The St. Cloud State Husky baseball team led off the 2019 season in Texas, Missouri and Arizona at the beginning of February with an impressive amount of wins and ultimately earning a high ranking during mid-March in national polls.
The Collegiate Baseball Newspaper’s national poll ranked the Huskies as the number six team in the country and the National Collegiate Baseball Writer’s Association (NCBWA) pushed the Huskies from the number 11 team to the seventh best team in the nation.
“Being sixth [and seventh] is good, but at the same time, it’s just on paper,” Huskies first baseman Mathew Meyer said. “Whether [we’re number] six, 30, or whatever it is, you’ve got to come to play and it’s great to have that number six spot, but at the same time, it doesn’t really mean much. You still have to prove it.”
These high rankings came as a result of the Huskies’ 12-2 record that they earned in the first part of their season before conference play began against Minnesota State University-Mankato.
The Huskies began the season on Feb. 1 in Houston against Texas A&M-Kingsville at Minute-Maid Park, beating them 7-2. That started a five-game winning streak until Feb. 25 with their first loss of the season, but that didn’t stop them from their winning ways as the Huskies were able to go 7-1 during their road trip to Arizona.
“We’ve hit it really well, we’ve picked it really well and we’ve pitched it really well, [it’s] just a team effort. We only made four or five errors the whole trip down there and one of them was me hitting the runner in the back of the head on a throw,” Huskies senior catcher Toran Shahidi said.
With the hot start that the Huskies had this season, there’s no doubt in their minds that they wouldn’t have gotten to where they are without all of the time and effort each player puts in along with the leadership of the coaching staff.
“Our strength coach… guides us on a lot of things that are a little different. Getting us prepared, [our] bodies ready to go with either lighter weights or with super heavy weights, we just all work pretty hard,” Shahidi said. “No guy was cheating us, and they knew if they did cheat it, they wouldn’t play.”
The Huskies were originally ranked at number 39 in the preseason poll done by the Collegiate Baseball Newspaper, so the jump to number six speaks volumes on how fast the Huskies were able to climb to the top ten in a short amount of time.
Being able to compete under pressure in heated situations is a key to success that the Huskies have been able to withhold this season, but it’s important for them to come to each game with their heads in the game and anticipating the win.
“We’ve came with the attitude that [we] know we’re gonna win every game, which you’ve got to stay humble and hungry, but if you show up to the park wanting to win and expecting to win, you’re gonna do well,” Meyer said.
Showing up to the ballpark and being ready to play on a gameday is an important factor to their success and Shahidi is confident that there’s more to this thinking man’s game than just stepping on the field.
“We can’t just show up… we’re a good team, but if we just show up, we’re not going to beat anyone,” he said. “We have to show up focused and ready to go, and that’s what we did in Arizona.”
This season, the Huskies have a whopping 14 seniors on their squad, which helps the team’s success, since they have a lot of guys with previous experience playing on the field. Not only are the Huskies lined up with upperclassmen, but they also have five new junior college transfers which adds to the power of the team.
The Huskies deep pitching staff also puts them in a comfortable position this season with several starting pitchers on hand, including Riley Ahern, who threw seven shutout innings with eight strikeouts in early March against Morningside College.
That’s just one example of the Huskies’ strength, and Meyer said their opponents can’t compete with St. Cloud State’s bullpen.
“Our pitching is so good. Our number eight, nine and 10 pitchers are just as good as anyone’s three, four, five,” Meyer said.
It’s not just their pitching that is getting the Huskies through their season; on March 7, the Huskies made history of their own, hitting two grand slams in the same game for the first time since their 1973 season.
In that 17-3 victory over Bemidji State during the Tucson Invitational, Jordan Joseph and Lenny Walker proved what this team is capable of.
“It’s fun here, we like each other, we want each other to have success. It’s really cool just how well everyone gets along. We listen to each other if someone has a better idea… but this place is awesome, man,” Shahidi said.