With snow wreaking havoc at Cap Timm Field, the ISU baseball club had to head south for its annual spring trip. This year's destination was Florida, the sunshine state.
The Cyclones departed for a week-long trip with high hopes and their eyes set on a solid start to 2014-15 season.
During the course of the seven-day trip, the Cyclones played one game against Rutgers, North Dakota State, Kentucky, Ohio State, Indiana and Wisconsin-Milwaukee. One thing that all six teams had in common was exceptional talent. Club president, Elliot Frey, made it a goal to schedule the best teams available.
“We played some of the top teams in the country on purpose," Frey said. "Seeing this talent early will benefit us in the long run."
Frey, hesitant to list the best teams from the week, felt that all six were equally good. However, Frey listed Ohio State, Kentucky and Indiana as the top-three teams the club faced. In 2014, five of the six teams finished in the top four of their respective conferences, with Kentucky winning its regular season conference title.
On top of the stiff competition, the club played without two starting pitchers and were missing four returning starters. Being thin, the club had to look upon young talent to fill the roles of established players. It was also the team's first time playing outside in almost four months.
The Cyclones first contest in Plant City, Fla. was against Rutgers. With freshman Travis Havel on the bump, the Cyclones were able to provide defense and offense early on.
Havel walked the first batter of his collegiate career, but the defense bailed him out by way of a double play. The Cyclones came out fast, scoring three quick runs and not looking back from there as they picked up a 7-0 win.
Havel picked up the win, while senior Adam Fichter led the offensive onslaught with three hits. Fellow seniors Kellon Ausdemore and Erik Rasmussen each added two runs batted in.
“[Travis] Havel was a bulldog for us all week. He never gave up and had two strong showings,” Frey said.
Game two against North Dakota State didn’t go as planned. Despite leading 1-0 after the first, the Cyclones were forced to play catch up for most of the game. The Bison responded by scoring four runs of their own on timely hitting and a few defensive errors by the Cyclones.
Iowa State eventually fell 6-5 on a walk-off hit by the Bison. Senior Tom Weissbeck led the Cyclones with two hits and Ausdemore was tagged with the loss.
After splitting the two games, the team went into day two with confidence, but quickly realized that bigger and stronger Kentucky and Ohio State teams out-manned them.
Against Ohio State, the Cyclones fell behind 5-0 early and couldn’t manage the offensive power that the Buckeyes brought with them to the field. After falling behind 14-3, the Cyclones managed to make it interesting, climbing as close as 14-8. However, Ohio State was able to close it out with a 16-8 win. Rasmussen shined offensively with three hits and Riley Meirick added two hits.
In game four, the club was able to keep close with powerhouse Kentucky, at least for a little while. After coming back from down three runs, the Cyclones got within one, but that would be as close as they would get as the Wildcat bats exploded to life late in the game. Iowa State ultimately lost 10-2. Fichter, who had two hits in the game, once again led the Cyclones offensively.
Heading into the final two games, the team was just trying to compete due to a depleted pitching staff and multiple lineup changes.
“Part of the reason we started to struggle was the lack of bullpen depth. We were missing several key arms,” Frey said. “It was a scramble to try and find guys to eat up innings for our remaining games.”
In the first of two games on the final day, the Cyclones faced off against UW-Milwaukee. The team once again pegged Havel as the starter and he responded with a great outing. Throughout five innings, Havel allowed two runs on six hits.
Ausdemore had a big day at the plate with a double and triple to go along with two RBI’s. Ausdemore also picked up the save in the 8-7 win. Havel was credited with the win.
“My defense really played well behind me and that gave me confidence to throw my pitches and let them hit it because I had trust in my defense to make the play,” Havel said.
The final game in Plant City, Fla. saw the Cyclones square off against a very talented Indiana squad. Despite jumping out to an early lead, the Cyclones were unable to muster any offense later in the contest and fell 14-1. Rasmussen contributed two hits and picked up an RBI. Senior Adam Schmidt was tagged with the loss.
The club ended up 2-4 on the trip, but the team is optimistic due to the fact it competed so well while being without some of its top players.
“Our record doesn’t reflect our success that we had,” Rasmussen said. “We were mixing up the lineup and were trying to give everyone equal playing time."
Offensively the team was led by Rasmussen, who showed his power by racking up 10 hits and 9 RBI’s, while smacking two extra-base hits. The bigger highlight of Rasmussen’s trip was when he was given the opportunity to pitch for the first time since high school.
“Being able to pitch was really fun because it’s not my primary role on the team,” Rasmussen said. “I would like to say I did okay, but I was just out there eating up innings because our pitching staff was short.”
On the mound, Havel led the team with two wins and had nine strikeouts during 11 innings. Havel ended the week with an impressive 1.36 earned run average.
“Travis [Havel] really stepped up for us big time. He worked his way into the starting rotation with his performances,” Frey said. “It was a great surprise to see him do so well.”
This weekend the Cyclones welcome South Dakota to Cap Timm Field for a doubleheader on March 28 and 29. The first pitch will be thrown at 12 p.m. on March 28.
The Cyclones outscored South Dakota 53-8 in the four meetings between the teams last year. They will attempt to do the same this weekend and gain momentum as they get deeper into their conference schedule.