The Rams found their sunshine on a cloudy day. Despite the blustery skies, rain delays and one brawl, they came away with the first of two victories they need to advance to regionals.
At first, the CSU baseball team’s playoff hopes looked as bleak as the weather, allowing UNC to dig them into a 5-2 hole. But senior outfielder Ben Furtner was not having it.
In the bottom of the fourth inning, he whacked a double that would spark the Rams into a six-run rally, putting them ahead 8-5.
“They came out and scored 5 runs in the fourth, I knew we had to answer that,” Furtner said. “I’m a senior on the team, so I tried to be a leader and start something, and it worked.”
Furtner continued his heroics, making a spectacular diving catch off of the first pitch in the sixth, a three up three down down inning for closer Riley Hughes.
The Rams did not look back from there, making use of their frequent at bats to score a total of 15 runs to the Bears’ 5.
The game was slightly marred after junior outfielder Tyson Martinez was thrown out at home off of a controversial call. Then, in the sixth inning, tension between Martinez and UNC pitcher Nico Blonde Eagle escalated.
Blonde Eagle attempted to hit Martinez as he was stealing home, which Martinez and his teammates took to be intentional, resulting in a dugout-clearing brawl.
“It was not intentional at all,” Blonde Eagle said. “Our short stop came out to defend [me] and their whole bench cleared.”
However, despite the opinions of his players, UNC coach Ryan Huck recognizes that in games where much is at stake, like this one, things are bound to get heated.
“It’s two good ball teams trying to win a conference, that’s the way it works,” he said. “It’s a fiery group, much like ourselves and it’s a hot game. You’ve got to win the conference.”
CSU coach Nick Childs feels similar, brushing off any extra meanings with the play. He concedes that it may have been an act of desperation on UNCs part, as they were down nine runs.
“It doesn’t matter to us,” he says. “We know that we just played a great game, we just won by ten runs in a game we needed to win, and that’s all we care about.”
For his part, Martinez somewhat expected something of that nature to occur, because the Bears and the Rams have a long and heated history between them.
“It’s always going to be heated against UNC, no matter what,” he said. “I was surprised at how far it went, but not that it happened. We don’t like them and they don’t like us.”
Regardless, the two teams will have to meet again in the near future, as the second game of the series was cancelled due to rain. It must be rescheduled so that the three-team race to regionals between UNC, CSU and CU-Boulder can be decided.
Baseball Beat Reporter Cali Rastrelli can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.