When Marcus Clapp got the opportunity to start a baseball program from scratch, it was a chance he couldn’t pass up.
“That was a big deal. I’ve been a pitching coach for a long time and I’ve always wanted to be a head guy,” Clapp said.
So with Clapp as coach, Northeast Community College in Norfolk is playing its inaugural baseball season this spring.
Northeast announced the addition of the team in summer 2016 . That fall, Clapp, who had been coaching at UNK, was hired to lead Northeast. The Hawks played their opener in February with a roster of 30 players — all freshmen.
The Hawks are off to a 15-21-1 start, but Clapp said this season is about more than wins and losses.
“The biggest thing we wanted to do was create the culture, bring the right kids in, the right kids academically, the right kids athletically. Kids that are going to represent the college the right way,” Clapp said. “Having 30 freshmen, we’ve had ups and downs, but that’s all part of learning.”
One area where the Hawks haven’t looked like rookies is on offense. After hitting 18 homers in the past six games, Northeast is fifth in NJCAA Division II in home runs with 51.
And it isn’t just one or two players doing the damage. Tanner Hunt leads the team with 11, while Drew Smith has nine — both players are from Elkhorn. Bellevue West’s Christian Dumont has eight, while Nebraska City’s Brennen Bales and Ralston’s Donovan Warren have seven each. Overall, Northeast is hitting .305 and scoring 7.2 runs a game.
“We’ve swung the bats well, we’ve competed at the plate better than I though we would,” Clapp said. “The (51) home runs have been a pleasant surprise and lets our guys know we’re never really out of a game because we have that presence to run the ball out of the park.”
On the other hand, Clapp knows the Hawks need more depth on the mound as the team’s ERA is 9.37. But that is part of the growing pains of building a program from the ground up.
“We want to get the best kids we can out of Lincoln and Omaha and Grand Island and Kearney and put a good product on the field,” said Clapp, whose roster this season includes 10 metro area players.