CSU pitchers ready to lead team into Rocky Mountain Showdown

Sergio Santistevan

The Colorado State club baseball pitchers have often been relied on to carry the young team at times this season. This weekend will be no different as the Rams will face a high-pressure situation heading into the final weekend of the season.

CSU’s season has been a rollercoaster. They started their season by getting swept by both Lamar Community College and Trinidad Junior College. The Rams then lost a three-game series to the University of Nebraska; however, the lowest point of the season came during their Spring Break trip to Arizona.The Rams went on to lose all five games versus four Arizona schools in a span of a few days, but the team never folded.

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Since Arizona, the team has never looked back, accumulating an 11-game winning streak led by strong hitting and experienced pitching.

“We had a rough start to the season, but I think it made us closer and better as a team and we were able to turn our season around,” said closing pitcher, Brad Johnson.

That 11-game win streak may not matter if CSU ends ups on the losing side this weekend.

CSU will take on its rival, The University of Colorado, in a three-game series to determine the Mid-America West Conference Champion. Starting pitchers Phelan Castellano and Johnson would not want it any other way.

“Our team is really comfortable right now,” Johnson said. “We’ve swept our last three conference series and I think we’ve gotten better during each of those series so we’re expecting to keep the winning streak alive this weekend.”

Johnson and Castellano have both played in high-stake games before. Both pitchers have experience in close conference games, The National Club Baseball Association Regional Playoffs and World Series. This experience is something they hope gives them an advantage.

“This is the first year that CU has actually been pretty decent, which means they are going to most likely press in stressful innings,” Castellano said. “Considering we were in this same situation last year, we already know how to deal with this adversity and what it takes to win in times like this.”

Yet, the Rams are not underestimating the Buffaloes. Some would say CU has over-achieved this season, but the Rams refuse giving in to that notion and are expecting a challenge on the diamond.

“CU is going to play us hard,” Castellano said. “I’m really looking forward to this series because it’s the next opportunity to bring home a Rocky Mountain Showdown win for the school and the CSU community.”

Before the series gets underway, both pitchers say there are improvements that need to be made. Castellano says the team likes to come out strong on Saturdays, but struggles to get going on Sundays, which is something he hopes to change. Johnson wants the pitching staff to control the game defensively, throw more first-pitch strikes and limit the number of walks and mental errors.

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History sides with CSU this weekend, as CU has never beat CSU in a series. If history ends up being broken, both pitchers expressed how proud they would be of their team for overcoming earlier season struggles and getting to this point, though neither Johnson nor Castellano are expecting that outcome.

Johnson, possibly facing his last weekend as a player, only envisions his season ending with a “dog pile in North Carolina.”

One way or another, each team will get the chance to prove who wants it more, the winner being able to leave City Park Field as Mid-America West Conference Champions at the end. 

Collegian sports reporter Sergio Santistevan can be reached at sports@collegian.com or on Twitter @TheRealsSergio.