WAYNE NELSON: Words go only so far for UND Baseball

It was a picture-perfect baseball scene at Kraft Field on Wednesday night. The temperature for early May was an ideal 65 degrees. There was no wind. Skies were blue.

UND fans pack the bleachers and along the foul lines for the matchup against UND and NDSU. NDSU won the game 4-2 against the fighting hawks. (Joshua Komer/ Grand Forks Herald)

It was a picture-perfect baseball scene at Kraft Field on Wednesday night. The temperature for early May was an ideal 65 degrees. There was no wind. Skies were blue.

And before one of the biggest college baseball crowds in a long, long time, UND was playing its natural rival-North Dakota State.

But there was something drastically wrong with this perfect picture.

There was little, if any, emotion from UND for a rivalry game played before nearly 1,000 fans on a gorgeous night.

NDSU won 4-2 in a game that lacked any drama.


UND now has lost 11 of its previous 12 games since the administration announced the school's baseball program would be eliminated after the season due to budget problems.

UND coach Jeff Dodson and his players were upset with the announcement, and rightfully so.

Since that day, coaches and players have said what's expected of them. They said they'd keep playing hard, keep on fighting and keep hustling to try and make the WAC postseason tournament. Their hope was to make UND's final season one to remember.

But words go only so far. And if that wasn't clear in UND's previous 11 games since the announcement, it was obvious against the Bison.

This UND baseball team is emotionally spent.

Really, how could we expect anything else when a school pulls the rug out from underneath a program midway through the season?

After the game, Dodson said the expected. UND needs to clean up its game a bit and keep fighting.

But he was asked about the emotional toll UND's decision to cut baseball is taking on his players. There is no question the decision has taken an emotional toll on a program that started the season with such promise-two wins over nationally ranked Southern Cal.


But the season has gone south-especially since the athletic department made its announcement April 12. UND dropped to 7-28 with the loss to the Bison.

The UND coach was asked how difficult it is to try and keep playing under circumstances few collegiate programs know how to handle. There is no syllabus for Program Cutting 101.

No one outside the program, said Dodson, understands what UND baseball has gone through the past month.

"I've talked to a couple of coaches who have reached out to us, coaches who have had this happen to their programs," said Dodson. "They said they know exactly what we're going through.

"They know first-hand how it affects the kids, their families and their class work. Their daily routines are upset; their sleep habits are upset because they're worried about what's going on where they will go next year.

"When I go home at the end of the game, I'm mentally tired instead of physically tired. The kids are the same way."

UND baseball, however, may yet be saved by a ninth-inning fundraising attempt by people outside the university. But that possibility won't be known for quite some time.

Instead, UND has to continue to make its way through an unfair season.


"All we ask our guys is that they do the best they can; take what you have and do whatever you can with it. We're going to keep fighting, keep plugging away and do the best we can."

It's the right words to speak.

But it's unfair those words have to be spoken in the first place.

Wayne Nelson is the sports editor at the Herald.

He has been with the Grand Forks Herald since 1995, serving as the UND football and basketball beat writer as well as serving as the sports editor.

He is a UND graduate and has been writing sports since the late 1970s.

Follow him on Twitter @waynenelsongf. You can reach him at (701) 780-1268 or
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