River Forest, Ill.- Concordia University Chicago (38-7; 21-1 NACC) took the field against Buena Vista University (25-17; 15-9 ARC) Friday morning to open the NCAA Regional Tournament. This marked the eighth time in a row the Cougars reached the tournament but the first time serving as the host. Concordia-Chicago came into the tournament, looking to rebound from a runner-up finish in the conference championship. On the other hand, Buena Vista came into the matchup riding a seven-game win streak, which included an ARC conference championship where they beat Coe College 4-0.
Gregory took the mound for Concordia-Chicago in the opener with his perfect 6-0 record. Two early errors scared the CUC faithful, but Gregory worked out of trouble and the Beavers failed to plate any runs. Both pitchers worked through a clean three innings, and Buena Vista's starter Egan Bonde (6-1) did so in just 23 pitches.
Mistakes would end up plaguing the Beavers in the fourth inning. After a Keegan Tyrell single, Bonde committed a balk, and Brody Mariotti then reached on an error by the shortstop. With runners at first and third, Buena Vista was a double play away from ending the inning. They got the ground ball they needed, but Connor Brandon hustled his way down the first-base line and beat the throw to negate the double play and score Tyrell from third. Concordia-Chicago ended the inning up 1-0.
As Gregory passed 100 pitches, there was trouble brewing. Noah Paper and Bryce Rheault collected a pair of two-out singles to put the Beavers in buiness. Gregory then opened up with two straight balls to the next hitter but would find his groove and deliver three straight strikes to shut down any chance of a momentum change. CUC went down quietly in the bottom half of the inning, but still led 1-0 after seven.
Going into the bottom of the eighth inning the Cougars looked to add on some insurance runs. Jose Mercado led off the inning by being plunked and made his way to first. In the next at-bat, Tyrell's sacrifice bunt would force a pitching change for the Beavers. Bryan VanDuser followed the pitching change with a walk. He and Mercado advanced on stolen bases, with Mariotti stepping up to the plate. He sent one out to deep center and scored Mercado to add an insurance run and CUC went to the final frame up 2-0.
Mike Tobin looked to close out the ninth inning after taking over for the dominant Gregory. Buena Vista would go down in order, and Concordia-Chicago took home game one of the regionals 2-0.
The Cougars will await the winner of game two between Saint John's (MN) and Baldwin Wallace to see who they will play on Saturday at noon.