FARGO-The temperature was in the low 40s and sunny Tuesday, March 27. For the North Dakota State softball players who have been walking to class lately in their winter coats, it must have seemed like Spring Break. Unfortunately, it was a one-day weather tease.
Also unfortunately, the debut of North Dakota State University's new softball stadium has been put on hold indefinitely. The Bison have already canceled the home-opening weekend April 7-8 against Nebraska-Omaha, instead trying to find a neutral site for the three-game Summit League series.
Ellig Sports Complex still has plenty of snow on the ground.
"And who knows how much frost is in the ground," said NDSU Head Coach Darren Mueller.
The frost could be a bigger issue than in past years. WDAY Chief Meteorologist John Wheeler said the frost got "really deep" this winter, mostly because of the cold weather between Christmas and late January combined with a light snowpack, which was just a couple of inches. A thicker snow base normally insulates the ground.
"It's going to take longer to thaw," Wheeler said. "It's going to be a slow spring."
For Mueller, in his 17th year, dealing with slow springs is part of the job. The Bison were on the road the first eight weeks of the season and now that simply will be extended at least a couple of more.
"It's something you just get used to," he said.
Success is also something the program has gotten used to, and this season is no different. The Bison defeated 10th-ranked Louisiana State University last weekend and are 18-10 in a schedule that includes several high-major teams. It was the seventh straight season NDSU has beaten a nationally-ranked team. The Bison received one vote this week in the USA Today/National Fastpitch Coaches Association top 25 poll.
Senior Jacquelyn Sertic shut out LSU 1-0 to get the win. One week earlier, she was named the Louisville Slugger/NFCA National Pitcher of the Week when she won five games and struck out 54 batters in the LMU Tournament at Loyola Marymount University (Calif.).
"She has a nice approach out there," Mueller said. "You can tell she's a senior this year."
If the Omaha series is moved and the Bison and the University of North Dakota won't be able to play their April 10 game at Ellig, it's possible NDSU may not have its home opener until the end of April when Purdue-Fort Wayne (Ind.) comes to Fargo.
That could be around the time when Mueller notches career win No. 600 at NDSU. The Bison host Western Illinois the first weekend in May and will also host the Summit tournament May 9-12.
"I'm disappointed for our players right now," Mueller said. "They're excited to get on our field and want to play at home. But they also understand the situation. We'll keep treating this schedule like pre-season, and once we get the opportunity to play on our field, we'll take advantage."