To play the waiting game on postseason fate is stressful, but to put postseason fate in the hands of another team fighting for the same spot is even more stressful.
This is the situation in which the ISU baseball club finds itself. After capping off the regular season with a 13-7 record, the team will have to wait an agonizing five days to see whether it will qualify for the regional tournament or have to hang up the cleats.
A team can qualify for regionals either by winning its respective conference and receiving an automatic bid or receiving an at-large bid from a pool of roughly 10 other teams. In order for Iowa State to receive the automatic bid by winning the conference title, it needs to beat Iowa twice in a best-of-three series.
“Going into the series, we knew that we had to win two games,” said Elliot Frey, club president and coach. “Our main goal this year was to win the conference.”
In game one of the series, the two teams battled into extra innings and the Hawkeyes escaped with a 5-4 win. The Cyclones needed the next two games in order to win conference and after the heartbreaking loss in the extras, the team couldn’t find any offense in game two. Iowa State fell to Iowa 7-3 after falling behind early.
“After that second game, I took the team into the outfield and flat out told them that today was brutal,” Frey said. “I told them that I need nine guys that are 100 percent committed to play tomorrow, because we needed one win.”
Frey got exactly what he asked for. The Cyclones came out and handed the Hawkeyes their first and only conference loss of the year. Iowa State won 5-4 behind a gutsy performance by Travis Havel. Havel went six innings and gave up four runs on five hits, putting the Cyclones in contention for an at-large bid.
“That win defines who our team is,” said senior Erik Rasmussen. “Yeah, we were bummed after losing two games, but we came back and fought instead of packing it up early.”
Following the win at Iowa, the team carried its hot-streak into its final games against Nebraska. After losing the first game in extra-innings, the Cyclones came back and won 11-1 in game two. In the final game at Cap Timm Field for the seniors, the team came out and won 4-3 after battling back from a 3-0 deficit.
It was only fitting that the player who started the rally was Adam Fichter, a senior. Fichter came to the plate with the bases loaded and two outs. Deep into the count on a 2-2 pitch, he laced a shot over the shortstop that scored all three runners and tied the game at 3-3.
The next batter then drove Fichter in to give the Cyclones the 4-3 lead. It was all they needed.
The Cyclones have met a number of goals this season, but one the Cyclones are still trying to accomplish is advancing to regionals.
“Most of our goals were met and from a team chemistry standpoint, this is the best its been in my time here,” Frey said. “The talent on the team panned out and it showed on the field.”
As far as qualifying for regionals, their fate is left in Colorado State's hands. Colorado State takes on Northern Colorado, another team vying for the at-large bid. In order to qualify, Iowa State will need Colorado State to win two, if not all three, of the games.
“We have a 50/50 shot right now at getting the at-large bid but it’s just a bummer it’s not in our hands,” Rasmussen said.
If things do not pan out in the Cyclones favor, next year will certainly be a regionals-or-bust-mentality after coming so close. However, this team does graduate 14 seniors, which could call for a rebuilding year.
“People say next year is going to be a rebuilding year, but the guys coming back will pick up right where we left off this year,” said pitcher Kellen Ausdemore.
The fate of the Cyclones will most likely be determined May 3. If they do move on, they will compete in the Mid-America Regional in Kansas from May 8 to 10. The winner of the regional will then move onto the national tournament, which will take place in Kentucky from May 22 to 28.