Last in the MIAA standings record-wise, Northwest Missouri State's baseball team ranks right at the top when it comes to bus time and hotel night stays.
Forced to move their first eight home games away from Maryville due to recent winter storms, the Bearcats (2-12, 2-9) have played 14 straight to start the season on the road and none within the Missouri border.
That number will rise to 16 following their second trip to Topeka, Kan. for a Thursday afternoon doubleheader with Washburn.
One-third of Northwest's home schedule is already compete without the Bearcats actually playing a game in Maryville.
"It's a frustrating spring just because with the snow on the ground and with the way we have our schedule, we lose our home dates to go on the road," said Northwest Missouri State head coach Darin Loe. "The good thing is we're still playing. We're able to get outside every weekend. The unfortunate side is obviously we're playing southern schools that are able to stay outside and we're not able to get out and get our preparation. It's been a grind."
Northwest's extended road tour began with a three-game series at Arkansas-Monticello, requiring more than nine hours on the bus each way.
The next weekend, Northwest trekked close to six hours in the same direction to play Northeastern State in Tahlequah, Okla.
Northwest was supposed to begin its home schedule with Nebraska-Kearney Feb. 20, but had to move those games to Topeka, Kan. after the first snowfall hit Maryville.
The past two weekends, Northwest has shifted a three-game series with Lindenwood to Sauget, Ill. and a three-game series with Central Oklahoma to Edmond, Okla.
Only the trip to Topeka was closer than three hours, while the rest were at least five.
All told, the Bearcats have traveled roughly 3,900 miles and spent an estimated 45 hours on the bus going to and from Maryville.
That's a longer trip mileage-wise than driving from here to Los Angeles, California and back.
"The biggest thing about being on the road is you're not sleeping in your own bed," said Loe. "Just the comfort level, you're out of your element a little bit doing some of those things. Of course, you can bond on the road as well, but the other side is your opponent whose been practicing outside gets to sleep in their own bed. They come to play in their own ball park. They play in front of their home fans. When you move from Bearcat Field to the confines of someone else's ball park, it's definitely a change. You got to be able to battle that and overcome that."
So far, the Bearcats have not been able to adapt very well to the constant road environments.
Page 2 of 2 - Their only wins to this point are against NSU and Lindenwood. They've been swept in two three-game series' and once in a mid-week doubleheader by UNK.
Having played the most games of any team in the MIAA, Northwest ranks last in batting average (.253) and is 13th in ERA (9.19).
While noting the challenges that come with an exclusive early-season road schedule, Loe refuses to heap all of the blame for his team's poor start on that alone.
"I think when you look at our record the thing I look at is what can we do better on the mound number one," said Loe. "We have to be better on the mound. We've got to be able to overcome some things defensively. Some of those things could be cleaned up with practice time. We're starting to swing the bats a little bit better, so that's definitely a positive. We're not blaming it on anything. It's just a matter of we got to be mentally strong, mentally tough and got to be able to deal with it moving forward."
After a month straight of road games, Northwest may finally get to make its home debut this weekend against national power Central Missouri.
Most of Bearcat Field is still covered in snow, but with warmer temperatures on the horizon, it could be playable by the start of the series Saturday.
If not, the Bearcats will again have to find an alternate location, reducing their home schedule even further.
"I think it's an outside chance," said Loe. "I think tomorrow is warmer and it looks like Thursday is going to be a real nice melting day. We scooped some snow off the warning to get moving around in the outfield. That's going to help get rid of the snow and we'll see what it looks like underneath. We don't want to move our games until we exhaust every opportunity to play here at home."