Wild, windy day at ballpark ends in Concordia sweep of Doane

By Jacob Knabel on Apr. 2, 2024 in Baseball

WATCH: Joey Grabanski homers three times in doubleheader sweep of Doane

SEWARD, Neb. – It was a windy, wild and wacky day at the ballpark in a matchup between the two highest rated teams in the GPAC. Drama filled both ends of the doubleheader, which included a Jay Adams walk-off RBI single in game one and a Jacob Lycan game-clinching strikeout in game two. By the time the lights went out at Plum Creek Park on Tuesday (April 2) evening, the 17th-ranked Concordia University Baseball team had defeated No. 9 Doane by scores of 14-13 (eight innings) and 7-6. Joey Grabanski homered three times as part of the eventful day.

Head Coach Ryan Dupic’s squad has won seven-straight games to move to 25-8 overall (9-3 GPAC) with four more GPAC contests left to play this week.

“I’m pleased with the way we fought,” Dupic said. “That was back and forth. Both teams really competed hard. They have a really good team, and I think we have a pretty good team too. There were counter punches back and forth both games. It wasn’t always played really well on both sides, but I thought both sides really competed hard. Fortunately, we were able to step up and get a couple big swings, big pitches and big plays at the end.”

The strong and steady wind that blew across the diamond from left to right impacted any ball lifted into the air on Tuesday. The conditions factored into a zany day of unpredictable happenings. In game one, the Bulldogs appeared dead in the water as they trailed 11-6 heading into the bottom of the sixth. Concordia then scored six runs in the sixth as Jaidan Quinn (two-run homer) and Grabanski (solo homer) both went deep. As part of the craziness, Doane jumped back in front in the top of the seventh on Dane Kelsey’s two-run homer that just barely snuck inside the right field foul pole.

The scheduled seven-inning contest moved to an eighth inning after Matt Rhoades knocked in a run on a groundout. Maverick Wylder then fired a scoreless eighth inning to set the stage for Adams, who always seems to come through in these moments. Adams lined a drive over the left fielder’s head, sending Kyle Berg to the plate for the walk-off run. Both starting pitchers (Aaron Forrest for Doane and Caden Johnson for Concordia) were pulled long before the deciding tally.

The seesaw battle continued into game two. This time, the Bulldogs were able to take the lead for good in the fifth inning. In that frame, Jose Cevallos and Ty Nekoliczak produced back-to-back RBI singles to turn a 6-5 deficit into a 7-6 lead. The Concordia offensive attack also got a boost from the two-run double by Brad Hallock in the first and two-run homer from Grabanski in the second. Both Nekoliczak and Tanner Tompkins recorded two hits in game two.

Fittingly, tension rose as the Bulldogs attempted to close the game out in the seventh. After a one-out triple by Nate Mensik, Concordia reliever Jacob Lycan coaxed a groundout to short with the infield in and then struck out Aaron Vulcano for the final out.

Said Grabanski, “It’s always a battle with them. They’re our conference rival. We just like to stick to our approach when it comes to battling in close games like this. We stick to the word ‘tenacious,’ and I think we did a really good job of that today.”

The Grand Forks, N.D., native Grabanski has stayed focused on the task at hand even while the attention grows. Grabanski’s three homers on Tuesday pushed his career total to 74, three shy of the NAIA’s all-time record held by Brice Cutspec of Azusa Pacific University (Calif.). Meanwhile, Quinn leads all GPAC players with 18 home runs this season.

Concordia put up 12 hits in the game one win over Doane. Adams went 3-for-4 with three runs and two RBIs while Grabanski drove in four runs. Four Bulldogs notched exactly two hits in game one: Alec Blakestad, Grabanski, Nekoliczak and Tompkins. As for the pitching staff, Concordia leaned upon six different hurlers for the day. Wylder earned the game one win.

Rated No. 5 in the newly released NAIA Bo Chip rankings, Doane (23-7, 9-3 GPAC) began league play at 8-0. The Tigers had won each of the past series meetings with Concordia, including the 2023 GPAC Championship Game. For the Tigers, star Joe Osborn enjoyed a fine day with a home run, three hits and four walks.

From a hitting standpoint, it’s hard to match what the Bulldogs bring to the table. Said Dupic, “It wasn’t an easy day to defend. The wind was obviously a huge factor in the ballgame. Both teams really had to battle. I’m just really pleased that our guys found a way to step up and kept staying with things.”

Up next, the Bulldogs will meet up with Midland (21-9, 7-5 GPAC) for a four-game weekend series. The action will take place in Fremont, Neb., on Saturday before shifting to Seward on Sunday. First pitch is slated for 1 p.m. CT on both days.