With less than one month from the Summit League Baseball Tournament in Tulsa, Oklahoma, the North Dakota State baseball team needs to beat teams ahead of them to qualify for the postseason.
The Bison have the perfect opportunity this weekend at the friendly confines of Newman Outdoor Field, a place where NDSU hasn’t dropped a game in six contests after a series sweep of Indiana Purdue-Fort Wayne and a drubbing of the University of North Dakota.
Western Illinois University flies into Fargo on Friday giving the Bison a chance to climb into the fourth spot in the conference standings. The Bison (17-16 overall, 5-10 Summit) are in fifth place right now, two games behind the fourth and final-seeded Leathernecks of WIU.
NDSU managed to take one game in the series against WIU last month in Macomb, Illinois, but the Herd dropped the two final games, committing a season-high four errors in the rubber match.
The first two months of NDSU’s season was as nomadic like every other year. The Bison spend nearly two months traveling across the Midwest and Southeast to the tune of its first 28 games of the season spent on the road.
Eleven of those games were against conference foes.
With the warming weather, Newman Outdoor Field can finally host games, which it certainly will. Of the 18 games remaining on the Bison’s regular season schedule, 14 will be played at home with one series against every team that sits higher than NDSU in the conference standings.
The Bison will also travel to league-worst IPFW in the middle of May.
NDSU’s pitching has been strong this season, placing second in ERA and total runs allowed. Senior captain Brian VanderWoude leads the conference in wins and ranks third in ERA.
The Bison bats have yet to come alive, but sophomore infielder Drew Fearing ranks third in the conference in both overall batting average and stolen bases.
A series win against the Leathernecks this weekend, coupled with a strong performance at home for the Bison should mean a Summit League Tournament berth.
Oral Roberts, who will be hosting the tournament the last weekend in May, looks to be the frontrunner for the Summit League’s automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament, but in a double-elimination format, anything is possible.