Kansas is not typically a state with much to get excited about. Unless you have an obsession with corn fields or tornadoes, the Sunflower State tends to fly under the radar. But for the CSU baseball team, the city of Topeka will be full of intensity on Friday night.
Thursday afternoon, the Rams bussed across state lines to prepare for their first game of the Mid-America Regional Tournament. They take on the University of Missouri at 8:15 p.m. on Friday; another talented team who has made it to regionals the past four years.
“Missouri is a really good squad. They have a pretty good conference record (10-1), but they played the minimal amount of games,” first baseman Brad Spies said. “So we are a little bit more battle-tested than they are, so that should come in to play and benefit us this weekend.”
CSU played Mizzou two years ago in 2012, beating them en route to a World Series run. But last year, the Rams dropped their first two games against Iowa and UNC, denying Missouri a chance at revenge.
This year will be the first time the Tigers will have another go at the Rams, and they will be looking for redemption. But even looking past the game against Mizzou, the Rams will have a big target on their back.
“We always has a target on our back, no matter how good or bad our season is,” Spies says. “We are used to playing with it, and this is really where the real season for us starts, because we expect to be here every year.”
Spies, who had to recover from a hamstring injury will be healthy enough to play a full game Friday, has added extra strength to CSU’s batting lineup. The Rams will also utilize the pitching prowess of Riley Hughes for Friday’s game.
Hughes suffered through injuries for the first half of the season before making a spectacular, seven-inning, single-hit comeback in the final regular season game of the season. In order to advance, CSU will have to win three regional games, and head coach Nick Childs is confident that his team will do just that.
“This is really the first time we have been almost complete healthy. It’s nice to have a full bench, we have a deep team and we expect it to go really well,” Childs said. “We are just going to go out, play the game and hope for the best — we will be the most prepared team at regionals.”Collegian Reporter Cali Rastrelli can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and on Twitter @c_rasta5.