FARGO -- The North Dakota State baseball team will host Oral Roberts Friday afternoon in the Bison’s home opener. Well, sort of home opener.
True to the way this season is going weather-wise, the Bison are hosting the Eagles across the river at Concordia College’s Bucky Burgau Field. Field conditions at Newman Outdoor Field were still not 100 percent as of Thursday.
It keeps NDSU as one of three teams in Division I baseball to have yet to play a game on their home field. South Dakota State’s field is still unplayable and Seton Hall is renovating its stadium.
Still, at least the Bison aren’t riding a bus in the middle of the night somewhere.
“It’s nice not to be on a bus right now or staying in a hotel,” said NDSU third baseman Charley Hesse. “It’s good to wake up and eat some breakfast out of your own fridge at home. I think we’ll miss the road a little bit because it’s fun to be on a bus with all of your friends but it will be good to be in our own beds.”
Dissecting NDSU statistically doesn’t take long. The starting pitching has been solid with freshman starter Max Loven leading the way with a 2.61 earned run average in 48 innings. Head coach Tod Brown said a player with Loven’s statistics should have at least five to seven wins right now.
As it is, the Bison are 9-17, 7-8 in the Summit heading into the three-game series with ORU. The culprit in the record has been hitting. The Bison have a .239 team batting average.
“It needs to jump 50 points,” Brown said. “You go from hitting .240 to .280 or .290 and you have an ERA like we have, you should be 17-9 instead of 9-17.”
After ORU, the Bison have every other baseball-playing Summit team at home, also. They’ll host Western Illinois, Nebraska-Omaha, Purdue-Fort Wayne and South Dakota State on successive weekends.
By then, Brown is hoping a young roster is no longer using inexperience as an excuse. NDSU’s last lineup had only two players who played extensively at the Division I level.
It’s been noticeable in two areas: extending leads in the middle innings and holding leads in the late innings. Of the 17 losses, the Bison have seen opponents win on their last at-bat five times.
“And I can think of another four where we had the lead in the sixth or seventh inning and gave it away,” Brown said. “You outplay somebody for three-quarter of the game and one innings costs you and that’s happened to us quite a bit.”
After Omaha at 13-2, the next four are bunched up. SDSU is 9-6 and Western Illinois and ORU are 8-7.
“Our record doesn’t speak for who we are as a team because we ended up losing a good amount of those wild games,” Hesse said. “We’re one play, one pitch, one hit away from winning those games. I think we’re flying a little under the radar right now but those are games that we can win and will win.”
The Friday game with the Golden Eagles has a 2 p.m. start. The Saturday doubleheader is set for 11 a.m., although it’s still possible the Bison could play at Newman if the field issues clear up.
That will erase the Bison as one of three teams not to play at their home field this season.
“Nobody will feel sorry for you,” Brown said. “We have to start finding a way to start extending leads and locking down leads.”