The Northern State baseball team will open its 2013 season this Thursday.
The Wolves will play at the Metrodome in Minneapolis, Minn., this Thursday and Friday. Northern will play Concordia-St. Paul in a doubleheader on Thursday and Bemidji State in a doubleheader on Friday. The games against the Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference teams will not count in the conference standings.
“We are ready to line up and go see the product that we are going to go put out on the field,” Northern State coach Dean Berry said about starting the season.
The Wolves return some solid players from last year’s 17-28 team, which went 10-20 in the always-tough NSIC. NSU seniors Brent Lawrence and Clint Manzo were tabbed as players to watch in the preseason release. Lawrence is a fifth-year senior outfielder. He led the Wolves in on-base percentage at .449 and had a .308 batting average. Lawrence had nine doubles, 23 RBI, 32 runs scored and 44 hits.
“We are really excited about what he brings to the table,” Berry said, “particularly from an offensive stand point. He is a pretty dynamic. He is a left-handed hitter and we are just excited to see what kind of year he can give us.”
Manzo is a 6-foot-5, 225-pound right-handed pitcher. Manzo had a 5.52 ERA last season and picked up two wins and one save in 16 total appearances on the season. Manzo fanned 37 batters last season.
“Manzo is going to be counted on to do a lot of things for us,” Berry said. “We asked him to do a lot last year.”
Nathan Nietfeld (6-foot-4, 190-pounds) is another big pitcher for the Wolves. Nietfeld had a 5.06 ERA last season and led the Wolves in games started with 12. He also won a team-leading five games last year and struck out 47-batters.
Nietfield pitched 69.1 innings last season and Manzo pitched 62 innings. Berry said the team depended heavily on the arms of Manzo and Nietfeld, but this year they hope to rest their arms when they can.
“Hopefully this year we can have a little bit more depth and to give those guys a break and allow them to be sharper when they are pitching their innings,” Berry said. “Definitely those two are big guys on the mound that we are going to count on a lot.”
Junior Robbie Rocamora returns after having another solid season. Rocamora drove in 33 runs last season and had a .297 batting average. He finished with 38 hits and scored 23 runs. Rocamora played third base last season and pitched for the Wolves. This season, Rocamora is going to play first base and do some designated hitting for the Wolves.
“We have made that move and he has been open to it,” Berry said. “That’s Robbie. He is a team guy. He is willing to do whatever he can for us. We expect the same offensive output from him that he has been giving us and even a little bit more.”
Senior Cameron Lehner was one of only two players to play in all 45 games last season. Lehner played second base last year and will play shortstop this season said Berry.
“It is not an easy transition,” Berry said about switching to shortstop. “He embraced it and he is doing well. We are excited for what he is going to do for us over there.”
Junior college transfer Nate Russell will push for playing time in the outfield. The right-handed hitter transferred in from Allen County (Kan.) Community College.
“He puts a lot of pressure on defenses at the plate and when he gets on bases,” Berry said. “This guy can fly. We are excited about what he can do for us.”
Other junior college transfers Maurice Rodriquez, Tyler Thurston and Derek Tymesen are also expected to contribute this year. Rodriquez will play in the infield and also play some catcher. Thurston will see time at first base and Tymesen will play third base.
The Wolves were picked to finish 11th out of 15 teams in the NSIC preseason poll. The top eight teams will qualify for the NSIC post-season tournament, as opposed to last season when the top six teams qualified.
FEBRUAY — 14-15, at Minneapolis, Minn.; 14, vs. Concordia-St. Paul; 15, vs. Bemidji State.
MARCH — 2-8, at Tucson Invitational Tournament in Tucson, Ariz.; 3, vs. Dakota Wesleyan; 4, vs. Malone University; 6, vs. Morningside College; 7, vs. William Penn; 8, vs. Morningside College; 23, vs. North Dakota State in Minneapolis, Minn.; 29, at Minnesota State, Mankato; 30, at Minnesota State, Mankato.
APRIL — 3, at Upper Iowa; 6, at Minnesota-Crookston; 7, at Minnesota-Crookston; 10, vs. Sioux Falls; 13, vs. Augustana College; 14, vs. Augustana College; 14, vs. Augustana College; 17, at Minot State; 20, vs. Wayne State College; 21, vs. Wayne State College; 24, at Winona State; 27, vs. Southwest Minnesota State; 28, vs. Southwest Minnesota State.
MAY — 1, at Mary; 3, vs. Minnesota-Duluth; 4, vs. Minnesota-Duluth; 8-12, at NSIC Tournament in St. Cloud, Minn.