The Colorado State University Club Baseball Team has their mind set on winning a seventh National Club Baseball Association championship, but first they will have to get past Mother Nature’s spell.
Because of bad weather and sloppy field conditions, the Rams’ only games so far this season were against Lamar Community College, nearly a month ago. CSU dropped the Feb. 4 doubleheader in Lamar by scores of 4-1 and 7-2, but the box score does not tell the whole story.
“I thought our guys played with a lot of passion,” said first-year head coach Troy Tolar. “Our hitting was a little off I think mostly just because our guys haven’t really been outside and it was our first time seeing live pitching.”
Following their series against Lamar, the Rams have had a string of games cancelled in the last three weeks. Nevertheless, the back-to-back Mid-America-West Conference champions are still earning respect from the NCBA.
CSU is ranked fourth in the latest NCBA poll, but coach Tolar does not put much stock in early season rankings.
“We’ve been really talking to the guys about how the rankings don’t really mean anything,” Tolar said. “All that matters is where you finish at the end.”
Coach Tolar may not believe the ranking matter, but other teams in the conference have certainly painted a target on the CSU’s back. However, being the proverbial team to beat is nothing new for the six-time NCBA national champions and this year’s squad plans to use that as motivation.
“We’re definitely not expecting like anything is going to be handed to us,” said third-year player Jake Walker. “We’re always playing with a chip on our shoulder and knowing we have that target on our back makes us work harder.”
CSU appeared in the NCBA World Series last year, but has not taken home a national championship since 2010. This year’s Rams are serious about getting back to the big game and they might just have the right team to bring a seventh title back to Fort Collins.
“This is my third year of coaching and this is by far the hardest working team that I have coached since being at CSU,” Tolar said. “It’s really cool to see them growing and have that passion to want to work hard and do well.”
If the Rams want to make it back to the World Series they will first have to get through a strong Mid-America-West Conference. Despite taking home the conference title last season, taking care of business in the conference is an area where they can improve.
“We kind of slipped up in conference last year and made it a little too close for comfort,” Walker said.
Another area the Rams are looking to improve on from last year is hitting off-speed pitches and hitting the ball to opposite fields. Coach Tolar said that was a big focus this fall and it surely paid off as CSU won a 24-team tournament in Dallas at the end of the fall season.
If weather permits, CSU can resume their campaign back to the NCBA World Series with four games on the slate this weekend. CSU has a pair of games against Air Force this Saturday at City Park Field and then will hop across state lines for two games against Western Nebraska Community College.
After being stuck indoors for the better part of a month, the Rams expect a big weekend.
“I think we have a chance to win all four games,” Walker said, “Everyone is eager to get back on the field. I think that will help a lot.”
Collegian sports reporter Christian Hedrick can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @Christianhcsu