Baseball is all Fun for the Rams

May 8, 2010 | RSS

BLUEFIELD   College baseball should be fun. Few teams have as much fun as Ryan Lambert and the Bluefield College Rams.


"I tell people this is the most fun I have ever had playing baseball ever," Lambert said. "The difference in us is we just have a lot of fun with it. Win or lose we know coach is still going to care about us and it's not that big a deal in the long run."


Today is a big deal. The Rams (35-13) will open Appalachian Athletic Conference tournament play against the University of Virginia's College at Wise (27-19) in the opening round at Hunter Wright Stadium in Kingsport, Tenn. First pitch is slated for 1:30 p.m.


Bluefield, which won two of three from the Cavaliers earlier this season, has won seven of its last eight games, taking two of three from Milligan last weekend to secure the third seed in the 10-team event.


"Coming in playing well before this tournament, it was huge," said Bluefield assistant coach Danny Flores, who joined head coach Mike White from West Virginia Tech this season. "The guys' expectations are high, we're going to go there and we are going to compete.


"The guys are on cloud nine right now. They can't wait to get there so we're pretty happy with what we are going to put out there."


Only the winner of the AAC tourney is guaranteed a berth in the NAIA nationals. The Rams may have done enough to get an at-large bid, but they thought that last season and never received that call.


'That is our ultimate goal is to make an NAIA regional, that is our ultimate goal," said Lambert, one of seven seniors on the Bluefield squad. "We would love to do that, I don't think Bluefield College has done that before so we would love to do something nobody else has done around here."


However, if it doesn't happen, the Rams have the National Christian College Athletic Association national title to play for, a crown that Bluefield won last season with a perfect 5-0 mark at Prasco Park in Mason, Ohio.


"If that fails, nobody is going to be heart-broken because Ohio was a lot of fun," Lambert said. "It's just a feeling you get when you come in there, especially since we had success there last year.


"Coming into that ball park in Mason, we just have a lot of fun, we feel comfortable and we feel like we can win there. Either way, it's a win-win situation. We'll still be playing baseball and we'll have fun with it."


Lambert has lots of fun at the plate. The right-fielder and third batter in the Bluefield lineup, he is hitting .354 with a team-leading 48 runs batted in.


"My job is real easy because I hit third and you've got Devin Good and Travis Weaver at the top and they're always on base so I've just got to put the ball in play and I've got an RBI right there," said Lambert, a second-year starter, who transferred to Bluefield before last season from Division I Southern University in Louisiana. "It's a lot of fun hitting with these guys because they can all hit, one through nine.


"I would hate to be a pitcher facing our team, I would hate it, but it is a lot of fun, everybody in our lineup can hit."


Definitely. Bluefield is hitting .350 as a team, with Weaver's .310 mark being the lowest among the nine starters. It begins at the top of the batting order with Devin Good, who is hitting .390 with 43 runs scored and 17 stolen bases. Tony Singleton, who bats in the eighth spot, is hitting .441 with 18 doubles, while Jeremiah McMillian has collected 10 home runs.


"They say there are no outs in our lineup, the opposing teams that we talk to, they are like we see your hitting and you're one of the best hitting teams in the conference." Flores said. "With that in the back of our minds, we're going out there and put 100 percent into it."


Yet, even with all that hitting, the key for any baseball team is pitching. Bluefield has that too, having compiled a 4.20 earned run average, led by sophomore David Gibson (9-3), who will start for the Rams today. Donald Howell leads the bullpen with a 4-1 record and 11 saves.


"Gibson will start off and give us as much as he can. He goes out there and does a great job," Flores said. "He loves the pressure and he goes out there and battles every time he starts and he expects the best, and nothing less."


Combine those attributes with good defense (.952) and no wonder the Rams are confident they can beat anyone in the league, which they did during the season, finishing third behind Tennessee Wesleyan and Union.


"We are playing excellent, we're pretty confident going into the tournament," Flores said. "There is no doubt that we can play with all of them. They're going to throw their horse, we're going to throw our horse and we're going to go out there and compete.


"The best nine is going to go out and we're going to have a great game...They say we're a team to beat and we're going to go out there and do our best."


The 15-game double-elimination event will continue through Wednesday, with Bluefield returning to Kingsport on Monday to play either Union or Bryan in the second round.


"Last year there was a couple, but this year there is nobody you can look past," Lambert said. "That is how baseball is, any day anybody can beat anybody, especially this year, anybody can come out and beat you.


"We're not scared of anybody. We will play anybody, Wesleyan, Union, whoever we've got to play we are going to take the same approach and try to win."


The Rams did that last season in Ohio, capturing the NCCAA national championship by winning all five games, most of which were in dramatic fashion. That run will always hold a special place in Lambert's heart.


"It was a lot of fun. It was crazy, we came in there and we were just hot at the right time. We were like rock stars coming in, all these kids were asking for autographs," said Lambert, who is majoring in sports medicine. "It was an amazing experience, we went in there and we won every ball game.


"We beat some teams that people said we couldn't beat and that was the most fun. We got hot and when we get hot and everybody starts rolling together, I'm not sure there are too many teams in the country that can beat us if we're playing like that."


Lambert hopes that hot streak continues today in Kingsport.


"We're playing real good, we have a lot of fun as a club, coach keeps it fun, but when it is time to get down to business, that is what we do," Lambert said. "We're fun because there is not as much pressure on us as other clubs because even if we don't come out top, we've still got a World Series to go to.


"Right now that is our ultimate goal is to win the whole conference tournament and we've got a real good shot at doing that."


No matter when Bluefield's season comes to an end, Lambert will have played his final game of college baseball. He'll miss it, but the game won't leave him. Ever.


"I've had a lot of fun playing here," Lambert said. "I am kind of sad it is coming to an end, but it's a great team to play on because you don't have a lot of problems in the group, everybody gets along and it is just a lot of fun.


"I'm hoping to get into the coaching realm. I would like to follow that and stay in the game because I just love baseball."

Courtesy of Brian Woodson/ Bluefield Daily Telegraph