Photo By Joe Kerlin
Yes, Bison fans, things do occur after the basketball season ends. In fact, the remaining sports in session at North Dakota State are all building momentum towards the postseason. While the track & field programs will not have another home meet (nor will men’s or women’s golf) this year, the baseball and softball teams are just hitting their home slates. With the weather warming and the snow melting in Fargo, Newman Outdoor Field is not quite ready for Bison baseball as they were forced to swap their season series with Purdue Fort Wayne this weekend. As for softball, the newly renovated Tharaldson Park will have to wait another week as the red hot Bison will christen the new field next Saturday.
Another full week of NDSU athletics commences, here is the action you need to look out for this week. Keep in mind, spring football is now in full swing too as the team began practicing in full pads this morning.
Friday, April 5 vs Purdue Fort Wayne (11:00 a.m. in Fort Wayne, Indiana)
Friday, April 5 vs Purdue Fort Wayne (3:00 p.m. in Fort Wayne, Indiana)
Saturday, April 6 vs Purdue Fort Wayne (3:00 p.m. in Fort Wayne, Indiana)
Tod Brown’s club remains in fourth place in the conference race after taking one of three games against perennial league power Oral Roberts this weekend. While the Golden Eagles are widely seen as the favorite in the league, they sit in third place behind South Dakota State and league leader Omaha. For the Bison, they get a favorable match-up in Purdue Fort Wayne in a series originally scheduled for Newman Outdoor Field but has since been changed to Fort Wayne. The Mastodons have failed to win a conference game in nine chances and have dropped their last 21 games.
Purdue Fort Wayne also features the worst Summit League pitching staff from a statistical perspective. Their 10.28 ERA is a league-high by a wide margin and they have given up 217 earned runs in total. On the flipside, North Dakota State has given up the fewest earned runs and has the second lowest ERA in the Summit League. Where the Bison and Mastodons are a little more even is at the plate. North Dakota State is batting .238 as a team this season compared to Purdue Fort Wayne’s .232 team average. Both teams strikeout at a high rate as well with the Mastodons leading the league with 232 strikeouts, the Bison have 192 team strikeout. However, Purdue Fort Wayne has played six more games and has over 100 more at-bats.
It may come down to pitching, as it often does in baseball. It’s clear that North Dakota State has a better staff as a whole. The Bison bullpen has been phenomenal so far this season, and look for the pitching staff to guide the Bison to a few conference victories. North Dakota State has the chance to get back to .500 in the Summit League with a sweep.
Friday, April 5 at Seattle University (7:00 p.m. in Seattle, Washington)
Saturday, April 6 at Santa Clara (3:30 p.m. in Seattle, Washington)
Saturday, April 6 at Seattle University (6:00 p.m. in Seattle, Washington)
Sunday, April 7 at Portland State (12:00 p.m. in Seattle, Washington)
Bison softball has been streaking their way through conference play so far this season. They began the conference schedule sweeping Purdue Fort Wayne and followed that up with another sweep of Western Illinois this past weekend. In total, NDSU has won 14 consecutive games, one shy of the Division I record set back in 2013. Before opening the newly renovated Tharaldson Park next weekend against South Dakota State, the Bison will play some non-conference games in the Seattle University Tournament.
Both North Dakota State and South Dakota State remain undefeated in conference play. However, the Bison have played more Summit League games, putting them in first place in the league right now. Their opponents this weekend are formidable with a combined record of 43-51 with the host school, Seattle University, bolstering a 24-12 record. North Dakota State will see the Redhawks twice this weekend. In their last six games, the Bison have torn the cover off the ball, racking up 43 runs in that span. Senior Katie Shoultz leads the conference with a mind-blowing .418 batting average and 17 stolen bases.
Couple that with dominant pitching from KK Leddy and Paige Vargas and you see a team as good as any in Darren Mueller’s tenure. The Bison lead the conference in team ERA, strikeouts and fewest home runs allowed. Much of this can be attributed to Leddy and Vargas, who have pitched 211.2 of the 238 innings pitched by Bison slingers. Leddy leads the conference in wins (13) and strikeouts (124) while Vargas is third in the Summit League in wins (9).
I’ve long said that Darren Mueller’s teams are always “ready” for opponents, be it a Summit League foe or otherwise. Hard for me to bet against that heading into a four-game tournament this weekend. If you’re silly enough to bet against Bison softball at this point, good luck…
Track & Field
Saturday, April 6 at Husker Spring Invitational (Lincoln, Nebraska)
The track & field teams are in the thick of their outdoor season with Summit League outdoors fast approaching. Last week saw portions of the roster in Texas and California in three different cities. This week will be a little more mild with both the men’s and women’s teams traveling to Lincoln, Nebraska, for the Husker Spring Invitational on Saturday.
The ever-growing, always notable storyline heading into the weekend will be what Payton Otterdahl will do. The NCAA Indoor champion in the shot put and weight throw continued to stamp his name on the record books this past weekend. In his outdoor shot put debut, he put himself atop the NCAA with a 69-08.25 throw to win the event at the Texas Relays, extending his school record by 11 inches. He leads the NCAA by nearly two feet in the event for the outdoor season. Otterdahl also threw a 201-4 in the discus, improving his school record and putting him third in the NCAA in the event.
However, the Bison throwers outside of Otterdahl were stellar as well. Sophomore Alex Talley moved up to third all-time in school history in the outdoor shot put and freshman Kristoffer Thomsen threw a 60-05.25 in the event, good for sixth best in school history. Both Talley and Thomsen seem to be the heir apparent to Otterdahl once he graduates this spring. Hard to deny that notion with how they have performed so early in their careers. On the women’s side, sophomore Amanda Anderson had the third-best discus throw in school history, pushing her into the top 30 in the NCAA in the event. Redshirt freshman Akealy Moton continued to shine in her first season in the throws program, placing fourth in the shot put.
Outside of the throwing events, Kelby Anderson blazed the 5000m, posting the third-best time in school history. Senior Amanda Levin notched a career-best in the heptathlon which also ranks third in NDSU history. Also, Tim Heikkila ran the second best 800m of his career and Camron Roehl ran a personal best in the 3000m steeplechase.
With only one meet this weekend, look for the Bison to continue to build towards the conference meet. While Otterdahl’s performances will continue to garner national attention, the Bison men are looking for their 11th Summit League Outdoor title in 12 years. As for the women, their dominance can never be understated, they’re eyeing their 12th consecutive conference outdoor crown and their 24th Summit League championship between the indoor and outdoor seasons.
Golf has this week off before embarking on tournaments beginning a week from today. The men will be in Nashville, Tennessee, on Monday and Tuesday for the Ryman Hospitality Intercollegiate. As for the women, they will be in Maricopa, Arizona, for the Wyoming Cowgirl Classic on those same dates. Both squads have seen a host of individuals perform at a high level this season with junior Andrew Israelson being the men’s top finisher at their last tournament in Phoenix. Sophomore Van Holmgren has also captured two Summit League Golfer of the Week awards as well.
True freshman Maddie Herzog was given that award last week after a career weekend at the Red Rocks Invitational. The women as a whole set a 54-hole school record at that tournament as well. Sophomore Taylor McCorkle set the school’s 18 and 36-hole records the week before in St. George, Utah. She surpassed Amy Anderson in those two records (she plays in the LPGA now).