By Mandy Morgan
Aggie Blue Print
Members of the Utah State University baseball club are among the talented student athletes who come from areas around the state and country to contribute to the spirit and tradition of USU athletics. However, the team gave USU more than it may have asked for in winning the National Club Baseball Association (NCBA) World Series May 31.
“What we did in baseball history and at Utah State is still surreal,” said Brad Singer, the team’s captain. “It hasn’t totally sunk in.”
With four consecutive wins, the team took the series by storm. Games took place May 25-31, and were held at Golden Park, in Columbus, Ga. Leading off with a 9-3 win over UC San Diego, USU followed by blanking Georgia 3-0.
The following contest against Texas Tech. went into extra innings, but USU pulled ahead in the end to win 2-1. That brought the group against their final competitors — Colorado State. To make USU history the Aggies would have to come out on top of the Rams, which they did.
The national win was a first for USU; however, it was not the only big first for the team. This was also the team’s first year with Coach Norm Doyle as its head, though he had been with the team as an assistant coach the previous four.
“I was just really, really pleased with the quality of people I was working with this year,” Doyle said. “They worked so hard and always kept their focus. We took a lot of trips and we never had any problems. They’re not only talented, but if I’d ask them to do something they were willing to do the things that I knew would make the team better.”
Even when they had just started in the fall, Doyle knew the club could have the chance to go all the way. This team was a notch above those before, and every position was a step up from the previous season, he said. They made goals to win their region and eventually the World Series, though Doyle acknowledged that the latter was more wishful thinking.
“The Series was such an unknown,” Doyle said. “But going into it last fall, I felt confident. In region, they played better than I’d ever seen. After that it left the guys with such a confidence, they knew they could play anybody. It was ‘we are going to Georgia.’ And it was not cockiness, just extreme confidence in what the team could do. They knew we could take it all.”
The quality every area of the game was better than it had been before, Doyle said. Between hitting, pitching, everything, he knew they could win it all.
Singer said Doyle’s confidence was legitimate.
“He is not getting paid, we are not getting scholarships,” said Singer, who has known Doyle since high school. “It is just one of the differences faced with club sports. He’s been supportive of us all year.”
The club this season always had a coach at first and third base to give support. Singer said that kind of aid is important and unique in club baseball because most teams only have team members helping to coach.
“This is his team as much as it is ours,” he added.
One of the most impressive things about the team’s progress was the speed at which the team came together, Kyle Durrant, pitcher and first year player on the team, said.
“With the group of guys we had there were a lot of different personalities,” Durrant said. “The team chemistry was just fantastic.”
A native of Littleton, Colo., and the team’s primary starting pitcher, Durrant threw the last game of the World Series against state neighbor CSU. How was it for Durrant to pitch in such an important contest?
“I’ve pitched in some pretty big games while playing Div. I, but this was the World Series!” Durrant said. “When you are a pitcher, I think that being stressed is a sign of weakness. You have got to keep your cool. A pitcher is going to be under pressure, and that is what a pitcher is to me—someone who can take the pressure and make the game better.”
Durrant’s fondest memory of the season was playing against Utah Valley University. With 15 strikeouts and only eight hitters total, it was his favorite game of the year followed by his World Series efforts which led to receipt of an MVP award.
“I am glad that I had the opportunity of a lifetime,” Durrant said. “Once we were out on the field, we just played our game.”
Durrant hopes that something like this national win will not only help USU gain more respect but help to further the extensive publicizing efforts that have been put forth the entire year.
One of the biggest challenges the team has faced for years was getting more attention from the public and campus eye, both for support in spirit and for the monetary donations needed for a club team. The team wants to get more publicity about the national championship during the upcoming academic year with a trophy and ring ceremony during halftime of a football game—or something of equivalence, Singer said.
With the publicity the team invested in, crowd size has reached up to 300 people at home games. Though crowd numbers weren’t quite as large during the series, fan support remained strong, dominated by family attendance.
“My parents showed up and we had our team moms of sorts who took care of us the whole time,” said Singer, who added that USU Vice President of Student Services James Morales also attended adjusting flight plans to attend the CSU final.
“The guys picked up on that,” Singer said. “It was just even more support and was him representing the university.”
“All of the things like this were able to make the guys feel on top of the world,” said Doyle. “The community has been so supportive.”
Acknowledging a kind of “bridge” between the club and the USU athletics department, Singer said their ultimate goal would be to catch the attention of Cache Valley and the entire campus.
His goals don’t stop there. Doyle mentioned that he and the team would enjoy taking part in the recent migration of the athletics department to the Mountain West Conference.
“I’m really proud of my guys. And I say ‘my guys’ very lovingly,” Doyle said. “I don’t just respect them for their baseball abilities, but as men.”