Most teams would feel pressure if it was expected to win a national championship before the season even started. But the CSU club baseball team thrives off of it.
Now, two days before the National Club Baseball regional tournament in Hutchinson, Kansas, the Rams (27-9) are in the exact position they want to be while going for their fourth national title.
Coach Mike Abernathy is confident in his team’s ability to accomplish its ultimate and primary goal.
“If we go out and play the way we’re supposed to, we will walk through regionals and we should bring home a fourth title,” he said.
After getting off to a rough start, CSU has been on a major hot streak, winning 16 of its last 17 games. Abernathy said the Rams are playing their best ball of the season, something that was not true last year when they were knocked out in the third round of the national tournament after winning three consecutive national titles.
“We are peaking at the right time,” he said. “This is the most talented group I have ever had and we are right where we want to be.”
Left fielder Brian Dilley agreed with his coach.
“The team is ready for it,” the senior said. “Some of the guys who started out slow are coming on now.”
The Rams have had a good mix of hitting and pitching this season, which has been a key to their success.
Abernathy makes it clear that he expects a national championship from the very beginning of the season and said that the team has bought into that philosophy.
“It’s the whole team’s view,” he said. “We make it clear on the first day what is expected. If players don’t expect to win, then it’s not the right place for them.”
Dilley, who is tied for the national lead in home runs and RBI’s, said that the constant pressure of such expectations keeps the team sharp.
“It gives us that constant drive,” he said. “We go out expecting to win every game, but we play like it could be our last.”
CSU is scheduled to play Northern Iowa in the first round of the tournament Saturday. If the Rams advance, they have a chance of facing perennial foe, the University of Colorado.
CSU defeated the Buffaloes in two of the pair’s three meetings this season.
Dilley said that playing familiar teams definitely gives his team the advantage, adding he would thoroughly enjoy knocking CU out of competition.
“We have played these teams before, so we know what kind of competition we’re up against,” the business major said. “If CU advances, we would really like another shot to take it to them.”
Sports reporter Adam Bohlmeyer can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org