Within the realm of a Division I university, club sports teams can fly under the radar and be unpublicized regardless of their level of success.
Colorado State features a top-five club baseball program that is currently sitting at 20-5 on the year and just recently watched their 15-game win streak come to an end. The Rams began their offseason with a single goal in mind, a championship.
“The team is focused on being the hardest working team every day,” head coach Troy Tolar said. “Doing the little things right every time and staying disciplined.”
The Rams have shown the offseason was worthwhile and embraced the attitude of outworking every other team, refusing to rest on their morals.
“We have to take it one game at a time,” Matt Davis said. “(We can’t) look at any (other) team’s records or stats. We try to play our type of game, and play each team hard with the same effort and intensity.”
From the offseason, the Rams have been hitting and pitching at a high level. The results have shown from the work they put in. CSU possesses two starting pitchers with ERAs lower than 2.25, and an ace in Jared Van Vark that boasts a 1.97 ERA.
“I just try to focus on my base mechanics so I don’t overthink it,” Van Vark said. “I definitely feel like we’re growing as a team, and each week we get more in sync.”
The pitching staff is controlled by a duo of catchers, Jake Walker and Mack Morford. Walker is the team’s leadoff hitter and has set the table for the team’s offense. Along with heading the lineup, Walker has built a relationship with the pitchers of the team, and the chemistry has continued to grow as the season has progressed.
“I feel like I have to have a different relationship with each pitcher,” Walker said. “Knowing what they’re comfortable throwing and letting them know I got their back through a good outing or a bad outing.”
The pitching core has been aided by hot bats that have refused to cool down since the beginning of the season. Davis and Morford both rank top five in the nation for home runs. Along with power, Davis and Matthew Smith are top seven in the nation in overall hits, with Davis carrying an RBI total of 41 to lead the nation.
“Me and (Morford) know our job is to drive in our guys,” Davis said. “Our team expects and trusts me and (Morford) to do just that every time we can.”
Despite a win percentage of .800 and being in the upper echelon of the nation, the Rams continue to better themselves and to expand their winning into the postseason.
“We have a lot of guys who have stepped up as leaders,” Tolar said. “Multiple leaders holding everyone accountable really requires the whole team to raise the bar.”
Their leadership spans across the board, with multiple voices being heard in the program and many voices speaking through their quality of play. Leader of the infield, Smith, the starting shortstop, realizes that his time is short and this season is do-or-die for him as a Ram.
“We want a national title bad,” Smith said. “There will be an element of disappointment if we don’t get (a championship), but I’m thankful to be playing ball with my teammates, no matter how the end of the season turns out.”
The common trend across the team is a work ethic pushing for a championship, but also one that realizes the significance of what they have already done and know that the work ethic will continue through the following years.
“(This season) has really put us on the map even more” Davis said. “We are trying to keep the tradition going as a steady, hard-working ball club. It really shows the rest of the nation that we are here to compete year in and year out.”
The Rams will continue their unheralded season against the Colorado School of Mines, where they will look to continue their perfect conference record. The team plays Friday night, and a doubleheader Saturday.
“We have the chance to clinch (our) conference this coming weekend,” Van Vark said. “So now we need to set our goals even higher to push ourselves.”
Collegian sports reporter Luke Zahlmann can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @lukezahlmann