SEWARD, Neb. – Based on the GPAC standings entering the week, Tuesday’s clash at Plum Creek Park will feature the league’s top two teams: Concordia and Midland. The two squads are tied in the loss column at the top of the heap. The Bulldogs are also scheduled to host Briar Cliff this weekend as part of a four-game set while continuing pursuit of the program’s first conference championship since 1986. Concordia will celebrate senior day on Saturday.
This week’s schedule
Tuesday, April 18 – vs. Midland (31-12, 13-5 GPAC), 5 p.m.
Saturday, April 22 – vs. Briar Cliff (14-25, 7-10 GPAC), 1 p.m. (Senior Day)
Sunday, April 23 – vs. Briar Cliff (14-25, 7-10 GPAC), 1 p.m.
During last week’s action, third-year head coach Ryan Dupic’s squad had its nine-game GPAC win streak interrupted in an 8-7, 13-inning defeat at the hands of Dordt. The Bulldogs split doubleheaders with both Dordt and Hastings. The highlight of the split at Hastings was the pitching performance by senior lefty Josh Prater, who went 6.1 innings and struck out 10 Broncos in a 7-0 shutout victory. In game 2, Concordia was blanked for the first time in nearly a year.
Shutting out the Bulldogs is exceptionally difficult to do. Concordia continues to lead the GPAC in runs scored per game (7.3) behind star third baseman Casey Berg. The native of Manning, Iowa, rates as one of the conference’s top players, ranking first in hits per game (1.42), second in runs scored (42), third in total bases (85), fourth in slugging percentage (.625), fourth in home runs (seven), fifth in batting average (.375), sixth in on-base percentage (.465), sixth in stolen bases (10) and ninth in doubles (11).
An unsung hero has been senior catcher Ryan Fesmire. He’s a key piece in regards to the success of a pitching staff that owns a 4.73 ERA (fourth in the GPAC). Fesmire has also improved considerably at the plate. He’s hitting a career best .310 with five doubles and a pair of home runs in 2017. In recent action, Fesmire went 4-for-4 with a home run and two doubles in a 7-6 win at Doane. He also enjoyed a 3-for-3 outing with a double and two RBIs in the victory at Hastings.
Concordia’s usual four-man pitching rotation has included freshmen Wade Council (5-0, 2.20 ERA), Nick Little (3-3, 5.36 ERA) and Jason Munch (4-1, 2.75 ERA) and the veteran Prater (4-2, 2.68 ERA). In his most recent outing, Council tossed his third shutout of the season while striking out five in a seven-inning complete game win at Doane. Over his last two starts, Munsch has fired 13 shutout innings with just three hits allowed. Opposing batters are hitting only .150 against Munsch.
Midland will ride a five-game win streak into town. The Warriors are coming off of a four-game sweep of Northwestern that included three victories by a single run. Champion of the 2016 GPAC regular season, Midland is fueled by outfielder Cole Gray, who is batting .418 and slugging .730. Briar Cliff, 2015 GPAC champion, has struggled on the mound this season. The Chargers sport a 7.89 team ERA (last in the conference).
Twelve conference games are all that remain on the regular-season schedule for Concordia. The regular season will end April 28-29 with a four-game series at Dakota Wesleyan.