The CSU club baseball team was able to finish its regular season with a win in its fourth and final game of the weekend Sunday afternoon after losing the first three against the University of Northern Colorado.
The Rams (24-9, 10-4) entered the four-game home stand one game away from clinching the Mid-America West region of the National Club Baseball Association, but fell short in their first three outings, losing by a combined seven runs to Northern Colorado (21-15, 6-6).
â€œI think we put a lot of pressure on ourselves,â€ CSU coach Matt Reed said. â€œWe got away from our approaches and got away from how we play the game and I think we made (Northern Colorado) look better than they were.â€
Northern Colorado forced the Rams to play with their backs against the wall all weekend, keeping the fourth and decisive game tied until the bottom of the sixth inning, when catcher Austin Davidson-Pray hit a two-run home run over the left field fence that gave the Rams a 4-2 victory.
Pray, who had only one hit in the two games Sunday, and who shared time with Wataru Morisaki behind the plate all weekend, celebrated the fact that the home run gave one last conference title to seniors Matt Kurtz, Josh Ary and Mark Rivet.
â€œIâ€™m glad that it happened,â€ Pray said. â€œI was trying to swing out of my shoes really, but (I was) doing it mainly for the seniors this year.â€
The Rams will now prepare for the NCBA regional round of the playoffs, which will take place in Topeka, Kan. in two weeks.
In order to advance in the playoffs and compete for their seventh national championship in the last nine years, the Rams will need to get production out of a pitching staff that held Northern Colorado to an average of 3.25 runs per game over the weekend.
â€œOur pitchers carried us through this weekend,â€ Ary said. â€œTheyâ€™ve done it throughout the season. I tip my cap to them. As hitters, we just gotta kind of carry our weight too and weâ€™ll have no problem through regionals.â€
Following a disappointing 2011 season in which they lost in the first round of the regional playoffs, the Rams now have two weeks to prepare themselves for their first postseason under Reed.
Heading into the regional playoffs, the Rams can now look back on the end of a turbulent regular season in which the team had three separate losing streaks of four or more games before rattling off 14 straight wins during the middle of the year.
â€œGoing into the season, we were optimistic that we had a chance,â€ Reed said. â€œWe got better, we kind of digressed there for a while, and then picked it back up, but I think weâ€™re on the right track now.â€
Club sports Beat Reporter Andrew Schaller can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Weekend baseball results
Game 1: UNC: 1 CSU: 0 F/7
Game 2: UNC: 4 CSU: 0 F/7
Game 3: UNC: 6 CSU: 4 F/9
Game 4: CSU: 4 UNC: 2 F/7