A bid to the regional National Club Baseball Association Tournament in Topeka, Kansas, starting May 8, is almost locked in for CSU’s club baseball team.
With seven Mid-America West Conference games remaining on their schedule, the Rams (11-0 Mid-America West, 16-10 overall) have a shot to solidify their spot in Topeka this weekend with three conference games against Wyoming (3-9 Mid-America West, 8-14). The Rams and Cowboys will face off four times in Cheyenne, but the final game of the back-to-back double-headers Saturday and Sunday will not count as part of the conference schedule. (Cheyenne holds the setting for the series due to the Cowboys’ home field in Laramie being remodeled.)
“We believe if we sweep, if we win all three conference games this weekend, then we’ll clinch (a regional bid),” CSU head coach Brian Dilley said.
Sitting five games back from first-place CSU, Northern Colorado (6-5 Mid-America West, 12-9) could still technically slide into the lead and steal the conference’s bid if the Rams drop all three at Wyoming as well as both of their conference matchups with the Bears next weekend.
But, Dilley doesn’t see that in the cards. Instead, he said he expects four victories for his team this weekend, as the Cowboys’ roster boasts “nobody that jumps off the page.”
That statement comes in spite of the conference’s leading batter, senior outfielder Connor Norton, hitting .523, donning a Cowboys uniform. Yet, he isn’t a particularly dangerous power hitter, according to Dilley, as much as one who just gets his bat on the ball for quick hits.
“We just have to worry about keeping the ball down and doing what we do,” Dilley said.
CSU slugger Jake Walker remains the heartbeat of the team, according to Dilley, even though his batting average dropped nearly .040 points to .483 from .521 prior to the CU series.
“He’s in a little bit of a funk right now, but we’re getting that ironed out, and we’re expecting him to do big things the rest of the season,” Dilley said.
Starting on the mound in game one on Saturday at noon for CSU will be senior left-hander Mitch Nelson, who’s coming off a complete game shutout for a win against CU in a performance warranting the conference’s Pitcher of the Week honor. The 6-foot-1 lefty currently ranks second in the league in ERA at 4.05 and fifth in strikeouts with 18.
Rounding off the Rams’ starting pitching staff for the weekend are senior right-handers Tate Hughes and Alex Marshall. Hughes sits right behind Nelson with a 5.04 ERA for a rank of fifth, while Marshall leads the Rams in wins with four.
In addition to fighting for a trip to Topeka to play for an NCBA World Series appearance, the Rams have a chance to go undefeated in conference play, a feat which may have never before been accomplished by CSU, according to Dilley.
“I don’t know if it’s ever happened. On all the teams that I played on, we always seemed to drop one to UNC or drop one to CU, so to go undefeated would be an awesome accomplishment for us,” the former standout Ram said.
Collegian Sports Reporter Sam Lounsberry can be reached at email@example.com and on Twitter @samlounz.