The Colorado State club baseball team has been here before. Last year, the Rams opened their season by losing six straight games to various junior colleges.
Fast forward to this season. The Rams were once again staring at an 0-6 record entering conference play. The Rams feel their most recent struggles against junior colleges was due to not quite being in the swing of things yet.
“It was our first time to get on a field all spring and they’ve been on the field for months, that really gave them the advantage,” said Tate Hughes, one of Saturday’s starting pitchers.
Saturday, the Rams hosted a doubleheader against University of Northern Colorado. Their prayers of starting off on the right foot in conference play were thoroughly answered. CSU swept the doubleheader in convincing fashion, winning the first game by a score of 8-4 and the next game 9-4. The key to the Rams success was their ability to perform well at the plate.
“We swung it very well, we came out and put up runs,” said coach Brian Dilley. “It made our pitchers relax more.”
Outfielder Nick Merten played a major role in CSU’s successful day hitting. Though he went hitless in the first game, he came through with two key hits and a run-scoring sacrifice fly in the second game. He managed to break the game open in the second inning with a monster three-run homer to left field. This gave the Rams a comfortable 8-1 lead.
“It was a 2-0 fastball and I knew he was going to throw me a fastball so I just tried to hit it,” Merten said.
The run support in the second game was more than enough for veteran starting pitcher Hughes. The fifth-year senior was just one inning shy of a complete game. Hughes grinded out a solid performance. However, the wheels came loose a little in the fifth when UNC was able to tally three runs. This included a big home run to dead center.
“A couple bloopers fell in and that kid who homered had my number the whole day,” said Hughes.
Hughes completed six innings and let up four earned runs. He earned his first win of the season.
“I felt fine but I didn’t have my best stuff today,” said Hughes. “But it’s nice to know that you can not have your best stuff and still win.”
Northern Colorado was able to scrape together a few hits in the seventh inning, putting some pressure on the Rams pitching staff for the first time all day.
Rams’ pitcher Matt Mader worked himself in and out of trouble in the seventh. He closed the game by getting a Northern Colorado hitter to ground out to second base with the bases loaded. Mader also got a huge strikeout in the inning to halt Northern Colorado’s rally.
“I just reared up and gave him a fastball, hoping he’d miss it and he did,” said Mader.
CSU will host another double header against Northern Colorado tomorrow, Sunday March 6th. They are looking to earn a four game sweep against arguably the most challenging team.
Collegian Sports Reporter Eddie Herz can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and on twitter @Eddie_Herz