Pitching and timely hitting secure weekend sweep for CSU baseball

Christian Hedrick

Colorado State club baseball outfielder Brandon DeLay capped a three-game sweep of Colorado Mesa University with a pair of walk-off at bats in front of the home fans at City Park Field last weekend.

Although the Rams won all three games over the weekend, the defending conference champions had to rally back twice in order to secure a sweep and remain atop the Mid-America West conference.    

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“It was a hard-fought weekend, a lot of close games,” CSU catcher Jake Walker said. “We’ve been preaching the word ‘fortitude’ all year and battling through adversity and always sticking with each other. In the first and third games, we got down early, but we just stuck with it and believed the whole time.”

In the series opener on Friday night, the Rams fell behind early, but used timely hitting and aggressive base running to level the game at nine after nine innings. In the bottom of the 10th with a runner on second base, DeLay approached the plate with a mission.  

“I was just trying to put something in play and find a gap because Jake (Walker) was on second and I knew a single would score him,” DeLay said.

Instead of a single, though, DeLay left nothing to chance and blasted a game-winning line-drive home run over the left field fence, his first ever walk-off shot.

“I was just trying to hit the ball hard somewhere and it ended up going out,” DeLay said.

In the first rematch on Saturday afternoon, the Rams’ offense took a backseat to a stellar outing from starting pitcher Phelan Castellano. The lefthander’s clinical performance kept the Mavericks from crossing the plate, while the Rams pushed across three for the shutout victory.

“In the second game, Phelan just pitched a gem,” Walker said. “It’s awesome being back there (catching) when a pitcher is like that. It’s just like having a video game controller in your hand.”

In the series finale, the CMU bats broke their scoreless drought on a go-ahead home run in the second inning. While the Mavericks tacked on three runs in four innings, the Rams were still looking for their first hit of the game. Though CMU starting pitcher Matthew Smith looked dominate early, the Rams admit they were not putting together quality at bats.

“I think the pitcher threw well, but I also think that we just didn’t really have a great approach to the first four innings,” CSU head coach Troy Tolar said. “We were kind of giving at-bats away and we need to work on fighting a little more at the plate to put some pressure on them.”

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After pitcher Luke Demolli shut down the Mavericks in the top of the fifth, the Rams gathered for a meeting in front of their dugout on the third baseline and adjusted their approach.

“Right after that fifth inning – after we realized we weren’t getting any hits – we were talking about going up there and swinging at those first-pitch strikes and seeing what happens and it worked out for us,” Walker said.

With a more aggressive approach in the bottom of the fifth, Mark Singleton shot a double into the gap for the Rams’ first hit. The Rams added two runs in the fifth and two more in the bottom of the sixth, but the Mavericks did not go down without a fight. Down to their last out in the top of the seventh, CMU strung together a series of hits and tied the game at four.

Walker led off the bottom of the seventh with a walk, setting the table for another walk-off shot from DeLay. With a runner on first, though, DeLay was asked to put his hot stick away and lay down a sacrifice bunt to advance Walker into scoring position.

DeLay laid down a bunt between the mound and third base, forcing the pitcher to make a diving stop and throw from his back. The ill-advised throw sailed over the first baseman’s head and towards the bullpen. From first base, Walker did not stop running and easily crossed home for the wining run and back-to-back walk-off wins.

“That just goes to show what can happen when you put the ball in play and let the baseball gods kind of decide it,” Walker said.

The Rams are back in action next weekend with four games against Colorado School of Mines at a location yet to be determined.

Collegian sports reporter Christian Hedrick can be reached by email at sports@collegian.com or on Twitter @ChristianHCSU.