N Dakota St still waits for home game after 36 in a row away
Spending the first month of the season or so on the road is part of the deal for cold-weather programs like North Dakota State. The Bison, however, have never experienced anything like this.
NDSU has played its first 36 games on the road or at neutral sites because of an unusually wet and cold spring in Fargo. That number is heading toward 39 after Tuesday’s home opener was canceled because of cold and unplayable field conditions due to recent snow and rain.
The Bison have logged 21,860 air and bus miles so far — they’ve played in California, Florida and seven other states — and are projected to travel 27,918 through the Summit League Tournament. For comparison, it’s about 25,000 miles around the world.
The Bison (23-13, 11-4) seem no worse for the wear. They’re in first place in the Summit League.
“That probably doesn’t get the credit it deserves, honestly,” coach Tyler Oakes said while riding on the team bus somewhere in Kansas. “It’s very hard to win on the road, especially when we’ve been on the road nine, 10 weeks straight. We’re leaving campus Wednesday or Thursday and getting back late Sunday night or Monday morning and then doing it all over again.”
Other than having to stop every two hours to fill the bus engine with coolant during a trip to Northern Colorado, the travel has been mostly hassle-free, Oakes said. The players have embraced the situation and used it to bond because “they have no other choice.”
NDSU was supposed to open a seven-game homestand April 9. Instead, bad weather forced back-to-back, three-game conference series to be moved to the opponents’ fields and the cancellation of a nonconference game.
Now the Bison’s home opener is set for May 3 against Mayville State, a nearby NAIA school. Then it’s back to Florida for a three-game series at Miami before two straight home conference series. If all goes right from here, they will play seven home games.
“We get stereotyped: How can we possibly be any good in baseball at North Dakota State?” Oakes said. “Within the recruiting process, it’s about getting the right fit and guys who aren’t afraid of the cold and want an opportunity to play at a high level.”
The bulk of NDSU’s roster comes from the upper Midwest. This year’s team includes one player from Hawaii (Logan Williams) and one from Arizona (Terrell Huggins).
Williams said Fargo’s cold weather and the heavy travel schedule didn’t cross his mind when he decided to transfer from Kansas after last season. He acknowledged it’s a bit of a grind.
“It’s not something you can control,” he said. “We’re just happy to be able to go somewhere when it’s cold and know that wherever we’re going has a lot better weather than where we are.”
IN THE POLLS
D1Baseball.com and Baseball America agree on the top three this week: Tennessee (37-3), Oregon State (31-8) and Miami (31-9). Collegiate Baseball newspaper’s top three are Tennessee, Miami and Arkansas (31-9).
Tennessee posted its first sweep at Florida since 2001 and became the first SEC team to open conference play 17-1. Oregon State pitchers struck out 41 in a three-game sweep of Washington that kept the Beavers 1 1/2 games ahead of Arizona in the Pac-12.
Miami took two of three against Pittsburgh and, at 16-5, has matched its best ACC start since 2014. Arkansas dropped two of three at Texas A&M.
Vanderbilt’s Chris McElvain and Christian Little combined for the first no-hitter of the season by a Power Five team in a 10-0 win over Kentucky on Friday. McElvain went seven innings, Little went two and they combined for 13 strikeouts.
Florida Gulf Coast’s Tyler Shuck threw a one-hitter in a 4-0 win over Stetson on Friday, striking out 11 and retiring 22 in a row over one stretch.
Fairfield’s Jake Noviello and Grambling’s Shemar Page pitched seven-inning perfect games. Noviello’s came in a 10-0 win over Saint Peter’s on Sunday and Page’s in a 16-0 win over Alcorn State on Friday.
ANOTHER JOLTIN’ JOE
Michigan’s Joe Stewart homered in three straight at-bats, including two grand slams, and drove in a Big Ten-record 11 runs in a 16-13 win over Ohio State on Saturday.
Ben Seiler of Siena struck out a national season high 19 in nine innings against Niagara on Saturday but his team lost 6-5 in 10 innings. Seiler allowed eight hits and walked three. Three of the five runs against him were unearned.
CHIPPEWAS CHIPPING AWAY
Central Michigan’s sweep of Akron extended the Chippewas’ win streak in Mid-American Conference games to a record 21. Kent State had won 20 MAC games in a row over the 2012-13 seasons.
The Chippewas’ overall win streak of 18 games is longest in the country.
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