After a regular season that saw a 14-game winning streak, four losing streaks of three or more games and the departure of a four-time national championship winning coach, the CSU club baseball team is ready to put the past behind them and move ahead into postseason play.
The Rams clinched the Mid-America West region last weekend by beating Northern Colorado in a nail-biting 4-2 victory Sunday to secure their place in the regional round of postseason play starting May 11.
The Rams will enter their regional playoff game May 11 in Topeka, Kan. as the seventh-ranked team in the latest NCBA division-I rankings against a to be determined opponent.
â€œLast weekend, it was tough for us,â€ shortstop Colton Duffy said. â€œBut I think we learned a lot about how we need to go about playing in the playoffs. We canâ€™t go into the playoffs playing not to lose, but youâ€™ve gotta play to win.â€
Senior centerfielder Matt Kurtz, who has been with the team for two national championships, knows what it takes to win in the postseason, and said he thinks the teamâ€™s tumultuous season has prepared them well for this moment.
â€œIn the fall, we knew we were gonna be good, we didnâ€™t know how good,â€ he said. â€œAnd this spring weâ€™ve really showed that we can play (with) top-level competition. Itâ€™s been a rollercoaster, but I think weâ€™re starting to peak at the right time.â€
Learning how to handle a tough postseason schedule will likely be the key to the Ramsâ€™ fortunes in the playoffs, as only four players remain on the roster from the national championship winning team of 2010.
Kurtz, pitcher Mark Rivet and third baseman Josh Ary are the only seniors on the team this year, and will each play a large part in whatever happens to CSU in the postseason.
â€œThey have a combined seven national championships between them,â€ CSU assistant coach Nick Childs said. â€œSo their experience from a mental perspective and from a playing perspective goes a long ways.â€
The postseason also provides the older players on the team the opportunity to have another chance of returning to the national championship after their early exit last season in the regional round of the playoffs.
â€œIt would mean everything,â€ Kurtz said of the chance to win another championship. â€œI know that this is gonna be my last month of baseball and to go out on top is just (a) dream for any baseball player.â€
That dream holds true for all the Rams, as the culmination of their efforts from the season will now give them a chance to send off the seniors with more hardware and earn the right to be called the best club baseball team in the country.
â€œItâ€™s everything weâ€™ve worked for,â€ Duffy said. â€œThese guys have been here for so long. Theyâ€™ve put in countless hours into this program and itâ€™s really, in our mind, itâ€™s the only way to send guys off… send them out on top as the best team in the nation.â€
Club sports Beat Reporter Andrew Schaller can be reached at email@example.com.
Regional Round National Club Baseball Association Playoffs
Who: CSU vs. TBA
When: May 11 at 10 a.m.
Where: Lake Shawnee Park, Topeka, Kan.