NDSU Baseball Endures Highly Sluggish Season Start

FILE PHOTO | THE SPECTRUM North Dakota State baseball has struggled to start the season, despite starting its home schedule.
FILE PHOTO | THE SPECTRUM
North Dakota State baseball has struggled to start the season, despite starting its home schedule.

The only saving grace North Dakota State baseball has is that it just started playing at home.

Even then, it’s hard to say that the Bison will finish anywhere close as they did last season.

I’m not ruling out the possibility of a late run, especially because two of their remaining 20 games will be played at home. Obviously, this makes things a lot easier for the Bison when they don’t have to travel across the country just to play a couple games and then come back and crank out missed school assignments.

But college will only get harder and Summit League teams aren’t going to get worse.

This team had a ton of high hopes at the beginning of this season. David Ernst said he wanted to make sure NDSU (8-22, 3-12 Summit League) wouldn’t get complacent after winning the Summit League championship last year and losing to No. 2-ranked Oregon State by a single run in the opening round of the NCAA Tournament. Head coach Tod Brown has been with the program long enough to make fixes when he needs to. Look no further than last year when the team got off to an awfully sluggish start, especially before conference games.

Somehow, someway, the Bison turned it around just enough to find themselves with the No. 4 seed in the Summit League championship.

And they did just enough to get into the championship game, where they demolished Fort Wayne.

But this is a different team – as proven by the miserable record NDSU has recorded up until this point.

The Bison’s eight wins aren’t even something to necessarily marvel at. In non-conference play, the Bison have five wins, three against Northern Colorado during the same weekend, two of which were close games. The Bison also have a decent 5-0 win against Kansas and a 9-1 victory over Dakota (S.D.) State. That’s one decent win paired with a triumph over a team that’s three divisions lower than you. Congratulations.

In their Summit League schedule, the Bison have three measly wins against three different conference opponents, but the Bison have lost more games to those teams than they have won. Once again, kudos to you.

So what’s the problem?

I think the first thing that needs to turn around is NDSU’s pitching. Jay Flaa has been solid this year thus far. In 31 innings pitched, he has a 2.84 ERA and has only allowed 17 total hits.

Ernst and Trent Keefer, on the other hand, need to step it up for their team’s sake. Ernst has pitched the most innings of any other Bison pitcher and has a 6.26 ERA in 46 innings of work. Keefer has the worst Bison ERA with 6.37 over 41 innings.

For NDSU’s lineup, Ben Petersen has led NDSU with a solid .364 batting average with a .505 slugging percentage in nearly 100 plate appearances. However, only two other batters have a .275 average or better this season.

It’s not like NDSU’s losses are mostly even close. Of its 22 dropped games, 14 were decided by three runs or more. At this pace, the Bison will be incredibly lucky to make the postseason again.

To the team, I challenge you to prove me wrong.

In fact, I hope you do. But I doubt you will.

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