Northeastern A&M Golden Norse baseball coach Roger Ward isn’t sure what to expect entering Saturday’s season opener with Crowder College at Homa Thomas Field,
“This is going to be a pretty new group,” Ward said. “Last year we were predominantly a sophomore group with only two freshmen playing any significant roles as position players.”
The Golden Norsemen host the Crowder Roughriders in a 1 p.m. nine-inning game to start the season. Last year, Crowder finished with a 35-28 overall record.
Sophomore right-hander Jared White (6-0 of Wyandotte) will start against Crowder. Last season White led the Golden Norse staff with a 5-2 record and a 5.43 earned run average in 53 innings. White also led the team with 48 strikeouts and 11 walks.
Winners of two consecutive Bi-State Athletic Conference championships, the Golden Norsemen finished 12-8 in the conference and 30-19 overall.
Ward, the winningest baseball coach in NEO history, has compiled a 337-217 record during his 10-year career. NJCAA Hall of Fame coach Homa Thomas posted a 313-89 record from 1948 through 1965.
“Although we have 10 sophomores on our 33-man roster, only six of them — four of which were pitchers — contributed as freshmen,” Ward said. “We tried to find a few mid-term transfers to fill some gaps, so I’m not sure how good we’re going to be offensively.”
Unfortunately, two sophomore pitchers — starter Trent Montgomery and reliever Jeff Neptune — were dropped from the team recently for violating team rules.
“We were counting heavily on both Montgomery and Neptune, but they chose not to follow the rules,” Ward said. “They chose to do some things that just weren’t within the framework of my tolerance, nor should it be of any coach’s tolerance.”
Montgomery, a 6-3 right-hander from Athens, Texas, posted a 4-4 record and a 5.70 earned run average in 53.2 innings as a freshman.
Neptune, a 5-10 right-hander from Bartlesville, finished with a 2-2 record and one save in 31.1 innings with a 4.60 ERA.
“Losing these guys will hurt early in the year because we’re going to have to change some roles for some guys,” Ward said. “Some guys that we thought we were going to bring along slowly will now just be thrown into the fire.
“Our strength as a team really doesn’t revolve around talent, it revolves around the character of our kids,” Ward said.
"We have enough sophomores that went through last season that have expectations of going to Grand Junction (the NJCAA World Series in Grand Junction, Colo.) and playing for a national championship.
"Even though we are not overly talented, we have a good group of baseball players," Ward said. "They understand how to play the game right."
Returning, along with White, on the Golden Norse pitching staff are Dan Reid, Sean Mattson, Alex Gagnon and transfer Ricky Brown.
Reid, a 6-3 right-hander from Nosonworth, New Brunswick, Canada, compiled a 4-3 record with a 6.44 ERA in 58.2 innings last year.
Mattson, a 6-0 right-hander from Scarborough, Ontario, Canada, posted a 2-2 record in 16 innings with a 10.13 earned run average. Mattson will also play third base.
Gagnon, a 6-1 left-hander from Laval, Quebec, Canada, was 3-0 with a 4.60 ERA in 29.1 innings of work.
Brown, a 5-11 right-hander from Sacramento, Calif., joined the Golden Norsemen after one season at Sacramento Community College. Brown will also see considerable playing time at either shortstop or left field.
Freshman left-hander J.F. Ricard (6-3 of Eustache, Quebec, Canada) will also see time in the Golden Norse starting lineup.
"We're going to have to commit to these guys as our rotation and send them out to the mound every fourth day," Ward said. "But we've got some freshmen that will be pushing hard to break into the lineup."
Other freshmen right-handers include Jeremy Guest (6-4 of Collinsville), Nick Henson (6-1 of Miami), Chaz Smith (6-0 of Miami), Alex Hinman (6-4 of Grove), Brandon Poindexter (6-2 of Wyandotte), Chris Armstrong (6-0 of Stillwater), Billy Carter (5-10 of Vinita), Cameron Mann (6-0 of Tupelo, Okla.), Alex Uhl (6-1 of Plano, Texas) and Jared Seal (6-3 of Marble Falls, Texas).
Left-handed freshmen pitchers include Andrew Long (6-0 of Commerce), Ryan Bonner (6-2 of Dripping Springs, Texas), Trevor Bowden (6-1 of Muskogee) and Taylor Ferguson (5-9 of Muskogee).
Mann will start at catcher while transfer Willie Gaball and freshmen Christian Molina (5-11 of Naguabo, Puerto Rico) and Jerry Pettus (5-10 of Wyandotte) should also see action behind the plate.
Gaball (5-10 of Sacramento, Calif.) came to NEO after one year at Sacramento Community College.
"Even though Cameron will start behind the plate, we also will use him as our closer," Ward said. "Cameron's also a very disciplined hitter."
Freshman Tommy Thorton (5-11 of Sacramento, Calif.) will start at first base. "Tommy has really turned himself into a solid defensive first baseman," Ward said. "He worked real hard in the fall to improve his skills."
Providing depth at first base are freshmen Ryan Bonner, Andrew Long and Trevor Bowden.
Transfer Luis Argumedes (5-8 of Montreal, Quebec, Canada) will start at second base after playing last season at Seminole State College.
"Luis is undersized, but he is a very hard-working kid with Division I talent," Ward said. "He'll hit in the two-hole for us because he's got good speed and puts the ball in play."
Another transfer Adam Carter (5-10 of Vinita) will provide depth at second base. Last season, Carter attended Cowley County Community College in Arkansas City, Kan.
Sophomore Wesley Starkes (6-3 of Athens, Texas) returns to start at shortstop for NEO. He hit .299 in 45 games with 43 hits in 155-at bats last season.
Freshmen Argenis Paz (5-7 of Scarborough, Ontario, Canada) and Brown provide depth at shortstop.
"Ricky is a four-tool player that can hit in the three or four spot for us," Ward said. "He has power and is a very good defender."
When Mattson isn't pitching, he will start at third base. He hit .286 in 11 games as a freshman.
Brown or Starkes could also see action at third base.
Trevor Bowden is ticketed to start in left field for the Golden Norsemen and will share time with Henson or Long.
Returning in center field is veteran Josh Botts (5-9 of Commerce). As a freshman Botts hit .400 with 62 hits including eight doubles, three triples and 12 home runs. He collected 46 RBIs while scoring 44 runs.
Redshirt freshman Brant Radcliff (6-0 of Athens, Texas) will provide backup in center field.
Freshmen Ryan Clark (6-4 of Edmond), Jared Seal (6-3 of Marble Falls, Texas) and Mikeal Ball (6-2 of Cleveland, Okla.) are battling for the starting right field job. Seal is a transfer from Ranger (Texas) Junior College.
Sophomore Javier Weech (6-0 of Freeport, Bahamas) could see action at any of the outfield positions.
February — 7, Crowder College (1 p.m., 9); 10, at Northern-Enid (1 p.m., DH-7); 14, Longview, Mo. (1 p.m., DH-7); 19, at Northern-Tonkawa (1 p.m., DH-7); 21, Maplewoods, Mo. (1 p.m, DH-7); 24, Bacone JV (1 p.m., DH-7); 26, vs. Arkansas Baptist, at Bosier Parish Tournament, Shreveport, La. (4 p.m., 9); 27, Angelina, Texas, at Bosier Parish Tournament, Shreveport, La. (1 p.m., 9); 28, Meridian, Miss., at Bosier Parish Tournament, Shreveport, La. (noon, 9).
March — 1, Weatherford, Texas, at Bosier Parish Tournament, Shreveport, La. (noon, 9); 4, Neosho County, Kan. (1 p.m., DH-7); 6, at Bacone JV (3 p.m., 9); 9, Northern-Tonkawa (1 p.m., DH-7); 14, at Longview, Mo. (1 p.m., DH-7); 15, Iowa Western (1 p.m., DH-7); 17, Southwestern Iowa (2 p.m., 9); 19, Des Moines (Iowa) Area Community College (4 p.m., 9); 20, DMACC (2 p.m., 9); 21, Southwestern Iowa (2 p.m. DH-9); 22, DMACC (noon, 9); 23, at Neosho County, Kan. (1 p.m., DH-7); 28, at Maplewoods, Mo. (1 p.m., DH-7).
April — 2, Seminole State (1 p.m., 7-9); 4, at Seminole State (1 p.m., 7-9); 7, at Crowder College (2 p.m., 9); 9, at Eastern Oklahoma (1 p.m., 7-9); 11, Eastern Oklahoma (1 p.m., 7-9); 16, Arkansas-Fort Smith (1 p.m., 7-9); 18, at Arkansas-Fort Smith (1 p.m., 7-9); 21, Coffeyville, Kan. (2 p.m., 9); 23, Rose State (1 p.m., 7-9); 25, at Rose State (1 p.m., 7-9); 28, at Coffeyville, Kan. (2 p.m., 9); 30, Connors State (1 p.m, 7-9).
May — 2, at Connors State (1 p.m., 7-9); 3, Northern-Enid (1 p.m., DH-7); 7-10, at Region II Tournament, Bartlesville; 15-16, South Central District, TBA; 23-31, Juco World Series, Grand Junction, Colo.