As poorly as the Chico State Wildcats played in their Division II College World Series opener against Lander University on Saturday night, they have no time to linger on their performance. They just don’t.
To stay alive at the National Championship Tournament in Cary the Wildcats must ready themselves for the biggest game of the year as they take on the Tampa Spartans on Monday in what should be a highly entertaining elimination game (10am PST.)
The Wildcats picked an awful time for their worst game of the year. A pitching staff that was stingy in giving up walks and hit bats-men gave up five walks and hit five batters. A defense that was the best in the country chucked the ball over Coleman Field in the 6th inning. And, the smarts the Wildcats have shown on the base-paths this year went out the window with two egregious base-running blunders while standing in scoring position. When you throw in a 2-for-9 with runners in scoring position, it’s a wonder Chico made it close.
So, as we wipe away the ugly memories from game one, the Wildcats need to focus on the here and now. Standing in their way is the defending National Champion Tampa Spartans who had been christened by many as the team to beat this year in Cary. Tampa was stunned by Southern Indiana on Saturday 4-3. Tampa head coach Joe Urso lamented after the game, “our team just didn’t make the adjustments we have made all year.” He seemed as shocked by his team’s performance as Chico head man Dave Taylor was about his club’s showing.
If your season comes down to one game the Wildcats are handing the ball to one of the greatest pitchers in the history of Chico State baseball and I believe this is the great sub-plot for Wildcats. By starting Marcos Lara in game one, the Wildcats have Nick Baker in their holster. Baker has risen to the occasion numerous times for the Cats’ and they turn to him now as their season hangs in the balance.
Chico fans should expect Baker to give the Cats a great effort, the question is whether the Wildcats can bounce back from Saturday’s meltdown. I have no doubts about the mental toughness of this ball-club. If they weren’t going to fold in La Jolla last weekend, I don’t expect them to falter again now. I see them bouncing back in grand fashion and play a great game. It’s in their DNA, it’s in their make-up.
The task to win this whole thing should not even be on the radar right now. Like the Chico State Wildcats, the 2004 Boston Red Sox were embarrassed by their performance in Game 3 of the ALCS against the Yankees to fall behind 3-0 in a best-of-seven series. No team in baseball had ever come back from a 3-0 deficit in major league baseball history. if you are Chico State ball-player you take the same philosophy as Kevin Millar and the 2004 Boston Red Sox took against the Yankees in the ALCS.
I believe it’s true. It’s been a refrain I have repeated here and on twitter (mbaca24) to highlight this team’s approach all season long.
WIN EVERY PITCH
WIN EVERY AT-BAT
WIN EVERY INNING
WIN THIS GAME
Win the next pitch….PERIOD. That’s it. Nothing more, nothing less.
To paraphrase the Kevin Millar from those band of idiots in 2004. “Don’t let Chico State win on Monday. If you do, then you get Lohse on Wednesday, Misty or Lara on Thursday, Baker again on Friday and then in the Championship game, anything can happen.”
Photo at top courtesy of Chico State Athletics at ChicoWildcats.com