It has been a wild week for the Concordia Golden Bears, including many celebrity guest appearances to close out our spring break trip to Florida.
When I last left off we were heading into our off day in Florida, which meant the Phillies-Tigers spring training game in Lakeland, Fla. Insert first guest appearance, J.C. Romero. Our team took our spots just behind the left field fence at Joker Marchant Stadium as the Phillies were taking batting practice. As is custom, the pitchers were doing their running in the outfield, this included the previous mentioned J.C. Romero, whom our pitching staff would later address as “Juan Carlos” as we engaged him in conversation. Some of our more outgoing players started to yell to Juan Carlos if he remembered his times with the Minnesota Twins. Juan Carlos responding by saying in a thick Latin accent, “I never forget them.” That was all the Golden Bears needed to spend the next half hour asking questions of the left-hander as he caught fly balls. The Q&A would not be complete without one of our players continuously asking, “Dude, can I get that glove?”
The sunshine of the spring training game would not last, as a prophetic young Danny Gans a.k.a Deke in Bull Durham showed up with, “We need a rain out.” The day after the spring training game I was scheduled to make my first college start in two seasons since my freshman year at North Dakota. As luck would have it we woke up a down pour, the game cancelled due to rain. Little did we know that the rain out would play a role later on in our trip.
After a second consecutive day off, the second being a little less sunny and a little less fun, we were set to put back on the uniforms against Northwood (Mich.) University. We were feeling confident going into the game with ace Ben Lemke on the mound. Up 3-2 in the top of the second inning Lemke strained a muscle in his leg and had to be removed from the game. As luck would have it, since I had not started the day before I was available to make a long relief appearance and eat up some innings. I would pitch 3.1 innings in the contest to get us into the 5th inning. Tied 5-5 in the 5th things started to come apart a little bit. With one out and nobody on base they were able to drop down a perfectly placed bunt for a single. After a walk to make it 1st and 2nd with one out, a single plated a run for Northwood, and another walk and another single later Northwood had a 7-5 lead with the bases loaded. I was removed from the game having kept us in it through five. Four consecutive hits later and Northwood had a commanding 13-5 lead. Insert Keifer Sutherland, okay he is not really Keifer, but freshman T.J. Obermyer (who goes by pretty much any name but T.J.). Keifer was sent in to eat up some innings and save our bullpen for the following day. He would throw two solid innings as Northwood would push their lead to 15-5. Just three outs from being run-ruled suddenly, Our Bats showed up. Over the final three innings we were able to push across 11 runs on nine hits for what might be the most dramatic comeback in the history of Concordia baseball. Redshirt freshman Drew Turk who came in as a defensive replacement in the 8th inning would embody Jim Edmonds as he made a full extension superman catch to send the game into the bottom of the ninth with the score 15-12 Northwood.
Eight batters after Bryan Lippincott reached on an error to start the 9th inning, sophomore J.T. Schneider walked on four pitches to plate the winning run in walk-off walk fashion. He was promptly mobbed as he touched first base. It was great to be on the other side of a walk-off. It was one of the most exhilarating up-and-down games I have ever been a part of.
The momentum did not stop there. The bats decided to hang around the next day against Minnesota, Crookston as we would slug out 41 runs on 37 hits in the double header. Sophomore Andy Fagely toed the rubber in game one against Crookston. He would be flawless into the 4th inning before none other than Jim Joyce showed up. A soft roller towards our second baseman was smoothly fielded and flipped to our first baseman beating the runner by what appeared to be a solid step and a half. The field umpire flung his hands to the side and yelled safe, the dugout erupted in disagreement. Andy would retire the next six hitters before giving up a pair of singles in both the 6th and 7th innings. While Andy ended up getting credit for a 5-hit complete game 68-pitch shutout performance, had the runner been called out he would have been just five outs from the first DII-era perfect game in Concordia history by the time he surrendered a hit.
In game two Crookston came out swinging, putting up three runs in the first inning, before Concordia struck back for 21 unanswered runs. In the last 18 innings of baseball in Florida we outscored our opponents 52-3. We ended the trip 4-3 with a four game winning streak to carry in to conference play. Our coaches and players found out a lot about the team we have this year, and we are confident we can compete.
Our solid play led to one more guest appearance, The Concordia, St. Paul Golden Bears appearing 10th in the NCBWA Central Regional Poll, but we are going to try and make that a more permanent role. We will continue our season with our first conference series March 26-27 against Southwest Minnesota State.
-Go Golden Bears-