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Jeff Kolpack, Published April 05 2012

Kolpack: Bison baseball program gets familiar with winning ways

Fargo - The team is on a 13-game winning streak and has a power ranking one spot ahead of the University of Oklahoma. To those who played baseball for North Dakota State when it was an under-funded Division II program, a manned mission to Mars seemed more likely.

But it is 2012. The Bison drew more than 1,000 fans last weekend in an on-campus stadium that is as nice as they come in Division I baseball – a direct contrast to what former player Tom Stock had to call home back in the 1980s. The St. John’s University (Minn.) athletic director is paying close attention.

“They’re having quite a season, 19-5, I checked yesterday,” he said. “It’s fun for somebody who has always followed them to see where it was years ago to where it is today. They’ve come a long ways.”

How far? NDSU was tabbed to make the national tournament as a No. 4 seed in the Corvallis Regional by the baseball website “Perfect Game.” Over Oral Roberts. That’s 14-time Summit League champion Oral Roberts.

Then again, bracketology is far from an exact science. South Dakota State got that same distinction last year and ORU still won. Still, NDSU head coach Tod Brown had a few words about hard work and determination to his team this week.

Such as: Don’t forget they exist.

“It can go away as quickly as you’re winning games,” Brown said.

Brown saw a couple of fat cat signs this week that were causes for concern. The pitchers slacked off on a couple of mandatory practice items. The hitters appeared to be going through the motions at times.

The penalty: some unscheduled conditioning work.

“Reminders,” Brown said. “We met as a team afterward and went over how we got here. This isn’t luck. This is by design.”

Plus, NDSU’s record in the Summit League is 0-0. Last year, the Bison went into conference play 2-16 and Brown gave the speech that teams are judged by how they do in league play.

He’ll probably give the same speech next week when the Bison open Summit play at Western Illinois. Only this time, he’ll have to address how one of the best records in the country doesn’t matter.

That didn’t happen in the days of Tom Stock. Asked how his teams would do against the present-day Bison teams and the response started with a chuckle.

“Not very well,” he said. “I’m afraid they’ve got a little more recruiting budget and talent,” he said. “We would give them our best shot. … It’s night and day. We were not even in the same stratosphere.”

Forum reporter Jeff Kolpack can be reached at (701) 241-5546.

Kolpack’s NDSU media blog can be found

at www.areavoices.com/bisonmedia

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