April 11, 2013
VILLANOVA, Pa. - The upcoming week for the Villanova baseball team should be an exciting one, as the Wildcats host Connecticut for a three-game series this weekend and then get ready to play in the Liberty Bell Classic championship game at Citizens Bank Park next week. Villanova has played some of its best baseball of the season of late and head coach Joe Godri sat down this week to give an update on the team.
Villanova played exceptionally well in all three games against Notre Dame but how important was it to win that Sunday game on getaway day?
Godri: Obviously the most important thing for us in the Notre Dame series was to come out of it with that win. We are at a point in the season where we need to get results but over the course of the last week I saw us get better as a team and I saw a lot of the younger guys grow and get better every day. Our improvement was reflected in the way our offense performed against a very good pitching staff. By the end of the weekend we had worn them out.
What did it take for the players to stay the course over the past couple of weeks and be able to get over the hump last weekend?
Godri: The players have done a good job of understanding that we have to fight for every inch that we get. Regardless of the outcome we have been in every game and our guys are used to playing close games. In the week leading up to the Notre Dame series we won close games against Penn and La Salle, which gave the team a lot of confidence that we could get over the hump and win the close games.
How would you evaluate the progress of the younger players from the beginning of the season?
Godri: Our younger guys are definitely in the beginning stages of their development but now they are at a point that when we talk about getting results it makes more sense to them. Our progress as a ball club started with a lot of guys playing good defense. That helped us get our feet under us and we were playing good defense no matter who was in the lineup. Our defense became an expectation on a day to day basis.
As you mentioned the offense produced consistently during the Notre Dame series. What did you see from the lineup that was particularly encouraging?
Godri: The difference is just that we started to get quality at bats consistently. Instead of hoping a guy would have a good game we were seeing pretty much everyone put together two or three good at bats in a row. Last weekend in particular our hitters really took the next step with that and they made adjustments pitch by pitch, especially with two strikes.
The middle of the lineup is starting to not just hit consistently but show some power too.
Godri: We kind of lost our stride for a couple of weeks when Tyler Sciacca missed some games. With him out of the lineup there just wasn't a part of the batting order that you were trying to get to. Now you can see that Brandon Carr is a good contact hitter and someone we can plug into that cleanup spot. John Cialone did a good job of hitting behind Max Beermann too. We finally forced Notre Dame to make some decisions on who they wanted to pitch to and who they wanted to pitch around. Earlier in the season other teams could pitch to every spot in the lineup because even if we got our hits there were still a lot of strikeouts. We are in a position now where from one through six in the order teams have to make decisions on who to pitch to.
The starting rotation has been outstanding all year. How does the offense coming around help the pitchers?
Godri: It just helps them catch their breath. The pitchers did a good job keeping the lid on some things during the Cornell and Rutgers series, when they pitched really well but didn't have anything to show for it. Saturday at Notre Dame we scored eight runs but didn't hold the lead late, but it wasn't like we went back to getting shut out the next day. It was really key for us on Sunday to go right back out there two days in a row and put up 10 runs in a conference game.
The team has had way more than its share of weather-related schedule changes and a number of games on very cold days. Does it get any easier to be out there every day when the weather is better?
Godri: The weather really doesn't affect us and the guys are used to playing in different conditions day to day. At the same time it seems like this year there have been an awful lot of extremes. We have played in extreme cold and extreme wind early in the year. I know there will still be times we are dealing with different weather issues throughout the season but I hope that the absolute extremes we have faced are over with.
Villanova hosts Connecticut this weekend after missing them in the conference schedule last season. What do you know about the Huskies from previous matchups?
Godri: The last time we saw Connecticut was in 2011 and that year they went to a super regional. Looking over their team this year I see that Billy Ferriter and LJ Mazzilli are back from two seasons ago but it looks like most of their other everyday players in the lineup are new. They play a lot of younger players like we do. I am anxious to see from Villanova this weekend if we can continue to develop as a ballclub.
What does it mean to return to the Liberty Bell Classic championship game?
Godri: I would say that this particular team needed that more than any of the other teams I took to the championship game. The first two games of the tournament at La Salle and Penn were kind of a turning point for us. It was a chance to focus not on what our record was or the daily grind but on the fact that winning those games was going to advance us to the next round. At Penn we were able to avenge a loss from earlier in the year, too. Our goal is to get to the Liberty Bell championship game every year and to be able to take 10 freshmen and a number of sophomores there is special. They will find out what playing in this tournament means and why it is so important to us. It is an awful lot of fun to go down to the Phillies stadium and play a night game against a good Delaware team. That experience will stay with these guys there whole careers.