CSU-Pueblo Baseball at Central Regionals
2009 Colorado State University-Pueblo ThunderWolves:
Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference Tournament champions
GRAND JUNCTION, Colo. - From May 14-17, the CSU-Pueblo baseball team will be taking part in the NCAA Division II Central Regional Tournament, being held at Mesa State College in Grand Junction, Colo. Visit often to follow the Pack on its quest for a berth in the NCAA Division II College World Series, bestowed upon the winner of the regional tournament.
Check here for behind the scenes articles and video about the Pack's run at a regional title.
Posted on May 16, 2009
Pack posts stunning comeback at regionals
Pack taking on Wayne State tonight for berth in region championship
GRAND JUNCTION, Colo. (May 16, 2009) - Late-inning rallies in baseball are usually a loud, emotionally draining affair.
Saturday, as CSU-Pueblo staged a stunning come-from-behind win over Southwest Minnesota State in the NCAA Division II Central Region Tournament in Grand Junction, the ThunderWolves managed to be both docile and emotional at once, coming back from a 14-8 deficit after seven innings to emerge the victor, besting the Mustangs 15-14 in what may have been the most surreal rally in the history of the program.
Southwest Minnesota jumped to a 7-1 lead after three innings, and left the ThunderWolves searching for answers as the Pack yanked starter Jesus Hernandez (Sr., Tucson, Ariz.) and tried with all their might to shrug off a huge hole in what could have been the team's final game of the season. The Pack bench did its best to simply will itself into contention for a win.
A pair of home runs did that trick, the first a towering shot by Matt Wismann (Sr., Palo Alto, Calif.) over scoreboard at Sam Suplizio Field in the fourth inning, and the second, a three-run bomb by Tony Pechek (Sr., Pueblo, Colo.) in the fifth inning, giving the Pack new life as they trailed 9-7 after five innings.
As CSU-Pueblo managed to keep within striking distance, the Mustangs nearly ended any shot at a comeback when Derek West drilled a three-run home run over the leftfield fence to buoy Southwest Minnesota State to a 14-8 lead.
The Pack dugout calmly requested a big number on the board in the eighth inning, as just as calmly, it was delivered.
The Mustangs issued four walks in the eighth, walking in two runs as the quietly intense yet docile ThunderWolf dugout, preparing itself for defeat, slowly came to life as it trailed 14-11. Then a two-run single by Juan Martinez (Jr., Cariciao, Venezuela) jolted the Pack back to life, prompting the team into rally-mode as the six-run deficit was suddenly trimmed to one, 14-13, during the five-run eighth.
Sensing their time was near, a stellar relief pitching job by Scott Harshman (Sr., Pueblo, Colo.), who gave up just one hit in 1-2/3 innings of work, set up the biggest play of the afternoon - a diving catch down the rightfield line by Jason Fobes (Sr., Longmont, Colo.), robbing the Mustangs of a back-breaking base hit and ending the 8th inning.
From there, you could sense it was all destiny.
Mary Sayas (Jr., Las Vegas, Nev.) reached base on a single to rightfield, leading to a game-tying double down the leftfield line by Fobes. Pechek followed suit with an RBI double of his own, and suddenly, and remarkably, Mario Mattivi (Sr., Pueblo, Colo.), the Pack's normal number-one starter who pitched in the ThunderWolves' tournament-opening loss against Mesa State Thursday, was in a save situation. The Pack ace hurled a scoreless ninth inning to secure one of the most improbable wins in school history.
With the win, CSU-Pueblo faced Wayne State (Neb.) late Saturday night in an elimination game. The winner will face tourney host Mesa State, who has yet to lose in the tournament, in what could be a pair of games Saturday for the Central Region Championship.
Baseball's a crazy game - but CSU-Pueblo is a crazy team
Only a team as nuts as the ThunderWolves can possibly be confident right now.
At the 2009 NCAA Division II Central Region Tournament, with the sixth-seeded Pack needing four wins in two days to claim their second regional championship and College World Series berth in school history, the players and coaches are strangely confident.
And somehow, it makes a lot of sense.
First of all, the Pack has heard this song and dance before - last weekend, at the Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference Tournament in Pueblo, the Pack lost its opener to Nebraska-Kearney before eliminating four teams in its next four games, sending home Mesa State, Metro State, Nebraska-Kearney and New Mexico Highlands.
Friday, CSU-Pueblo knocked out the second-seeded Minnesota State-Mankato Mavericks after a 13-4 win behind a stellar pitching performance by Dillon Meaney, and suddenly the Pack is in the same position it was in last weekend. Today, they take on Southwest Minnesota State, the fifth-seed, at 4 p.m. With a win, CSU-Pueblo will take on the loser of this afternoon's Mesa State/Wayne State (NE) showdown, as both teams are currently undefeated in the tournament.
If the Pack is able to win out today, they will be faced with the task of having to defeat somebody twice on Sunday in order to claim the Regional Championship.
And yes, the Pack is nuts enough to think they can do it. Because, they have voodoo on their side.
In the region-opener against Mesa State, redshirt-senior Jon Proesl, who hadn't played this season but drove up to Grand Junction from Pueblo to rally the troops, brought a little-league batting glove he found during his sophomore year of high school, and had ever player and coach touch it for good luck.
"I brought it out during the RMAC Tournament," Jon said, "and after the first game [vs. Nebraska-Kearney], it didn't work. But I told everybody to trust me, and we brought it out for the second game. And look what it did."
The glove was retired Friday vs. Minnesota State, and wasn't replaced by nothing, oddly enough. But baseball players in general are a group of superstitious headcases, and these ThunderWolves are no different. While leading Minnesota State by one in the fifth inning, burly freshman Daniel Tate was ordered to take over a thing called "the rally bottle." Thought the ThunderWolves weren't trailing, per se, and weren't really attempting to undertake a rally, these guys were grasping at straws for something to place their faith in. And as soon as the ThunderWolves starting scoring runs, part of their five-run sixth inning, Daniel was ordered to keep drinking. And drinking. And there was no way he was ever allowed to stop drinking. It wasn't until athletic trainer, Kelly Alexander, put a stop to it because she didn't want Daniel to over-hydrate and get sick.
Such is the world of baseball players - they're all psychotic and looking for anything to give them the edge. It's because baseball is a crazy game - and any team can win on any day.
And that's what the ThunderWolves are doing right now - relying on that axiom. They're the sixth-seed, the lowest-seeded team in the tournament. They're not supposed to win. They should be home right now. They should have lost already.
But the Pack may boast the deepest pitching staff in the tournament - as 7 guys on the staff have a chance to start effectively and go all nine innings. And that is important in a tournament like this that has seen Mesa State get over 20 hits in a game twice and Wayne State win 28-12 over Southwest Minnesota State Friday night. Now that's craziness.
But with this team of scrappers, a team that has had injuries at practically every position, currently without any left-handed arms on the pitching staff, anything is possible. And that belief and that sense of purpose is more powerful than any stupid superstition a team can invent.
Posted on May 15, 2009
Behind Meaney, Pack ejects Minnesota St.
GRAND JUNCTION, Colo. - In a do-or-die game, Pack hurler Dillon Meaney (Jr., Westminster, Colo.) went above and beyond the call of duty, throwing a complete-game 8-hitter as the ThunderWolves scored a 13-4 win over second-seeded Minnesota State Friday in the NCAA Central Regionals.
With the win, CSU-Pueblo will play at 4 p.m. Saturday vs. Southwest Minnesota State. If the Pack wins that game, they will have to play the 7 p.m. game Saturday, as well, to advance to the final day of competition on Sunday.
Meaney turned in his second-straight complete game performance in a tournament game, striking out five while walking five and allowing just three earned runs. His biggest contribution, though, were big innings in the third and fifth frame.
Meaney faces bases loaded situations with no outs in both innings, and in both, he allowed just one run in each inning, diffusing the Mavericks' offense and keeping the lead squarely in the Pack's hands.
Offensively, the Pack got its early cushion on a two-run shot over the leftfield wall by Mark Sayas (Jr., Las Vegas, Nev.), his second homer in as many games at regionals, giving CSU-Pueblo a 3-0 lead.
Minnesota State would get as close as 4-3 before the ThunderWolves hung a five on the Mavericks in the sixth inning, doing so the old-fashioned way - playing small ball and manufacturing runs.
Entering the inning with just three hits to their credit, CSU-Pueblo recorded five hits in the sixth, all singles. The top was blown off when catcher Ryan Wager (Sr., San Bernardino, Calif.) ripped a two-run single, which was enough to make Minnesota State dead in the water.
The Pack's 13 runs in the game marks the most it had ever had in a win at regionals (CSU-Pueblo lost 19-17 to Central Oklahoma in 1994). It also marks the first time in school history that the ThunderWolves had come back to win a regional game after opening the tournament with a loss.
Posted on May 14, 2009
One-upping the Northern Sun
The Pack's main goal at the 2009 Central Regionals is obvious - win the regional championship.
But another, more subtle goal is to join with its regular foes and fellow regional qualifiers, New Mexico Highlands and Mesa State, to show that the Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference is the elite baseball conference in the Central Region.
In 2008-09, the Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference has joined with the newly-formed Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference to comprise the NCAA Division II Central Region. The two regions compete against one another in all sports.
In the major team sports already completed - men's and women's basketball and volleyball - the NSIC claimed the regional title in each. In football, which doesn't have a traditional "regional champion" but instead holds a super-regional playoff that includes NSIC and RMAC schools, the 2008 national champion, Minnesota-Duluth, was an NSIC powerhouse.
The only sport in which RMAC schools won the regional title were in men's and women's soccer, but the NSIC fields just two men's soccer programs and six women's soccer programs.
Ultimately, baseball and softball are the last shot for an RMAC team to win a regional title.
The regional tournament got off on the wrong foot when New Mexico Highlands, the RMAC runner-up and fourth-seed in the Central Regional, was pummelled by Wayne State 11-3 in the opening game.
And the three RMAC schools, despite playing so competitively during the season that their feelings for one another may have bordered on hatred, CSU-Pueblo, New Mexico Highlands and Mesa State are hoping that their programs will represent the RMAC well and that one of them will ascend to the regional championship.
Take the CSU-Pueblo coaching staff - during Highlands' loss, coach Stan Sanchez and assistants Dan Ochs and Travis Humphrey were reacting to each big hit by Wayne State with consternation - and just a little bit of rage. The RMAC is rooting for each other, because as the region progresses over the coming years, the success of one can filter down to the success of all.
ThunderWolves relish the moniker of 'underdog'
You could say that the ThunderWolves baseball team is riding high entering the 2009 NCAA Division II Central Region Tournament, taking place at Mesa State College in Grand Junction, Colo. Wednesday through Sunday.
You could say the Pack is a "team of destiny," especially considering how they roared through the "losers' bracket" at the Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference Tournament last week, storming to the program's first RMAC title since 2004.
But this team is having none of that talk.
Instead, this team is a bunch of underdogs. Losers. Alsorans. An afterthought.
And Pack head coach Stan Sanchez wouldn't have it any other way.
CSU-Pueblo enters the six-team double-elimination standoff as the tourney's lowest seed, taking on tourney-host Mesa State - the same Mesa State team CSU-Pueblo eliminated from the RMAC Tournament in Pueblo last week.
Mesa State will have their vengeance, popular wisdom suggests. The ThunderWolves' dominance of the Mavericks at the RMAC Tournament was obviously an anomaly.
While the rest of the world is ready to write off the ThunderWolves, the Pack players are staying loose. Consider the light-hearted Will-Ferrell-movie-marathon the team watched on its somehow 8-hour bus trip from Pueblo to Grand Junction. Or, the unending prankster mentality of the team, featuring the louder ones goofing on some of the quieter players, and finding the humor in practically every possible moment. The prevailing mood among the group falls somewhere between "frat house" and "construction site."
It's a cliché, but it's a "lunch pail" culture among the 2009 ThunderWolves. The working-class group is focused, yet laid back, and is entering competition with a chip on their shoulder.
Put simply, these are "Pueblo guys" - hard-nosed, gritty and workmanlike. hey have no reputation and get no respect, and that makes the goal here simple - earn respect. If the accomplish that task, a regional championship will naturally follow. That is the only true "destiny" to speak of.