Baseball series moves to Omaha

Carson Herbert, Sports Reporter

The men’s baseball team has had 11 games either canceled or postponed this season, and the future isn’t looking especially bright.

With the National Weather Service issuing a winter storm watch in effect from April 10-12 in Brookings, South Dakota State’s home opener will have to wait, yet again.

Three games have been postponed for the Jackrabbits this season. One against Creighton, which was scheduled for March 20 in Omaha, Nebraska and the two previous opportunities for a home opener on April 3 vs. Dakota State and April 9 vs. Dakota Wesleyan.

SDSU head coach Rob Bishop said the team can’t get caught up with the weather not allowing them to play at home.

“That’s a daily dialogue for us that we just can’t really afford to get emotional about things we can’t control,” he said. “We have to just show up and kind of be where are feet are a little bit, just try and do the best in the moment.”

Wherever the games will be played, the Jacks (14-13, 7-5), currently second in the league standings, will look to regain momentum against their border rivals after being swept by the Omaha Mavericks April 5-6 in Sioux Falls.

Sophomore infielder Gus Steiger and freshman infielder Drew Beazley enter the weekend as the Jacks’ hottest hitters. Steiger is batting .331 with 24 RBI and Beazley is batting .444 in his last seven games with 10 RBI.

“They just keep coming up with big hits and having big moments at the plate,” Bishop said. “Gus had some unbelievable plays on defense, as well, especially on the last day of this last series. They are guys who love the game and are definitely a huge part of our team and how we are going to go moving forward.”

Following a series with two late-game collapses on the mound, freshman Riley McSherry, sophomore Bret Barnett and junior Brett Mogen have all been reliable options, only allowing four runs or less this season out of the bullpen.

While Bishop acknowledged Omaha as one of the hottest teams in the country, he also stated that Jackrabbit pitchers need to be better.

“Some of it we have to take ownership of,” Bishop said. “We need to pitch better and we had guys this weekend who pitched well against that team so we are capable. The other piece of it obviously is just executing and having our guys that we believe are our ‘end of the game guys’ be a little more consistent.”

Junior right-hander Tyler Olmstead has pitched into the seventh inning and beyond in six of his eight appearances this season, most recently going 6.2 innings with seven strikeouts and no earned runs in a no-decision against Omaha on April 5.

“Every Friday when it rolls around, he’s ready to take the ball. If he has really good stuff, he can be overwhelming and if he doesn’t have really good stuff for him, he still competes with what he’s got.” Bishop said. “That’s all that you can really ask. As a pitcher, you aren’t going to have your best stuff every single time out so TO has been really consistent for us this year.”

Bishop is satisfied with where the team is currently at.

“At this point, we are one week away from being at the halfway point (in Summit League play) and we are still in a good spot,” he said. “We haven’t played a home game and we are above .500 in the league so we’re in a decent position and the league is really bunched up so we’ll start to see some separation in the next few weeks.”

North Dakota State (8-14, 6-6) sits in a tie for third in the Summit League standings and is coming off a series sweep against Purdue Fort Wayne April 5-6. Like the Jacks, the Bison have played all of their games on the road or at a neutral site.

Bishop does not think the Jacks playing more games than the Bison will have any effect on the series.

“They are very similar to us that they’ve played everything on the road,” he said. “They are very well coached and a really quality team with good players. The thing about us and NDSU when we play, the series is always highly contested. They’ll pitch really well and defend really well. They are a little bit like us and that they are kind of young offensively, so they’ve had some games where they have really exploded and they’ve had other games where they’ve had a hard time scoring runs.”

In the games they have played, sophomore catcher Jack Simonson is hitting over .300. The Sioux Falls native also has 16 RBI and five doubles in 18 games played. The Bison offense has struggled beyond Simonsen, however. The team has hit just .246 and has 11 home runs.

Only 187 innings have been pitched by the staff compared to the 237.2 innings pitched by the Jacks. Junior LHP Parker Harm is 3-1 with a 2.65 ERA to lead a Bison staff that has a 3.98 team ERA. Out of the bullpen, freshman LHP Max Loven has been the most effective reliever for the Bison with an ERA of 2.55 and striking out 39 batters in seven appearances.  

According to Bishop, as of April 9, the plan is for the series to be played in Omaha at Seymour Smith Park. Dates and times have yet to be determined.

“You just have to deal with it,” Bishop said. “You have a choice, you can let it ruin your day, your week, your month or your season if you want, or you can fight for it. If it means we are not home until May, then that’s what it means. We’ll still do our best to put our team in the best position for the regular season and for the postseason.”