Feeling good after two weeks of strong play, the mood took an abrupt and unwanted turn in the Cal State Bakersfield clubhouse recently.
After being picked to finish dead last in its new league, the Roadrunner baseball team put forth and impressive showing in its first ever Big West series, winning three of four games against UC Riverside on March 19-21.
CSUB, which had won five of six overall to improve to 6-5 on the young season, had hopes to build on that success against a pair of quality opponents on the road. The 'Runners were set to travel to Stanford for a three-game non-conference series March 26-28, then head to Cal State Fullerton for four conference games April 2-4.
Those trips never materialized. Two days before the Stanford series, team activities were halted after it was discovered that one player had "a potential positive case" of COVID-19.
With team confidence beginning to peak, CSUB coach Jeremy Beard was discouraged to see thing come crashing down, as the team was forced to push pause for 14 days.
"We felt like we walked off the field that first series in the Big West Conference as a winner," Beard said. "That felt great for our guys. We had a taste for winning. Then we had to (cancel) two big time series for us going to Stanford and Fullerton. We’d been eyeballing that for a while. We felt like that was going to be our coming out party, and it didn’t work out."
The Roadrunners won't even return to the practice field until Thursday, which will leave little time to prepare for their next Big West series. With just one day of practice under its belt, CSUB will host UC Davis for a four-game set this weekend, the first game scheduled for 3 p.m. Friday.
With virtually no practice time to prepare for Davis, Beard is naturally worried his club won't be as sharp as they'd been in the weeks leading up to the COVID delay.
“My concern is coming out on the field and not finding that rhythm and having it be delayed to find that again, especially when our kids noticeably were feeling that two weeks ago,” he said.
The Roadrunners will also be without scheduled game-two starter Aaron Charles, who Beard says is dealing with a stomach bug.
It's not all bad news for Beard, though, as he expressed gratitude that his mostly healthy team is able to return to the field, adding that "we haven't had any symptoms with players as of now as far as I'm aware."
The Roadrunners will also get to play in front of a home crowd, albeit a small one, for the first time all year. CSUB is setting aside a limited number of tickets for friends and family of players and coaches, as well as 25 seats for students.
Those fans will see CSUB in what appears to be a winnable set of games against a Davis team that opened Big West play with 10 consecutive losses before earning a pair of wins against Riverside last weekend.
Even if it's not always pretty, Beard plans to hold his players to the same standard as before, expecting them to build on the winning stretch that preceded the brief shutdown.
“We’re planning on winning the series in our own minds," he said. "That’s the goal. We want to win every series and we’re not going to make any excuses if we don’t.”