2006-2007 Coach's Corner Archive
Nov. 20, 2007
2006-2007 Coach's Corner Archive
June 4, 2007
BIG EAST TOURNAMENT RECAP
On the Louisville game: The game against Louisville was an outstanding college baseball game and probably the best pitched game I have seen in my coaching tenure. It was probably also the best pitched game in the careers of everyone involved, when you consider Mike Loree taking a perfect game into the seventh inning and Louisville's pitching staff having a no-hitter into the ninth inning. It was a well-played and clean game with outstanding defensive plays on both sides. At the end of the day, and this is what I talked about with the team, Louisville made one more play than us when a guy hit the ball out of the park. It was a great college game played in a playoff environment.
On the Notre Dame game: The one fear going into Notre Dame is that we had invested so much emotionally the day before against Louisville and it was tough to lose after having some momentum in the ninth when we tied it and then throwing a guy out stealing in the bottom of the ninth. Louisville extended the inning with a base hit and then a guy hits a pitch out of the park. You never know exactly how the team will respond the next day and I give our guys all the credit in the world for how they played against Notre Dame.
I thought playing Notre Dame and not having seen them in the regular season gave us a little shot of energy because we weren't overconfident but didn't get overwhelmed either. It was extremely important for us to score first for our energy level. Jordan Ellis, like he did the last five weeks, had a quality start and gave us a chance to win the game. Notre Dame scored after Jim Gillin hit a home run but the turning point was with second and third and one out in the eighth inning. Josh Eidell came in and got a pop-up and then deflected a ball off his foot to make a play and end the inning. It was another great college baseball game, especially considering that a season was at stake.
On the Rutgers game: The toughest thing for us is that our energy level was challenged a little bit after we gave everything we could in the first two games. It deflated us a little bit when they scored first and, although we tried to battle back, I think we took Rutgers best shot. They did a great job and I tip my hat to them. They wound up winning the whole thing and that is what championship teams do. They are able to get a lead and then not let us get back in the fight.
On the experience of being at the tournament: It was a great experience and a very important one for the team to be in the playoffs, and it really started with having to grind out a win in 12 innings over Rutgers the final weekend to get into the tournament. There was a lot of excitement traveling up to New York on Sunday night and being at the hotel as everyone arrived. It was great for our kids to experience a banquet for the first time. It was great for our seniors to be rewarded for their work over four years and for them to experience playoff games and have the satisfaction of winning a game. It was also a wonderful deal for us knowing that we have a lot of people coming back. We were able to get over the hurdle of making the playoffs and winning a close game, and that gives us a lot to look forward to going into next year. We can talk about now being a playoff team and all that comes with that instead of being a team that is trying to get to the playoffs.
On the tournament being in Brooklyn: I thought the Brooklyn Cyclones and the BIG EAST did a great job with the tournament, especially with having the school kids there for the morning games the first two days. It was a bit of a challenge to have to play the 10 a.m. game two days in a row, but we played in front of a lot of people in a great atmosphere and that made the week very upbeat. The ballpark itself was very nice and it is one of the top minor league parks in the Northeast. It played a little bit like a combination of our field and the Pittsburgh field, because it was short down the lines like Pittsburgh is but played like a pitcher's park with the wind blowing in off the water. There were some difficult days to hit with the wind coming in but all week our guys did a great job of handling all of the challenges in front of us.
On the outcome of the tournament: One of the things we talked about with the team is that there was a significant difference in the brackets for the tournament. If you look at the teams playing the best baseball down the stretch you would probably include Villanova, Louisville, Rutgers and Connecticut. Unfortunately three of those teams wound up in the same bracket and it was tough for us to be in a situation where we would have had to beat Louisville and Rutgers twice each in order to get through the bracket. On the other side it seemed like Pittsburgh and USF were teams that peaked earlier in the year. That played out well for Connecticut because they were able to beat St. John's once and knock them out. It wasn't surprising to me to see Rutgers win because I thought they were the deepest team offensively and it was a tailor-made situation for them once the tournament became more about offense.
The big thing that I took from the outcome of the tournament was what we talked about as a team in regards to playing all 27 BIG EAST games during the regular season. Each one of those games has its own implications because once you get to the playoffs the seeding can make a significant difference in the brackets and how the tournament plays out.
On the importance of making the tournament: As we grow our program the hurdle of making the playoffs was the most immediate and major goal that we had. In the last few years there have been some good stepping stones in terms of beating two SEC teams and getting some national recognition, but those are fringe things. I said at the end of last season and beginning of this season that making the BIG EAST playoffs was the number one goal that we absolutely needed to achieve and we have now done that. It gives us a lot of confidence and as the program continues to grow we can now add different goals to the agenda.
On having three BIG EAST teams in the NCAA Tournament: I would put together the BIG EAST and the Big Ten because each conference got three teams into the NCAA field. When you account for the ACC, SEC and Big 12, there really are a limited number of at-large bids available. For four at-large bids to go to BIG EAST and Big Ten teams makes a very strong statement about college baseball in the north and northeast. The northern teams have gotten much more recognition from the national committee in recent years and that helps a program like Villanova. If a team like our finishes in the top three of the league and has a 35-win season, maybe there is a place for you in the NCAA Tournament without having to win the conference tournament. It is a very important accomplishment for the two conferences to each have three teams playing in the NCAA Tournament.
On where the BIG EAST fits among the other conferences in the nation: I think that our league has really evolved with the new BIG EAST and the teams that joined the conference. Boston College and Virginia Tech left and they were very good BIG EAST programs but didn't have the national recognition that USF or Louisville has, or the facilities that Cincinnati has. These three teams have enhanced the league nationally and the BIG EAST has spread out geographically. Baseball as a collegiate sport has grown on the national level and it is continuing to grow from conferences like the BIG EAST that are filled with teams that have a very recognizable name.
SEASON IN REVIEW
On the postseason awards from the BIG EAST: The one thing we are missing as an individual honor is a first team BIG EAST player and I think we are getting closer to that. It was very gratifying to know that Mike Loree was recognized on the second team. He got that because of his work this year but also for his body of work over four years in this conference. Mike lined up for a conference start every weekend during his career and that all came into play with him being honored. It was nice for Derek Shunk to get due recognition as well. I would have liked to see Dan Terpak and maybe some other guys be recognized also but there will be a chance next year for those players to get their recognition also.
On the recognition from the BIG EAST during the season: I think with the weekly honor roll and the players of the week we were very well represented with the conference awards during the season. It seemed like when we had winning weeks we were recognized as much as anyone else in the league. The nice thing is that we had different individuals putting up numbers each week that were noticed by the league office and it wasn't the same person week in and week out. It is always a nice thing and a feather in our hat to get recognition from the league.
On finishing sixth in the BIG EAST: I think the really big thing for us is that we were 10-5 against the bottom seven teams in the league and also won two games against upper echelon teams. With the losses through graduation and the pro draft that some of those teams are facing, we have an opportunity to make an impact in the upper echelon. However, it was really huge for us to have a good record against the bottom seven teams because it gave us the confidence to go and beat a team like Notre Dame in the playoffs. We were picked to finish 11th place and at one point were in 11th place during the season so to finish in sixth place was a big thing for the team.
On the team's dominance locally: I think that we are the dominant college baseball team in the state of Pennsylvania, although I would say that Pittsburgh is right up there and Penn State has built a great program. The challenge for us has been to get our guys to understand that the local teams are putting much better products on the field and that we need to have our A-game against these teams. Against some of the local competition we know that if we play our best game we will either beat them or be able to dominate the game. When we don't have our best game we can get beaten but I think for the most part we have done a pretty good job of winning games against local teams.
On the senior class: I spoke a lot about the senior class after the Rutgers game. It was an emotional departure for this group because they won 115 games in their careers and ended with going to the playoffs. It nice for Kevin Mulvey to come back and be with us for the last game because this is a class that he is a part of and he is pitching in Double-A this year in the Mets organization. The senior class had a lot of worker bee type guys who were role players that made the difference on our team. They acted as an extension of the coaching staff and helped out the juniors and sophomores.
On Mike Loree: Mike had a career at Villanova that will warrant hall of fame recognition when the time games. We have had a lot of good players and guys that went on to the draft, and I think Mike deserves to be recognized one day for having had a hall of fame career. He is going to be spattered all over our record book along with some very good pitchers. He went out for us every week and gobbled up innings whether he had a plus game or was average. Basically we could give him the ball and not have to think about going to get him until the seventh inning or later. He completed some games and was a bulldog on the mound. As a person he led our team by example and he isn't someone that you can replace. You don't replace a guy like Loree over the course of a year and maybe not over the course of a coaching career. I tip my hat to the work that he did in his career and I feel very comfortable that someone at the pro level is going to want him in their organization.
On the offensive record books at Villanova: As we see Derek Shunk and some other guys move into some of the top 10 lists I look at it as a product of our recruiting classes and being able to play certain guys in starting roles as freshmen. Derek is a hit machine and gets his knocks win or loss. We have been a pitching heavy team over the past few years so it is nice to have some hitters putting up big numbers also. We have transformed our offensive into more of a threat in the BIG EAST and will continue to see guys grow. Derek is in the category of a Mike Loree where he has a chance to finish off a hall of fame type career pending the draft and him staying healthy. We also have guys like Ryan Arcadia, Jordan Ellis and others who are climbing up the career lists also. It is exciting to see our players grow within the program and be a successful.
On the players returning for next year: There is a lot of excitement on the team about returning almost the entire club for next year. It will be tough to replace the numbers put up by Mike Loree or the intangibles of the other graduating seniors, but the guys that needed to play well for us to win will mostly be back. Our front line guys are back and almost the entire offense will be intact. Some of the younger players like Justin Bencsko, Brian Streilein and Kevin Crimmel will be better off with a year of experience and we will get [redshirt freshman] Chris Pack into the fold as well. When the team left after the playoffs it was with a sense of energy and excitement about working hard for next year. If we do the right things mentally and physically there are a lot of reasons to feel good about what next season will offer us.
On the season schedule: Our non-league schedule once again prepared us for playing in league games, starting with a series at Norfolk State. It has been great to watch that program grow over the past four years and we have accepted the challenge of playing southern teams. We get more and more comfortable in those arenas and this year did a good job of referencing a win over Alabama during the season. Those efforts help us in BIG EAST games. Our midweek games have helped us to gobble up wins and built momentum going into the conference weekends. This year the five series at home helped us to make the playoffs and being able to go to the conference tournament I think will propel us into playing five series on the road next year.
On the first two months of the major league baseball season: I still think that teams like the Yankees and the Phillies will find their way back into the playoff races. You know the major market teams like Boston and the Mets will be right there at the end. It seems like some of the same names are in it thus far but there are some teams from off the pace that could get back in it too. A lot can change in both leagues because of the wild card and the trading deadline. Those things are going to play themselves out and some of the teams that spent a lot of money will get themselves together.
May 16, 2007
On the team's mindset going into the Georgetown series last weekend: It is always a tricky week coming out of finals because you will have not played for a whole week. Fortunately we were able to get in three practices on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday before going down there while also still allowing the players to do a great job in the classroom. I think being able to practice before going down there was very valuable for us because we were able to keep our rhythm and go down to Georgetown with our minds focused on baseball.
On the challenge of the Georgetown series: Better than any other team I have had this team has done a really good job of handling a lot of odd things during the season. Maybe that comes from all of the moves we have made during the year but the same types of odd factors were in play again this weekend. We started out Saturday with a 4:00 doubleheader and then had to deal with the lightning storm and the suspension of a game later on. I don't know if we have ever played Georgetown, with the exception of my first year, when there wasn't bad weather at some point during the series. We have had two suspended games and had rain at hoe one year. It seems like something is always happening when Villanova and Georgetown get together.
On the Georgetown games: I thought our guys did a good job of coming back quickly in the first game after we were down by two runs. We had a six-run inning but after Georgetown tied it up and had all the momentum we still put five runs on the board. We did a good job all weekend of putting balls in play. We talked about not hitting them or walking them from a pitching standpoint and about taking care of the ball defensively, but we also wanted to be able to put 21-22 balls in play in each game. These are the things that allow us to be successful. I think we did a good job in all three games and came out with two wins.
On the six home runs Villanova hit in the series: We touched some balls that I think would have been out of the park anywhere, with the exception of one or two that at our field would have been down on the warning track for doubles. Georgetown left some balls up and made a couple mistakes and we capitalized on their mistakes. I thought Jimmy Saris pitching against us on Sunday was outstanding. We put balls in play and got fly-balls against him but the ball didn't carry as well as the day before. Saris was very good. You really just tip your hat to him and feel good that you got out of there with two wins.
Our players do a really good job of understanding our ballpark and what works there. Then we go on the road and have a good understanding of the fact that we have some big strong guys on the team and there might be an opportunity to hit the ball out of the park. We have seen this happen at Alabama, Pittsburgh and now Georgetown, all fields that at times can be conducive to hitting the ball out of the park. Sometimes I don't know if pitchers attack us based on what we have been offensively or what we are now. I think with the exception of maybe a five-game span we have been a very solid offensive team all year.
On the unassisted triple play turned by Derek Shunk: Looking back on your preparation for an opponent can be funny sometimes. With no games leading up to the series we had an extra day to focus on Georgetown and the assistant coaches did a great job with their scouting reports. One of the things we emphasized was knowing what they like to do. We knew they don't like to sacrifice bunt and that they like to force action with their running game and the hit-and-run. We talked for 20 minutes on Friday about the exact scenario that we turned a triple play in.
As a coach it looks really good to have that type of execution after a 20-minute meeting but it is really a matter of the players understanding and buying into that philosophy. We talked about the order of responsibilities and playing the batter first before we played any of the runners. Sometimes you have a 20-minute meeting and don't know why you analyze things to such an extent, but then a play like this comes along and it really was what broke Georgetown's back in that game. It was a one-run game at the time and they got the overnight delay because of the suspended game, but the triple play really gave us a lot of momentum.
On the infield defense: We had a long meeting with the infield after a very sloppy game at Cincinnati, which followed a tough weekend defensively at Pittsburgh. The thing is that we don't have a young team. We have a lot of juniors who have played a lot of baseball in their careers. We asked them after the first game at Cincinnati to play like a mature team because they are veteran players in this league. We have to be able to take care of the ball. We don't have to make great plays every time, just take care of the ball and make good decisions with the ball. When we take care of the ball we can make another pitch and when we make another pitch we have something to feel good about instead of giving up runs without making pitches. The players have done a good job of understanding that philosophy and focusing on it as a team. We have a lot of third year guys playing everyday and their ability to make better decisions is a big part of why we have won three straight league series.
On Ryan Arcadia getting on base to start the first inning in nine straight games: I think a streak like that goes back to our offensive philosophy. It's really no different than any other team but for our offense to work we have to get on base. At times when Ryan struggled earlier in the year we talked to him to make sure that we was patient at the plate and controlling his walks. When he does swing early in the count, which he is allowed to do, it should be in a situation where he gets a pitch he can handle. His plate discipline allows him to do that. He has done a good job of drawing walks and getting hit by pitches but he is also swinging the bat well.
On the BIG EAST Tournament scenarios this week: The easiest playoff scenario is to win one game and that is what we are focused on. Our main focus point is to win a game as soon as possible and then try to win our fourth series in a row. If we are able to win the series we might have a chance to get up to the fifth spot, which would be important for us. There are good teams up at the top in St. John's, Rutgers and Louisville so if we are able to get up into that fifth spot we would be in a bracket with just one of them. If we are fifth we would likely play Pittsburgh. They beat us three times but I would take my chances against them in that bracket. If we get down into where we are playing one of the top three teams it makes it a little tougher.
If things don't go our way this weekend then there are five scenarios and we need three of them to happen for us to get in. Seton Hall has seven wins in the league and would need to win three in a row and West Virginia would have to win a series for the first time in several weeks. Cincinnati has the challenge of playing Louisville at home and both Connecticut and Notre Dame cannot be swept in that series.
There are a number of ways things can happen but if we would have sat here in August and know that going into the last series if we beat Rutgers one time we get in the playoffs, you would take that every time. We have 16 wins at home this season and if we can get one more and make the playoffs that is a really good feeling. Rutgers will be on the road for the second week in a row so they have a challenge with that. When you can play well enough to have a situation where winning one game at home gets you in, you have to feel pretty good about that.
On the pressure of winning a game this weekend: There really is no pressure until Saturday. On Thursday you go out and play nine innings or however long it takes and hope that you have more runs. Friday you do the same thing and by Friday night maybe some of those other scenarios have already happened and gone in your favor. It could be over Friday and you may already be in, so Saturday is really the day when you have some pressure. Then it's a matter of knowing where Rutgers is at also. Can they win five of six games on the road over two weeks? They are certainly capable of that but we won't know until they come in here. I look at the series as Saturday being really our only pressure-filled game.
On the pitching rotation this weekend: We have some tough decisions to make in the rotation. It is a short week because of playing on Thursday and an even shorter week because we played a doubleheader on Saturday. The biggest thing is we have to see where everybody is at health wise. We need to see if Mike Loree and Jordan Ellis can pitch on Thursday or if it will be someone else. The dynamics of that game are obviously important so we need to see what puts us in the best situation to win that game. It may be Mike Loree because we have been pretty good in game on all season long. If it isn't him and things go our way that might change what happens on Friday and Saturday. There are also the implications of needing to have pitchers for Tuesday and Wednesday games in the playoffs. The guy that pitches on Thursday will probably have to be ready on Tuesday and the guy that goes on Friday may not be ready by then. There are some unique things going on with this weekend so we will continue to discuss that and find out where the pitchers are at before deciding on the strategy of it. It looks like Rutgers will line up as they have been with their rotation.
On the situation Rutgers faces coming into the series: They have some tough decisions to make as well because first place is on the line and they will want to win first place. They also have a playoff situation to worry about and whether or not they are a team which will be playing in an NCAA regional. I'm not sure if these three games will make a difference compared to them finishing in second and making it to the BIG EAST championship game. With a top three in the league like St. John's, Rutgers and Louisville, all three teams have a unique situation down the stretch and a lot of decisions to make regarding what gives them the best chance to extend their season beyond the conference tournament.
On the series against Rutgers: It is always fun when these two teams play and for us we see Rutgers as a rival. I don't know how they perceive us but for us they are a big rival. Their roster is definitely made up mostly of New Jersey guys and we have a lot of players on our roster from New Jersey who have played against their players for their entire careers. In recent history, Rutgers has won a regular season championship here in some bad weather and we have swept them at their field to knock them out of a playoff spot. There have been some unique dynamics in the series with them but we have always played well and played with a lot of confidence against them.
Previewing the games against Rutgers: There has been a recent history of some things happening with regards to playoff implications when we play Rutgers, and this is another series that should be very interesting. Rutgers is very well coached, they are physical offensively and do not make a lot of mistakes defensively. We hope to do a good job against their pitching and I really think that the series will come down to their offense against our pitching because everything else should take care of itself. If we can shut them down offensively at our park we will be fine but if we get into playing games with 8-10 runs that will make it tough for us.
On playing a top rival in the final week of the regular season: Like I said, I don't know how they view us but they are one of our biggest rivals. All I know is that when they show up at the field we get 100 percent out of our guys and emotionally the series means a lot to us. This is a series that is very meaningful to our program. We have some players from New Jersey who if they stayed in-state and were playing for Rutgers would be difference makers for their program.
May 10, 2007
On the cancelled game against Penn State: The week started out disappointing for us because of the game against Penn State not being played. I always think that it is one of the most important non-conference games we play and with the trip there and their brand new stadium it was a tough situation to not get in a game. It is important for recruiting purposes when we play them and they haven't beaten us in four years, so now it will be a fifth year and Penn State will have to try and beat us at our ballpark, which I imagine will be very difficult.
On the effects of not having a midweek game: I was worried about going into the West Virginia series not having played a game during the week, because we haven't fared well in the past in that situation, most recently on the road against Louisville last season. In the first game I thought we started off sluggish the first five innings or so and seemed pretty flat. We didn't have the energy I thought we would coming off the Cincinnati weekend and that was because of the layoff.
On the West Virginia series: In the first game we got some things going late after West Virginia scored early on Mike Loree. They left the door open and our offense got going late in the game. We get a couple of guys on base and soon enough had a couple of base hits and they threw a ball away during a rally. It was an exciting win in that first game and in the second game of the doubleheader we went out and swept them.
Much like Cincinnati where we came back in the eighth inning and had the momentum the next day, we were in total control of the second game on Saturday. We got runs early and after they challenged us a little bit in the middle innings we had too much offense for them. It was maybe our best day of the year and we captured seventh place in the standings and gave ourselves a chance to sweep the series on Sunday.
In the last game we had our chances early with the bases loaded and nobody out in the first inning but only got one run out of that. It was a classic case of letting them hang around and then they built a lead on us and we had to battle back. In the ninth inning it was two quick outs and then all of a sudden two guys are on base and Derek Shunk is up. On a 3-and-2 count Shunk squared up on the ball and hit a line drive and West Virginia made a diving catch to end it. I told the team that it was a really good college baseball game and they made one more play than us to win it. The main thing is that we got two out of the three games in the series and kept ourselves on track for a playoff spot.
On moving up two spots in the standings in the last two weeks: Sitting down two weeks ago we looked at Cincinnati and West Virginia ahead of us and new it would be a challenge. Cincinnati was a playoff team last year and plays well at home and they were solidly in the playoffs at that time. Then you have West Virginia who has one of the top offenses in the entire region. We probably would have felt that three wins in those six games would be pretty good so to go 4-2 and move up two spots was huge for us. You have to focus so much on making up ground against these teams but we went into Sunday in a situation where if we won we would have caught University of South Florida in the standings for sixth place and been just a half game behind Notre Dame in fifth place. We feel as a team that we don't need to worry about the teams behind us but we need to know that there are teams ahead of us that are within reach. USF is only a game ahead of us and we have the tiebreaker against them, and Notre Dame is 1.5 games ahead of us and still has to go to Louisville. We are in striking distance all the way up to fifth place.
On what the team needs to do in the last two weeks: I guess if you want to really feel comfortable you need to look at it that if there is a magic number it would be five because if you win five games you know you are in no matter what else happens and you probably finish as high as fifth place. Our main focus now is the series against Georgetown because that is a tricky series down at their place.
We are at a part of the season now where - from the Sunday game against West Virginia through the entire series with Georgetown - every game is going to end a season. Every time we win a game it ends someone's season. We didn't do that against West Virginia on Sunday and now Georgetown will play us three games where each game they have to sweep us and they have to win, so there is going to be a lot of pressure on them. It is a different deal this time of season because you aren't just playing for a win or a loss but to continue or end a season. The same will be true against Rutgers the final weekend because every game we win ends their chance to win a regular season championship. These next six games are going to be different than what we have seen this year, but it is a role we have been in before since I have been here. We are in the driver's seat and controlling our own destiny right now, so it is on us to track people down and end their seasons while trying our best to contend for a playoff spot.
On Mike Loree's complete game against West Virginia: It was a funny game for Mike. I have seen him better. He was in trouble early with no control of his secondary stuff against a lineup full of fastball hitters. They had him in trouble and it seemed like there were always runners on with less than two outs and then he got out of it. After the three early runs he was strong and when we scored in the eighth inning we had Eidell warming up in the bullpen. We had planned on putting Eidell in for the ninth but not much was going on against Loree the last few innings and all of a sudden he gets a complete game win with just pixie dust. It was a Houdini act how Mike finished that game but that is the intangible quality that he brings to us. He keeps his focus and keeps making pitches without wearing his emotions on his sleeve. Mike gobbles up innings and that is why he is going to be where he is in our history books and why some other guys with more talent maybe are not.
On Loree breaking the school's career innings pitched record: When you look back on Mike's career to this point - because he is still going to add to his legacy - but already he is the record holder in innings pitched and is seventh in wins. When you bring guys in they are an unproven quantity but when you can evaluate that person after the fact and see them all over your record books you know you got the right guy. Mike, earlier in his career as a freshman and a sophomore, might not have been able to get the win in a game like the one on Saturday. He would have taken a no-decision or a loss but now he is at a point where he is completing games and getting the win instead of a no-decision.
On the strategic moves made by each team in the final game: We got into the eighth inning and they hadn't used their bullpen all weekend. When we face a lefty starter we tend to have a lot of lefties on the bench. I think they were reluctant to bring in a right-handed pitcher but finally they got to that point where they wanted to go man-for-man with us. We put in Wesley Borden who is still a relatively young guy and there is some uncertainty in that situation. The day before we put in Wes and they threw a ball away and then walked him. We thought he was the right guy to bring in and then it wound up with Tim Poydenis up there in a left-right matchup and they hit him. I know it was frustrating for West Virginia that some of our moves worked out as they did. In that last game it went both ways. Matt McFolling hit a couple of balls really well that didn't stay fair but in the end we battled back enough to get Derek Shunk up in the ninth inning.
The moves that both teams made didn't just have to do with hitting and pitching but they altered our defensive look also. It goes back to what we said seven weeks ago when we weren't playing as well as we are now. It's just baseball and with 18-21 year old guys sometimes you will have a game where you play in the infield in the first inning and the outfield in the middle of the game and then have to go somewhere else. It's just baseball and you have to be able to catch the ball wherever it is hit to you. Our team has done a good job of that this year and I think we are used to it by now, but all our moves still catch other teams off guard and they don't know what to think when so much is happening. On Sunday West Virginia did the same thing because their third baseman got the last four outs and the left fielder came in to play third base. If they don't make those moves we probably would have won the game.
On Gus Guida: Gus has been asked to wear a lot of hats over the last two years and it seems that nothing ever finishes where it starts with our team. He came in as a freshman and was going to hit and then he was being used on the mound. Last year he was the starting third baseman and one week into conference play was the closer. This year he was the closer and one week into conference play was the third baseman. Obviously that is tough and we still want to use him on the mound, but the biggest thing he has done is solidify our infield defense because we are much better defensive team with Gus at third base. His hitting has also picked up the bottom of the order and he can hurt you with big hits. He puts balls in play and does a good job on the bases. He has been the epitome of just playing baseball the way we always talk about. Gus doesn't have a lot of speed but then you look and see that he had two stolen bases on the weekend. He also has some big RBIs and that is what the team is about. We need tough guys who go out and play the game no matter what is asked of them and Gus does a great job of that.
Gus was a big-time hitter in high school but the big thing right now is that he has gotten comfortable with hitting and pitching and not just doing one or the other. At some point we know he will have to do both for us to make the playoffs and he will probably have to do both in the playoffs and again next year at some point.
Preview of the Georgetown series: This is a dangerous series because they have a really good team with some quality wins in the league. They won series with Cincinnati and Connecticut and have a win over Notre Dame. It also looks like their scores against St. John's were pretty close. It is a small ballpark and they have 90 stolen bases, with Mark McLaughlin looking like he is having an all-conference type season. They have some pretty decent arms with the starters on their pitching staff and we go in not knowing them all that well because we didn't see them last year and they graduated a lot of guys. We have had success against them in the past. I always say that sometimes sports jumps up and gets you when trends reverse themselves, so hopefully that doesn't happen to us this weekend.
We have to go down there and be prepared to go out and play a complete game in the first game and take our chances. It looks like there might be a possibility to extend some innings by putting balls in play because they have made a high number of errors. If we can put balls in play and force them to make plays maybe they will give us something. It is going to be exciting to go down there with our destiny in our control. We are going to be battling Georgetown and battling our own program getting over the hump and into the playoffs for the first time in 10 years. We are also going to be battling on the road. We haven't been a great road team but we won our last road series. There are some demons out there but if we are fortunate enough to win the first game hopefully the rest of the series will come to us.
On the type of challenge Georgetown presents: They seem like a pretty good pitching team and then they are just hitting .249 as a team. This is the kind of team we have struggled against in the past because we would shut down big-time offensive teams and give up a lot of hits and runs to teams that hit .249. I'm not sure if our pitching staff this year is in that mold or not but with Georgetown if you don't hit or walk them you would think you are going to be okay. They are going to be typical of Cincinnati and West Virginia in the sense that you need to figure out a way to get through the top five and then do a good job of forcing the bottom of the lineup to beat you with hits. We aren't the best defensive team either so we have to be careful not to extend innings with hits or errors.
On the upcoming team golf outing: I am really excited that our fifth golf outing is next Friday. It is going to be out at Linfield and there is still time for people to sign up. Each year our numbers have gone up and the interest has grown quite a bit. It will follow with a barbecue at our game against Rutgers and hopefully it will be a celebration of us making the playoffs. It would be really nice if that barbecue was a celebration after a lawn chair and cigar kind of game.
May 3, 2007
On the previous week of games: The guys played well against Temple and Saint Joseph's to start the week and we were in complete control of those games. The important part of the two games was building some momentum to go to Cincinnati with.
On Friday we played as poor as we possibly could defensively against Cincinnati and that was disappointing. I'm not sure if Mike Loree pitched good, bad or in between because we just had trouble picking up the ball. The team did a good job of holding things together, though, and played with a lot of confidence on Saturday. That game we trailed for quite a bit and were down three going to the eighth inning but nothing bothered us and it was almost like we were playing with the lead. Finally we were able to load the bases and get a couple of two-out hits from Joe Cotter and Dan Terpak, and then Josh Eidell came out and got a save after a shaky outing on Friday.
It is tough to lose a game in the late innings the way we beat Cincinnati on Saturday and that can sometimes carry over to the next day. I thought we had an opportunity to come out on Sunday and jump on the board early, which we did with five runs in the first inning. Bill Hoffman is another guy who came back from a shaky outing the day before and pitched a complete game. I think Cincinnati might have threatened twice but he shut them down both times.
On the eighth-inning rally to win Saturday's game: They had to make a pitching change coming out of the lightning delay and I think it might have been one inning sooner than they wanted to go to the bullpen. We had their starting pitcher, Steve Blevins, in some trouble early on but I think he settled down a little bit and might have had an inning left in him. We just got base hits and the next thing you know the bases are loaded. The key in the inning is that we brought in a series of pinch hitters and had them scrambling a little bit. The bottom of the lineup was predominantly right-handed and then we had some lefties in there. Cincinnati brought in a guy that has had some recent success but before they could do anything we were up 8-7. We were in the same boat the week before against Pittsburgh where we tried to match things up and another team got the better of us.
On Joe Cotter hitting with the bases loaded: Joe is having a real solid year for us and he is one of those sneaky guys that sometimes hide down in the lineup. If you pitch him like a nine hitter he can really hurt you. The big thing for him with men on base is that he puts the ball in play and sometimes that is half the battle. If you put the ball in play then you have a chance to get a hit. Joe squared up the ball and made solid contact up the middle in the eighth inning on Saturday and got a hit when he was behind in the count. He has been a great hitter in big situations for us.
On the BIG EAST Tournament scenarios with nine games left: By winning two games on the road against Cincinnati we have, for the first time since I have been here, put ourselves in total control of what can happen. Before you look at anything else, you know that if you win out you make the playoffs no matter what else happens. We are a good home team and play two of our last three series here. We have shown that we can win at home. We have two doubleheaders the next two weekends and have had to deal with that this year already so playing two games won't faze us. You want to play well at home and hope that if you scrap something out on the road against Georgetown you should do okay. If we can win each series then that should get us through to the BIG EAST playoffs.
On the end of the academic year: It is a fun time of year when you get down to the last few weeks and being a part of the playoff situation makes it even better for us. Last year we were going on the road coming out of finals and that was difficult. We are at a point in the year where everyone has done an outstanding job in the classroom and with getting ready for exams that are coming up. Once the players get through their academic schedule and finals next week, there is a bit of a burden that is taken off them. We can practice early in the morning and it can be all about baseball and getting things done. We only have one more midweek game because the final week of the season we get ready for Rutgers and our alumni golf outing. Things are a little lower key and the guys can relax a little bit with school done. It is the best time of year for us with the nice weather and the chance to go out and play some really good baseball.
On Derek Shunk being added to the Wallace Award watch list: That is a great honor for Derek. He is a very good college baseball player and will one day leave here with a lot of accolades next to his name. Hopefully if he stays healthy he will leave here as the record holder in some offensive categories. It is nice to see him get some national attention. I think that being a Northeast team some of our position players don't always get the recognition they deserve so it is great to have Derek's name mentioned with some of the top guys in college baseball.
On Brian Streilein getting two wins last week: We are really excited about the long term and short term ability of Brian on our pitching staff. Last week he had two wins and they came in a start where he threw around 100 pitches and a relief outing where he needed only a few pitches to get an out and have a win next to his name. Brian had some opportunities early in the year where he got educated on college baseball and figured out that you will get hit if you leave the ball up over the plate. He dominated in high schools and throws hard. We have used him in some big spots and he has done a nice job.
On the coming weekend against West Virginia: This is probably one of the biggest weekends at home we have had in the last 10 years because of the playoff implications. We have challenged for a playoff spot in the last few years but it has kind of been on the back end and seems to have been when we were on the road. Now we are in a situation where we are the team that has the final spot and someone else is trying to catch us. It is a similar situation to what happened when we went to West Virginia last year and they beat us twice to really propel themselves into the playoffs. Someone is going to win at least two games this weekend and that team can really catapult itself into a playoff spot in the final two weeks.
West Virginia is a well-coached team. They have some specific things that they want to do and they hold true to those things. They are one of the top hitting teams in the Northeast region and maybe you can say the entire country. The offense can hurt you in many ways and it seems like all their hitters can bunt and run and then also hit for power. They score runs in bunches and we will have our hands full on the mound slowing down that offense. West Virginia has won some series against us the last few years and we really need to flip that this weekend. We will try to get a win somewhere on Saturday and then have a chance to win a series on Sunday.
On the games against West Virginia: It is going to be important for us to try and jump on them early in the games. Their pitching staff has been similar the last few years in that they have some solid BIG EAST guys who have come in here and pitched well. Two years ago we lost a 1-0 game against them here and then both teams had a double-digit scoring game the next two days. Mike Loree has had some success against West Virginia in his career and it seems like we have done well with some of our guys that don't rely specifically on the fastball. There have been some high scoring games between the teams the last few years. We know with our offense that we can get guys on base but what we do with them will be very important.
On the protested Major League game between Baltimore and Cleveland: There was a situation in that game where a run was taken off the scoreboard and added back on three innings later. I saw the play in question the night it happened and again the next day and I still don't understand it. I'm glad something like that did not happen to us at a home game. I don't know who appealed that rule on either end of the play or if something maybe happened in the press box with that. The thing is that the rule should have been used at the time the play happened and not several innings later. Teams play the game to the scoreboard and sometimes mistakes happen. The timing was odd because it was like in hockey or football where once the next pitch is thrown you have to move on. They got the call right but they got it right at the wrong time.
April 25, 2007
On the previous week of games: Last week started off really good for us with wins over La Salle and Coppin State. The good thing about those games is that we were able to play a lot of people in a number of positions and did a nice job with the bats and also pitched well. The team had a lot of excitement and confidence going in to Pittsburgh and I think we played well in probably 24 of the 27 innings in that series. It is as disappointing a weekend as we have had in a while because we couldn't finish the deal. On Friday I thought Pitt did a good job of coming back on us with a lot of singles. On Saturday and Sunday we asserted ourselves early in the games and had everything going for us but defensively couldn't get the job done and allowed them to win two games. I tip my hat to Pittsburgh for the things they got done in the series but we had every opportunity to win two games and didn't win any.
On this week's win over Temple: The game had a weird feel to it at first. Coming off the weekend losses we knew there couldn't be any hangover and just had to worry about the task at hand. Temple looked like a great hitting team for the first few innings and we left some runners on base and were down 3-2. We scratched to get the lead and then Joe Cotter had a big hit with the bases loaded. It seemed like after that hit we were out of our funk and everything was behind us from the weekend at Pitt to the tough start in the game and we just got into playing baseball and won a game. Brian Streilein did a great job in his first collegiate start. He has had a lot of appearances this season and was able to get it together through the early and middle innings and bear down to get the win as the game went on.
On avenging earlier losses to La Salle and Temple within the last week: We talk all the time about how good some of the local teams are that we play against. On any given day you don't always know what to expect but when we put things together we can really take it to teams at times. Some of the local teams have proven to our players over the past few years that they can beat us if we take them lightly. La Salle and Temple have done that this year but in the second meeting when we strung hits together we really got after them.
On contributions from some of the team's role players in the lineup: As a ball club you search for answers during the season. College baseball is 56 games and that is quite a bit more than most other sports. Teams generally do a great job with their scouting reports and some players will get 50 at-bats into a season and start to struggle making adjustments. From a coach's perspective, you can continue to let that happen or you can look for answers on your roster. We are lucky in the sense that we have been a deep offensive ball club the last two years and can move guys into the lineup. A guy might get hot for just 20 at-bats or so but those at-bats might help you win two games.
We are fortunate this year to put in a guy like Justin Bencsko who brings so much to the table with his speed. Robert Parks has found a nice niche against left-handed pitching and being able to play two infield positions, and we are keeping Matt McFolling and Tommy Grandieri involved also. I also think the pitching staff has done a nice job with some of the roles we have used guys in.
On the turnaround of the pitching staff since the team came back from its spring break trip: A couple of things that play into that are that the first 14 games we played on the road and the next 14 games were mostly home games. We play well at home and do a good job of pitching to our ballpark. We have been able to calm some things down as far as roles are concerned. Putting Jordan Ellis in the mix has helped and putting Josh Eidell at the back of the bullpen has also worked out well. I think that Bill Hoffman and Ryan Wendler have done a good job in BIG EAST games and the weekday options have worked out too. The staff as a whole has gotten its confidence back over the last couple of weeks.
On this weekend's series against Cincinnati: I can't really put my finger on them right now while looking over all the scouting reports. They play well at home and it looks like they do a good job of beating the teams they should while struggling against the stronger teams. I'm not sure which category we fall under but the series can determine that. Cincinnati has one of the top ballparks in the country and a turf field so there will be dealings with that. We were fortunate to beat them twice in three games at our place last year. We have a lot of guys back and they have lost some position players. Pitching wise we have seen two of their starters and had some success. The big thing for us right now is that we haven't won a road game since February. I think that stuff evens itself out and I think it will break this weekend, hopefully on Friday night.
On the team's standing in the conference: We have painted ourselves in a corner where the opportunity to make the BIG EAST playoffs is open but has shrunk a little bit. We can control our own destiny if we take care of business in Cincinnati, so we have to dig our spikes in and play with confidence. We have seemed to play well against the old Conference USA teams. I am looking forward to the trip to Cincinnati and am excited to see us continue to play as hard as we have been.
On having success in the team's first trip to certain locations: Our team doesn't get nervous and we do a good job of drawing back on trips to some of the top teams in the nation, such as Alabama this year. You play in front of big crowds against the cream of the crop teams and you can use that experience later on. We pitch and play defense and that goes a long way in some games. Sometimes it takes teams a few innings to figure out what we are doing and by that time we have jumped on top with some runs and shut the door on some games. Cincinnati knows what we are all about and we are looking forward to the challenge this weekend.
April 18, 2007
On the series against University of South Florida: It was a great weekend for us against USF. We played as well as we have at any point this season and I think it was the best we have played at home against such a quality opponent in the last few years. They are a top tier conference team that has gotten votes in the national polls at times. The series was a grind and we knew going in that we couldn't give an inch to them and had to challenge them in every aspect of the game. That is what we did and it was the type of series where we could easily have lost or won all three games. It was similar in ways to the Alabama series but it made a huge difference for us to be able to play at home. By the end of the series we were in total control and it seemed like they were ready to be done with the series and go home. It was nice to see that happen in our favor against such a quality opponent.
On Friday's game against USF: It was a great game with Mike Loree and Danny Otero, such similar pitchers, throwing against each other. They took a 2-0 lead early on and it is very difficult to come back on them in a situation like that. We had to scrap so hard just to tie the game and then did enough in extra innings to get a win. Dan Terpak came through with the winning hit and it was nice for him to step up in that situation since he played junior college baseball in Tampa and stuck it to a team from his neck of the woods.
On the doubleheader against USF: We have had three or four of these doubleheaders now this season and it seems like we are maybe getting better at them. We lost a tough and emotional game in the opener but it was really nice to see us lay the wood to them in the second game. Jordan Ellis was outstanding and had total control of that second game. It was huge for the team to come out of a weekend like that with two wins out of three against such a quality opponent.
On success in extra-inning games: It is so important to be able to win close games in the late innings. Last year we lost a lot of one-run games and this season we have done a better job in these situations. With our ballpark and pitching staff and the way this team is built, we all know that we are playing games in a close range the most of the time. It won't catch us by surprise that we play in these kinds of scenarios. When you get into the late innings it becomes even more important to get bunts down and steal bases when you need do. Our team is very comfortable operating under those circumstances, especially playing at home because it makes a huge difference to be the last one with the hammer in your hand.
On the changes to the pitching rotation: With the exception of Joe Cotter playing in center field and Mike Loree starting the first game of each series, there have been changes throughout the season everywhere in the lineup. I tip my hat to the assistant coaches because we came into the season challenging guys at certain positions and took on the challenge of really getting to know this team. In that sense I think we made the changes to the pitching staff at the right time. It was a spark to our bullpen to have Bill Hoffman and Josh Eidell available out of the pen and Jordan Ellis has shown that he is now ready to be a weekend starter. The talent has been there and he now has the confidence in his arm to go out and dominate a game. I think the pitchers did a good job of buying into the changes after seeing the rest of the team do that over the last few weeks.
On Josh Eidell and Bill Hoffman having success out of the bullpen: I think the real key to their success out of the bullpen was the way they embraced that role. You could look at a move like this as a demotion or you can look at it in the sense that it gives Villanova the best chance to win a baseball game. They both had some success in starting roles but we were struggling to win those games and the reason we made a change was because it gave us the best chance to win a game. It was not a demotion of either player and both guys not only understood that but went out and simply got the job done. Both Billy and Josh went out and competed as hard as they could and it paid off with great results for the whole team.
On the team's offensive style: We are a team that is about on-base percentage. When you look at the stat sheet and box scores the on-base is what it's all about. Going into the series against USF we had scored 37 percent of our runners on base and they had scored 41 percent of their runners. Our team keeps chipping away and we constantly say that if you get guys on base you have a chance to score. It is about grinding it out and finding ways to get on base. If it happens on a 3-for-4 day that's fine but if it happens on an 0-for-4 day with getting to first on a strike three wild pitch that's fine too. You have to keep playing the game until it is over and offensively we do a good job of understanding how to get on base. We aren't an instant offense team that looks to bang the ball over the fence so the on-base game is critical to our success.
On holding down the opposition with runners on base: It is a trend that we are getting comfortable with where the other teams puts runners on base but doesn't necessarily bring them around to score. We have a pitching staff that we know will allow hits. We aren't a big punch-out team and won't strike out 10-13 guys in a game. For us it is about managing the game and knowing that if you throw the ball over the plate the percentages still work in your favor because the hitter is going to make an out 70 percent of the time. This week La Salle had its opportunities to break the game open but Brian Streilein did a great job of making pitches and getting through those middle innings. The whole staff has been doing a great job of managing games with runners on base and hopefully that will continue.
On the conditions in the game against La Salle: The game against La Salle was one of those where you come out of it and think maybe it wasn't a game that should have been played. La Salle wanted to play and we need to understand that we are a team in Philadelphia and have to play in conditions like that from time to time. Penn played a game yesterday too and the Phillies play in the same thing. You have to grind it out and it becomes a battle of survival in such conditions.
On Dan Terpak having two triples against La Salle: The wind is really the reason that Dan had two triples because without it we would be talking about a home run and a triple. The ball that he hit to left field was maybe the hardest hit ball I have ever seen aht our ballpark. It would have been on top of the community center without the wind and to touch the ball so hard in those conditions was pretty special. Jim Gillin hit a ball very hard also that hung up in the air. Terpak did a good job of continuing to fight through his at-bats and he made the other pitcher pay on a mistake pitch.
On the series against Pittsburgh this weekend: When we play Pitt it is always a highly competitive and hotly contested series. I have the utmost respect for Joe Jordano. He is a fantastic coach and does a great job with his team year in and year out. Playing against Pitt is always important for me because it is where I started my coaching career. There are also a lot of challenges with their field because it is a turf infield and grass outfield and has a short porch in left field that is only 289 feet down the line.
On the field I think it should be an interesting series. They have a quality rotation with two guys at the top in Paul Nardozzi and Rob Brant who are veteran weekend starters that have been there all along. Their third starter, Nate Reed, is a local kid who is a very big prospect. It will be difficult to face two left-handed starters in the series. We were able to flip the series against them last year and win two games at our place. Now we need to be up to the challenge of playing in their ballpark. It is a stiff challenge but we will try to win a game in the series as quickly as possible and go from there. They have some good position players that we will see for the first time and have a little bit of a different look from the last few years. We are excited about the opportunity to play Pittsburgh this weekend.
April 11, 2007
On the team's recent games: The win last week against Saint Joseph's was an important win for our alumni and in the local baseball scene as well. It looked in that game like we were starting to play our best baseball, but year in and year out we have been able to beat them on a consistent basis and that is important for our program.
The series at St. John's made for a difficult weekend for us. We haven't beaten St. John's in the last few years although we have played well against them at times. We gave ourselves a chance in the first game with a great start from Mike Loree but couldn't finish up the last five outs. St. John's won a close game in that opener and then really handled us the rest of the weekend.
In our game this week against Temple we had a disappointing game and really didn't play well at all in any facet of the game. Hopefully we will have a repeat of two weeks ago when we rebounded from a bad game on Tuesday to play well on Wednesday and then get ourselves going for the weekend.
On the offense in the St. John's series: I was pleased with our offense the entire series. St. John's has a very good pitching staff, although it is different than their pitching in the past in the sense that they don't necessarily have the power arms that they have had recently. We got our share of hits and scored some runs in the series and that was encouraging for the future. We have been in situations before where we fell behind early and never battled back or got back into the game. The hitters did that in the second game of the series and took the lead early in the third game, which said a lot about their toughness in that situation.
On Joe Cotter: Joe has probably benefited more than any player I have had from the redshirt season he had as a freshman. He was a baseball and football guy in high school and didn't play baseball at a real high level in his high school program. He started a game early his freshman year and then wound up with a medical redshirt, but that might have been the best thing that happened for him. He is getting better and better and is more comfortable up at the plate this year. He is starting to drive the ball into the gaps instead of just getting singles and I think in time he will be able to drive the ball over fences also. He has progressed in a great way at the plate and defensively is as good as any center fielder we have seen the whole year.
On the speed defensively of the team's outfielders: Our outfield play has been arguably as consistent this season as at any point since I have been here. Joe Cotter and James Dolbier play the gaps very well and we have some interchangeable guys in left field with Matt McFolling, Joe Rosati and Dan Terpak. We have a lot of options in the outfield and there really is no drop off, especially at home. Playing in our stadium is where our strong outfield play shows up so much more on the road.
On the different lineup combinations used the last two weeks: I have been really pleased with the lineup options we have. Going into the Seton Hall weekend we tried to set our lineup and just started trusting what we recruited. We always look for guys that can play multiple positions and do certain things for you with our bunting and hit-and-run game. We play a lot of people and it avoids a situation where someone has to play 27 innings in a BIG EAST series and gets figured out. The way we move guys in and out of the lineup creates more homework and guesswork for other teams and allows us to match up better with left/right and power/speed combinations. I have been really happy with the guys buying into the lineup switches we make. They have all embraced it and gone the right way with it and made it so that the lineups aren't all about the individual player.
On the pitching staff: At this point in the year we need to start using the pitching staff the same way we handled the defense after the Louisville series, which is to match up whoever gives us the best chance to win right now. Mike Loree is our Friday guy and gives us a chance to win every time he is on the mound. We are going to move Jordan Ellis into the rotation, most likely on Saturday, and we haven't decided who will throw yet on Sunday. We have tended to use a few guys on Sunday anyway so it will just be figuring out who throws the first pitch.
Bill Hoffman and Josh Eidell are going to go to the bullpen for now. Both have pitched very well at times but we have had some inconsistency in the bullpen and both Billy and Josh are strike-throwers who can stabilize some of our relief options. We have had trouble bridging the gap to Gus Guida late in games and he has been playing third base a little bit the last couple of weeks. Gus is a guy who has been dominant late in games but we probably won't use him for extended innings, only late in games.
On how the BIG EAST is playing out after the first few weeks of league games: I think that St. John's and Louisville are going to be among the top teams in the league when all is said and done. I would say that we have played two of the top three teams and seen the best pitching staff so far in the season. Seton Hall has a great pitching staff and swept a series this weekend with their pitching, which we didn't allow to happen when we played them. If we can get through this weekend we are in a situation where there is stuff coming up in the standings in front of you and you can make a direct impact each week. Nobody wants to be 3-6 but it is better than being 1-8 like we were last year where you need help every single week. We are in a position now where we can decide our own fate if we take care of business the next few weeks. I think you are going to see St. John's and Louisville separate themselves a little bit, but for the most part everyone in the league is bunched up in the standings. That will all start to play out over the next few weeks.
On the upcoming series against University of South Florida: I think this weekend is more important for us than for them in some ways, but either way it is a unique series because they are the most southern team to ever play at Villanova in baseball. The last southern team we had played here was Savannah State in 2005. It sounds a little bit different when you say that a team from Florida will be playing in Plymouth Meeting.
This is the first matchup between the two teams and they have a new coaching staff with Lelo Prado and his assistant coaches coming over from Louisville. Lelo is a very good coach and that has shown up in their play so far this season. USF has many of the same players as last year but they will have to get used to our stadium atmosphere with the wind and other factors there. They are off to a good start and playing with a lot of confidence.
The first game in the series will be a great matchup between Mike Loree and Danny Otero, two guys that played on the same summer league team in Newport. Their second starter has had a lot of success this season and will be facing Jordan Ellis in his first conference start. That will be an exciting game and then we will take what we get on Sunday.
On the snowed out series between the Cleveland Indians and Seattle Mariners: That was unfortunate for a lot of reasons. I really can't believe they tried to play that first game, but once it was played it was surprising that the home team got done in with one out left the way they did. There was a lot of gamesmanship both ways and it will be interesting to see how the series between the teams plays out the rest of the year.
I think that the weather this season, including since the start of the major league season, just proves that baseball plays in worse weather than any other sport. That goes from the high school level right up through college, the minors and to the major leagues. Football has one or two weekends of bad weather but we play through seven weeks of bad weather.
March 29, 2007
On getting back on the field: It was good to get out there and play after a long layoff. It was evident that we needed to be on the field and evident that whatever momentum we had before we lost. We struggled a little bit the last few games but we have good character guys on this team and I think we will get things worked out, hopefully with the next game.
On the condition of the field at the team's stadium: The field is outstanding. Louisville commented that it has been the best playing surface they have played on to this point in the season. We were able to generate some growth in the grass in the past week before we played and I think it is playing as well as it ever has.
On the 1-0 win over Louisville: So many things happened on the down side in that series that it would be easy to forget what a great college baseball game we had in the first game. Louisville is a team that I think can win 20 games in the league this year. They have a solid offense one through nine in their lineup and the guys who come off the bench could probably start at a lot of other schools. We had to play for everything that we got in the series and we did that in the first game.
On Mike Loree: Mike went out and pitched a great game against Louisville, holding a big-time hitting team to no runs. He doesn't always get the same recognition in the BIG EAST that others get but he will be remembered here at Villanova for everything he has done for this program. We will need him again this weekend in the series against Seton Hall to do the same things he has done all year.
On Loree's management of a game: So many of the things that Mike does won't ever show up in a box score. It all comes back to how he manages a game. One of the top base stealers in the conference got on base against him and didn't have a chance to run. It doesn't show up that Mike can hold a guy on or that Jim Gillin has a strong arm and can throw someone out. We also asked Mike to walk Isaiah Howes intentionally in the eighth inning with a runner at second base. Howes is up there with the best hitters in the country and walking him didn't faze Mike. Some guys, even in professional ball, would get rattled in a situation like that. Mike doesn't take that personally and he forces people to hit his pitch and doesn't give in.
On the series against Louisville: At the end of the weekend it just seemed like we didn't give ourselves a chance to win defensively or offensively. Against a team like Louisville that played in the conference championship game last year and is going to be in the playoffs this year, it is a little disappointing to feel like you didn't give yourself the opportunity you wanted.
On the starting pitchers: I had no problem at all with the three starts in the Louisville series. I think that Josh Eidell did an outstanding job and maybe threw the ball the best he has all year. We didn't play great defense behind him in spots but Josh did a great job buying into our game plan and taking care of the things we needed to do from a pitching standpoint. Bill Hoffman was in a tough spot in the doubleheader because we had just one the first game on a walk-off and a lot was going on. The bottom line is that he gave us a chance to win. It might not seem that way when they scored in each of the first four innings [four single runs], but he stayed out of big innings and not all the runs were necessarily his fault.
On the offense: We struggled offensively against a good pitching staff and didn't get some bunts down that we needed to. We know that we have some guys who can hit the ball but the time off certainly didn't help. Having Dan Terpak and James Dolbier each miss some time with injuries didn't help either but now we have a chance to calm some things down and get tougher through the lineup.
Previewing the series with Seton Hall: This is a series that is always an old-school BIG EAST series between teams that have a great rivalry. We have a number of New Jersey guys on our roster that have played against their players for their entire careers from high school and now into college. Seton Hall battles; they are tough-minded and have one of the top starting rotations in the league. They have pitchers who could be draft-eligible guys that we will have our hands full with. If everybody plays well it could be three low-scoring games in the series. Seton Hall is coming off a tough weekend and like us lost some games due to weather. I think we will see their best effort of the season in this series.
On the long rivalry between the two teams: Seton Hall has great baseball tradition and there was a time in the league when Seton Hall, Villanova and St. John's went tooth and nail for several years for who was going to win the league. The three teams all had a similar number of guys go to pro ball during that period and most of the Seton Hall guys went to the major leagues, some who are still active. New Jersey and Pennsylvania are great baseball states with the players they produce and I think both teams have their share of local players.
March 22, 2007
On the past week: It is frustrating for everyone to not have played any games over the past week. It is something that has affected pretty much the whole conference. At first there was a chance just for rain last week on Friday and then we not only lose three games over the weekend but lose Tuesday and Wednesday also. As a team we had been in a groove and want to go out and play and prepare for conference games, so to not get on the field is difficult all around.
On the team's approach to the weather issues: Looking at our guys, we have pitchers that are experienced and have been through the conference schedule before. A good portion of our lineup is also back from last year and I expect us to do well with handling all of the weather and other issues that pop up during the course of a season.
On the silver lining to having games cancelled at this point in the year: We had some guys banged up that are healthy now and we enter the coming weekend with the full complement of our players. We would have had some games missed last weekend and early this week. If there is anything to take out of the past week it would be that we had a chance to get everyone healthy and get some minor bumps and bruises out of the way. We should be able to hit the ground running against Louisville.
The other good thing from this week is that we saved some of our arms and some innings from the pitchers. We have guys that are in shape and have gotten their bullpen sessions in; we should go into the weekend with everyone throwing with good velocity. It is frustrating right now to not have played but maybe by the time we get into late April and May we will have more in the tank and see the positive side of it then.
On other conference teams: Everyone has been in the same boat with cancellations the past week, not just in the Philadelphia area but teams throughout the league like Connecticut, Seton Hall and Rutgers. When you look around the entire region, there are a lot of teams that have missed a week of baseball so it hasn't just been an issue for Villanova.
On Louisville: We are facing a team this weekend that was picked high in the preseason and is on a roll. They had a good weekend last weekend and that continued into this week. I expect them to come in and be very aggressive at the plate and on the bases. They do some of the same things we like to do in terms of forcing action with their offense. We need to pick the ball up in the infield and monitor their running game throughout the series. Louisville has played a tough schedule early in the year and we will have to go at them with our on-base percentage, small ball and running games. We are similar to them in some ways offensively and the series will come down to who can operate their offense the way they want to. That factor should determine how all three games go.
On the Cardinal lineup: They have some guys who are having very good years offensively. We saw them last year but didn't see Boomer Whiting, who was hurt last season. He looks to be having an all-conference type year and we have to try to keep him off base. He is their leadoff guy and gets their offense going. They have a nice mix of speed up and down the lineup and can hurt you with the long ball too. The series will be a challenge for our pitching staff and defense and it is a challenge I think we are ready to face.
On Louisville's pitching: They have a very solid staff and as a former Conference USA team still use a lot of pitchers and matchup situations out of the bullpen. I think we will see our share of lefties coming out of the pen. A typical game for them seems to be their starter going 6-7 innings and then 3-4 guys coming out of the bullpen to finish it off. In that sense, I think it is important for us to put pressure on their starting pitchers right away and, like with anyone else, force them to get into their bullpen early. By the time we get to Sunday we might be seeing guys for the second or third time. It will be that kind of a series and offensively I think we match up well with the makeup of our bench and the options that we have during games.
On starting conference play at home: It is huge to start at home. Traditionally we have been a pretty solid home team. Louisville has some good neutral-site wins this year. We have an advantage playing at home and not getting on a plane or traveling late at night. There is no other place we would rather play. They are coming out here for the first time to our field and will have to deal with that factor.
March 15, 2007
On the trip to Florida: I think we played well in all five games. It was our goal to have six wins by the time we came home from the first three weekends and we have done that. Against a good team in Florida Atlantic we gave ourselves a chance to win but in the end they were a better team and deeper offensively. We did a good job in the in-between games against Mount St. Mary's and jumped on Maine early. We had a great game against Boston College but for whatever reason we have struggled to beat them.
On the challenges of playing games in Florida: We played games down there on minor-league style fields and the players are constantly fighting against tough conditions with changing wind and the sun and dirt on those clay fields. You don't have a lot of time to prepare for each opponent and the most important thing is to be able to just go out and play.
On the games against Iona and Cornell: We sometimes talk about having funny games in these early-season tournaments and we had some funny games against both of these opponents. We were down by multiple runs in both games. We didn't get our offense going early but played through nine innings and were able to put 8-10 runs on the board. Against Cornell we were down 9-8 but tied the game and then won it in the ninth.
On the game against La Salle: Unfortunately we just didn't do enough to win the game. We have had difficult games against them at their field and I think that has a lot to do with them getting better as a ball club. They play a pretty good style of baseball and get after you. They were in close games with some of the top teams and at the end of the day did more than we did.
On the team's 8-6 record: I am happy with where we are at as a team and it is encouraging to know that we have done a lot of good things to this point. Looking back at the eight wins, we have won the games we should have and got one from Alabama. You look back at a game like the one with La Salle and feel like you should have won that, but we didn't. If someone said at the beginning of the season that we would be 8-6 at this point, I would have thought that was realistic. I think we may have gotten to 8-6 a little different than expected.
On scoring runs late in games when trailing: That talks to the character and toughness of our players. The offense has done a good job of just playing the game. When we get down we talk about just going out and playing all 27 outs. If you do that you can see where you are at. We got a win against Norfolk State when we trailed and tied the game against Florida Atlantic against a good pitcher. We came back twice to tie the game against Boston College and came back on Cornell also. The character of our players is a great intangible to have and it is a necessary one for us in order for the program to work.
On seeing the balance on the roster through 14 games: We have made a lot of moves offensively, some that we planned on and some that were forced due to a couple of injuries. I think we are pretty good with the flexibility we have. The benefit has been putting some different guys in the lineup and still getting 8-10 runs in a game against Cornell. When we are healthy we are pretty good 1-9. Everyone on the offensive side has been pulling the rope so far.
On the team's pitching: We have gotten everything we thought we would out of Mike Loree. He is 3-0 and has given us a chance to win every game he has pitched. The bullpen has been inconsistent at times, and some of that has come from us looking at different people in certain situations. We still need to pinpoint who is going to shut down games and where production will come from. On the bullpen: I have been happy with Gus Guida late in games but he has been in some unique situations where we weren't strong defensively. We just need to keep working on it because the potential to be more consistent is certainly there. Consistency is the key. With the freshmen you expect to have some inconsistencies and Kyle Carver had good outings against Alabama and one game down in Florida. The veterans on the team need to keep going at it and producing for us.
On Derek Shunk's hitting: Derek's start to the season doesn't surprise me. He is a very above average college hitter and has a good, solid approach at the plate. He gets quality swings and doesn't go out of the strike zone badly. He is patient enough to hit is pitches and is pulling the ball better this year.
On Shunk's walk-off single against Cornell on the first pitch of the at-bat: Derek gets his pitches. He squared up and hit a hard line drive where nobody was standing. The difference with an above average hitter is they hit something hard with the right approach. Someone else might hit a hard groundball right at one of the infielders and think they got a good piece of the ball. But you have to have the right approach also.
On the challenges of the early-season schedule: I told the team that this year by far there have been more challenges that we have faced than any other year. We had bad weather in Norfolk and then played 27 innings in 26 hours down in Alabama. We fought against tough field conditions in Florida and then had two unexpected morning games in Philadelphia where we had to change fields and playing surfaces. I like when things like this happen sometimes because it makes us a tougher team and it will help us win BIG EAST games down the road. More than any other team I have had I think this team has the mental toughness to play through these things.
On what the team needs to work on before conference play: The biggest thing for us right now is to play a home game. After 14 games away from our home field it will be really big for us to get in games at home. I am excited about the practices we have had at the ballpark this week and look forward to the weekend. We see Iona again, which will be a unique situation because Mike Loree will pitch against the same team for the second time in a week. That doesn't happen a lot in college baseball. With Long Island and Binghamton we are going to see some very good teams and will have to battle our way through those games. At this point in the season each team is trying to get their squads in order heading into conference games.
February 28, 2007
Alabama Recap: Looking back on the series after a couple of days, I think we probably played as well as we could have in that kind of environment. If we play that well against some local and BIG EAST teams, we are probably going to win two games in a series and maybe even all three. The thing that stood out the most to me was that we had tremendous composure from the whole team. That started before the game on Friday and carried right to the last pitch of the third game. At no point did Alabama have us rattled and I think we started off well by standing up strong against their top pitcher. We fought Tommy Hunter tooth and nail, got after them physically on the bases and didn't shy away from any situations. The defense was outstanding and the offensive production was consistent. I also thought we pitched pretty well. Alabama is a great team and they are going to score some runs, which they did later in the series.
On beating Alabama: It is a huge statement for us to be able to go down and beat a team like that. We now have two wins against the SEC in the last three years, plus a win against Virginia Tech from the ACC a couple of years back. It is a strong statement about our program that when we put stuff together and play fundamentally sound we can grind out wins in some of these games. There are teams that have had more success in our region, but they don't all have some of these wins that we do. When we pitch and play defense it gives us a chance to be a good team. Some teams rely on offense but I think that tends to create false hope if it is all you have. It is very seldom that you are going to come in and pound one of these power teams offensively. That just doesn't happen.
On Villanova's style of play: I think we are a nitty-gritty team. We are constantly on the plate and preach on-base percentage. We get bunts down and pitch backwards at times. I think we are an unorthodox team that doesn't always play the game by the numbers, and we do some unpredictable things. When we play well our style wears people out. I think this is how we have to play to be successful. I think Alabama is happy to see us leave.
I think the style that we play allowed us to take advantage of situations where we could get the lead. We stole bases in key situations, and in our coaches' meeting this week we all felt very satisfied with our offensive skills. I think we were in command of that part of the game and used that to extend a 1-0 lead to 5-0 in the first game and tie a 5-1 game in the last game. These things are all a part of what we are trying to do, and it starts with getting on base first and taking it from there.
On Mike Loree pitching in big games: He has been amazing in big games. We have talked about him being a crafty guy and I think he just goes out and pitches. When you go out and pitch, you can get into big arenas with that. Mike was a big time high school football player and when he got here he brought that aura of being a quarterback from a big-time high school program. It seems like these big starts have come easy for him. I think what is most noticeable is that he doesn't get rattled out on the mound. I haven't seen teams get under his skin, and that type of consistency bodes well in these kinds of venues.
On the bullpen: I thought the bullpen was good this weekend, even though Alabama got some runs later in the series. Right now our focus is on developing a good bullpen and I think we have a lot of options. Several guys are competing for the opportunity to give us a chance and when you run in pretty much everyone on your roster you are going to give up some hits. I am really pleased that our freshmen have been able to come in and have multiple outings and be successful. I will take that every day of the week. We have some veteran guys in Gus Guida and Nate Hall plus a sophomore in Kyle Carver that might have the best stuff on the team. We kind of know what we will get from those guys and if you tell me that the freshmen can go in and contribute also then I have no complaints.
On the difference between the Alabama series and playing Texas last year: I think we went down to Texas last year and played very nervous at times. That's understandable; there are a lot of things to be nervous about when playing Texas. When all is said and done they are maybe the top program in the nation. I thought that top to bottom Texas had a little more pitching depth in the bullpen than Alabama. The key to the series this year, from the standpoint of our offensive production, is that we got some confidence early in the series and their bullpen did not shut us down the way we were stopped at Texas. That was the major difference in my mind.
On production from the bench: Coming into the year we thought we had a more productive roster from top to bottom and we are starting to see the results of that. We have more options with guys coming off the bench, and that means the players have to be mentally in the game and not just at the game. The guys coming off the bench are doing a good job focusing within the game and have done a really good job just to come in and put balls in play. Wesley Borden already has four RBI as a pinch hitter. He won us a game at Norfolk State and certainly gave us every chance to win the second game against Alabama.
Previewing the Florida trip: We have already talked as a team this week about Florida and how it has historically been a good state for us. We are usually playing well at this junction of the season and that will need to happen for us this week. We face a steep challenge right off the bat against Florida Atlantic. They got some attention in the national polls last week and have a high-quality number one starter that we are going to see. They have a good offense and we are playing on the road.
We have two games against Mt. St. Mary's. They are the type of team that probably you would be favored against more times than not, but they have two good starting pitchers and you have to go out and play well to beat a team like that. We are going to be facing the challenge of playing them at 11:00 in the morning on Saturday after a 7:00 game the night before.
Maine is a conference champion and has been in the NCAA regionals. Like Norfolk State and Alabama, they know how to play and know how to win and what that is all about. They will be looking at the chance to try and beat a BIG EAST team that has a win over Alabama.
Boston College is an old rival and the series with them has been bitter at times in the past. They are an ACC team and playing them gives us an opportunity to have a win against an SEC team and an ACC team in the same season just like in 2005.
On the NHL trading deadline: It has been a disappointing season for the Flyers. They have made some trades to get rid of some guys and picked up a goalie. I think the thing I am seeing is that they sent out some guys and got back five guys who were all number one draft picks at some point. They acquired two defensemen, two forwards and picked up two first round picks from Nashville, in addition to a goalie who is supposed to be a number one goalie. I don't know if all these guys are good or not, but obviously at some point there was someone who thought they were really good. I suppose you have to take a wait-and-see approach at this point.
February 21, 2007
Norfolk State Recap: We took two out of three games and I think at the end of the weekend you will always take that. Going into Sunday with a chance to sweep the series, it was disappointing not to come away with that. We had some things going early but couldn't get it done. I think that goes back to what I said before the series with regards to Norfolk State being a team that can win a conference championship. They played with the confidence of a championship team on Saturday and Sunday and we were fortunate to win two games in the series.
I was pleased with the overall effort from the first weekend. In comparison with other years, we saw more things and were able to play more people and pitch more people than in the past. We had three or four guys get in each day on the mound and the bullpen was outstanding with the exception of one inning on Sunday. Offensively we got 9-10 hits per game which is something we haven't done in the past this early in the season. We played great outfield defense and were solid behind the plate. There were some really great plays out of the infield but we also made eight errors, so that is an area we need to get better.
On the offense: I was very pleased by the way we started out offensively. It is the best we have hit down at Norfolk State since our first year down there in 2004, when we scored 19 runs in one game to get all our offense. The team showed great balance through the lineup. We had a low batting average in the 3-4 spots with some different players there. If we had gotten more production from those two spots we could have expanded on the scores a little bit. That production will come in time though. I always think that if we can get the offense in order by the time we get back from Florida then we have a strong indication of where we are at as a team offensively. I think we are about two weeks away from knowing really well who we are offensively but this weekend is a good start.
On Mike Loree: In his first start Mike went out and did what a four-year veteran does, which is to win a baseball game without his best stuff. I have seen Mike better than he was on Saturday, but he had control of his fastball in brutal weather conditions. It was cold and windy and Mike had a battle from inning to inning to move around his fastball and try to get his secondary pitches over the plate. He made two great defensive plays, one with two runners on and none out and another where he barehanded a drag bunt and threw the runner out. He helps himself without always needing to make pitches and gutted out five innings against a good pitcher from the other team. It is nice to see him get a victory and get on the school's top-10 list in that category. He finally got some overdue consideration from the BIG EAST by being on this week's honor roll, and it was nice for him to get the Philadelphia Big Five honor also.
On the bullpen: I think that how the bullpen plays out is going to say a lot about how our team is going to be. We need to have a good bullpen and have some people in there who will step up. Despite one bad innings, I think we were outstanding from the bullpen all weekend. In the game on Sunday, Brian Streilein came in and Jordan Ellis and Ryan Wendler pitched well. I was excited about Gus Guida having a two-inning, no-contest save on Saturday. It can be hard to go out and get that first opportunity, but Gus had control of his stuff, was aggressive in the strike zone and had a dominating slider. The bullpen gave us a chance to win each day, particularly being down 7-3 on Saturday and on the verge of that turning into what happened on Sunday.
On Nate Hall getting out of a bases loaded, one-out jam in Saturday's game: It seems like Nate is always the guy who comes in with the bases loaded. Sometimes he gets out of it and other times it is just out of his control. On Saturday he came in and pounded the strike zone with his slider and got a ground ball double play. The bullpen got three double plays on Saturday, which is a sign that the pitchers trusted their stuff and weren't trying to do too much.
On the team's running game: I have mixed feelings about our running game, although we had seven stolen bases and gave up just one. We went in with a scouting report to exploit Norfolk State with the running game and I am not sure we did that. They threw out three runners early in the game on Sunday which was huge. We might have bunted in those situations looking back on it now. Still, I think that Ryan Arcadia and guys like James Dolbier and Joe Cotter are the guys we want to steal bases with. We also got a stolen base from Derek Shunk that gave us some options with their pitchers. We want to build on the running game and take advantage of it when we have opportunities. Seven steals is better than one, and that is because behind the plate for us, Jim Gillin, Wesley Borden and Andy Wendle weren't going to have anyone run on them.
On playing 27 different players during the weekend: You sit down as a coach and you want to get everybody in early and take a look, but the game doesn't always dictate itself that way. We started on Saturday where Wesley Borden came in and got a huge pinch-hit that drove in two runs. Then we had Robert Parks in the game for defense and he got down a sacrifice bunt. I think we got the flow of our bench going and saw some younger guys too. We want to stay with that mode, but it is harder to do than it sometimes ends up.
On Alabama: They are a top 20 team and year in and year out are one of the best programs in the country. They won the Southeastern Conference last year and they are tough offensively 1-9 in the order, even with some new players in there from last year. On Friday we will face Tommy Hunter, who was with me a little bit during my USA Baseball involvement last summer. Tommy is one of the top pitchers in the country in my opinion and probably one of the best pitchers Villanova has ever faced.
We will have our hands full this weekend but we will need to rely on our past experiences against top competition and play under control and try to get into the series. It is going to be about getting comfortable playing a team at this level, which I think we will be. In the first game on Friday night there should be a big and vocal crowd which we need to deal with. We will see a big time arm and are throwing Mike Loree out there. All that you ask is to take what they give us for the first few innings and then get into the middle innings and try to win a baseball game on Friday night. After that the weekend games will play dictate themselves, but I think the crowd and atmosphere will be a bit more of a factor early in Friday's game.
On having had success against an SEC team (Florida) in the recent past: We talk about having beaten an SEC team before. Alabama is still the SEC champions and they are going to play like that on their home field. I don't know how the rest of the year will play out for them, but right now they are 6-1 and playing like champions do. It is important for us to match their energy level and level of confidence. That is where having beaten a team like Florida two years ago can come into play for us.
February 14, 2007
On Norfolk State: They are a veteran team and looking down their lineup and the guys on the mound it is the same names we have seen the past few years. We are facing an experienced team that I believe is ready to take the next step and win their conference. I think they are capable of winning a conference championship and getting to the NCAA Regional.
On the pitching Villanova will face: I think that Da'Mece Williams is as tough a lefty as we face all year. He stands out to me from who we have seen from Norfolk State in the past. I have tremendous respect for their whole team and I think Williams could pitch on any staff. It looks like they have used five guys in their pitching so far.
On Norfolk State offensively: They have a lineup with guys who all run well and the middle of their lineup generates a lot of offense around Ernie Banks. They are a team we have to contain on the offensive side of things.
On this weekend's series: This is our fourth trip down to Norfolk State and I think we have seen them get better each year. Their coach has done a great job and they continue to improve. The advantage they have over us at this point in the season is that, although they battle the weather like we do, they have been able to get practices in and see live pitching and situations outside. It is huge to have live offensive and defensive situations and Norfolk State will be a little ahead of us in terms of on-the-field experience. This is going to be our first game and their sixth game. I am glad the series is finally here. It will be good for us to battle against a team in a different uniform. We want to go out and do everything it takes to get a win on Friday and then keep up that level of intensity during the weekend games.
On pitching being ahead of the hitting early in the season: More often than not, looking back at the games we have played down there most of them were low scoring games. Norfolk State is going to throw the ball over the plate and they pick it up in the field. Last year we dealt with some rugged conditions and this year we expect that all three days. It is a matter of putting the ball in play and the winning team will do that and catch the ball well all weekend.
On the Norfolk State series against Saint Joseph's this past weekend: I think it goes back to the experience level of Norfolk State that they won three close games and scored key runs late. They are a solid ball club that is ready to win a conference championship, so you expect them to be able to win the close games. Saint Joseph's is still relatively young and trying to figure out how to win those tight games at this point.
On the Villanova pitching: We go into this weekend and will start Mike Loree, Josh Eidell and Bill Hoffman. Loree and Eidell are very experienced guys. Hoffman has made starts for us but this will be his first time starting on an opening weekend. There is a little bit of an unknown with that but we think he can go out and give us a chance to win the game. Out of the bullpen we have experienced guys like Nate Hall, Gus Guisa, Kyle Carver and Ryan Wendler who will all be used this weekend. We are planning to play three nine-inning games if the weather holds up and that will allow us to use the majority of the bullpen. You would like to be able to put everyone in the game in a good spot but at the same time you know that might not happen, that at some point you will need someone to come out of the bullpen in a tough situation. It is going to be pivotal to get newcomers like Brian Streilein, Kevin Crimmel and others in there. We want them to have that first experience in a game because they are going to be a big part of the pitching staff down the road.
On the Villanova offense: One of the challenges we will face right off the bat is seeing a tough lefty in Da'Mece Williams. We will have two or three left-handed bats in our lineup and we need to figure out early in the season how our lineup functions. This weekend we want to get as many guys in the game as possible so they get their first at bat and first defensive play out of the way as we build our team for the season. Like every weekend it will be about on-base percentage for us and how we do with situational hitting and cashing in on run-scoring chances. We will need to get guys on base to get into our small ball and running game. That is how we generate offense.
February 7, 2007
On the preseason: This year has been pretty similar to other years, although we had great weather in December and January and it has gotten cold during the last couple of weeks of practice. The guys have done a good job of going out on the turf even if it is just for 20-25 minutes per day. We have also had some extended practices outside and I think that the players are on the same page that we can get more done outside in 20 minutes than inside in three hours. The facilities available to us between the Pavilion and the All-Star Academy are excellent.
On practices and the impact of practicing indoors or outdoors: Our practices up until now have been outstanding, which is what should be expected. I can start to see the chemistry of the team coming together and at this point we are probably ready to play a game. From a defensive perspective, it is good to be outside because the fielders are making throws from the actual distances they will throw from in a game. I have learned that the bounces the ball takes off the turf translate pretty well to playing on grass and clay surfaces. It is better for fielders to be outside to work on their mechanics.
From a pitching perspective I don't think there is a dramatic difference between throwing inside or outside. At this time of the year they usually say that the pitching is ahead of the hitting and that is true inside as well. We are just looking for the pitchers to work on their pitches and get their strength up at this point.
On the expectations of freshmen and sophomores leading into the season: Starting with the sophomores, I think we have some guys who played some meaningful games last year when you look at Joe Rosati, Matt McFolling, Kyle Carver and Josh Eidell. They have a good idea now what college baseball is about and what we try to accomplish. For the freshmen, I think they are ready to play their first collegiate games and I want to try and get them in the fire as quick as we can in the right spots. It is important to get the first at bat or the first inning out of the way, and make a play in the field. You want to see the younger players getting comfortable with the game of college baseball.
On the makeup of the roster this season: The makeup of the roster goes back to our recruiting theory of looking for pitching and defense. Like a lot of teams, we try to get the best possible pitchers we can that will give us the most success. We want to support them with good defense and play to our home ballpark. To do that means recruiting athletic guys that can run, have good offensive skills and can still be interchangeable in the field. I think we have the ability to move guys from the outfield to first base and not lose anything defensively. The advantage you are looking for in a nine-inning game is to be able to put people in the right offensive positions without sacrificing the defense. That is how this roster is made up.
On the goals for the season: Our goal first and foremost is to find a way to make the BIG EAST Tournament. That is the next horizon we need to get to. We have experienced the first year with eight teams making it to the tournament and have gotten familiar with two of the new teams that joined the conference (Cincinnati, Louisville). The challenge is to reach those goals while still being able to dominate local teams that have gotten significantly better in the past couple of years. At the same time, we want to have a solid trip down to Florida and play well in our series against Alabama.
On the Super Bowl: I don't know if the game itself was any better than last year but I was happy with the outcome. I am kind of a closet Colts fan although I root for the Ravens. My father was a long-time Colts fan and in my opinion they have been the best team for the last three years and finally got it done.
On the fall season: The fall season was as good as any since I have been the head coach. The most important thing for us is that we came into the fall healthy and are healthy coming out of the fall season. We have a good indication of where we are at and what the strengths of the ball club are. As a staff we identified some of our concerns and worked on getting better in those areas.
On the team's offensive outlook for 2007: We are going to be a very good offensive team with some left-handed hitters who can really hurt you. I was extremely happy with the first impressions from the freshman class and I think that there will be 3-4 guys from that group who can make an impact down the line this season. I think the youth in our program will be very solid in the long run.
On the team's pitching: We will have an outstanding bullpen this spring and I am very excited about that. In the past, when we have been successful we have had a good bullpen. In terms of the rotation we are returning Mike Loree for his fourth season and Josh Eidell, who stabilized the rotation as a freshman last season. We need to finalize the top four spots in rotation, which should play itself out in the spring.
On the players to watch this season: I was very excited about [JUCO transfer] Dan Terpak during the fall and I think he is a great addition to the team. Josh Eidell was outstanding on the mound and it was great to see Derek Shunk be 100 percent healthy all fall. We are returning our big junior class as well. Each of the juniors had a great fall and we are looking forward to seeing them out on the field in the spring.
On the team's upcoming clinics: We have a youth clinic on campus for kids aged 7-13 and a clinic for high school players at the All-Star Baseball Academy. Each clinic runs during the holiday period between Christmas and the New Year. It is exciting to be able to give back to the community. We also announced that we are continuing our relationship with the All-Star Baseball Academy during the high school clinics. It is a great facility that makes it possible for us to have live infield and batting practice. We are looking forward to continuing our relationship with All-Star Baseball.
On the 2007 schedule: We are excited about having the spring schedule come together. We will once again have the challenge of facing an SEC team down in Alabama and then will return to the Boca Raton area for the Spring Break trip.
On the program's success at the pro level: This season we got to see Brian Slocum not only make his major league debut but also get two starts at the end of the season. Hopefully his success this season will propel him into a successful career with the Indians in 2007. Nick Allen went out and had a solid year in the Mariners system and was named their Minor League Pitcher of the Year. We also had some high-profile guys like Kevin Mulvey and Jeremy Hunt who did an outstanding job in their first taste of pro experience.
On current players during the summer season: Our guys had an outstanding summer playing in leagues all over the country. It is important to our program to have our players get the experience of playing somewhere different geographically. Much of the team is already in place for leagues next summer and I look forward to continue seeing Villanova players making an impact in summer leagues.