UND baseball leaves its mark one swing at a time

UND pitcher Ellery Bresnahan throws from the mound. Photo by Nick Nelson/The Dakota Student. 

The University of North Dakota announced there would no longer be baseball at the school, effective in 2017.

It came as a disappointment to people that followed the team as fans know just how storied of a program UND baseball is.

UND baseball was founded in 1889. Ever since the existence of UND baseball, it has had 20 coaches lead the team. Some notable coaches include Gene Roebuck from 1990-93 and Kelvin Ziegler, who was the longest tenured head coach, who was at UND from 1994-2007.

UND baseball may have been in existence for over 100 years, but it didn’t have a team from 1921-55 due to the multiple wars that occurred during that stretch.

UND is an overshadowed program at the university, due to hockey, football and basketball getting most of the attention. But UND has had some very good baseball teams play in Grand Forks.

Before moving to Division I, the Fighting Hawks were in the North Central Conference. UND baseball had a strong fan-base back then because South Dakota State, North Dakota State and Minnesota-Duluth were UND’s conference rivals.

The NCC was one of the toughest conferences in Division II, so for UND to win four conference titles in 1962, 1967, 1992 and 2004 is a very impressive feat.

The Fighting Hawks made the Division II NCAA baseball tournament three times in the program’s history, with appearances in 1967, 1993 and 2004. 1993 was also the year the Hawks would make their lone College World Series appearance. That team was coached by the celebrated Roebuck.

Along with every other sport at UND, baseball would have to make an adjustment in every aspect when the school moved to Division I. Recruiting, competition and so much more were just some challenges that UND faced. The Hawks started out in the Great West Conference but have since moved to the Western Athletic Conference, or the WAC.

In UND’s first full season of DI, the Fighting Hawks won a respectable 13 games. The signature win that year came against the Northern Iowa Panthers.

UND has not been to the NCAA tournament since moving to DI, but 2015 marked one of the best years in the schools DI history as the Fighting Hawks finished 24-27

The season also featured one of the best wins in program history over Pac-12 foe Washington in Seattle, Wash.

While the team was impressive last season, it is what one individual did on the national stage that was truly a highlight of the program’s history. Jeff Campbell got a call from baseball Sports Information Director Mitch Wigness that he would compete in the NCAA Home Run Derby at TD Ameritrade Park in Omaha, Neb. Campbell went out, hit everything he saw out of the park and won the derby on ESPN. This was perfect national exposure for a team on the rise.

UND baseball has been through highs and lows throughout its history, but the team has always had a fan base cheering them on along the way. This situation may be unfortunate for the fans, but the sting of a cut program hurts the players and coaches even more so.

The Fighting Hawks host their last home series against New Mexico state from May 13-15 at Kraft Field.

Hunter Plante is a sports writer for The Dakota Student. He can be reached at [email protected]