GRAND JUNCTION, Colo.–The CMU baseball team will open the Central Region Tournament Thursday, with the winner advancing to the Division II World Series in North Carolina.
Senior Jared Christensen will start on the mound for the third-seeded Mavs against fourth-seeded New Mexico Highlands.
“The difference maker, for me, is going to be whether I can do it mentally,” Christensen said. “Highlands is a very good team and they’re going to come out and fight. If you don’t come out and have your best stuff that day, you really can get beaten. But, I’m not too worried about it because we’ve got a great team here and they rise up to the occasion no matter what.”
Pitching has been the Mavs’ strength all season, led by ace Nolan Snell. The junior pitcher is suffering from some minor shoulder pain, and has been moved to the second spot in the rotation as a precautionary measure.
“The whole season I had that game one,” Snell said. “And it was kind of a pressure to get the first win of the series. It’s always a big thing, and I think Jared does a great job with that. I think I need to know my job is to just get the second win.”
Christensen was unanimously named the RMAC Pitcher of the Year. He leads the league with 12 wins on the season, but, he might hope to have a little luck on his side, too.
“I’m kind of superstitious,” he said. “I think it’s kind of a requirement to be a pitcher though. Especially if you’re left-handed.”
Manager Chris Hanks has said all season that the Mavs aren’t operating at their full capacity yet. He also said this year’s team reminds him of the 2009 team that advanced to the Division II World Series.
Both teams split their last series of the regular season and went two-and-out in the RMAC Tournament.
“You never know what’s going to benefit you,” Hanks said. “What you’ve got to do is have a group of guys who can look at each other in the eye and say they trust each other. They know everybody is going to show up and do the best they can, and if we allow our true inner talents to come out, then we’ll be in great shape.”