CHICAGO (CBS) — After a spectacular regular season, Concordia University in River Forest is getting another chance to shine on their own diamond. The Cougars are hosting an NCAA baseball regional this weekend in River Forest. They have some extra incentive to bring a title home.
The Concordia University baseball team knew they were in the NCAA Division III Championships, but their first-ever watch party made it more thrilling.
“I’m so excited to get to do it. We were talking after the selection show went down, and we were like, ‘Let’s play now, let’s play today,’” says pitcher Noah Dressler.
Concordia is ranked either first or second in the country in two Division III polls. The team only had one loss in their conference, boast a 38-7 record, including an astonishing 24-game winning streak that ended a few weeks ago.
“That just doesn’t happen in baseball (the long win streak). It typically doesn’t, and it was honestly crazy, because at some point it was just kind of hard to believe,” says catcher Justin Rodriguez.
“Our motto has always been, it’s not if we’re going to win, it’s when we’re going to win. Some of those games we found ourselves down 3-2 in 7th inning, and nobody panicked,” says coach Mike Stawski.
The cougars graduated 13 seniors from last year’s team and there were doubters that they wouldn’t’ be able to keep up their recent success. They’ve been playing with a chip on their shoulders all season.
“I think they played a little angry early on, and even as we got going in our win streak, they still kind of always went back to ‘Hey, we aren’t supposed to be winning,’ and trust me, I kept feeding that fire and keeping them fueled, and it carried us through the end of the season,” adds Stawski.
The Cougars have made the College World Series the last two seasons falling short and they’re hoping to change their fortune this year.
“Some of us have experience in this type of playoff baseball. We know how to get there and we know what it takes. So we feel really good about our opportunity,” says Dressler.
“Hopefully this year, third time’s the charm,” adds Rodriguez.
They’ll open regional play Friday in River Forest against Buena Vista.