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Jeff Kolpack, Published May 22 2013

Road feels right for Bison baseball team

FARGO – It took 18 hours from the minute North Dakota State left campus until it arrived at the Summit League baseball tournament. The Bison wouldn’t want it any other way.

It’s the way they roll. The long bus rides are so typical that head coach Tod Brown would probably balk at a chartered airplane flight.

“That would be unusual. That would really screw us up,” he quipped. “We wouldn’t know what to do with all the extra time.”

The Bison are in Rochester, Mich., today for the last time. Oakland, which is hosting the four-team tournament, is leaving the Summit for the Horizon League after this season.

No. 1 seed South Dakota State and No. 4 seed Western Illinois open the tourney at noon, while No. 3 seed NDSU takes on No. 2 Oakland at 3 p.m. It appears who is seeded where isn’t a big deal in this field – not with Oral Roberts out of the mix after the Eagles left for the Southland Conference after last season.

ORU won the previous 15 Summit titles.

“Everybody in the field has some strengths and some weaknesses, us included,” Brown said. “It really wouldn’t surprise me if a No. 1 seed or 4 seed or anybody between won the tournament.”

NDSU is coming into the NCAA qualifying-tourney with some momentum having won four straight and five of its last six. That came after seven straight defeats.

The Bison haven’t reached an NCAA tournament since 1969 when they fell to Missouri State in the Midwest Regional championship game. They came close last year, falling twice to ORU after reaching the Summit championship round undefeated.

The Bison will go with ace John Straka today, and that’s a good start. Now a senior, he’s pitched in some big games over the years.

“In the six years I’ve been here, if we had to go play one game and it meant everything, I would want John Straka on the mound,” Brown said. “That doesn’t mean we’re going to win, but he has good stuff and knows how to handle pressure situations.”

The double-elimination format runs through Saturday.

Forum reporter Jeff Kolpack can be reached at (701) 241-5546. Kolpack’s NDSU media blog can be found at www.areavoices.com/bisonmedia