It’s that time again. After nearly two months of playing tournaments and non-conference games, the CSU softball team (19-11) opens Mountain West Conference play today with a doubleheader in Salt Lake City against Utah (17-16), starting with the first pitch around 2 in afternoon.
Senior third baseman Lauren Cusick said that when conference play starts, the whole atmosphere changes.
“Conference play is a dogfight,” Cusick said, “very intense and very focused.”
Last season, the Rams went 9-10 in conference play. They opened with a doubleheader sweep of San Diego State at Ram Field. Former pitcher Jessica Strickland got the win in the first game, 13-12. In the second game, Kim Klabough got the win, when the Rams beat the Aztecs 6-3.
During Mary Yori’s seven years as head coach, the Rams are 63-70 in conference play. In 2001, they went 7-12, finishing fifth in their second year in the MWC. 2002 was a sixth place finish for the Rams, with a conference record of 4-15.
The next two seasons, 2002 and 2003, were the best so far for the Rams within the conference in the last seven years. Both years, Yori was named conference coach of the year and the Rams were crowned conference champions. In 2003, the team finished 13-7 in the conference and 16-4 in 2004.
Two years ago, in 2005, the team finished third, going 8-8. The season before last, 2006, the Rams finished with a losing record of 6-14 and placed fifth in Mountain West standings.
After finishing the games in Salt Lake, the team will travel to Provo to face Brigham Young on Friday.
“Both teams will be very challenging, but BYU is picked to win the MWC, and they are very tough at home” Yori said.
Cusick described conference games as “the most challenging, exciting and rewarding.”
“Any given day any team can beat the other,” she said. “So conference play is truly a battle every pitch of the game.”
The atmosphere may change, but the focus stays the same.
“We will be focusing on each team one at a time and making sure we continue to play to our potential, taking care of the little things,” Cusick said.
After playing today and Friday, the Rams will come home to Ram Field to play a single game against Northern Colorado on Wednesday. The Rams swept UNC in a doubleheader last weekend.
CSU (19-11) @ Utah (17-16), Salt Lake City, Utah
Game 1: 2 p.m.
Game 2: 4 p.m.