While the rest of the student body is pouring beers down their throats, sleeping in until noon, forgetting about responsibility and remaining unfocused over spring break, the CSU softball team will play 13 games in nine days.
The Rams (12-8) will have similar travel plans as the rest of CSU, but a different purpose behind them entirely. The team will be playing in two tournaments during the break, The National Invitational Softball Tournament and the beginning of the Capital Classic.
It has been almost two weeks since the Rams played their last game, and the team has used the time to catch up on some rest, get healthy and focus on school.
“We really took advantage of it,” said sophomore Caitlin “Bug” Stem. “We had a lot of team binding too.”
The Rams are traveling to California for the fourth time this season. However, the Sunshine State won’t distract the team’s focus.
“We’ll play anywhere,” said head coach Mary Yori.
Today, the Rams will be in San Jose, Calif. to play their first doubleheader against home squad San Jose State and east-coast travelers Vermont. The Spartans (6-14) and Catamounts (1-9) records make the teams seem like a mouse on a race track — not even a speed bump — but records can be deceiving.
“You can’t take anybody lightly,” said Yori. “(San Jose and Vermont) are going to be a tough opponent, everyone always is.”
The second day also has the Rams scheduled for a doubleheader. The team will battle Sacramento State (5-12) and UC Davis (10-9). Sac State has only one player batting above .300 and the Aggies have none; the Rams have five, including offensive powerhouse Stem, who is batting .406.
On Sunday the Rams will get some rest as they have only one game against Vermont, then one day off for more rest and travel, as the team will head to Stockton, Calif. to play three more games.
Tuesday, the team will play two games against the Pacific Tigers (9-9). The tigers are led by senior pitcher Heidi Helberg who is 4-2 on the season.
The Rams’ bats have been like a guy wearing sunglasses on a bus at night — sketchy. And going against good west coast pitchers, the team knows it need to improve.
“I think our team can really break though this weekend in hitting, I’m really confident in our offense,” Stem said. “I know that all of us have the potential to hit the crud out of the ball. We need to build that offense. Right now we just lose focus.”
The Rams will leave California and head to the biggest little city in world, Reno, Nev., to play the Wolf Pack of Nevada (16-9). The Rams will have to put together a good game against the Pack as they have seven players with 20 hits this season.
The Rams will have to depend on their great communication and ability to put together complete games to win against a good team and a tough travel schedule.
“We need to make sure our energy level is up and keep things consistent,” said infielder Robyn Mask. “At this point everyone knows what they need to do, so it’s just going to take individuals knowing what to do and getting it done.”
Thursday the team butts heads with the Ivy League’s Dartmouth (5-4) before getting another shot at Sac State in the afternoon.
The next three days the Rams will get time to recoup from the break as they play one game a day. Friday, they play against the Dartmouth’s Big Green once again.
The Rams will play California (17-4) next. The Rams have had mixed success against the Pac-10, beating Oregon 1-0, but losing to UCLA 4-0. The Rams hope to make use of their young pitching to hold Cal to a low scoring game, the way freshman Kelli Eubanks did against the Ducks.
The final game before returning to Fort Collins will be against Cal Poly (16-6). The Mustangs just finished a ten game win streak, and are cruising as one of the nation’s best teams. The Rams will rely on their past to improve their future against such formidable opponents in long series of games.
“Our players are really confident. They go into every game expecting to win,” Yori said. “They’re confident and the approach the have is a lot of pride.”
Softball beat writer Keith Robertson can be reached at email@example.com.