2007-08 Baseball Coach's Corner Archive
Dec. 16, 2008
June 3, 2008
Villanova recently wrapped up another successful season in which it won 30 games and qualified for the BIG EAST Championship for the second straight season. The Wildcats reached the semifinals of the conference tournament for the first time since 1997. Recently, head coach Joe Godri sat down to answer some questions about the highlights from the 2008 season.
1. Talk about the excitement of making the playoffs two years in a row.
Getting back to the playoffs is a great accomplishment for our ballclub on multiple levels. We made the playoffs last year for the first time in 10 years and we returned a number of guys and were confident this season that we had a good team. I thought it was important for the players that came back and for the program to go back two times. We were one of five teams from last year to return this season to the tournament and the others were Louisville, South Florida, Notre Dame and St. John's. Those are the heavyweights of the league and for Villanova to be in that category speaks volumes about where our program is today and is a credit to the amount of work that everyone involved with the program puts in on a day to day basis.
We didn't want to be a team that got to the playoffs one time and doesn't know when they are going to get back. We made a statement that we have a solid program and were able to get it done. I think that was very gratifying for everyone involved with the team.
2. How did the similarities between last year's team and this year's team help along the way?
The similarities helped us a lot, especially once the calendar turned to May and we had Pittsburgh coming into town. We were a game off where we were last year and I think anytime you can use history it is to your advantage. We could fall back on knowing that last year we were in the same boat and got it done. We didn't have to make up stories or be the first team to do something. It was useful to reflect back and from a coaching perspective be able to say to the team that we had been there before. Comparing this season to last season helped us to navigate through the end of the season and keep our confidence level up. The team's confidence had been shaken pretty hard by some individual games and it was very valuable to be able to use the experience of making the playoffs the year before.
3. St. John's, Seton Hall and Villanova used to be the dominant teams in the BIG EAST Conference. The Wildcats beat both of these teams to advance to the semifinals of this year's conference tournament.
We had a goal of getting back to the playoffs this year and we did that. Once we got there we wanted to win that first game and get into the winner's bracket, which we did against the No. 17 team in the country in St. John's. Our next goal was to advance a game further than last year. We lost the second game to Louisville and I could talk all day about them and their being the worst matchup in the league for us. Going into the Seton Hall game on the third day was a fragile game because it was an elimination game for both teams. We saw against Rutgers last year when we lost 11-0 that it came down to who scored first in a fragile game like that. Our message going into the Seton Hall game was not to give the game away. We found a way to score early and it went our way in a 10-0 win.
It was a neat thing to beat St. John's and Seton Hall in the tournament. Those teams along with Villanova were the conference powers of the 1980's and early 90's. Times have changed and we all know that but at the end of the day Villanova was the only original BIG EAST team in the semifinals of the tournament along with three former Conference USA teams. I think that type of semifinal group will probably become more typical than atypical but this was the second year in a row that Villanova was eliminated by the eventual champion and I think there is something to be said about that.
4. During the season Derek Shunk broke the school's career records for hits, games played and at-bats. He also finished the season with a 15-game hitting streak and batted .556 in the BIG EAST Championship.
Derek is a once-in-a-lifetime player and I have been fortunate to have a few guys like that in my years at Villanova. The program has had high draft picks like Brian Slocum (2002) and Kevin Mulvey (2006) and a pitcher like Mike Loree (2007) that set the innings pitched record and won 20 games. Derek is in that group and I think the common denominator with all of these guys is their character. If I had a team full of guys like Derek it would certainly make life a lot easier and the team would win a lot of baseball games.
Specifically to Derek, he came in and started as a freshman and now four years later he hit at least .325 every year and had a Hall of Fame career at Villanova. When you have a career like he had you are bound to break some records and he did that. He ends his career as the greatest hitter Villanova has had and nobody can take that away from him numbers wise. He was also up there in a lot of other categories but it all started with the person that he is and the intangibles that he brought to the ballpark day in and day out.
5. In addition to Shunk, seniors Ryan Arcadia and James Dolbier moved up in the school's career rankings in numerous offensive categories. Can you look back on the careers that these three players had?
These three players are part of a recruiting class that I vividly remember signing. They all signed with us in September and I remember sitting down for our coaches meetings that summer. We wrote down five players that we had to five and these three guys were on that list and we got them. It doesn't always work out that way. These were the impact guys and three big pieces of a big recruiting class. They had great careers and at the end of the day fulfilled every expectation we had of them as to recruits.
6. This year's senior class included 12 graduating players. Is this the largest senior class you have had in your coaching career?
My second year as head coach we had a big class also and it makes for some interesting times with that many seniors. There are a lot of different personalities and things going on in their careers. What I remember most is that this senior class signed with us the fall of the year that we had come off going 14-32 (in 2003). They took a chance on our coaching staff and our program and at the end of the day they all graduated, had a chance to play in the playoffs two straight years, and wound up their careers in the semifinals of the BIG EAST Championship.
I couldn't ask for any more from these guys. There are teams that have won BIG EAST Championships here and I was an assistant coach on the 1991 championship team but those great teams didn't have to go through Louisville, Cincinnati, Notre Dame or even Rutgers. I think that the path this team had to take to get where they did and to overcome some of the obstacles they had along the way made for a more challenging road for this team than what any other Villanova team has had to go through. That isn't to take anything away from the great teams that we have had in the past, but I think the journey today was a lot more difficult than it was maybe 15 years ago.
One thing that probably didn't show up with this senior class as much as with other classes was the number of wins. They won 114 games in four years and that is a very big number. They also got to 30 wins their senior season and they did it after starting 8-15, which speaks to the character of the team.
7. Villanova's hitters led the BIG EAST in walks from start to finish this season and ranked among the top 10 in the nation in the category.
We continue to emphasis what we call our West Coast offense and we have gotten some attention from national periodicals and websites that call us about the walks and the things that we do offensively. It all has to do with getting on base. We talk about how taking walks opens up our bunt and running game and we can drive in runs from there. The key this year was that no matter how difficult things got at the beginning of the year we never abandoned our game plan. When all is said and done we are sixth in the country in walks and led the BIG EAST by a lot. Whether it is by a walk or a base hit, when you get on first base you have a chance to do some things.
Our walks are a big part of the team philosophy and it is the same thing with the stolen bases and hit by pitches that we get. It doesn't matter whether our hitters are in the lineup or come off the bench. They grasp the philosophy of what we are trying to do and we won some games down the stretch playing our style of baseball. We were probably low down in the BIG EAST in a number of offensive categories but we got on base and got into our offense and met our goal with the walks.
8. Villanova hit 17 home runs at home this season after hitting just 20 combined in its home stadium in the first five years the facility was open. The season included the first two multi-homer games at the Villanova Ballpark at Plymouth and the first walk-off home run in stadium history. What changed?
I don't know what was going on this year but it was definitely a record for home runs hit at that park in the six years we have been there. Joe Cotter was the first guy with a multi-homer game and Kyle Carver hit a walk-off home run. We had a veteran ballclub and I think one thing our team tried to do at home was make home runs non-existent in terms of thought process. The hitters focused on getting a good pitch to hit and eventually pitchers got tired of walking us. That shrinks the strike zone and we have some big, strong guys that have been playing for a long time and can hit it out of the park. The veterans we have on the team don't worry about hitting the ball into the gap and not having it go over the fence. Once you stop thinking about whether you will hit home runs or not it takes a lot of pressure off.
9. The 58 games Villanova played were its most ever in a single season. Derek Shunk and Dan Terpak each set a record by playing in all 58 games and Shunk's 228 at-bats are a new single-season school record.
One of the things that led to the number of games this year was that we got a break with the weather early in the season and were able to get in a lot of games during our first couple of home weekends. That combined with making the playoffs a second straight season to give us a lot of games and help some of our individual numbers too.
10. Now that all is said and done, can you look back on the final weekend of the regular season and the dramatic way that Villanova rallied to beat St. John's and clinch a playoff berth?
There was a lot of pressure on us with St. John's coming to town as the No. 17 team in the country. We went back to last season when we had to beat Rutgers once the final weekend and it was the same thing. St. John's had also beaten us 11 times in a row over a few years and that was the second monkey on our back. We used the terminology `sometimes in sports' all year long because we knew that St. John's couldn't beat us forever and that eventually we would get our wins. I felt good that with the law of averages things would go our way.
The series started on Thursday and St. John's beat us up pretty badly and other teams won. The message to the team was that we had been a resilient squad all year and had come back several times after games where we got beat pretty badly. It helped us getting rained out on Friday because it kind of washed away the day before and took some pressure off with Rutgers losing twice and getting eliminated. We relaxed a little bit more and on Saturday we were down 7-0 in the seventh inning of a seven-inning game. I will never forget that Robert Parks came into the dugout and said if we scored eight runs we were going back to the playoffs. It had been a pretty quiet bench but Dain Hall led off with a walk and the next thing you know we have some momentum and tied it up. Once the game got to extra innings we knew it would be the same as last year and that it would go our way.
We found a way to navigate through that weekend and I think the third game of the weekend really changed the complexion of the Villanova-St. John's series. As much as I wanted our minds to be on that third game it was hard for us not to be thinking about making the playoffs and going to Florida. Kevin Crimmel and Ryan Shockley went out and shut them down until the eighth inning and all of a sudden it just seemed that St. John's wasn't the big bad wolf anymore.
May 7, 2008
On the Pittsburgh series: Obviously this was a big series. We went into it saying we had to win the series and we went in with a lot of excitement coming off the win over Penn State and starting to build some momentum. In the back of my mind, just with it being the end of the year and the home team having such an advantage in this series, I kind of had a feeling that if we could win the first game we would be set up for a sweep.
It was not an easy series and I don't know if we even played that great. We played extremely well on Friday and they battled back and tied it before we won on a walk-off home run, which was a first in my career and the first-ever at this ballpark. I thought that Matt McFolling had hit a ball out and then Kyle Carver hit one out that I thought was going in the gap. It took a lot of energy away from Pitt for us to win the first game in that fashion.
On the second two games of the series: Brian Streilein pitched extremely well in the second game despite us not playing very good defense at times. We didn't play great defense during the weekend and some of that had to do with watching Pitt play the same way. Sunday we went out and scored 16 runs, which is the most I can remember us scoring in a Big East game in some time. It was the type of game where we would score a few runs and then they would come back and it seemed like the game would never end. It was like that the last five innings but in the end we got over .500 for the first time all year and got three games over. We are back to the same exact record as we had last year and now go on the road to play another team competing for the last spot before coming home to face possibly the regular season champion.
On the team being tied for the final playoff spot: I told the team two weeks ago that this team was all about April and May. We weren't a February and March team and for better or worse we started playing well when we really needed to. We had an impressive record in April and a 3-0 start to May. We are 18-4 at home, which has to be one of the better home records in the program and definitely the best at this ballpark. We still have four home games left out of seven total. As the weather got better we got better. As it turned out we played a very tough beginning of the schedule. Seton Hall turned out to be a top four team and Connecticut was playing well at the time we saw them. We found a way to get a win at Louisville and a win at South Florida. Hopefully we will look back in two weeks and those two wins will be the difference that got us into the playoffs. They were big turning points for us. After losing 20-4 to South Florida, that game got us onto a current five-game winning streak.
On hitting a walk-off home run to win a home game: That possibility never entered into my mind. Maybe a little bit with Matt McFolling but not with Kyle. We were going into a stretch in the ninth with Carver and Guida due up where we weren't going to be able to steal. Honestly, if Matt got on base we probably would have pinch hit and bunted someone for Carver and then had someone lined up to hit for Guida. There was an outside thought of Matt maybe hitting it out but the ending was certainly exciting.
On the small ball offense and bunts in the final game of the series: We call it our USC play with runners at first and third on a bunt. It is a dangerous play because you bunt it to the pitcher and it is a pretty easy play. Our team and everyone at the game saw what happened when we ran it. The pitcher fields that ball and there is a guy coming home and a guy going to second and the hitter going to first and he threw it off the plate and then we really got it going. If Derek Shunk doesn't get thrown out at second trying to stretch a hit into a double we would have bunted again and might still be playing that inning. We may have wound up with seven runs in that inning but even still we got five runs with maybe just one or two balls getting past third base. It was good to see because we did that against Georgetown but had Notre Dame due it to us. We have seen the good and bad sides of the offense and how it can snowball on you in a hurry.
On the starts by Jordan Ellis and Brian Streilein in the series: Both guys had very impressive starts. Jordan had tough luck with not getting a win out of that. He walked two in the eighth and they eventually scored. He has pitched well at home all year. It was good to see Brian bounce back. He is still a young kid as a sophomore in his first year as a starter. I know he was disappointed in his start at South Florida and felt like he let the team down. I told him that he didn't; in was just one bad outing. Even in Saturday's game against Pittsburgh I thought he deserved better. We misplayed a ball in left field and without that Brian probably wins the game 9-1 or 10-1 with a complete game. He allowed eight hits in the first four innings and just one after that, but even some of the early hits were extended. There were a couple of hits after the misplayed ball in left field and another in the second inning. Brian gave up nine hits total but a few of those shouldn't have even happened.
On Josh Eidell pitching in all three games: We needed Josh to be in there all three games. In the first game he gave up the hit in the eighth inning and then got out of it and had a relatively easy ninth inning. It was important that we won that game in the ninth. If Josh has to go back out there then we can maybe only get one more day out of him. We would have liked to get through the game on Sunday but because we didn't play good defense early on Bill Hoffman had a high pitch count and was out after five innings. We went to Ryan Shockley and Gus Guida an inning earlier than we would have liked. The game was as uncomfortable a 16-10 win as there can be. If the one comebacker in the ninth gets by Josh that hitter is probably safe and if they score another run who knows what happens after that.
On Wesley Borden: Wes has become a real offensive threat, hitting .300 with five home runs. At the beginning of the year we probably would have been happy with him hitting in the .270 range but he has had some big hits. Of the five home runs, he has hit some big ones in conference play. He put the Sunday game against Pitt away with a three-run shot and he put a game away against Georgetown with a late home run. He has become quite a player and has done a good job hitting anywhere from fifth to eighth in the lineup. His on-base percentage is .411, which is very good for a guy that just isn't going to run. He has drawn 20 walks and been hit three times. He is a real threat in the league and I can't think of a better hitting catcher that we have seen this year. Hopefully Wes can keep it going over the next two weekends. If we keep getting production out of him we are going to have a good chance to make the playoffs.
On the Rutgers series: Obviously there is a lot on the line again with these guys. We had it lined up where we played Penn State, Pittsburgh and Rutgers all in a row. Those games put together one of our biggest non-conference games and our two biggest conference series. I don't know if the series against Pittsburgh and Rutgers mean as much to them as they do to us but these games always mean something more to our players. We have a chance to go over there and possibly end their season. I know our guys will bring a great energy level for a number of reasons, first because it is Rutgers and second because of what is at stake. I have a comfort level going into the series because we have been in this situation before. It is like we have played the same exact season two years in a row and just need to do the same thing as last year.
Rutgers is a team very much like Pitt in that they are traditionally a playoff team every year. They don't usually find themselves down in this portion of the standings. They are a team that usually, when their season ends, it is in a playoff type environment and a one-game situation. We have played well at Rutgers in the past but this will be the first time on their turf. I think it will be a fantastic weekend. Hopefully the weather will hold out. They usually draw big and raucous crowds. Our guys, after coming back to get wins at Louisville and South Florida, are ready to win a road series.
On the team's experience taking over with so many seniors: I think that is the case. From a coaching perspective I am kind of on auto pilot because there is nothing more to say. The guys know what is at stake. From a managerial standpoint, our job as coaches now is to put them in the right positions to succeed. They know that we played Rutgers four times last year and seven of the nine guys from their starting lineup last year are now playing pro ball. That speaks volumes about their program and I know our guys will go in with no fear and with a chance to win the series and say that we are the better team.
On the BIG EAST standings: I think the standings our very similar to last year as they pertain to where we are at. Last year we went to Georgetown and they had a little better record and were in it right until the end. I break down the standings and obviously we need a series win against Rutgers but we are in a situation where if we win three games then we clinch a playoff spot. The key, though, is just finding a way to win two games because that puts pressure on USF to win at St. John's or at home against Notre Dame. They are playing the number one and two teams.
Meanwhile, West Virginia has Louisville at home and I'm not sure what their mindset will be after losing a lead in the ninth inning at St. John's. If somehow the weekend leads to us walking out tied with them, then that puts a lot of pressure on the teams that are not playing well. If we win the series we will go into the final series at home against St. John's with the confidence of playing well. I would much rather play a first place team when things are going well for us than if they were not. The key thing is that we are in control of our own destiny and if we win two games this weekend that changes everything in a positive way for us.
April 30, 2008
On the South Florida series: It was a disappointing series. I thought we had a good chance to go down there and play well and possibly win the series. I had a good feeling going into it because we beat them at home last year. They were what we thought they were. South Florida had a good top half of the lineup and I thought we could get them out at the bottom of the lineup. For whatever reason Jordan Ellis struggled at the bottom of the lineup in the first game and Brian Streilein had the worst outing of his career in the second game.
On winning the last game against South Florida: Everybody was kind of beside themselves on Saturday night after losing 20-4. We gave up a lot of runs in back to back weekends but I give the kids a lot of credit. They showed on Sunday that they have a lot of fight and character to regroup and play together on Sunday. At that point we were just playing for ourselves and a little bit of pride. W jumped on them early and the next thing you know a guy hits a grand slam with two outs in the fifth inning and we are down. Traditionally we have not been a big comeback team but we were able to score four runs in the last three innings and really hold them off in the ninth when they had the tying run at first base and the winning run at the plate.
On the pitching in the final game of the series: Josh Eidell went four innings in relief and I really thought that Bill Hoffman did a great job. We gave up seven runs and he allowed six of them, but if you take one pitch away on the grand slam his line looked pretty good. I don't remember what it was but I think we had a chance to get out of that inning a little bit sooner. We played good defense in the series, especially on a hard infield, but I felt like the inning where they hit the grand slam was extended; either we could have gotten a strike called or something else. It just felt like Bill could have been out of the inning still up 5-2 or 5-3. There weren't a lot of home runs going out of the yard during the weekend and their hitter that we hadn't gotten out all weekend hit one out of the yard.
On the Louisville and South Florida series: We gave up a lot of runs in back to back weekends and, really, got drubbed in four of the six games. We gave up 60 runs in the two weekends but somehow we found a way to win two games. Hopefully when we look back on the season we will look at the wins in the final games against Louisville and South Florida as critical wins that gave us a chance to compete the final three weekends. We are one win off where we were last year at the same time and we play two of our last three series at home.
On the win over Penn State: The Penn State game is obviously very important o our schedule. We usually play them a little later so it was kind of unique to have a game against them on the last day of April and also during the week of the Pittsburgh series. I always circle the game against Penn State and the series against Pittsburgh as the games that determine who the dominant team in the state is. Penn State hasn't beaten us since 2003 and the games against them are always very competitive. I don't know how they got 16 hits and only five runs. It seemed like Chris Pack was in trouble in the first inning and pitched out of it. After that there was a series of innings where it seemed like it would be two outs and nobody on and then they would have multiple runners on. Even the runs they got against Wendler on the back-to-back doubles came with two outs.
I think at one point I looked at the scoreboard and Penn State had 10 hits and we had five and we were winning 4-1. That just speaks to our park a little bit. Penn State came in and didn't try to run or bunt and had to string three hits together in an inning and wound up just getting two a lot of the time. I am very happy with the win and the way the guys played. We are 15-4 at home and now we can say that our seniors never lost to Penn State. They swept three games from them in their careers and I guess that Bill Hoffman as a fifth-year guy got an extra one and was 4-for-4.
On Chris Pack: Chris reminds me a lot of Nick Allen. Obviously it makes it tough on a guy coming off a redshirt season and a knee injury. The surgery he had is like what [former basketball player] Jason Fraser had. It is a major procedure and I don't know necessarily if it fair to expect a full recovery from that in one year. Because of that, I think that Chris, different from anyone else on the team, needs to recreate the lower part of his body over the course of this year and into next year.
I would say that as pitching goes, Chris is in the middle now of needing to transition from getting out of being a Tuesday guy and feeling comfortable winning Tuesday games, to making the transition to a weekend pitcher who can contribute in the Big East. A big outing for him was last week at South Florida where he went in for two innings to mop up. He struggled with the strike zone initially but he kept battling and I don't remember if they got any runs against him or not. Penn State has a Big East caliber offense and against them Chris gave up hits and not runs. The end result was good and Chris was able to pound the strike zone to get out of innings. I'm sure he would want to be a little further along with things at this point, but as a freshman coming off an injury we will certainly take having four wins out of 10 starts for him.
On using Josh Eidell for four innings at USF: We had it laid out that we were going to go with Josh and Ryan Shockley, and that Gus Guida and Brian Streilein would also be available. We ended up losing both Guida and Shockley on one of the bench things in the game and then USF lost a backup who probably wasn't going to play anyway. Because of some of the other things going on it really became Josh's game. You like to use him no earlier than the seventh inning and have him in the eighth and ninth, but the game was on the line in the sixth inning. That was our season and we knew we had to keep the game at 6-5. Josh is a guy that can extend himself. It was close in the ninth inning to bring in Shockley but we felt that Josh had the experience. It isn't always pretty, but Josh always seems to throw enough strokes to get you out. He gives up very few free passes and I know that when he fell behind in the ninth at USF it was because he was starting to tire.
On Eidell being able to go several innings in games: I think that's the one thing that Josh has as a former starter. I was talking to Frank Boulton of the Long Island Ducks and he said that Eidell is like Goose Gossage with three-inning saves. That's how it used to be but none of our other guys out of the pen can do that. With is experience of being a starter first, Josh is able to pitch through some innings and use his energy to balance things out and get the job done. He was outstanding against South Florida and was very deserving of the Big East honor roll selection that he got this week.
On Dan Terpak reaching base 22 straight games: It's funny with Dan because there are times where it feels like we are trying to coax him along or seems that he is struggling. He and Derek Shunk don't always get the prettiest hits. They get their share of forgettable hits with two-hoppers up the middle and dunks behind second base. We need those kinds of hits and other teams certainly get them against us. We talked to the team about being an April and May team and when you look at us winning 14 games in the month of April, a lot of that had to do with Derek and Terpak getting on base and driving in runs. Any baseball team needs its three and four hitters to produce and we are a much different offense when those two are on their game.
On the recent lineup moves: We came up with a name for it now and call it our bandit offense when we pinch hit for the DH spot the first time up. As far as that goes, players will be players. Joe Rosati is our guy as the designated hitter but has been slumping a little bit. Really we have three or four guys that can do a number of things and with this offense we are creating one guy and letting the situation create the player. We have the option of using Rosati as a leadoff guy or with a man on first, we can go to Tim Poydenis in a sacrifice bunt situation, and we can use Matt McFolling or Dain Hall, if he doesn't play third, in RBI spots. We basically found a way to take the best out of four or five guys and make that into one player.
We stayed with the bandit offense on Friday and Saturday and then on Sunday we put McFolling in there. Eventually Tim Poydenis had a big hit in that game and Joe Rosati was able to steal a base. There have been a lot of moves but they have been effective. At the rest of the spots we are going with what we've got. Kyle Carver is a great defensive guy at first base and Gus Guida was back and forth with Dain Hall at third base. We made a bunch of moves basically in one or two areas. We used it against Penn State a little bit too. McFolling got the first RBI of the game and had another base hit where a runner was thrown out at the plate. In that game, Rosati pinch ran and stole a base and scored. We got two runs and almost three out of the seven because of the offensive moves.
On Tim Poydenis: Tim is a very valuable piece of the offense coming off the bench. He is a fifth-year guy who has played a lot of baseball and is very relaxed as a player. He is comfortable with his role and not being an everyday guy. People tend to look at batting average and not his on-base percentage. When you put him in certain spots he has a very strong idea of the strike zone and doesn't expand out early in counts. He got down a push bunt against Temple and had a hit against Georgetown that helped us get a win. In the game against South Florida we got something like six guys on with two outs and kept an inning going. I know that Tim had the base hit and we scored a couple runs after that. The way our offense works really can take advantage of someone like Tim.
On the upcoming series against Pittsburgh: Coming into this series we are 15-4 at home and Pitt is 4-14 on the road. The home team has been dominant in this series the last few years and it always seems like these two teams bring out the best in each other. You can always throw the records out in this series because both teams take the series personally. We are tied for ninth in the Big East with them so the season is on the line for both teams. We have a little bit of an advantage in that Pitt is plays on a small turf field and is coming to play on grass in a large ballpark. The pitching is critical in the series and out starting pitching has to give us a chance to win each game. We can't give up a lot of runs like we have the past two weekends; we need to hold them to five runs or less every day.
Pitt has good starting pitching with two lefties that will throw against us. Nate Reed is very good and will be a draft guy next year, and Rob Brant has been there four years and is a veteran guy much along the lines of Mike Loree for us last year. Brant gives up hits but finds a way to get wins too. Joe Jordano is one of the best coaches in the league and we will have our hands full. I told the team that we have 10 games left and we have been the kind of team that gets wins in bunches.
If we win the series then we go to Rutgers with a chance to compete for a playoff spot. The guys are ready for it. They have been there before and it is similar to the West Virginia series we played here on the same weekend last year. Top to bottom we probably have a more veteran ballclub than Pitt does experience wise and we have probably been down this road a little bit more than them with this particular team. I would expect our best effort of the year and expect that Jordan Ellis will go out there in the first game with something to prove and will give us his best effort of the year.
On facing two left-handed pitchers in the series: Six weeks ago if we were going to see two lefties I probably would have worried. Now we really only have two lefties in the lineup with Wes Borden and James Dolbier playing every day. At times we had as many as five left-handed bats in the lineup. Now we have made the move with Kyle Carver especially and Gus Guida to settle down the infield defense. That gives us an extra right-handed bat in the lineup and we have done better against the last couple of lefties we have faced.
On having a chance to compete for a playoff berth: I always circle this weekend of the season, especially now that the Big East has an eight-team playoff. We end the season the same way every year, home the first weekend of May, then on the road, then back at home to finish the regular season. The first year of this format we won a series against Cincinnati at home and then went to Louisville and couldn't get it done. Last year we won a series against West Virginia and then went and won a series on the road at Georgetown. Basically we are in a situation where if we win this series against Pittsburgh we have a chance to knock a team out. We go to New Jersey next weekend to play Rutgers and who knows where we are at. We could be down two games, we could be tied, or we could be up. The nature of our program is to be in these tight situations for playoff contention down the stretch. That's what it comes down to. We have been a good home team so far and that gives us confidence against anybody at our home park.
April 23, 2008
On finishing a 12-game homestand with wins over La Salle and Lafayette: Our goal was to go 9-3 on the homestand and we were sitting at 7-3 so we needed these two wins to reach our goal. We beat La Salle for the third time this season and we had three very difficult games against them. I don't know the reason why but you can throw out the records whenever we play them and it always seems like the games are decided in the late innings. Maybe they get up for us more than we do for them but we played three very good games against them.
The win against Lafayette was an important game for us. We have played them twice since I have been here and they beat us twice in Liberty Bell Classic games. For whatever reason, we seemed to struggle against them like we have against Lehigh at times. They scored three runs in the first inning and then got out of a jam in the bottom half but eventually we were able to pile it on and they had no answers out of the bullpen. It was good to get those two wins and get set up for the rest of the year because we are going to have to win some games at home down the stretch.
On the Friday game at Louisville: The series was difficult. I thought Jordan Ellis pitched good, not great on Friday. The plate umpire had a tight zone. It was fair both ways but tight and he wanted you to throw the ball over the plate. Jordan's pitch count elevated a little bit and he had some trouble with some walks. We were down 3-0 and kept battling until Wes Borden hit a three-run home to tie it. Just when we thought we had taken control of the game we gave up six runs in the bottom of the inning. Earned or unearned I don't know, but when you play a team like Louisville at their place you have to throw up zero's when you tie the game. The inning that we scored three, they scored six. The inning we scored two, they scored three. We did a lot offensively in the game but like Notre Dame the week before it just seemed that Louisville found a way to get their hits with two outs and we didn't.
On the Saturday game at Louisville: We faced probably the top lefty in the league in Justin Marks. From a coaching perspective we made the decision to start Bill Hoffman and not Brian Streilein, mostly out of respect to Marks. They scored eight runs early and we held them down for a few innings and eventually they added four runs late. It was a pedestrian win for Louisville and disappointing for us. I just didn't think we competed at the level I thought we needed to and that is what we talked about going into Sunday's game.
On the Sunday game at Louisville: On Sunday we went out with Brian Streilein against their freshman lefty Bob Revesz. He is a western Pennsylvania kid that might have been drafted and both teams played as clean a game as I have seen. This is the third time we played Louisville that the pitching really dominated the game. It was 1-0 in the seventh inning and Streilein was outstanding. There were some key defensive plays both ways. We outhit them and found a way to generate enough offense to get a couple of hits with two outs to tie the game and then take the lead and extend it. Ryan Shockley did a good job out of the bullpen and Josh Eidell closed it out. The level of play on Sunday was where I think it needs to be for us. You always want to win all three games or win the series but to beat someone like Louisville who is probably better overall top to bottom and looked comfortable at home gives us some momentum. That was probably an A+ game that we played on Sunday and maybe we don't win that game playing A- or even `A' baseball.
On the lineup used at Louisville: We just thought that what we needed to do was to stabilize certain areas of the team. We battled back from the brink of disaster for the season and had a chance this week to get back to .500. I don't think that there has been a point where the offense, defense and pitching hit on all cylinders yet. We started Gus Guida at third base to take some of the pressure off Dain Hall as a freshman, especially with the environment at Louisville and playing on the turf. Gus has the experience of playing at Texas and Alabama and getting a playoff start last season. We stabilized the defense and just tried to get a good hitting and pitching performance.
We thought that with Gus at third base and Kyle Carver at first base against a lefty we had our best defense out there and could piggy back on swinging the bats and just going out and pitching. It was a bonus that Kyle hit the ball too and gave us the lead. We were also able to use Dain Hall at the plate in an RBI spot. It's going to be a week to week thing with the lineup and we will see what happens at USF. They are going to throw three right-handed pitchers I think so that will be a little different than facing two lefties the weekend before.
On using several different players as the designated hitter on Sunday: I tip my hat to West Virginia because they tried that at Connecticut last year, where they put the starting pitcher from the day before as the designated hitter batting ninth. Everyone wants to give me the credit for it because it worked on Sunday but they did that last year. I was nervous about it. We asked the umpires three straight weeks if we could do that and it works because it is just a straight switch. We almost had that spot in the lineup come up in the second inning and would have used Dain Hall in an RBI spot, but instead it was leading off the third inning and we went with Tim Poydenis. We could also have used Joe Rosati against a right-handed pitcher depending on the situation. It adds a little bit of a wrinkle that makes a lot of sense.
A lot of teams have a clear-cut guy as the designated hitter. We have been using Joe Rosati and he does a great job against left-handed pitchers but we still have left-handed bats in there with James Dolbier and Wes Borden and we didn't want to wind up with three or four lefties in there and get jammed up. Louisville is such a left-right matchup team that we wanted to dictate who we wanted in there as opposed to them dictating who they want to pitch to.
On the decision process for whom to hit in the DH spot: We had a whole matrix. It was going to be Tim Poydenis or Joe Rosati with two outs and nobody on. It was going to be Dain Hall with a guy at second or third regardless of the situation. It was going to be Tim Poydenis with a man on first and two outs or with nobody on. Bill Hoffman wasn't going to get in the game. It is something that we might do again.
On Wes Borden and Kyle Carver driving in the tying and game-winning runs on Sunday: I give Wes a lot of credit. He has been swinging the bat well but he was 0-for-3 with three strikeouts against the lefty on Sunday but then he got a chance to wear it out against the bullpen. I was surprised that they took out Gabriel Shaw because it took away the lefty matchup. They went to B.J. Rosenberg right away and then against Kyle Carver they tried to throw a slider and left it in the middle of the plate. Kyle did a good job and he hit some balls to the warning track too.
On Wes Borden's power hitting: His power is no surprise. Wes has always shown power since he got here, although seeing him hit a home run to left-center field was a bit unexpected. The more at bats he gets the more comfortable he is in there. He has done a much better job on the off-speed pitches this year than the other years. That either means he is getting hits on the off-speed pitches or fouling enough of them off to get back to a fastball count.
On going on the road after 12 straight games at home: You would like to play every game at home but obviously we can't do that in conference. It was a long trip to Louisville because of leaving early in the morning and coming back late on Sunday night. Winning on Sunday gives us some confidence going into the USF series. It takes some of the edge off and we will play a team we have beaten before this weekend in Florida, where we have had some success.
On the atmosphere at Louisville: Louisville is a difficult place to play. They have a great atmosphere and they draw a big crowd that is on you for all nine innings. They also didn't make an error in three games on the turf so we had that to deal with too. It is a very difficult place to win for a visiting team.
On the wins over Temple and Saint Joseph's in the middle of the week: We always seem to have high-scoring games against Temple, whether or not it ends up being a good game or bad game. The games against them are always competitive. Temple is in first place in the Atlantic 10 and has a winning record late in the year for the first time probably in a while. Maybe they have the game circled on their calendar when they play us.
We avenged an earlier loss to Saint Joseph's. Each week we break down the whole week and the teams we are playing and have some notes about each game. The only thing we put down as notes for Saint Joseph's is that they beat us 7-5 on March 18. I tip my hat to Lee Saverio. He beat us when he was at La Salle and beat us again at Saint Joseph's. This week's game was the last time that 14 seniors were going to be on the field against Saint Joseph's. It was about the players. It has been a long time since we lost to a Big Five team at home and it didn't happen this week.
On the USF series: They are a tough team to put your finger on. They are as dangerous as anybody in the league and last year we were very fortunate to play them at home and somehow win two games. They are a team that at times can play as well as anybody in the country. Sometimes they are on and other times off so hopefully we catch them when they are off. They won two of three games impressively at Rutgers last weekend. It is another situation where if both teams play their `A' game then USF probably beats us. We have to find a way to take care of what we need to do and make one more play to win a game.
April 16, 2008
On the Notre Dame series: We had been playing extremely good baseball going into the series and had won several games in a row at home. I think that during the series Notre Dame found ways to extend at-bats and extend innings where Villanova didn't. I tip my hat to Notre Dame for winning all three games. They are in first place and, although I have seen better Notre Dame teams, they played very well. They put balls on the ground and with a hard infield those balls got through for hits. Basically Notre Dame outcoached us, outhit us, outpitched us and they won all three games.
On the Friday game (2-1 loss): The game was a rematch between Jordan Ellis and David Phelps and I think both threw an A+ game. We got a run off of Phelps early and had a chance the next inning with a runner on third and less than two outs but he got out of it with a strikeout and a pop up. They extended their at-bats and I think they tied the game on an 0-2 hit and the go-ahead run scored with two outs in the ninth.
On the Saturday game (8-5 loss): It was a similar game to the day before but both offenses scored more. There was just one inning we couldn't get out of and they hit a home run to go ahead. It was kind of an odd thing because none of the balls that inning were hit hard with the exception of the home run.
On the Sunday game (13-0 loss): Sunday's game was a complete disaster. Notre Dame scored first and for whatever reason we wound up playing our worst game of the year.
On Villanova needing to play its `A' game to beat Notre Dame: I think that we needed to play our `A' or `A-minus' game against Notre Dame. On Friday we did that and on Saturday it was probably our B+ game. I think that what happens in our league and the challenge that we face is that we always seem to be in the situation of needing to play our best to win conference games. Sometimes the other team plays their `A' game at the same time and that makes it tough. If Notre Dame had their B or B- game on Friday we probably win 4-2.
On using the Friday and Saturday games for momentum going into Louisville series: We can use it to a degree. We have so many returning guys and they all understand what we have to do. We talked the other night and stressed that continuing to get guys on base is the key. I can't remember the last time we lost a Big East game where we got down two to three sacrifice bunts, made one error less, put at least 18 balls in play and didn't issue many walks. That is what our `A' or A- game is. The team has come to grips with that. It is a vanilla and chocolate game plan for us and we had better understand that and know that we have to play at that level to have a chance to win. If the other team plays at that level also then you just have to find a way to make one more play to win the game.
On the 12-game homestand: When we left Connecticut and before the homestand started we said that the team needed to go out and win nine of the 12 baseball games. We needed to draw a line in the sand and just start playing well. We were seven games below .500 when the homestand started and things were going to go one way or the other. We swept Georgetown and played well in the midweek games and even against Georgetown. We met the goal of winning nine games and though the three losses came in the Big East, the nine wins overall were important for how we need to play and where we need to be.
On playing other `small ball' teams such as Notre Dame: There is a saying in basketball that teams which press don't like to be pressed. In practice we really work on defending ourselves with the amount of time we spend with bunts, etc. Whether or not we do a good job with our bunting game it is what we work on. We have guys that know what to do with guys on first, or with runners at first and second, or with a left-handed pitcher on the mound. I didn't understand against Notre Dame why we didn't come and get the baseball. For whatever reason it just snowballed on us. We didn't handle it on Saturday and it continued into Sunday. Hopefully we have washed that away now.
On Derek Shunk breaking the career hits record: That is a great accomplishment for Derek. These things have been somewhat common for us lately with Mike Loree last year breaking the innings pitched record at Villanova and in the Big East. This record for Derek is probably one of the top three hitting records if not the top one that is out there. I was here in 2001 when Matt Longo previously set the record and I remember him breaking the record late in the year. Derek did it pretty early in the year, basically in the first half. That gives Derek a chance wind up with what will be a very loft and impressive record. The nice thing about Derek breaking this record is that he is a much better person than he is a ballplayer. When I can say that this guy is a much better person than player and then say that he has the most hits in the program since 1866, that really is a testament to the high quality of his character. For him, this record probably caps off what may be a Hall of Fame career at Villanova somewhere down the line.
On Joe Rosati's stolen bases: Our philosophy isn't hard to figure out. Teams know we are going to try to run. From our standpoint we are looking for certain keys from the players because some of them have the green light and if they get a read they are going to go. Joe has such explosive speed and I think he is our best base runner from first to third and from first to home. He runs hard and he runs straight and takes corners well. I think that with stealing bases Joe is comfortable getting a read and going. When he gets on base and gets that read he is gone. It also helps him to be hitting in front of the heart of the order. When he gets on base a lot of times the other team won't want to give in with fastballs to the heart of the order and he has a chance to get out and run.
On the Louisville series this weekend: It will be a very stiff challenge to play Louisville. They are one of the top programs in the conference and maybe in the country. They are coming off a College World Series appearance. We aren't playing the same team that went to the CWS last year but even against that team we got one win and played them very competitively in another game last season. Our last time at Louisville was a disaster and we know they have good fans and good players. Louisville has a turf field that can play slow at times and it is difficult to generate offense. They have a strong pitching staff with probably two of the top pitchers in the league. We will have our hands full scoring against them and it will be important for us to not hit them or walk them and to take care of the baseball. If we don't do those things then Louisville is definitely going to make us pay. The weekend will be tough but there is a lot of excitement around it and we want to go out like we did at Connecticut with the mindset of finding a way to win a game. If that happens on Friday or Saturday then we will take care of business the next day too.
On the former Villanova players currently in the minor leagues: We have four guys playing right now, with Kevin Mulvey and Brian Slocum at the Triple-A level and Jeremy Hunt at the Class-A level and Mike Loree in extended spring training. I am excited for all of these guys.
Brian and Kevin are the front line guys and I think both of them are just a phone call away from being in the major leagues. We want that for Brian because he is just ready to be a big leaguer and we want it for Kevin because it will be his first call up. There is a different kind of excitement and level of expectation for both guys but hopefully we will see them both in the big leagues this year and maybe as an AL Central matchup.
Jeremy Hunt is a dangerous character and he can really swing the bat. He plays a couple of positions and I am just hoping that he hangs around long enough to maybe one day get a call up. He probably isn't in position for that to happen this year but it isn't out of the question for his career to be similar to the paths of Mike Neill and Gene Schall. Although Jeremy wasn't drafted as high as those two and may not get the same opportunities, if he can eventually get to the Double-A or Triple-A level and post some numbers, you never know what might happen after that.
We know the great character of a pitcher like Mike Loree and know that he will continue to battle in extended spring training. He is a hard worker and I am sure that whenever he gets assigned to a team at any level this year he is going to go there and do well.
April 9, 2008
On the previous week: The key thing last week, after we came off a hard weekend at Connecticut, was just to know that we were coming home for 12 games. We talked about that on Sunday before we left Connecticut and again on Monday and Tuesday before we played La Salle. That La Salle game, we were up 9-6 and things looked good and then the next thing you know they tie it 9-9. I think the way we won that game, scoring in the bottom of the ninth inning, maybe gave us a little bit more of a sense or urgency than if we had just won it 9-6.
On the La Salle win: Going into this past week, I really felt that the team had been playing better and with a little bit more confidence. We were down 4-0 to La Salle and it was the second time this year that happened against them, but we came back and got ahead and eventually Ryan Shockley came in and got out of a jam after they tied it up. The fashion we won the game in is probably just what the team needed to get on a roll.
On the Coppin State win: The way we won the game against La Salle really gave us a lot of confidence and after a game like that Coppin State didn't have a chance. They got here let and I just thought our guys handled that really well and had a lot of energy carried over from the day before.
On the Georgetown series: The games on Friday and Saturday were very difficult contests. They were a little bit atypical for us in the sense that we won both games by coming from behind. We led 1-0 in both games and on Friday it seemed like Jordan Ellis was under control but then Georgetown went up 3-1. Since I have been here the one thing I have noticed with Georgetown is that they have trouble fielding our bunts. I didn't think it would be any different this year. We got guys on base and got our bunts down in good locations and they didn't handle it. That isn't us getting a break, it is us just executing a good game plan. This was the most complete weekend we have played so far. It was by no means the best this team can play, but it was the best this team played all year. We have talked about being a good home team. We had five games last week and won them all.
On Brian Streilein's start against Georgetown: I think for seven innings in that game Brian threw the ball as well as maybe anyone at Villanova that I have seen. He was dominant and in the middle of the game got out of a bases loaded jam with a strikeout and a double play. I think that what happened is in the bottom of the sixth we had such a short inning offensively and got out I think on 5-6 pitches. It just seemed like there had been too much emotion and energy spent and he didn't have enough time to regroup. Georgetown wound up getting three runs off him and I didn't think the game was over but I thought we were in some trouble going to the bottom of the seventh and with the amount of time we had left. The guys just grinded it out. We had their infielders moving and they didn't make the plays.
On Kyle Carver's first start: We made the decision on Saturday night to give Kyle his first career start. He got two outs in the first inning and then gave up a run and in the second inning they had two in scoring position. Kyle got out of that jam and then shut them out into the sixth inning and the bullpen did a good job.
On playing low-scoring games against Georgetown: If you look at what our team is all about, these are the kinds of games we have to play. We know at the end of the year that either we will be going to the playoffs or having exit meetings and the difference will simply be about our pitching staff and the defense. We want to play games that are five runs or less and that is what we did this weekend. Some of the games we played early in the year, from the Michigan series to the games against Northeastern and Western Michigan, it seemed like we were trying to win games 12-10 and it wasn't working for us. It's not that we can't go out and beat a team blow for blow. We talk about styles making fights but I'm just not sure we can go and knock someone out every day. But if we can go out and box and outpoint them then we can be a pretty good baseball team.
On the comfort level of playing at home: One of the things about beginning this year with so many guys coming back is I think this senior group was 22 games over .500 at home. We knew we can win at home and had four series at home in the conference. There is just a comfort level of knowing the ballpark and seeing the winds change in every direction. It is a big ballpark and I think our pitchers are comfortable knowing that if they throw the ball over the plate and make a mistake it won't necessarily put a run on the board.
Offensively the players do a tremendous job of understanding the ballpark. In the seventh inning against Georgetown, Dan Terpak hit a ball probably better than any other ball he's hit and it went nowhere. But nobody panicked and we just kept digging in. There is a comfort level there too, with the expectations of what the park is going to give you and with the ability to make adjustments quickly during a game. The wind was blowing out against La Salle and we put 10 runs on the board. The wind was blowing in against Georgetown and you saw the scores.
On Josh Eidell saving two games against Georgetown: Josh has really adapted well to his role coming out of the bullpen. He doesn't have to panic over counts and isn't a guy that has to throw the first pitch right down the top. Georgetown came out swinging the bats against him and he didn't stay in the zone then. He had the mentality that if they were going to swing at the first pitch it was going to be his pitch. He has a comfort level of not being afraid to go 1-0 or 2-0 on hitters and that the at-bat isn't over. Josh isn't the type of closer who has to throw strikes right away or lose the at-bat. He makes the right adjustments. Josh wants the ball. He is strong-minded. Closing games is a unique position and he has both the mental and physical makeup to do it.
On Joe Cotter: I don't know if anywhere I have been I've seen a guy grow as much offensively as Joe has. He was hurt his freshman year and as a sophomore he was in there for defense in some games but was hitting less than .100 pretty much throughout the year. He had a really tough go of it offensively and then last year put some things together. I thought his confidence would grow and his power would eventually come but now we are able to put him in the leadoff spot. Joe understands the strike zone and he can really hurt you on a mistake with balls in the gap and now even over the fence. We already knew he was in the top half of centerfielders in this league but now it looks like he is maybe in the top half of all the leadoff hitters too.
On Derek Shunk and Ryan Arcadia hitting in Big East play: That is what you want out of this club, with guys like Shunk, Arcadia and James Dolbier. We have been running them out there every day for four years and you expect some return on that investment. I really tip my hat to all of these guys because especially with Derek and Ryan, there was a time this year where things weren't going that great for them. Derek was struggling and Ryan was playing part time for a bit, but neither one of them panicked and that is the reason that right now we are 4-5 in the league and not 2-7. Ryan went to the nine hole in the order and really has picked up the bottom of the lineup. Derek has been doing a good job getting hits and driving guys in.
On the weekday games against Penn and Lehigh: The goal for us in the two weekday games was just to get back to 15-15 and get to .500. The two wins put us at 11-1 at home. We want to be a great home team and it has gone our way so far this year.
On the Notre Dame series: Notre Dame is playing well right now and there is always a lot of hoopla when they come in. They are a team that we were fortunate to beat last year to knock them out of the Big East Tournament. There is probably a sense of revenge for that. They are coming to our home turf and have a very good pitching staff. They are tied for first place and that is probably more in line with where their players expect to be. We will see that in the way they carry themselves and approach the game.
Our challenge as a veteran team is to protect our home field. If we are going to have a chance this weekend we will need to play three as close to `A' games as possible. If you told me going into the series that we would play three A- games I would take that and take my chances. Playing three A- games won't guarantee us a win but it will guarantee that we have a chance to win a game or two.
Both teams come into this weekend coming off of sweeps. Notre Dame beat Rutgers last weekend and that is traditionally a big series for them. It should be interesting. I don't have a feel for them one way or the other since we didn't play them last year during the season and it is only their coach's second season there. All we really know about them is that Jordan Ellis pitched against David Phelps in the Big East Tournament and Villanova won the baseball game.
The two things that help us in the series are that we beat them the last time we were on the field with them and that we didn't play them during the regular season. With so many seniors, I don't think we were going to be intimidated but without having that feel we just know that we respect them. They are tied for first place, they are a good team and we know that if we don't play well we won't beat them.
There is quite a difference to the last time Notre Dame was here two years ago. It seemed like more of a concert type atmosphere where Jeff Samarzdija was pitching against Kevin Mulvey and the atmosphere that game was ridiculous. It seemed like more of a circus than a baseball series. The dynamics were different too, with Notre Dame clinching the playoffs and us just hanging on.
April 2, 2008
On the UConn series: The past weekend was our second road contest in the Big East and we had a major goal of going up and winning a game up there. We opened on the road these first two weekends and going to UConn we felt if we could just win one game and have a chance to win the series we would take that. That is about what happened in the series.
We got an outstanding pitching performance on Saturday from Brian Streilein and unfortunately on Sunday didn't play good enough defense to begin the game to give ourselves a chance to win. There were some good performances on Sunday with Josh Eidell coming out of the bullpen and holding them down for five innings and then Ryan Shockley out of the pen as well getting out of a jam. We were happy with those performances.
On Brian Streilein: Brian pitched an outstanding game to beat Connecticut. He has made three of what I would consider dominant starts when you include Western Michigan and Seton Hall and in those first two he had nothing to show for it. He finally got a win in the Connecticut game on a brutal day where the temperature was sub 30 degrees with 20 mile per hour winds and gusts all day. Brian scattered nine hits and dominated their hitters with his fastball and off-speed pitches.
On the team's recent play: I just felt during the UConn series that I got a better feel of the players approach to the game. The guys just seemed to battle a little bit better and a little bit longer in very unfriendly weather conditions. Although it didn't go our way to win the series, walking away I think we have a better mindset as a team overall.
On the coming week: We start a stretch of 12 straight home games this week and one of the major focus points during this stretch is that we are traditionally a good home team and have a chance to make our hay in the season right now. Last year we started the Big East season 3-6 and if we can win the series against Georgetown this weekend it would put us in position right back where we were last year. We all know that last year we played well in the second half and made the Big East playoffs.
On the offense: Some of the things with us offensively can fool you a little bit. We are traditionally a team that for whatever reason seems to hit .240-.250 early in the season. Some of that has to do with playing teams like Michigan, Alabama and Tulane early in the season and some of it has to do with playing home games at our park which is not friendly to hitters early in the year. We seem to start out on the short end offensively and as the weather gets better and time goes on we start to swing the bats. That is what happened this year and I think we saw that in the series with UConn.
On the lineup: Derek Shunk had a very solid weekend after some hard luck. He got robbed on a few more base hits than he had by some good defensive plays. We made some adjustments with putting Joe Cotter in the leadoff spot and he was swinging it better. We got production from the bottom of the lineup with Ryan Arcadia and then Wes Borden hit a home run. The hitting is contagious. I think that sometimes when your three and four hitters battle it affects the rest of the club. Derek hits in the three hole for us and we know he has to swing the bat. When he started swinging with authority that gave us a lot of confidence through the rest of the lineup.
On Joe Cotter: Looking back a couple of years ago, Joe took a redshirt his freshman season because of a back injury. It probably is the best thing that happened to him. He is one of the best athletes at the school. Joe was an option quarterback in high school and an all-state Pennsylvania football player. He probably could have played football somewhere but he chose to play baseball and he has been a dynamic outfielder all along. He has gotten better each year offensively. He is getting better at the plate and getting more confidence and he has a very good eye. He understands the strike zone and seldom goes outside of the strike zone. Right now Joe is just barreling up baseballs. He is kind of an unorthodox guy for us leading off. We went from having tiny guys running around with speed at the top of the lineup to a big, strong guy and all of a sudden we are generating power from our leadoff guys. Joe is doing a great job of that.
On Ryan Shockley: Ryan has been doing a good job for us. He is a traditional lefty that has a good changeup and breaking ball. When he throws strikes he is difficult to deal with. He made the team originally as a walk-on and has done a nice job. Ryan is a chemistry major and some of his academic commitments have taken him off the field at times with labs. After four years, and he had a redshirt year to start, I think Ryan is comfortable with baseball now and understands the type of pitcher he is and pitches to his abilities. Against La Salle he came in with runners at first and third and one out in a tie game and strikes a guy out. He isn't a strikeout guy but he punded the zone to get ahead and then got a guy to chase a pitch out of the zone.
On the pitching: It seems that the pitchers have gotten into a nice bit of a groove. The guys all year, it hasn't been the effort. I think we have two solid Big East starters one and two with Jordan Ellis and Brian Streilein and solid strike throwers out of the bullpen in Josh Eidell and Ryan Shockley. Ryan Wendler has really battled for us. I think the guys had such a bad start against Michigan but then really put a nice stretch of games together. They held other teams down and we pitched well at Seton Hall for two games as well. That success isn't necessarily reflected in the overall numbers yet but there is no question the staff as a whole has been a lot better. Somewhere along the line we need to solidify that number three starter in weekend series and once we do that we should continue to get better.
On playing Georgetown: We have gone down there three of the last four years so this is the first time in five years that they come up there. We always seem to get involved in extended extra inning game with them. The last time they were here I think we played a seven inning game that turned into 11 innings where they walked in the winning run. We played a 13 inning game down there as well. There have been some unusual things when we play them with weather cancellations and suspended games, and then last year at their place we turned an unassisted triple play. Whenever we play them I kind of hold my breath and expect the unexpected.
On the Hoyas: They are always a difficult team to play and are very competitive. They just beat South Florida two out of three games and are as excited as they have ever been. I told their coach that what they have at stake is if they can win a series or do better up here it might put them in position to make the playoffs. Based on that I think we will face a highly energetic opponent this weekend. They have a number two starter that I think might be the top lefty in the league. He knows how to pitch and will probably be out there a long time. We will have our hands full for sure but we can look back and history says we have had success against this team. We are going to talk about this series being games three, four and five of a 12-game home stretch. If we are going to wind up where we want to be then we have to win games at home and that means we have to win this weekend.
March 25, 2008
On the previous week: I think this past week is about as bad a week as we have had. It started out losing a game to Saint Joseph's that we were in control of. It was a game where we had a chance to get back to .500 but ended up being hurt by our inability to drive runs in. Then we went to Seton Hall and it was the same thing in the doubleheader. We got beat 4-0 in the first game. They pitched a good game but we had chances to score early on and didn't get it done. The second game we lost 3-2 late and it was the same thing again. We loaded the bases with one out and got hit by a pitch to take the lead but didn't score any more.
It was a very frustrating week but not altogether surprising. You look at different things sometimes and with this group we are 2-11 during the Easter week the last four years. We haven't played well this week for whatever reason. This year it just happened to be the first week of conference and not the fourth week.
On the offense: Jordan Ellis and Brian Streilein have given us good starts but the categories I look at are the freebie stuff. What I mean by that are walks, hit by pitch, stolen bases and errors. Right now we are +36 in those categories and that is a huge stat when it equates to wins. A margin like that should give us at least 12 wins by now. The anchor that is on us is that we are hitting .163 with the bases loaded. It is hard to survive like that. We are playing for one run at a time and that is a tough way to do it. We haven't been able to score multiple runs in multiple innings.
In three of the games last week, with the exception of that last game, we had chances to lay it on the other team and couldn't do it. At that point it isn't even about getting a hit it's just about a quality at-bat. Even a fly ball does the job. If we get two fly balls in the right situation we maybe win two of those games last week.
On continuing to get runners on base: It's going to go one way or the other. We're either going to stop getting them on or start getting them in. It is a little bit of a hold your breath stat. I told the team if we keep doing what we're doing then we'll drive the guys in. We talked about not panicking. If we panic then you will stop getting guys on and then you have nowhere to go. At least if you get guys on base there is the chance the other team makes a mistake.
In the games last week Saint Joseph's and Seton Hall weren't making mistakes. Saint Joseph's caught fly balls and struck us out and Seton Hall fielded the ball on the turf and made their throws across the infield. Both of those teams did the things they needed to in order to play good college baseball.
On the pitching: At the end of the day we know that we have to pitch and play defense. Sometimes it seems like we want to change that identity but the big thing for us in struggles like this is to go out and pitch and play defense. When you do that you give yourselves a chance and eventually if you give yourself enough chances things will go your way. We have proven that. We have played like that for seven years. We don't need to be a great offense to win or even a good offense. We just can't be a poor offense and right now we are poor in one category. If we are okay or average then the guys understand that we have the talent on the mound to win. There is nothing the pitcher can do. They aren't going to chance the score on the mound in a positive way. They just have to hold it each inning and give the offense a chance to muck and grind through a game.
On Jordan Ellis: I thought against Seton Hall that Jordan was a check swing away from shutting them out. He had a guy punched out on a 1-and-2 pitch but then the guy gets another chance and you have to give him credit because he flipped a ball out to right field and they scored a run. Jordan has gone out and pitched well this season and hasn't gotten himself in a whole lot of trouble. He has given us a chance to win in each one of his outings.
On Brian Streilein: Brian is continuing to get better. I don't think we have seen the best of him yet. He is a work in progress and is getting the feel of starting and working through stuff. At times he can reach back and give the hitter a pretty hard fastball to handle. Brian is a young guy and there are always some bumps in the road but we are looking forward to seeing him go out and continue to do well.
On the pitching staff: I think that Josh Eidell and Gus Guida have done a good job. Unfortunately at Seton Hall things didn't go Josh's way but we have two guys who could be the closer for a lot of teams in this league. Josh is a real solid strike thrower but that is where Gus sometimes gets in trouble. I have been real impressed with Ryan Wendler. I think he's given us a chance every time he has been out there in short relief, which has mostly been in tough spots. Ryan Shockley got some extended work at Seton Hall and that was a boost.
We are trying to find the spots where guys like Kevin Crimmel and Bill Hoffman best fit in, and Chris Pack is in that group too. We have been trying to get Chris some weekday starts to get him caught up as a redshirt freshman, but eventually he will either need to be a weekend starter or a guy that enters and helps out of the bullpen on the weekend in conference series.
On playing Connecticut: We didn't play this team last year. They have a good young team and supposedly are throwing three freshmen against us. One was a draft guy and the team has played very well of late. Although they lost two of three to Louisville the games were competitive and Jim Penders is one of the better coaches in the leagues. They will be prepared to play. We haven't gone up there a lot but for whatever reason there have been some odd things with our trips there, whether it be rain or snow or games getting cancelled. This is the earliest that I can remember going up there.
On the series: If we get the pitching efforts in the series that we got in the first two games at Seton Hall then we will have a chance to win some games. Their park, pending weather conditions, can be pretty offensive at times. Our goal is to find a way to win a game and then see what happens. We know that we will come home for our next two weekends and play four of the next seven series at home. That's our goal this weekend, to get a win and let the rest of the weekend go from there.
March 11, 2008
On the Florida trip: It was a disappointing trip as far as outcomes were concerned. We didn't play well at all against Western Michigan. They are a great team but the final score of the first game was not indicative of how we should have played them. Against Northeastern we played extremely well all day and we got some guys back for that second game. Jordan Ellis gave us a real solid pitching performance but then we got beat two of the next three games.
We won a hard-fought game against Bowling Green in which we had a lot of energy and I thought Brian Streilein was outstanding against Western Michigan. That game, although we lost, signaled to me a return to us playing trademark Villanova baseball with good pitching and defense and low scores. To go 2-4 on the trip was disappointing but it was encouraging to finish the week playing typical Villanova baseball.
On playing better the last five games: We were missing a few guys the first few games and I think with that we lost our identity for a bit. I can't explain the pitching during that stretch; we just didn't pitch well. But when we got our regulars back on offense we started to pitch the ball better. It was kind of an odd start but I think this year, with not playing the Norfolk State series, and with starting practice two weeks later, the college hitters were ahead of the pitching more so than usual this year.
On the win over Hartford: We did a really good job of playing beat the clock with the weather. It was supposed to be a seven-inning game that went into extra innings. We matched up against a tough pitcher. We saw a submariner and normally those guys come out of the bullpen for an inning or two but he really dug in for a few innings. This guy had a win last year against Oklahoma State and I can easily see why. He located the ball on the inner half of the plate and tied up our hitters. Jordan Ellis was outstanding for us. He had good command and unfortunately gave up the one run. But I thought that Hartford threatened off him and scrapped and grinded to get guys in scoring position. Jordan did a good job keeping the door shut and Josh Eidell picked up on his outing from Bowling Green and did a great job out of the pen.
On the offense against Hartford: We did enough to win. We could have capitalized a little more early on with some offensive skills and getting our bunts down. This is a couple of games now that we have won a close game late. Offensively we stayed very patient and that is part of what we were lacking early in the year. We were panicking offensively and getting out of our typical approach. Against Hartford, both their starter and their relief pitching, we did a good job of staying in there against a good pitcher.
On Jordan Ellis and Josh Eidell pitching in the same game: They complement each other very well. Jordan at times can be effectively wild within the strike zone while Josh is a real solid strike thrower. Jordan has the real power slider and Josh comes at hitters with a power curveball. They have different movement and that creates a very successful combination. Jordan has been very solid in all three of his starts and if you go back to last year it has been a while since we lost with him on the mound.
On the lineup: I think that from a balance standpoint we put out a lineup that one through nine is pretty solid. There isn't an easy part of our lineup and opposing pitchers have to go out and compete each inning. That hasn't always been the case in the past for Villanova; there were times when you knew that part of the lineup would struggle. The lineup this year is more complete and the guys who have come off the bench have done a very solid job. We have gotten production out of our pinch hitters and from the bottom of the lineup. The one thing we still need to do is get back to being an action team and creating offense with buns and balls in the dirt. Right now we have been taking walks and stealing bases. As we start to incorporate our small ball and hit and run game a little more we have a chance to have a pretty good offense.
On the upcoming week of games: We play La Salle in our first Big Five game of the year. They are certainly on our radar screen because we have not had a lot of success at their field. I know that our seniors want to go over there and get a win. In the Villanova Baseball Bash we have a lot of interesting teams in Maryland-Eastern Shore, St. Peters and Binghamton. Binghamton was a runner up in their conference last year and almost went to a regional and St. Peters has improved every year. Their coach has done an outstanding job.
The key to weekends like this when we are playing at home and it is the last weekend before conference play is just to go out and play well. We need to play solid baseball offensively and then on the mound don't hit them, don't walk them and pick up the ball in the field. When we do those things the game tends to go our way most days. We are facing some very good teams but if we take care of the things we need to then we have a chance to win some games.
On facing the other team's top starting pitcher in several straight games: In the long run it will probably help us. Sometimes on our Florida trip the schedule has worked out where we saw some number two and three starters. This time we faced Western Michigan's top starter, the top two Northeastern pitchers, the number one from Fairfield and most recently the number one from Hartford. In the long term that should help our team when we start facing Big East pitching.
February 27, 2008
On the Michigan series: It's always good just to get out for the first time. I think we started all three games pretty well and they were pretty good games through six innings. Unfortunately they didn't finish well and you never want to get swept or get beat the way we did. You have to go back a number of years to when a team laid it on us that much, but you have to start somewhere.
On playing at a major league spring training site: It was a great atmosphere. We played all three games in the Mets stadium and not on side fields. That made for a unique situation, as we took batting practice right in the middle of the Mets complex while the major league squad and the whole organization was doing their workouts. We were right in the middle of that and had people watching our practices and games the whole weekend. There were nice crowds for our games and hopefully we can build on that excitement.
On Villanova: I think that in some parts of the series we were able to dictate what we wanted to do. We drew 26 walks and four hit batters so that is 30 free passes for the offense and we felt good about that. We also hit six home runs and only gave up one against one of the top teams in the country. We scored 19 runs in the series and if someone would have told me that ahead of time I would have said I was happy with that and that 19 runs would probably get us one win in the series.
On the Wildcat players: We had two freshmen in Dain Hall and Sean Carberry that made their first collegiate starts and played very well the whole weekend. Hall had a unique situation in that he started his first collegiate game and was hitting leadoff. We also used a new outfield combination for the first time and they got better every day. I think all of the guys did a good job. We had Robert Parks starting at catcher for the first time and he did a good job. There are some good things to pick out of this weekend when you consider that the guys were out there for the first time and got more and more comfortable with the beginning of the season.
On the offense: We showed the ability throughout the series of being able to take our walks and that is something which is very important to the players. We all know that we are going to hit balls into the gap and that the offense will keep improving during the first month of the season, so from the on-base standpoint to start out at such a high level is huge for us. It allows us to not have the pressure of waiting for a first hit or the first time on base. A lot of that was accomplished coming out of the gate this weekend and as we play more games the offense should be able to relax and continue improving.
On Jordan Ellis: It seems to me that Jordan started this season right where he left off at the end of last year. He is a tough guy to deal with and pitches with a plus fastball and plus slider. When he is around the strike zone he is tough to hit. Jordan can build on his first start by becoming more economical in counts. Guys are going to struggle with his fastball and slider on balls over the plate. We see Jordan as a guy that can get into the seventh and eighth innings of games and he will get there. He is the type of pitcher that when he is pounding the strike zone it is still hard for opposing hitters to do anything with his pitches. I think he will go into his start against Northeastern this weekend with the mindset of being able to build on a great opening start against Michigan.
On Michigan's approach to the game: It was interesting to hear [Michigan coach] Rich Maloney talk about his team not wanting to be overly aggressive against plus pitchers and how so often you see college hitters getting themselves out. When we play against top competition each year such as Florida, Texas, Alabama or Michigan, it is important for us to take something away from those experiences. I think what we take away from this series is the overall approach to the game because a lot of what Michigan does is what I try to impress on my players. Regardless of whether it is Villanova or the other team, eventually the pitcher has to throw it over the plate. If he doesn't it will be a walk fest and that happened plenty of times this weekend. I think we made the Michigan pitchers pay and their offense certainly made our pitchers pay.
On the Villanova pitching: As a coaching staff and as an organization we walked away from that series knowing that with our pitchers it was never about the stuff. Every guy we put out there had great stuff that was as good as or better than what they had thrown before in their careers. This weekend it was only about the location of pitches. Maybe we were intimidated at times or maybe not, but what the pitching staff can build on is to do a better job trusting their stuff. Our pitchers have great stuff but you still need to throw the ball over the plate.
On the Wildcats lineup: I think each one of our guys did everything possible to give Villanova a chance to win the second and third games of the series. In the first game we had 10 walks so there is really nothing to complain about there. The offense did fine all weekend and I know I could count on one hand the number of times we hit six home runs in one weekend. Defensively the infield did a good job and behind the plate Wesley Borden and Robert Parks both did a nice job. The outfield got better each day and Kyle Carver made an impact in his first three games starting as the designated hitter. He hit one ball out of the park and gave Michigan's pitchers a lot of trouble.
On Kyle Carver: Kyle has only pitched for two years and now he is a classic case of a situation where teams do their pre-series prep work and all of a sudden there is a third-year guy who they don't even have a stat on. When they threw the ball over the plate he hit it 400 feet and really got their attention. We will see how he does and how he adjusts. The big thing with hitting in college is how you adjust from week to week as people get a book on you.
On the Michigan starting pitchers: We didn't face Zach Putnam on the mound, who is their number one. But we faced the rest of their top guys and none made it past four innings or got a win against us. We saw their number two pitcher who was a freshman All-American and their closer in the final game. I think Michigan as a team probably feels good about how the series went but I'm not sure that those second two starters feel too good.
On the Spring Break trip: We are going to have our hands full this trip. There may be some emotional scars from the past weekend but we will get over those very quickly. We are going to face some unique teams. Western Michigan has two wins under their belt from this past weekend. They had a rough year last year and were young but they are starting to mature and remind me a little bit of us last year. We are going to face quality pitching and see some good arms all weekend. We are probably going to face the number one from Western Michigan, the numbers one and two from Northeastern and the number one from Fairfield. The team is going to need to bring our bats and play with high energy. We are going to have some different lineups with some guys coming back during the trip and we should continue to do things well offensively and defensively. On the pitching side, I know that this will be a chance for the pitchers to get their confidence back.
On returning to Bradenton and the IMG Academy: Anytime you go to Florida you know you will get the sunshine but what I recall is that the wind really can make a difference in the game. I remember from IMG that depending on what field you are playing at the wind can blow pretty hard out to one field and in to the other, so there are some different dynamics each day. One day you might pitch a great game and have to win 15-12 and the next day maybe you aren't as good but it's 4-3. Our games against Northeastern will be at Manatee Community College and we will be playing there for the first time. That is more of a stadium setting in the middle of a campus so we will see how the elements play out there.
February 20, 2008
On the national start date: This year college baseball went to a national start date with February 1 the first day of practice and February 22 the first day of games. It is very new and from our perspective it means opening up games a week later. The past four years we opened at Norfolk State around Valentine's Day so it felt a little different to be practicing this weekend. Like anything else we have to get used to this change but overall I think in the long run it is in the best interest for college baseball. The national start date cuts down on the disparity between southern and western teams playing early games and stretching out the season. Everyone is starting at the same time now with regards to preparation for their conference tournaments and trying to get to the NCAA Tournament and College World Series.
In some ways the national start date for practices hurts us because we had no team practices in January. As a head coach you always see the things that put you behind. We are in the Northeast and not out on a playing surface early on so to have 2 ½ weeks where you don't see the whole team practice together makes a difference. However, I have watched the team practice the last few days and gotten feedback from the assistant coaches and we all feel that the team is just as prepared this year as any other year for the start of games. From a head coach's perspective you always want to try and squeeze an extra day of practice.
On practicing outside on the football turf early in the season: One of my rules is that we don't discuss weather as a ball club. If they say we're playing then we are. Sometimes it is a battle of survival so being forced outside on the turf builds character in our program. We challenge the team with comparisons to schools in our conference like Louisville and some others that our big powers as football schools and can play live intra-squads indoors. We tell the team not to focus on what they don't have but rather on what we do have. Some days when we are out on the turf in bad weather all we have is each other.
On how the preseason practices went: I think all of our practices have gone well. We have a veteran club and these guys know how to prepare themselves for a 56-game season. That allowed us to focus on catching up our freshmen coming in and the sophomores that maybe didn't play as much as they or the coaching staff would have liked last season. We spent a lot of individual time with the younger guys and the older guys prepared themselves. The pitchers looked very strong when they faced live hitters and offensively everything has been going well. We have a new hitting coach and Chris Madonna has done an outstanding job incorporating a slight change of philosophy into the hitting. I think that has been received very well by the hitters.
On the pitching staff: We strive as on organization to be able to put the best guy out on the mound regardless of who we are playing that day. When you talk about having Jordan Ellis, Josh Eidell and Bill Hoffman starting the first three games of the season you have three guys that are probably in the top 10-15 in the league. That gives a comfort level not only to the coaching staff but also to the overall situation. We are excited about the pitching staff and about having Chris Pack back and healthy this year. We are also excited to see Brian Streilein emerge into the closer role and we think he has a shot if he does everything right to be a special guy.
On having so many players back from last season: I think that's huge. We will be without some guys the first few games but the good thing about that is that we will take a look at some younger guys and get them involved quicker. Eventually they are going to be contributors and eventually we are going to get our full club back. The full club has had a lot of success together and we hope that momentum gets us off to a good start and helps us build towards Big East play. Our veteran guys all understand that the Big East is where you butter your bread and with the success of last year we expect to have a lot of momentum once we get to Big East play.
On the lineup: I think we have more offensive options, although we are going to start the season without some guys. That is going to give some of the younger guys a chance to show their value to the ball club and within two weeks we will see if there are any position battles taking shape. The guys returning in the lineup understand our offense, understand playing at home and know the hurdles of playing on the road and getting through a three-game conference series where you have to find a way to win the first game and eventually find a way to win the series.
On the Michigan series to start the season: There are a number of unique situations with this series. First off is that we are playing a team that is ranked eighth in the country so we continue our tradition of playing an opponent where we will be heavy underdogs. Having some of our guys out makes it an extra challenge in and of itself. Michigan is in the same situation as us in that they are indoors in the cold weather. I'm sure they have fantastic indoor facilities but it is still different than being out on the dirt and grass on full fields. This is the first time that we are opening up against a team with such great accolades coming off a Super Regional appearance but that is in the same boat as we are.
Michigan has somewhat of an advantage in that the Mets owner is a Michigan grad so the team has been down to Port St. Lucie and the Mets complex for the past few years. They kind of understand what goes on with that but at the same time it is still game one for them. Both teams are going to workout on Friday morning and then we'll play the games.
On Michigan: I think Michigan has potentially three All-Americans on their roster and I know that on Friday we are going to face Zach Putnam. He is one of the top major league prospects in the country and if things work out I could foresee him being a top-10 pick in the draft this year and maybe one of the top college pitchers taken. It will be exciting for our guys to handle the challenge of facing him.
On Villanova alum Kevin Mulvey being traded from the Mets to the Twins during the offseason: Kevin is in a real unique situation. I feel for him because I think if he stayed with the Mets he had a chance to get to the big leagues this year and be pitching with the Mets staff at the end of the year, hopefully in a playoff experience. Now he starts over with the Twins and everything will be new. He will be in Fort Myers and not Port St. Lucie, the American League and not the National League. There are a number of things on the horizon that will be different for him but I know he will handle it better than anybody Villanova can put out there. Kevin will make the best of it and hopefully we will see him pitching in the big leagues with the Twins this year.
November 20, 2007
Preseason Interview With Ping Baseball (http://www.pingbaseball.com)
1. Last year preseason predictions had the Wildcats forecasted to finish at the bottom of the BIG EAST rankings. Yet `Nova was able to finish in the top of half of the league and consequently make the playoffs for the first time in 10 years. Was the slight a motivator for the team as they hit the diamond?
"I think the pick was justified first of all because we had underachieved the year before and lost some key players, so I understand why we were picked where we were. At the same time I didn't think it was accurate so there may have been some motivation there. Obviously you don't want to finish in 11th place, especially when we were picked behind two teams (Seton Hall, Cincinnati) that we had won a series against the year before. For the team it really just became something to laugh about during the season when we started to have success and it looked like we would comfortably beat the prediction."
2. Every player who appeared in fifty games last year had at minimum seven stolen bases. Furthermore, the `Cats had nearly 20% more sacrifices than their opponents. Obviously swiping bases and playing small ball is part of your coaching philosophy. What is your inspiration for the "one base at time" viewpoint?
"Our game plan really goes back to what I like to think of as the West Coast-style of offense. I had a chance to watch that style implemented when I was an assistant coach at New Mexico and we would watch teams like Cal State Fullerton and Long Beach State beat us with that game plan. The situation we have at Villanova is that this style of baseball is what gives us the best chance to win. We play in the Northeast and in a ballpark that does not give up a lot of home runs, so this style best suits our chances to be a successful program."
3. Senior infielder Derek Shunk will return to the diamond after an impressive '07 season where he finished in the conference top ten in batting average and on base percentage, earned All-BIG EAST Third Team honors and even turned an unassisted triple-play. What are his plans for an encore in '08?
"Derek has been a very steady player throughout his career and I expect that he will do nothing but continue that in his senior year. He projects to set the all-time hits record at Villanova and looks like he will be at or near the top of 4-5 statistical categories in a program that has been around since 1866. Derek is one of the top hitters in the BIG EAST Conference and all-around he is a very good college baseball player."
4. The `Cats lost All-BIG EAST Second Team pitcher Mike Loree to graduation and the draft, however the returning arsenal of arms appears to be a strong point for next season. Developing young arms like Brian Streilein and experienced hurler Jordan Ellis should keep Villanova in contention all year. What other pitchers do you expect to step up next season?
"The pitching staff needs to be the core of our team each year. We aren't going to replace a guy like Mike Loree but at the same time we have an arm like Jordan Ellis who is our top draft prospect. Brian Streilein could be in contention to be the closer and we have some veteran arms in Josh Eidell, Bill Hoffman and Gus Guida who form the core of what could be a very good pitching staff. The staff also gets a boost from the return of redshirt freshman