FARGO — There was a time in Parker Harm’s North Dakota State baseball career that he was a center fielder and pitcher. It’s like a football player playing offense and defense and at some point, at the Division I level, the difficulty factor comes into play.
That happened in his freshman year. The decision: pitcher.
“I would have loved to continue to be a two-way guy but I understand the decision made by the coaches and I agreed with them,” said Harm, from Mandan, N.D. “We should focus on pitching because that was the thing that was going to get me farther in this program.”
It may get him farther — beyond college. The senior left-hander and his fastball in the low 90s may get a professional baseball shot.
“If he doesn’t get drafted, I’ll be shocked,” said Bison head coach Tod Brown. “If somebody doesn’t give him a shot, that would be insane. We’ve had a lot of guys come in and see him and there’s been a lot of positive feedback so my expectation is he’ll be picked up by a major league organization.”
That talk is fine, Harm said, but his focus is finishing his NDSU career in style. The Bison host South Dakota State in a four-game series beginning with a double header Friday at 3 p.m. at Newman Outdoor Field.
It’s been a harmonious season to date for NDSU, which has won nine of its last 11 games including taking two-of-three from Kansas of the Big 12 Conference. The Bison, 33-14, have been hitting the ball all over the park most of the season, led by shortstop Bennett Hostetler, but that doesn’t do much good if the pitching doesn’t do its share.
NDSU’s starters have been solid. And that doesn’t do much good if the bullpen doesn’t do its share.
Harm and freshman Wyatt Nelson have seven saves each. As a group the bullpen has 21 saves, which is already a school record beating the old mark of 17 set in 2016. In all, eight players have at least one save.
NDSU is the only team in the country with multiple players recording at least seven saves.
“I’m not sure I’ve ever been on a team that has had 21 saves with seven games left (in the regular season),” Brown said.
The reason is moving to four-game series vs. the old three-game sets. It extends a pitching staff, putting more of a premium on the bullpen.
“I would say we’re all closers,” Harm said. “We’re all middle-relief guys but a lot of us are capable mentally and physically to close.”
Harm is one of several players who made the decision to return for another year of school after the pandemic shut down last season. The 33-14 season puts NDSU on par with the 2012 team (40-20) for best record in the school’s Division I history.
“This is one of the top NDSU teams in history so it’s crazy to think about that,” Harm said. “It’s really fun, honestly, just to win. We’ve had a couple of losing seasons and that’s always tough on a program but when we jibe like this as a team and continue to win it’s real fun to play ball.”
The disparity in schedules in the Summit has the standings on a current uneven playing field. Oral Roberts leads the league in winning percentage at 14-5. The Bison are second at 17-10, with eight more games played than the Eagles.
NDSU will need to win this weekend and get some help for a No. 1 seed. ORU has eight games remaining with four-game series against Omaha and SDSU. Omaha, at 11-8, isn’t out of the mix either with a four-game series against last-place Western Illinois in addition to playing Oral Roberts.
NDSU has a non-conference, three-game series at Eastern Kentucky next weekend to close the regular season. Whatever the case with the Summit, it comes down to the league tournament in Omaha.
“The main goal for all of us seniors is to win that conference tournament,” Harm said.