It was unexpected, it was shocking, and now a bit of reality. The Chico State baseball team should not forget their 10-7 loss to their bitter rivals, Sonoma State, on the final day of the season costing them a CCAA Championship. That’s right, I said they should NOT FORGET IT.
In the grand scheme of things today’s meltdown at Raley Field only means Chico will not be the top seed in next week’s CCAA Conference Tournament. It means nothing more, nothing less. While the regular season title would have been nice, it has never been what has motivated the Chico State program. The only thing that matters is West Region titles….PERIOD. The regular season is a three-month grind that is designed to prepare you to win a West Region Championship. You don’t believe me ? Lets look at the evidence.
The Chico State Wildcats have won 5 CCAA regular season baseball titles. When did they win those titles ? Hell if I know. I don’t remember them. Why ? Because they don’t matter. They are nice. They signify a nice three-month stretch of baseball. But CCAA regular season titles don’t guarantee anything. The conference hierarchy would probably hate hearing their members say this publicly but it’s true.
The CCAA Baseball Tournament, which guarantees an automatic qualifier to the West Regional, is important only because of that guarantee. The regional is what matters. It’s the standard by which you are measured on a national level. If someone were to ask me how many West Region titles the Chico State Wildcats have won, I can rattle them off without hesitation.
1997, 1998, 1999, 2002, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2012
That is EIGHT West Region Championships. Those matter. Those are what great nationally recognized programs play for. The purpose of the three-to-four month grind is to prepare your team for the 4 day gauntlet in the regional. And the best way to prepare is to play, to strive, to experience the joys and yes, even the heart-break of near misses. In the end, your journey, your season, should prepare you for every imaginable scenario as you try to win a West Regional.
In 1999 the Chico State baseball team was nearly flawless in disposing of CCAA competition. They easily won the regular season title and they prepared for the CCAA Baseball Tournament. Former head coach Lindsay Meggs despised the tournament. He felt, why play a three-day tournament when a champion had been determined over a three-month period. In 99′ the Wildcats would lose the tourney title on their home field to their rivals, Sonoma State. As Sonoma ran around the Nettleton Stadium outfield with banner in hand, Wildcat second baseman George Pena uttered words to the media that would light the fire for the following weekend. As he watched Sonoma celebrate on the Cats’ home field he said, “I can’t wait until they come back here next week so we can kick their ass and end their season.” While it may not have been the most politically correct statement, it was a true demonstration of how good Chico State believed themselves to be, even in the wake of a bitter pill in watching Sonoma celebrate on their field.
The following week Chico would blow-out Sonoma twice winning the West Region title and sweeping through the competition and winning the National Championship.
It’s not the loss that buries you, it’s how you respond to the loss that defines you. Champions makes losses work for them, the final chapter of the 2014 Chico State Wildcats story has yet to be written. The second season begins Thursday.