With momentum beginning to pick up, the Colorado State baseball club team has its sights set on conference play. CSU will take on in-state rival Colorado in a four-game home series this weekend to kick off play in the Mid-America West region.
“It’s our must-win rivalry,” senior outfielder Matt Hart said. “If we lose to CU, we don’t take it very kindly.”
The Rams got off to a rough start this year, getting swept by Trinidad State Junior College and Lamar Community College, but that was not exactly cause for concern.
Both programs have gotten the best of CSU in past years, and are consistently two of the tougher teams on the team’s schedule. Those losses served as learning experiences for a younger Rams team.
“More than anything, it helped us realize where we were at,” Hart said. “We didn’t hit very well those first few games at all, so it made us step back and make some adjustments.”
Those adjustments have paid off for the Rams who have gone on a 4-2 run since. Trinidad’s and Lamar’s superb pitching pushed CSU to another level in the hitting department, and the team has been crushing opposing pitchers lately.
The real trouble in the 0-6 start was the fact that CSU managed no more than two runs in any of the games, and was held scoreless in two of the outings. But the Rams have reached double-digits five times since then, and saw runners touch home seven times in a loss to Arizona State.
Sophomore Mike Medina leads the conference in RBIs (13), while teammates Jake Walker (8) and Brett Bogner (7) also rank in the top five.
Walker recently earned conference Player of the Week honors for his work at the plate. Over the course of four non-conference games, Walker went 11-for-17 with a triple and seven RBIs while drawing two walks. He also stole five bases and scored seven runs.
“We finally got our bats going,” CSU head coach Brian Dilley said. “It’s just pulling together our defense, and I think we’ll be a very hard team to beat.”
Opponents have posted double-digit run totals in the Rams’ last three outings, and eight times altogether this season. Pitching has not always been the issue, though. They have a solid rotation, with Sean Suelter and Alex Marshall both ranking top-five in the conference with eight strikeouts each.
Kevin Roberts earned Pitcher of the Week honors for his tremendous outing in a 12-9 win over Grand Canyon University. The 6-foot-4 freshman did not give up a single earned run over seven innings and struck out four batters.
“We have a lot of potential on the team this year,” Dilley said. “Now we’re having those pitchers – our starting four in particular – really finding their groove and doing what the coaching staff knows that they can do.”
Now, they have to keep it up. The Rams’ will need to be sharp defensively in order to win against a talented CU team.
“They have a younger team, but young does not mean bad,” Dilley said. “We have got to come out prepared like we are playing for a championship, because every conference game we play could really lead to that championship.”
Marshall will take the mound Saturday for CSU in the first game of a doubleheader against the Buffs. The first game is set to start at 1 p.m. and the second is set for 3:30 p.m.
The series wraps up with another doubleheader on Sunday, with the games set once again for 1 p.m. and 3:30 p.m., though the final game will not count toward conference standings. All games will be played at City Park South Field in Fort Collins, Colorado.
Collegian Sports Reporter Emmett McCarthy can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org and on Twitter @emccarthy22.