Arguably CSUâ€™s best and most dominant sports team is one that the student body has no idea exists.
CSU baseball has dominated the club sports scene for the past six years, winning five National Club Baseball Association World Series titles, including three in a row from 2004 to 2006 and the last two in 2008 and 2009.
â€œWe approach every season as its own entity,â€ head coach Mike Abernathy said. â€œThis year will be different than last year, and last year was our best season (48-7), but we expect to win every year.â€
Last seasonâ€™s success came from outstanding pitching by World Series MVP Bobby Moller and an aptitude for hitting home runs.
This year, CSU will see the return of Moller, but the top five home run hitters from Abernathyâ€™s 2009 lineup are gone. The lack of a deep ball, however, does not bother the coach or players; they just realize they are going to have to play a different kind of baseball.
â€œWe might struggle early offensively,â€ Abernathy said. â€œWe will have to change our style to be fast, run the bases well and we have guys who can hit. It will come with time.â€
The players also understand they canâ€™t depend on home runs to get them victories.
â€œDo the fundamentals correctly,â€ third baseman and pitcher Jake Fox said. â€œLess power, more speed and better defense will win games.â€
The real test will come as the Rams play more competitive junior college teams that have players on scholarships. Many of the players on CSUâ€™s team were passed over coming out of high school by the very same junior colleges they are going to face.
â€œWe play to show we can compete at a high level,â€ Moller said. â€œWe just look to win. A lot of guys got passed up, so we try harder in that respect.â€
Abernathy has seen significant improvement playing against the junior colleges in his time spent at CSU.
â€œWeâ€™ve grown. My first year we were under .500 against them,â€ Abernathy said. â€œThe next year we were at .500, then above it to .600 and last year we went 21-3, so we improve every year.â€
Division teams should not be overlooked either despite their lack of competitiveness in recent years, especially against CSU rival, CU-Boulder.
â€œCU has developed and is more competitive,â€ Abernathy said. â€œOther schools arenâ€™t as fun because they donâ€™t put in the time. They lack structure, plus we have great facilities, and they donâ€™t.â€
From the playersâ€™ stand point, pitching is what makes the Buffaloes dangerous.
â€œThey are getting better and have good pitchers,â€ Fox said. â€œWe could lose if they caught us on a bad hitting day, but I see us handling them.â€
In order to keep up the teamâ€™s success, younger players with less experience will need to step up, and the older players are making sure they are there when needed.
â€œWe just tell them to stay confident,â€ Fox said. â€œYou know you can play, now go prove it to yourself.â€
The coaches may feel that winning a third championship in a row would be nice, but the players want it a lot.
â€œWe are very optimistic and looking for a three-peat,â€ Moller said. â€œThere is no reason why we shouldnâ€™t. We have experience, returning starters and young players to fill in.â€
Fox talked about former players and seeing them go out on top.
â€œIt would mean a lot (to me),â€ Fox said. â€œI can go out in a great way, and seeing past players go out on top makes it mean even more.â€
Apart from Fox and Moller, the coaching staff is expecting heavy contributions from guys like fifth-year senior Tommy Johnson, shortstop Brian Chuckran and overall good play from their outfield.
The Rams want to share their success with the greater CSU community like most other teams on campus.
â€œWe want the student body and community to come out and support us,â€ Abernathy said. â€œWe play real baseball with wood bats, very competitive games and very good baseball for what these kids are offered.â€
CSU baseball is now played at City Park on the south field. Any additional information about the team can be found at http://csuramsbaseball.com.
Club Sports Reporter Cris Tiller can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org._