CSU club baseball team’s season ends in Topeka

Emmett McCarthy

The Colorado State club baseball team’s season came to an end over the weekend at the Mid-America West Regionals in Topeka, Kansas.

While the players and coaches are still feeling the disappointment of not returning to the National Club Baseball Association World Series, the season as a whole was another step toward further establishing the winning culture in a program that once won six championships over a seven-year period (2004-2010).

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“Going 17-1, winning conference … that was a big step up from taking second last year and having the record we did,” head coach Brian Dilley said. “Getting the No. 1 seed in Regionals was a high point – and, just the rebuilding of this program. I think we made some strides to get back to that.”

CSU tore through the Mid-America West, amassing a 17-1 record and securing the top seed heading into Regionals. The Rams had a stunning seven-run average margin of victory against conference opponents, and sophomore Mike Medina led the entire NCBA with 40 runs batted in.

But, much like last year, when the Rams snuck in as the wild-card team and upset top-seeded Missouri, CSU was caught off guard in the first round by eventual region champions Iowa State.

The Rams found themselves down 4-1 after three innings when Kevin Roberts came into relieve Mitch Nelson. Despite four scoreless innings from Roberts, the team never got its bats going, and Iowa State was able to hold for a 4-2 win.

CSU rebounded in the next round against Missouri. Despite trailing early, the Rams fought back to win 4-2. Tate Hughes pitched a complete game to keep the Rams’ post-season alive for at least one more game.

“Tate kept us in that game,” senior Matt Hart said. “We weren’t hitting like we know we can, but Tate shut them down.”

However, CSU was unable to carry that momentum over to their next game against Iowa. The Rams lost 8-4, effectively ending their season. Hart credited Iowa’s pitching staff for giving the Rams a new look from what they had dealt with all year, nullifying some of their hitting.

“They weren’t as defensively sound, but we did not put enough pressure on them to beat them,” Hart said. “We are a fastball hitting team, and they threw a junk baller against us in that third game. We just couldn’t get good pieces of it. He was fooling us with his curveball.”

Hart is one of a handful of seniors whose playing career at CSU came to a close over the weekend. It is not how he would have liked to wrap it up, but he and the other seniors – Mitch Nelson, Brett Bogner, Drew Sandlin and Robert Garza – made accomplishments in their time at CSU that will resonate beyond the 2015 season.

Dilley, who took over full head coaching duties just this season, recognized the seniors for all they did to help the team through the coaching change.

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“Losing those guys is definitely a big deal for me personally,” Dilley said. “Those seniors are what kind of helped the transition between head coaches, which there have been quite a few of throughout their careers. Having them has really helped mold some of the younger guys.”

Bogner has talked with Dilley about potentially coming back to help coach in the future, a path similar to the one Dilley took after playing for CSU from 2007-2009. But whether or not coaching fits into Bogner’s schedule post-graduation, he and other seniors have already left their mark.

“I’m excited about the direction this program is going,” Dilley said of the winning culture he looked to establish this year. “We’re going to continue to build it up and get better every single year.”

Iowa State defeated Iowa in the finals and will now represent the Mid-America Region at the NCBA World Series in Paducah, Kentucky, from May 22-28.

Collegian Sports Editor Emmett McCarthy can be reached by email at sports@collegian.com and on Twitter @emccarthy22.