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Baseball’s road to Cary, North Carolina, looks promising

Junior+infielder+Casey+Bennett+makes+contact+during+a+game+against+the+Academy+of+Art.+Photo+credit%3A+Lindsay+Pincus
Junior infielder Casey Bennett makes contact during a game against the Academy of Art. Photo credit: Lindsay Pincus

Junior infielder Casey Bennett makes contact during a game against the Academy of Art. Photo credit: Lindsay Pincus

Junior infielder Casey Bennett makes contact during a game against the Academy of Art. Photo credit: Lindsay Pincus

Anna Baytosh

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The Chico State baseball team is inching closer to achieving its prized goal of traveling to Cary, North Carolina, for the baseball tournament of its dreams.

The team’s annual goal is to win its way to Cary for the NCAA Division II College Championship Series.

In 1997, Chico State won its first national title, with another championship soon after in 1999 at the College Championship Series in Montgomery, Alabama. The ‘Cats threatened for another championship win in 2006, but came up short in the championship game, earning runner-up.

Since then Chico State baseball has only made it to the series twice, once in 2012 and once in 2014. Both trips ended with losing records of 0-2.

With a record of 7-4 in the CCAA and 17-6 overall, the ‘Cats are two games away from surpassing the amount of wins from last season.

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Junior pitcher Clayton Gelfand finishes his warmups during a game against the Academy of Art. Photo credit: Lindsay Pincus

 

Ending the 2015 season with an unfortunate record of 18-25, the nine returners were determined to turn this upcoming spring into a success from the beginning. Peter Lecce, a returning senior pitcher, says this group is significantly more focused and cohesive compared to last spring.

“The biggest difference from last year to this year is just how close we all are and how we all go to bat for each other. We aren’t playing for ourselves,” Lecce said. “We’re a team and we fight for the next guy. We’re going to get on base in any way, by either getting a hit or getting hit, so the next guy up can get it done. No one is selfish on this team.”

This selflessness has not only built the team, but a close group of friends along the way. Whether it’s playing word games on an 11-hour bus ride or grinding in the last inning of a four-game series, it is irrefutable how tight-knit the team is.

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Sophomore Cameron Santos tags a runner out during a game against Academy of Art. Photo credit: Lindsay Pincus

 

Cameron Santos, a returning sophomore infielder, says he is excited about the program’s revitalization.

“The love for the game is back in this program. There is always a competitive nature at the Net, but last year the game wasn’t very fun,” Santos said. “That feeling of playing the game we love is back and we’re doing it in a winning fashion, which feels very good after the work we put in this fall to make sure we didn’t repeat what happened last year.”

The Chico State baseball team swept the 23rd ranked UC San Diego at Nettleton Stadium on Friday, March 25 to claim the top spot in the CCAA north conference.

“Knowing we have much more to prove, this team is still fresh and ready to take on whatever program is in that opposing dugout,” Santos said.

Anna Baytosh can be reached at [email protected] or @anna_baytosh on Twitter.

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Baseball’s road to Cary, North Carolina, looks promising