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Jeff Kolpack, Published April 11 2014

Kolpack: Spring sports denial takes hold

Fargo - The snow is about gone, and the Red River is behaving this year like a straight-A student. Still, one thing remains in the minds of spring sports enthusiasts in Fargo-Moorhead: denial.

Every year we do the square-peg-in-round-hole thing when trying to schedule games, meets or tournaments. The weather is never really good in the spring. Never has been. Never will be.

My suggestion would be to bump your expectations back a few weeks and shoot for May 1 as a legitimate weather-better-be-good goal – or else. At least the folks at Shiloh Christian High School in Bismarck have figured that out.

They have an all-turf baseball field, and the North Dakota State baseball team discovered how cool that is earlier this week. One of the two Division I baseball teams in the state boarded a bus, traveled 2 hours, 45 minutes west on Interstate 94 to Bismarck and played Minot State.

Little Shiloh Christian has an all-FieldTurf baseball field.

“It was great. Beautiful field,” said NDSU head coach Tod Brown. “The playing surface is perfect, and it’s very appropriate for this region. They’re getting a lot of use out of it. They charge $300 a game, and he says their phone is ringing off the hook.”

Concordia College and the University of North Dakota have taken significant steps with all-turf infields. But it doesn’t necessarily mean they’re able to play games any earlier than NDSU because the outfield is still natural grass. Brown said generally that if Bucky Burgau Field is playable, so too is Newman Outdoor Field.

It took a bit for me to get to the point here, but it’s obvious: It’s overdue for the Fargo athletic community to accept the reality of the spring and build an all-turf field that would house baseball, softball and soccer programs. If Shiloh Christian is getting $300 a game, there appears to be revenue in the game plan.

The problem, of course, is they don’t give those away. It’s all about money, but if a Class B school in western North Dakota can figure out a way to do it, so can Fargo. The Bison would love to put turf on Newman Outdoor, but that’s not what the RedHawks envision on nice summer nights.

At least the Bison are scheduled to open their home season today with a doubleheader against Nebraska-Omaha. It’s been a so-so season for NDSU with an 8-13 record, including two gut-wrenching walkoff losses at Southern Cal to open the season.

Omaha was the Summit League preseason title favorite, so the benchmark will come this weekend if the weather cooperates. The Bison have four players hitting .349 or better, so there’s been some pop in the lineup – just not consistently, Brown said.

“We’ve had opportunities, but for whatever reason, we’re not cashing in,” he said.

The biggest problem has been an inexperienced pitching staff. Junior David Ernst from Fargo South has had impressive outings and is the staff ace at 2-2 with a 2.77 ERA. He’ll get the opener against the Mavericks in Game 1.

If the sun is out, it will be a beautiful day to watch a college baseball game.

On brown grass.

If anybody out there needs a $500,000 tax writeoff, I have a suggestion.


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