When a team loses 15 seniors, many would think that this means it’s time to rebuild, but the Northern Kentucky University men’s baseball team simply plans to reload.
The Norse enter this season ranked 17th nationally, and are picked to finish second in a strong Great Lakes Valley Conference Eastern Division.
While losing a large number of producers from last season’s team will be a challenge, the Norse should have plenty of young guys who can step up and make a difference this season, according to head coach Todd Asalon.
“We have a bunch of freshman and sophomores that are going to try and lead the way this year,” Asalon said. “The seniors understand how good these freshman need to be for us to be good.”
One challenge for the Norse will be playing in a newly reformed GLVC East this season. Joining the East this season will be the defending national champions, the University of Southern Indiana.
USI sets put to defend its title with a highly touted team, boasting the top ranking in the preseason Division II poll. Indianapolis University enters the season also in the rankings, starting at 25th. Bellarmine University and St. Joesph’s College also received votes in the national poll.
The Norse will not, however, be able to enter the season without some controversy. Last season’s starting center fielder, Jason Cisper, is appealing to the NCAA in hopes of gaining an extra year of eligibility. If he is granted a medical hardship, he will be allowed to play this season.
“It’s a red-shirt issue from when he transferred from Miami of Ohio,” says coach Asalon. “He played here for three years. Played there as a freshman for only seven games and was injured. So we’re appealing to the NCAA to get that year back. We’re on the last part of our appeal so we should know within a week if we’re going to have him back or not.”
Last year Cisper finished with the team’s best batting average (.442). He was the catalyst for the offense hitting in the lead off spot the entire season. Cisper also led the team in steals with 39.
Another notable player returning is senior pitcher, David Middendorf. Middendorf is the top returning pitcher for the Norse. He finished the season with an 8-2 record last year and boasted a 2.64 Earned Run Average. He was named to the All-GLVC first team. Middendorf was drafted by the New York Yankees in the 44th round, but did not sign because the money wasn’t right and it wasn’t a good situation, according to coach Asalon.
The first game of the season for the Norse will be against the University of Montevallo Falcons on Feb. 19 in Montevallo, Ala. The first home game will be against the Ohio Dominican University Panthers on March 12.
The Norse finished last season with a 43-17 record over all. The Norse won the GLVC East with a 24-6 record, and finished runner up in the conference tournament, before being eliminated in the NCAA Regionals.
Story by Stephen Wilder