Race for the Summit League Championship gets tighter


Reggie Wortman

Adam Gadsden attempts to bunt a ball against North Dakota State. Photo taken by Reggie Wortman.

Going into the weekend many looked for the jumbling of teams at the top of the Summit League standings to spread out. Especially since the two teams tied for first, Omaha and North Dakota State, met for a four-game series at Tal Anderson Field.

However, those teams did not separate. In fact, the standings got messier.

Omaha and NDSU split their four-game series and Oral Roberts took two of three from Western Illinois, which put three teams into a heated race atop the conference standings.

With only five teams in the Summit League, every weekend will feature a series that includes two of those teams playing each other. The conference finds itself in a unique situation this season. In 2019, the last time a full conference slate of games was played, there were six teams in the league. The 2020 season was never completed, and at the start of the 2021 season, the number of teams dropped five as Purdue Fort Wayne jumped to the Horizon League. The Summit League is the smallest NCAA baseball conference across all three divisions.

The conference will add Northern Colorado and St. Thomas next year, but it doesn’t change anything for the immediate future. In the 2021 season, every team will play each Summit League opponent twice. Once at home and once on the road. This makes the teams quite familiar with each other.

In terms of who is the clear-cut favorite to grab that NCAA tournament automatic bid? Nobody really knows.

“You never know,” said Omaha head coach Evan Porter. “It could change every weekend. Every single game is just that much more important and we just have to take it one day at a time.”

Porter did say he has a lot of confidence in his team and although the wins haven’t quite added up the way most around the program expected them to, the Mavericks still find themselves in a good position.

“This year has been different for everybody and I think that is the reason why it has taken us just a little bit longer than usual to click,” Porter said. “We are getting there, but not quite yet. We are getting closer.”

Omaha showed spurts over the weekend that they can compete with anyone in the Summit League. On Saturday, the Mavericks were firing on all cylinders, tallying seven runs on 14 hits. Richie Holetz tossed six shutout innings and struck out six, while Jarrett Blunt came in and picked up his first save of the season.

The Mavericks next test will come in Brookings, South Dakota, as the Mavericks will battle the Jackrabbits of SDSU in a four-game series.