Momentum – that’s what the CSU baseball team held all weekend heading into the final game of a four-game home series against University of Northern Colorado.
After a stellar pitching performance from Phelan Castellano, the Rams went into the tail-end of their doubleheader leading the series three games to none.
“I should throw more first-pitch strikes, but I had a lot of trust in our defense so it’s a team win right there,” Castellano said.
The most recent 5-2 CSU win over UNC guaranteed a series victory for the Rams. Yesterday, the Rams looked great on both sides of the diamond as well, winning both games by scores of 8-4 and 9-4.
“We entered the game feeling really good,” head coach Brian Dilley said. “We expect anybody we put on the field to go in and get the job done.”
The Rams credit this recent success to the games they played against top-tier junior colleges Trinidad State and Lamar. Though CSU was not able to record a victory against either of these schools, the experience definitely helped them improve as a team.
“Playing competition like that helps us to come out here and understand that if we can play with those guys, we should be able to beat UNC,” pitcher Tate Hughes said.
CSU entered the final game of the series outscoring UNC a laughable 22-10. However, the Rams fell to UNC 7-3, and for the time being, had to settle for winning three out of four games.
“I’m a little upset that we didn’t control ourselves better the last game,” Dilley said.
Through the first three games of the series, the Rams’ pitching looked extremely sharp all around. It was a different story in the final game, as starting pitcher Brad Johnson was shelled by UNC for a total of five runs in just four innings. This was Johnson’s first career start in conference play.
“I could have pitched a little better. I had a couple of full counts and needed to hit the strike zone a bit more,” Johnson admitted.
UNC built up a 5-0 lead in only the third inning. The Rams failed to show any signs of life for the majority of the game. It wasn’t until the sixth that a single went up the middle to score a run from third and break the shutout. The Rams trailed 7-1 at that point.
CSU showed they still had a pulse and
impressively rallied in the seventh. The Rams strung together a few hits and
brought home two runs, making the score 7-3. But, UNC got back-to-back CSU hitters to strike out to end the game. The Rams stranded runners on second and third.
“It’s always tough leaving some ducks on the pond, but it shows that even though we were dead the entire game when we get some fire under our belt we are pretty dangerous,” Castellano said.
Despite ending on a bad note, the Rams’ spirits were quickly lifted. As as the game ended, word got out that UNC had been breaking a valuable rule for the whole series.
“UNC was playing illegal players, so they will automatically forfeit that fourth game,” Dilley said. “They have to have their roster on the NCBA website and they played several players who are not on the official website.”
This grants the Rams a 4-0 record in conference play instead of a slightly less impressive 3-1. Regardless, they are set up nicely to run the table within their conference this season.
“I feel extremely good, we saw a lot of good things from our pitchers and I think we are going to be an extremely tough team to beat,” Dilley said.
Rams players are making sure to stay humble with this blessing of a victory.
“We’re still counting it as 3-1 but it’s nice to have it as 4-0 in the record books,” Castellano said.
The Rams will now travel to Tampa Bay, Florida to face off against University of Indiana, University of Florida, Minnesota State University-Moorhead, University of Iowa, Purdue University, and University of Iowa. These are all teams who the Rams expect to see if they make it to nationals. Iowa is also a school the Rams are sure they will see at regionals.
The Rams’ next home games will be played on April 2-3 against conference rival Colorado. They will look to keep their perfect record in conference play alive.
Collegian Sports Reporter Eddie Herz can be reached at email@example.com and on Twitter @Eddie_Herz