The regional softball title is one of those feel-good stories that pretty much cements NDSU’s first year of tournament-eligible Division I athletics. It still seems strange to see "North Dakota State" with the likes of Oklahoma, Kansas and Arizona State, but we’ve been acclimatized this year.
The softball team will play ASU in Tempe in a best 2-of-3 in the NCAA Super Regional. The winner goes to the World Series. The Bison will be massive underdogs, but this is a program that is used to it and should be a national story. Here you have:
- A team that plays 95 percent of its games on the road.
- Has a home-town head coach in Darren Mueller who had the vision to hire good assistants and go out and get players not from home.
- A team that was displaced because of the flood and whose school was closed for a time because of the high water.
- A starting pitcher, Andi Padilla, who spent her first three years riding the bench waiting and waiting for her chance.
- A program that was so horribly bad before Mitch Hanson, and a bigger budget, took it upward in the 1990s.
- A bunch of California natives who have seem to genuinely buy into the Upper Midwest way of life, which is to keep the weather complaints to a minimum and forge forward.
It’s yet another reason that NDSU proves it belongs in the big time. The men’s basketball team gave Kansas all it wanted in the NCAA tournament. Might as well go right to the source. How long before one of the streets on campus is named Joe Chapman Boulevard?