The College Baseball Blog continues our series of interviews with head coaches checking in with St. Edward’s coach Rob Penders. He is entering his second season in charge of the Hilltoppers program after coming over from the University of Texas where he severed as the first base coach for Augie Garrido. Coach Penders come from a long line of family members who are coaches themselves. Rob’s brother Jim is the head baseball coach at Connecticut and his uncle is the head basketball coach at the University of Houston.
1) The St Edawrds Hilltoppers had a 43-15 overall record and went 31-9 in the Heartland Conference. Patrick Colgan (12-0, 1.97 ERA) is the only returning starting pitcher as you lost Niel Smith (7-3, 3.95 ERA) and Casey Plant(8-4, 4.31 ERA) but return closer David Wagner to the squad. Who do you expect to fill Smith’s and Plant’s spots in the rotation?
We expect Josh Henry and Brett Friemel to take those spots.
2) Coach Penders in your first year, St. Edward’s (43-15) won the Heartland Conference Championship and advanced to the South Central Regional tournament for the first time in school history. What will the Hilltoopers have to do to have the same type of success this year?
Play good defensive baseball to establish our relatively inexperienced pitching staff and depend on timely offense.
3) What team in the Heartland conference will provide the biggest challenge?
We have to expect that St. Mary’s and Incarnate Word will be contending for the championship again.
4) The Hilltoppers return three (Thomas, Goldsmith, and Moreno) out of their top five hitters from 2007. Whom else do you see as stepping up and contributing this year?
OF-Chris Dinges OF-Mike Hancock OF-Sean Hilbe DH-Thomas Zente INF-Drew Cross
5) Do you see any freshman breaking into the starting line-up or getting quality time on the mound in 2008?
The starting line-up will be hard to crack, but RHP-Matt Williams and OF-Dylan Schuch should see significant time.
6) Penders, What do you think is the biggest difference in coaching at St Edwards when compared to your days at Division 1 power Texas?
The biggest difference is the pitching depth. In Division II many programs do not have the same number of power arms as the Division I powers have. However as you know pitching is an art and there are many pitchers at this level that could contribute to Division I staffs, but don’t always get the chance because they don’t light up the radar gun or they develop after they get to college.
7) The NCAA has implemented many new rules for college baseball for the 2008 season in Division 1. This season we see the implementation of the uniform start date. Do you think that the NCAA will go to a uniform start date for Division II?
I don’t believe that will change anytime in the near future at the Division II level. First and foremost Division II is committed to giving the student/athlete a complete college experience which involves missing as little class time as possible. The new Division I season structure will require teams to sometimes play 5 times a week. That will mean more games away from home during the week and more class time missed. Also, with the Division I calendar there is more time spent playing in May and June when a lot of schools are not in session. Anytime school is out and the season is still going on room and board must be paid to student/athletes, this would be a huge strain on Division II budgets.
8) What player or coach have you enjoyed working with the most?
I’ve been very fortunate to work with many great athletes that have gone on to professional careers and some that have not, but I’ve enjoyed working with all of them. If I had to pick one, it would be Nick Stavinoha who I coached at San Jac and is now an outfielder in Triple-A with the St. Louis Cardinals. We grew so close that he is the godfather of my daughter Emmy.
9) Final question, who has been your biggest influence on your coaching philosophy or career?
Augie Garido and Tommy Harmon at the University of Texas influenced me the most when it came to becoming a COLLEGE coach, but it was my father, who has been a high school baseball coach for 39 years and still going strong, that had the most influence on me becoming a BASEBALL coach.
We would like to thank Coach Penders and St Edward’s University for taking the time out of his busy schedule to do this for us.