Colorado State baseball has not lost a single conference game in their 2017 season and continued the trend with a clean sweep of the Colorado School of Mines over the weekend.
In the first game of the series, the Rams started with a bang as Jake Walker hit a no-doubt homerun leading off and the team never looked back. They tacked on three more in the first on their way to a 14-4 victory in a shortened eight inning game due to the 10-run mercy rule.
During the game, defensive stalwart Matt Smith was involved in a collision with center fielder Matthew Hart that resulted in a dropped pop fly and, more importantly, Smith writhing in pain.
“That was rough,” Smith said. “(The ball) was in no man’s land. We both had already committed for it and slid into each other.”
The Rams kept their wits about them during the play, picking the ball up and throwing out the runner trying to advance to second on the play.
Smith shook off the hit and promptly drove in a run in the bottom half of the inning, though the run to first was accompanied by a limp.
“(I) got a real bad Charlie horse on my quad,” Smith said. “It did not feel good in the moment.”
In the second game of the series, CSU ace Jared Van Vark took the mound, looking to bounce back from a less than stellar game in their loss to Northeastern JC, 10-2. It was the Rams’ first taste of defeat in 15 games.
“It’s good to play those games that give us a good gut check,” Van Vark said. “(The loss) kind of shows us what it will take and what kind of game we have to play for us to win a championship.”
Van Vark’s struggles continued Saturday as he allowed four runs and a plethora of hard hit balls, a sharp contrast from his usually soft contact inducing ways.
“I think it’s from being a little lazy with my mechanics,” Van Vark said. “My last couple starts, I’ve been falling behind to almost every batter 2-0. It’s hard to go deep into games when you do that.”
The Rams offense came to the rescue with a big third inning, courtesy of a long ball. Hart and Mack Morford both smacked solo homeruns to left field to ignite the Rams en route to yet another 14-4 victory, this time in six innings.
Despite recent struggles by Morford, who received a day off at the plate Friday, his battery mate, Matt Davis, has faith in the Rams’ 4-5 lineup combo.
“I think he’s doing alright,” Davis said. “Maybe a little off, but we all get in our heads sometimes. I just play off my own momentum and try to drive in runs whenever I can.”
The third and final game of the series belonged to the Rams’ bullpen. After Clint Watt threw four innings, allowing two runs, the Rams’ bullpen came in and threw three shutout innings, allowing a mere two runners to even reach first.
“We are really deep this year,” Van Vark said. “It lets us keep everyone fresh.”
The pitching staff and relief corps were backed by another moonshot at the plate by Davis, who finished the game 2-3 with two runs batted in before being substituted in the bottom of the fifth. Davis was supported by Morford who is breaking out of his slump, going 2-4 with a pair of singles.
“I feel comfortable in the five hole behind Mack,” Davis said. “Kind of a you go, I go deal.”
The Rams finished the game scoreless in the final three innings at the plate, but the eight they put up early were enough to seal the deal as they cruised to an 8-2 victory to cap off the sweep and earn a shorts day in practice this week to the delight of Smith.
“We love sweeping,” Smith said, “(getting to) wear shorts every week.”
The Rams’ depth will be tested as they face a six-game week where they will host Northeastern JC and Metro State, followed by a four-game series against showdown rival, University of Colorado.
“It’ll be good for everyone to get some innings before regionals,” Van Vark said.
The Rams will travel to Boulder for the series where they will play two doubleheaders, both with games at noon and 2 p.m.
Collegian sports reporter Luke Zahlmann can be reached by email at email@example.com or on Twitter @lukezahlmann