic Conference
World Series Appearances: 3rd
Top Hitter: Cody Muncy (.466 BA, .569 OBP, .941 SLG, 25 HR, 88 RBI)
Top Pitcher: Crosby Bringhurst (9-0, 3.18 ERA, 68 IP, 78 K, .250 Opp BA)

(5) Georgia Gwinnett
Head Coach: Jeremy Sheetinger
Record: 46-10
NAIA Ranking (May 12 poll): 6
Conference: Association of Independent Institutions
World Series Appearances: 4th
Top Hitter: Griffin Keller (.472 BA, .539 OBP, .850 SLG, 16 HR, 85 RBI)
Top Pitcher: Hunter Dollander (10-1, 3.00 ERA, 72 IP, 85 K, .234 Opp BA)

(6) Faulkner (Ala.)
Head Coach: Patrick McCarthy
Record: 38-10
NAIA Ranking (May 12 poll): 11
Conference: Southern States Athletic Conference
World Series Appearances: 9th
Top Hitter: Justice Lucas (.407 BA, .519 OBP, .724 SLG, 9 HR, 48 RBI)
Top Pitcher: Antonio Frias (11-0, 2.22 ERA, 81 IP, 119 K, .149 Opp BA)

(7) IU Southeast
Head Coach: Ben Reel
Record: 48-14
NAIA Ranking (May 12 poll): 15
Conference: River States Conference
World Series Appearances: 1st
Top Hitter: Matt Monahan (.428 BA, .482 OBP, .768 SLG, 14 HR, 55 RBI)
Top Pitcher: Hunter Kloke (9-1, 3.01 ERA, 68.2 IP, 65 K, .254 Opp BA)

(8) Keiser (Fla.)
Head Coach: Brook Fordyce
Record: 36-16
NAIA Ranking (May 12 poll): 17
Conference: The Sun Conference
World Series Appearances: 2nd
Top Hitter: Tim Bouchard (.403 BA, .515 OBP, .760 SLG, 16 HR, 67 RBI)
Top Pitcher: Pablo Arevalo (9-3, 1.38 ERA, 117.1 IP, 114 K, .209 Opp BA)

(9) LSU Shreveport (La.)
Head Coach: Brad Neffendorf
Record: 44-14
NAIA Ranking (May 12 poll): 25
Conference: Red River Athletic Conference
World Series Appearances: 4th
Top Hitter: Payton Robertson (.417 BA, .515 OBP, .661 SLG, 28 XBH, 56 RBI)
Top Pitcher: Sebastian Selway (6-3, 3.36 ERA, 69.2 IP, 86 K, .211 Opp BA)

(10) Concordia
Head Coach: Ryan Dupic
Record: 42-10
NAIA Ranking (May 12 poll): 19
Conference: Great Plains Athletic Conference
World Series Appearances: 1st
Top Hitter: Joey Grabanski (.366 BA, .423 OBP, .707 SLG, 17 HR, 60 RBI)
Top Pitcher: Jake Fosgett (9-0, 1.36 ERA, 53 IP, 96 K, .154 Opp BA)