The NCBA Mid-America conference commissioner was scheduled to call Duffy and tell him whether his team’s season was over or if the Rams made it into the regional tournament’s final spot, which is voted on.
“I picked up the phone and he told me to make sure the team had a practice schedule this week, it was something else, but quite a sigh of relief,” Duffy said. “Immediately I was wired and had no idea what happened in class that morning.”
Just seconds after, it only took two words exchanged between Duffy and CSU coach Nick Childs to relieve all tension that lingered the night before.
“I answered and before I could even say hello he shouted ‘We’re in!’ and that’s when all of the weight was lifted. You could just hear how excited he was, it was easy to tell,” Childs said.
The Rams are now headed to Topeka, KS this weekend to compete at the NCBA regionals with Iowa, Missouri and UNC.
CSU has made an appearance in the tournament every year since it was established in 2004. The Rams now face double-elimination over four games, the winner will move on to the National World Series in Tampa, FL at the end of the month.
“We’re one of the hottest teams in the country right now; we ended our season in the last couple weeks the exact way we needed to,” senior outfielder Ben Furtner said.
The only year CSU failed to make it past the regional tournament and into nationals was in 2011. The Rams started that tournament off on the wrong foot with a 4-3 loss in which Childs was the starting pitcher.
It ended up ultimately being his last start as a player.
“I don’t know if it carried over with me into coaching, but it certainly wasn’t the way I wanted to end it,” Childs said. “It was the little things that cost us that game and that’s what kind of eats at me, you never want to end your career that way.”
The seniors on the team remember that game well, and are doing everything they can to ensure history doesn’t repeat itself.
“When we saw that we were young and it was an eye-opener,” Furtner said. “Now as older guys we’re trying to not let making it to regionals be the focus point for the younger guys, instead we look at it as three games standing between us and nationals.”
CSU has seen Iowa and Missouri at regionals in previous years, on top of playing UNC 11 times this season. The familiar faces of their opponents have the Rams confident they will be on a plane to Florida to play for a seventh national title.
“This team was able to turn it on at the right time, and it has me fired up, we know exactly what we’re facing,” Duffy said. “I’ve already been talking with the travel agent, trying to figure out airline tickets. It’s our full expectation to be down there.”
Club Sports Beat Reporter Quentin Sickafoose can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.