FREMONT, Neb. – Midland University’s baseball team treated their fans to a pair of closely contested ball games on Tuesday to close out what had been a run of eight straight home games for the Warriors.
The Warriors (15-18, 8-8 GPAC) dropped game one to Concordia University (21-12, 15-1 GPAC) by just two runs, but bounced back in game two with a walk-off victory to hand the Bulldogs their first loss in conference play in 2019.
“These were two exciting games to be a part of,” said Midland head coach Chad Miller. “I was really proud of how our guys responded after a tough loss in game one.”
Midland played Concordia as closely as any team has in the last month, largely thanks to solid pitching performances from their starters.
In game one, senior Daylon Owens kept the Warriors in the game as he kept the Bulldogs in check for most of his outing. He pitched through 6.1 innings and struck out four hitters while keeping the Warriors within striking distance.
Concordia notched three hits in the top of the third inning and plated two runs on a double from Luciano DePamphilis. Midland would respond in the bottom half as Austin Hamilton singled home Smith for the senior’s second run of the ball game.
The Bulldogs nabbed two more runs in the fourth inning thanks to three more hits. This time the two-RBI double came from Christian Meza as the Bulldogs went up 4-2.
Midland inched closer in the bottom of the sixth inning when pinch-runner Quinn Tassie scored on an infield error and made the score 4-3 in favor of Concordia, but the Bulldogs got the run back and chased Owens from the game in the top of the seventh.
Brendan Jones relieved Owens to record the final out and allowed one run to score, charged to Owens, as Concordia held on to a 5-3 win. Owens’ record moved to 1-4 while Bulldog starter Lukas Diehm improved to 3-0. Dylan Duree earned his fifth save of the season after he got the final six outs.
Game two was just as competitive and saw two late lead changes before the Warriors managed to walk it off to steal game two.
The Warriors took a 2-0 lead in the fourth inning as Peyton Garbers‘ pinch-hit sacrifice fly scored Tassie from third and moved Kaiser to second base. Kaiser would later steal third and then come home on a passed ball.
Midland pitchers didn’t allow Concordia to score until the seventh inning as sophomore James Scurto allowed just three hits and struck out three in his 5.1 innings of work. Sophomore Steven Boyd finished off the sixth inning for Scurto with two strikeouts that left a pair of runners stranded.
In the seventh, junior Matt Abdelnour took the mound, and the Bulldogs were ready to break out against the third Warriors arm. Abdelnour allowed four hits and gave up two walks (one HBP) as the Bulldogs plated four runs to take a 4-2 lead. The big blow was a two-run single from Jesse Garcia that gave Concordia its first lead of the game.
The Warriors responded in the bottom half of the seventh to earn a wild victory while only getting one ball out of the infield.
“It would have been easy for the guys to be down after losing the lead,” Miller said, “but they really competed well within their at bats to win the second game.”
The inning started with Gabe Settles reaching on an error, followed by a walk for Sam Braun and a bunt single for Hunter Holverson that loaded the bases with no outs. Dakota Thornton followed with an RBI single to left center as everyone advanced one base and the Warriors inched closer, making the score 4-3 as Settles scored.
Bryan Smith grounded into a fielder’s choice in the next at bat as the Bulldogs got the lead runner at home, but the bases remained loaded with one out.
On the next play, Austin Hamilton hit a ball hard toward the hole between the first and second basemen. Concordia first baseman Evan Bohman made the play and tried to start a double play, but his throw sailed over the shortstop’s head at second base.
Pinch-runner Darius Johnson and Holverson scored on the play as the Warriors walked off in dramatic, unconventional fashion, handing the Bulldogs their first loss in GPAC play.
“We have been in so many of these types of close games this year,” Miller said. “Our group is getting better at staying in the moment rather than letting emotion get the best of them.”
Abdelnour was credited with the win, his first of the season, while Duree was charged with the loss after pitching the seventh inning in game two.
The win, as wild as it was, is an important one for the Warriors as they have now proven to themselves that they can hold their own and compete with any team in the conference.
Midland takes the field next on Saturday, April 13, when the Warriors travel to play a doubleheader with the Doane Tigers (12-20, 7-9 GPAC). First pitch of game one is set for 1:00 p.m. in Crete, Nebraska. The Warriors return home for a doubleheader on Sunday versus Jamestown (23-11, 12-4 GPAC) starting at 1:00 p.m.