Special season culminates in Lewiston

By Jacob Knabel on May. 29, 2021 in Baseball

LEWISTON, Idaho – The most thrilling season in Concordia University Baseball history has reached a conclusion. On day two of the 2021 Avista NAIA World Series, the 10th-seeded Bulldogs were eliminated from the tournament in a 10-0 loss at the hands of event host and third-seeded Lewis-Clark State College on Saturday (May 29). The World Series veteran Warriors rattled off nine runs over the game’s first three innings while making it a long afternoon for the crew from Nebraska. Concordia had also dropped a 4-2 decision to seventh-seeded Indiana University Southeast on Friday.

Head Coach Ryan Dupic guided the program to its first-ever trip to the NAIA World Series as part of a season that included GPAC regular season and postseason championships. The Bulldogs ended the campaign with a 42-12 overall record.

“We knew coming in that getting them out was going to be a challenge,” Dupic said of the matchup with Lewis-Clark State. “We had to be at our best. Early on in that ballgame, I didn’t think we were bad. We walked a couple guys and made a couple errors. When you’re playing some of the best teams in the country, your margin for error is small. We got off to a rough start with a few of those plays – mis-executing a pitch or not making a play.”

A victory on Saturday would have kept the season alive until at least Memorial Day, but the rough start made for a daunting challenge. In highlighting Lewis-Clark State outbursts in the second (five runs) and third innings (three runs), Aidan Nagle delivered a bases clearing triple in the second and Brock Ephan recorded a two-run single in the third. By the time Trent Wood entered the game and settled things down from a pitching perspective, it was too late.

Offensively, Concordia struggled to string things together on both Friday and Saturday. The potent Bulldog lineup was held in check by Warrior hurler Trent Sellers, who fired eight shutout innings and notched seven strikeouts while making 117 pitches. The scoring threats were few and far between for the Bulldogs, who were limited to one extra base hit (Carlos Benavides double) among their five total hits.

Wood was certainly a bright spot on this particular day. He allowed just one run on two hits and two walks over his five innings in relief. Concordia used six different pitchers, including starter Alex Johnson (1.1 IP). The Bulldogs committed four errors in the field, although none of those miscues led to unearned runs.

Lewis-Clark State (42-5) is a perennially strong program that has hosted the World Series 29 times in the history of the event. The Cascade Collegiate Conference member effectively bounced back from its 4-0 loss to sixth-seeded Faulkner University (Ala.) and staved off elimination. The Warriors entered play ranked No. 2 nationally in both runs scored per game (11.0) and ERA (3.26).

As the World Series fades into the past, members of the 2021 Concordia team will likely remember the exhilarating moments much more than the results of the past two days. In the spring of ’21, the Bulldogs experienced a pair of celebratory championship dogpiles, won more games than any team in program history, obliterated a wealth of school records and lived out a dream in making it to Lewiston. There is a new standard for what is possible for Concordia Baseball.

Said Dupic, “People talk about going to the World Series but until you’re actually able to break through and do it, it’s still just a conversation. It certainly raises the bar for our program and helps people understand what we’re capable of at a place like Concordia. I’m just very grateful that we were able to do it.

“We all know how much fun this season was and what a huge step forward it was for the program. This is the best season that we’ve ever had. I’m proud of everyone – it was a really fun year.”