The Columbus State Cougars baseball team has had a roller coaster ride of a season. They came out of the gates hot before hitting a bit of a lull in midseason. Riding a 15-game winning streak, CSU has shot from the unranked to inside the Top 10, looking to lock up the Peach Belt Conference regular season title this weekend.
Head coach Greg Appleton headed into his 19th season at the helms of the Cougars as the winningest coach in the program’s history. He is also one of the winningest coaches in DII history as his Top 20 all-time winning percentage includes bringing CSU their lone National Championship in 2002. This season, he and his Cougars entered the year with a newly renovated home, as Burger King Stadium was constructed around Ragsdale Field.
“It was exciting because we were practicing in the fall while they were building,” Appleton said. “We saw it going up brick by brick, seat by seat. We’re so appreciative that we have it. I’m so glad that we are having a good year with the new stadium, they kind of go hand in hand.”
The stadium wasn’t the only thing that was new this coming season. While Appleton was confident in his familiar, big bats, his rotation and bullpen were in large part huge question marks. Starters Albert Harless and Brandon Koehler were transfers and returning junior Caleb Kutsche had made nine career starts heading into the season.
“We have guys with talent,” Appleton said of his staff. “It was such an unproven group. All three of the conference starters are new, we didn’t have a closer coming in, and still don’t have a set closer. The roles were so undefined that we went into the season figuring out who was going to do what. We have some guys with good arms and good stuff, the biggest thing we have to do is continue to get ahead of hitters.”
The Cougars jumped out to a quick start, taking two series from nationally ranked teams early on in the year. First they took two of three from then-No. 20 ranked Lynn at home, before taking two of three from then-No. 7 North Georgia in Dahlonega.
Sitting at 20-4 and in the Top 25, they would run into a rough patch in mid-March. CSU dropped two of three to then-No. 25 Lander and would then get swept by Flagler, seeing this high-octane offense get outscored 20-4 in the three-game set.
“I don’t really know if we made a specific adjustment, but it was more of a wake-up call for us,” Appleton said. “We got beat by Lander two out of three. We didn’t necessarily play badly, we just got outplayed. Then we went down to Flagler the next weekend and got beat three times and we couldn’t do anything right. If we wanted this season to be what we wanted it to be, we needed to get going. I told them we had 18 games left and this is going to determine what kind of team we are. They took the bull by the horns and wanted to make this a great season and they have.”
The Cougars certainly got going. They haven’t lost a game since.
For more on one of the nation’s most prolific offenses and how CSU has become the Comeback Kids, head over to NCAA’s DII page for the full story by clicking on the link below.