Area athletes will now have one more local option when looking to continue their athletic careers in college.
Northeast Community College announced Monday that they will be adding baseball to their list of athletic programs, beginning in 2017.
“The addition of a baseball program is an another opportunity for our student-athletes to compete at the intercollegiate level and enhance their college experience,” said Jake Ripple, director of athletics.
According to a press release, Northeast presently fields teams in men’s and women’s basketball, men’s golf, women’s softball, men’s and women’s soccer and women’s volleyball.
Speaking at a news conference Monday, Ripple said the addition of baseball is a good fit for Northeast and the region.
“There is a great amount of excitement about baseball in the local area as evidenced by the youth programs that are building in our community. There are also a number of Nebraska natives leaving the state to play baseball at the collegiate level," he stated. "Our goal is to be able to build a program that will keep those talented student-athletes in state and to specifically come to Northeast. As we have tried to do with our other athletic programs, we will look across our service area first and then build our recruiting base to regional and national levels.”
Ripple said the College will begin searching immediately for a coach to lead the program.
“We have changed our timeline significantly compared to the previous addition of sports. We feel it is very important to get an early start on the implementation of baseball at Northeast. Our hope is to immediately have a full roster of 35 to 40 student-athletes starting in fall of 2017,” he explained.
Northeast will play its home baseball games at Veterans Memorial Field in Norfolk. The Hawks will play up to 56 games during the spring season and will also have an informal fall season that will allow up to 20 scrimmages. The new sport will be considered as a National Junior College Athletic Association (NJCAA) Division II program. Northeast is also a member of the Iowa Community College Athletic Conference (ICCAC).
Amanda Nipp, vice president of student services, said Northeast is excited to add the new program.
“We are pleased to be able to give not only our student-athletes, but our entire student population and the community another opportunity to cheer on our Hawks through baseball,” Nipp said. “Student success and student access are key components of Northeast’s Vision 2020 five-year strategic plan. With the addition of baseball, we will be able to continue to provide opportunities for those students who otherwise would not pursue athletics at the collegiate level.”
Dr. Michael Chipps, president at Northeast, said athletics are an important component to the school.
“With a declining population in our 20-county service area, we are continuing to research innovative ways to grow our enrollments and the addition of intercollegiate athletic programs is another essential element in the Vision 2020 enrollment plan to reach new students," he explained. "While teaching and learning will always be our first priority, we certainly believe a strong athletic program offers students the opportunity to be engaged during their college careers."
Chipps said athletics permit student-athletes to excel both inside and outside of the classroom while providing a connection to the rest of the student body as well.
“Northeast is stepping up to the plate with the establishment of this program. The addition of baseball is another positive means to increase enrollment and attract new students to Northeast who may not have previously considered attending the college."