A cloud of uncertainty mired the final doubleheader of the 2020 season. On a Friday in the middle of March, there were mixed emotions as the Concordia University Baseball team throttled Briar Cliff as part of a road trip to Sioux City. Head Coach Ryan Dupic made no promises about whether the 2020 Bulldogs would play another game. In fact, Dupic warned the seniors that this might be the end.
On the bus ride to and from the twin bill that included a no-hitter thrown by ace Jason Munsch, members of the team could begin to read the writing on the wall. Social media was abuzz with postponements and cancelations of entire seasons.
Said then senior first baseman Evan Bohman, “The bus ride was tough. We played on a Friday and I left to go home to Wisconsin on Monday morning. It all happened really fast. It was tough.”
In a flash, the cancellation of the Concordia Baseball season had become another consequence of the COVID-19 pandemic. On the bright side, those circumstances are the reason why five Bulldogs remain active members of the program: Bohman, pitcher Lukas Diehm, catcher Beau Dorman, pitcher Jake Fosgett and pitcher Zach Pinkerton. Bohman of Appleton, Wis., and Fosgett of Carlsbad, Calif., are both in their fifth years inside the program.
A career .285 hitter over 114 collegiate games at Concordia, Bohman says the decision to return to the team was an easy one. He still needed to complete two semesters of student teaching so he might as well return for a proper senior season of baseball. Bohman believes he would have regretted not taking advantage of the opportunity to play one more year.
“It’s a tremendous place to play baseball,” Bohman said. “If we looked at it 10 years down the road and said, ‘why didn’t I come back,’ it would be a question in the back of your mind. That’s why I wanted to come back. If I looked into the future I would definitely regret my decision of not coming back and trying one more year with the family atmosphere that is Concordia Baseball.”
The unique dynamic of having the unexpected return of five players all capable of making on-field contributions leaves Dupic with a deeper roster. The decisions made by these individuals also seem to point towards a healthy atmosphere in the program. There’s a belief that 2021 can be something special and deliver on the promises washed away by a lost season in 2020.
“When you come back, you’re coming back because you enjoy the experience and you want to run it back one more time,” Dupic said. “The good part of it is you have guys who are connected and understand our process and what we try to do here.”
While Bohman is a dependable hitter to write into the lineup, Fosgett has the ability to be a top-of-the-rotation starter. Fosgett earned first team All-GPAC accolades in 2019 before struggling with injuries. Some are issues made for a bumpy start to 2020 for Fosgett, who had a strict innings limit. Fosgett hopes the extra year will allow him to get closer to his previous form. He’s also working on an MBA while taking graduate classes.
“The immediate reaction was pretty much just disbelief and sadness,” Fosgett said in recalling the end to last season. “At that point, my time playing baseball was done. The conversations with teammates were kind of just goodbyes, and from a distance because everybody was headed home due to the spreading and lack of knowledge on COVID. I had a number of options and wasn’t sure what to do. I’ve been thankful of God for guiding me through those difficulties over the past year, as well as keeping my family and friends healthy.”
Diehm, Dorman and Pinkerton each joined the program as transfers. As part of the catching tandem, Dorman has supplied a powerful bat (six home runs and a .516 slugging percentage in 42 games) while Diehm and Pinkerton are valuable members of the pitching staff. Diehm has registered a 4.91 ERA in 29.1 career innings and Pinkerton appeared in seven games out of the bullpen last year and recorded a 1.74 ERA.
Also a senior on last year’s team, Wade Council has transitioned into a coaching role as a graduate assistant on Dupic’s staff. Meanwhile, Munsch chose to sign a free agent contract with the Milwaukee Brewers. Their decisions were all about capitalizing on their own opportunities. For Bohman and a handful of others, the chance to stay right here could not be passed up.
Said Bohman, “I talked to some of the other guys and I knew Wade and Munsch weren’t coming back, but I think the majority of us had the idea, ‘Why not? Let’s go try this again.’ We got together and talked about it. We want to go out on a different note than what happened last year.”
Through an awkward and most unusual time in history, Bulldogs like Bohman and Fosgett are counting their blessings. They just want to play ball one more time.