Usual suspects lead surge, Bulldogs live to fight another day

By Jacob Knabel on May. 15, 2024 in Baseball

1 – Joey Grabanski three-run homer gives him all-time NAIA RBI record
2 – Jaidan Quinn reaches 200 career hits in grand fashion

BOSSIER CITY, La. – There’s been nothing more consistently reliable than the thunder provided this season by co-GPAC Players of the year Joey Grabanski and Jaidan Quinn. With the season on the line late on Tuesday (May 14) night, both sluggers homered as the 18th-ranked Concordia University Baseball team lives to fight another day. The Bulldogs ended a long 18 innings in Bossier City, La., with a 14-5 victory over fifth-seeded Blue Mountain Christian University (Miss.). The victory came several hours after second-seeded Concordia fell by a 15-8 score at the hands No. 3 seed Kansas Wesleyan University in its first game of the 2024 NAIA National Championship Opening Round.

Head Coach Ryan Dupic’s squad (42-14) will play in another elimination game on Wednesday afternoon as part of the Shreveport Bracket. Dupic has led the program to at least one national tournament win in each of the its six all-time appearances on this stage.

“We didn’t pitch and defend well,” Dupic said. “It’s hard to win like that at the national tournament. You really have to be at your best. We made it interesting offensively and put ourselves in position in both games. We couldn’t stop things in game one. Game two, our bullpen settled us a little bit and we got things going at the end. I hope we can tighten things up tomorrow.”

Once again, the Bulldogs are proving that their offense is one of the best in the NAIA. The legend of Grabanski keeps growing. He pummeled a three-run blast in the first inning of Tuesday’s night cap, making the Grand Forks, N.D., native the NAIA’s all-time RBI leader (299). It was his 87th career home run. The Toppers of Blue Mountain, Miss., chipped away and pulled within a run, 6-5, at the end of seven innings. In the top of the eighth, Quinn sent a no-doubter of a grand slam over the wall in left center for his 200th career hit – and program record-tying 27th homer of the season.

For good measure, Grabanski cleared the bases with a two-out double in the ninth. He was one of five Bulldogs with multiple hits in the win, including Jay Adams (3-for-5), Quinn (2-for-3), Brad Hallock (2-for-5) and Ty Nekoliczak (2-for-3). Adams and Nekoliczak supplied a run-scoring hit apiece as part of the onslaught. Strong offensive support propelled Caden Johnson (42nd career start on the mound) to his 26th career win. Johnson worked hard to get through 5.1 innings (four earned runs). He fanned six hitters.

The outburst that came as the midnight hour approached helped relieve some of the frustrations from the day’s first game. Concordia struggled mightily to hold down the powerful Coyotes (46-10), who blasted two homers in the top of the first. KWU tallied multiple runs in five separate innings and got four RBIs from catcher Tyler Favretto. Bulldog lefty pitcher Blake Benson, added to the postseason roster following the GPAC tournament, made his first appearance since April 6 and went seven innings in relief. He wound up taking the loss.

Concordia endured defeat despite a 6-for-6 performance from Adams (two runs and an RBI) at the top of the lineup. The Waverly, Neb., native notched nine hits on the day while extending his stellar collegiate career for at least one more day (program record 351 career hits). Adams served as the catalyst for an offense that hit .383 (31-for-81), tallied 22 runs and reached base at a .468 clip on Tuesday. In addition, Grabanski went 5-for-11 with a homer and eight RBIs for the day while Nekoliczak and Quinn notched four hits apiece.

Seven total pitchers were used by the Bulldogs on Tuesday. Braxton Greenburg started the first game before being lifted in the opening inning. Logan Fragomeni was called upon in both games. The bullpen tidied itself up in the late contest as Fragomeni, Jacob Lycan and Ernie Snyder combined to log 3.2 shutout innings. Defensively, Concordia was charged with two errors on the day.

Results from the first two days of action at the Shreveport Bracket are listed below. The tournament location was moved to BPCC Baseball Field in Bossier City after rain waterlogged LSU Shreveport’s home diamond. The host Pilots (ranked No. 4 in the NAIA coaches’ poll) were upset, 6-5, by fourth-seeded Talladega College (Ala.) on Tuesday and will face the Bulldogs in an elimination game at 1 p.m. CT on Wednesday. Meanwhile, Talladega will meet up with Kansas Wesleyan in the winner’s bracket. Concordia would player the loser between KWU/Talladega should it get past LSU Shreveport.

2024 Shreveport Bracket

Site: BPCC Baseball Field | Bossier City, La.
Live Webcasts:
Live Stats: PrestoStats

All times CDT

Monday, May 13
Game 1 – (4) Talladega def. (5) Blue Mountain Christian, 20-7

Tuesday, May 14
Game 2 – (3) Kansas Wesleyan def. (2) Concordia, 15-8
Game 3 – (4) Talladega def. (1) LSU Shreveport, 6-5 (10 innings)
Game 4 – (2) Concordia def. (5) Blue Mountain Christian, 14-5

Wednesday, May 15
Game 5 – (3) Kansas Wesleyan vs. (4) Talladega, 10 a.m.
Game 6 – (1) LSU Shreveport vs. (2) Concordia, 1 p.m.
Game 7 – Game 5 Loser vs. Game 6 Winner, 4 p.m.

Thursday, May 16
Game 8 – Game 5 Winner vs. Game 7 Winner, 10 a.m.
Game 9 – Game 8 Winner vs. Game 8 Loser (if necessary), 1 p.m.