That’s what the Iowa State Baseball team will see when it plays its first home games of the season this weekend at Cap Timm Field.
The Cyclones will host the Mid-America North Region’s (MANR) Minnesota State-Moorhead in what is a conference game for the team, even though its season started just over a week ago.
“They’re always a solid ball club. Last year we swept them, but I believe they were two or three run games,” said pitcher, first baseman and President Bobby Thompson. “They usually have some good hitters on the team, but they’ll never outpower you pitching-wise.”
Moorhead joined the MANR two seasons ago, and Iowa State took two games out of three against them that year.
Coming into the game, Iowa State has won five of the six games they have played against Moorhead.
“We’re definitely not going to look at them lightly,” Thompson said. “It’s a really important series coming up.”
The Cyclones will host Moorhead four times this weekend with two consecutive doubleheaders scheduled, although only the first three games will count toward either team’s MANR record.
The last game of the weekend will serve as an opportunity to work out rookie players and give people who didn’t see the field as much, earlier in the weekend, more playing time.
To do that, the team plays it as an official non-conference game, so it will still count toward its overall record.
“That fourth game doesn’t matter as much [as the first three],” Thompson said. “We definitely put a lot more emphasis on those conference games, but we still take the non-conference games seriously.”
Where the importance of conference games comes in is how the team can qualify for the national tournament.
The MANR is granted one bid to the team who wins its regional tournament. MANR teams have to have a good enough conference record to even qualify for that. Having a better record will give a team an easier path to win it.
Although, if a team doesn’t win the conference tournament, they can still get into the national bracket with an at-large bid, which would include the non-conference games as well as the MANR ones, giving both types of games significance.
The Cyclones are coming out of a spring break tournament trip to Plant City, Florida, where they saw six different opponents and earned a 4-2 record on the week.
Although it started with a loss, the team rallied to win four of its next five games, including its last three.
“We saw a lot of good things last week,” Thompson said. “We lost our first game, but I don’t think we played a bad one after that. It was nice to get a win against Brockport that first day as well. We haven’t beaten them in three years.”
However, the highlight of the weekend might have actually come in a loss.
Iowa State held No. 4 Ohio State scoreless until the final inning, coming up just short in a 1-0 loss.
“It definitely shows that we can keep up with any team,” Thompson said. “We didn’t hit the ball as well as we wanted to, but our defense and pitching is going to match any team in the nation.”
Thompson said the wins the team gathered through the week can be attributed to the pitching staff.
With the pitchers’ help, Iowa State outscored its opponents by 45 runs in its last five games.
“That’s something that the national committee will undoubtedly take a look at when determining rankings for the upcoming week/few weeks,” said Vice President and infeilder/pitcher Cole Henry.
The National Club Baseball Association (NCBA) took at least a little notice as Iowa State received two votes in its Top 20 poll, which is published every Thursday.
Iowa State hopes to use that to keep the momentum going this week.
“We hope to continue on our way of winning coming into this weekend, but we take every game one at a time,” Henry said. “We think we have the talent to propel us into the postseason, but the idea behind taking things day by day, at-bat by at-bat is of utmost importance.”