Old & New Highlight Season Opener

Senior pitcher Austin Ver Steeg recorded his 100th career strikeout in the first inning of the season opener against Grove City.
Senior pitcher Austin Ver Steeg recorded his 100th career strikeout in the first inning of the season opener against Grove City.

AUBURNDALE, Fla. (2/29/20)---Concordia started the 2020 season by splitting a pair of games against Grove City (Pa.) in Auburndale, Fla. The Cobbers won the season opener 12-5 and then dropped the second game 6-3 as they kicked off their spring break training trip.

Concordia pounded out 21 hits and had five extra base hits against the Wolverines who won a school-record 28 games last year and were picked to finish second in their conference preseason coaches' poll.

Head Coach Chris Coste sent out some new faces to start the new season and had some of last year's role players step up big in the first two games of the year.

Sophomore outfielder Max Boran, who hit .262 and had 12 hits in all of last season, went 5-for-8 with five RBIs on the day and had the team's first home run. Junior Sean McGuire had three hits on the day while senior pitchers Austin Ver Steeg and Ty Syverson earned the starts in the first two contests and had their outings highlighted by strikeouts.

Ver Steeg eclipsed the 100-career strikeout mark with his first "K" of the day in Game 1 and Syverson fanned nine batters in 4.0 innings in the nightcap.

Sophomore transfer shortstop Matt Gruber headlined the newcomers. He was 4-for-8 on the day and had a pair of doubles. The other first-year position player that started both games was junior Ben Swanson who played for the Cobber tennis team his first two years at Concordia. He got the call at first base in Game 1 and then switched to the designated hitter in the second game. He came away with a pair of hits on the day.

The pitching staff was also bolstered by new talent. Freshman pitcher Luke Levasseur, Alexandria, Minn., recorded his first collegiate win in the 12-5 victory and Nathan Leitner, Dilworth, Minn., pitched 3.0 innings and only gave up one run in the second game.

Game 1
The Cobbers kicked off the new year by scoring seven runs in the top of the first, scoring at least one run in each of the first five innings and rolling to the 12-5 win. Concordia had 14 hits in the game and went 8-for-13 (.615) with runners in scoring position.

Concordia got off to the perfect start to the year by playing runs on five hits in the top of the first. Boran had the big hit of the inning when he laced a 1-out, 3-run homer over the left field fence. McGuire had a 2-run single as they pair drove in five of the seven runs in the frame.

Ver Steeg showed the rust of being inside for the first month of practice as he gave up four runs in the bottom of the first. The first seven batters reached in the inning but then Ver Steeg showed off his All-Region character by getting out of the inning by retiring the next three batters he faced. The highlight of the inning was a 1-out strikeout which pushed Ver Steeg over the 100 strikeout for his college career.

Concordia scored two runs in the second on a 2-run Toby Sayles double. CC then added single runs in each of the third, fourth and fifth innings to post the dozen spot on the board.

Ver Steeg only allowed one more hit in the next two innings of work and gave way to LeVasseur who went the final 4.0 innings to earn the win. LaVasseur only allowed three hits and a lone run in the fourth as he retired seven of the last nine batters he faced.

Game 2
Concordia led early in the nightcap after scoring two runs in the bottom of the second to take a 2-1 lead but the Grove City won the game with a decisive 4-run fourth inning.

Boran and Jack Naugle had the RBIs in the second frame for CC and both came on ground outs to the right side of the infield.

The Cobbers threatened to tie the game in the bottom of the seventh when they had the bases loaded with one out but couldn't come up with a big hit and only plated one run on a 2-out error by the third baseman.

Boran had his second 2-hit game of the day as he went 2-for-4 and drove in a run. McGuire was the only other Concordia player with more than one hit. He went 2-for-4 and scored a run.

Syverson struck out the side in the first inning but gave up three walks and hit a batter to allow the Wolverines to score one run. He then put up an RDO "Mow-Em-Down" inning in the second as he struck out all three batters to run his K total to six after only two innings of work.

He went the first 4.0 innings and allowed five runs and five walks but tied his career-high strikeout total with nine. He also fanned nine batters in his second outing in Florida last year.

Leitner made his college debut to start the fifth inning and pitched the final three frames and allowed one earned run on four hits. He retired the last four batters he faced.

UP NEXT: Concordia will have a day of practice before returning to game competition on Monday, Mar. 2. The Cobbers will face Waynesburg (Pa.) in a doubleheader beginning at 8:30 a.m. (cst). The Yellow Jackets play in the same conference (PAC) as Grove City and were picked to finish fifth in the preseason coaches' poll. Waynesburg won 21 games last year and is 1-1 in 2020.