FROM CBB NEWS SOURCE
Q: You open with the first Big Ten-Big East challenge. What are your general thoughts on how that will play out?
A: We’ve talked about it as coaches, talked about it for a couple of years now. You know, when you’re dealing with RPIs and strength of schedules and what were up against being a northern school, why not try and come up with something where you’re facing at least schools that are in the same situation you’re in? It makes sense, and we’re 100 percent for it. The Big East had a couple schools with prior commitments so we are forced to play a couple Big 10 schools down there. I think it’s a great idea. We open with St. John’s, a regional team from last year, and then follow up with Northwestern and then Seton Hall. We’re all going to be in the same boat. From just my experience here, it’s been a couple plays, a couple walks and hit here or there. That’s the difference in the early season going one way or the other.
Q: You mentioned Northwestern. How hard will it be playing a Big Ten team early? Is that going to be hard to handle?
A: Well, we even talked about the strength of schedule and the RPI rankings. If we just played one another all year long we’d be better off then going down south with all these guys that have been outside for months. We don’t play Northwestern this year anyway. Hopefully, our conference has changed a little bit with the coaches going out and playing a little bit tougher schedules. Hopefully, we win the game first of all, and, second of all, then Northwestern goes out and has a great year, and we pick up some points from them.
Q: Talk about some of these young guys, (Drew) Palen, Blake (Lynd), (Michael) Glantz. Where might they fit in this year?
A: We expect a lot out of those guys, and I guess Mike (Deese) can speak of this. I don’t care where you’re coming from, what program you’ve been at, what experience you’ve had. You are coming into a new setting with new teammates and new coaches, a new school. It’s different. There’s an adjustment period, and hopefully we knocked it out in the fall ball. But still, there’s nothing like going on that first trip together. You really don’t know whom you have and who’s going to show up. But (Michael) Glantz, we anticipate him playing short, (Blake) Lynd playing center. (Drew) Palen, closing role, he’s struggled. I’ll be honest with you; he has struggled. He’s gotta earn his keep. Right now, we’re looking at other guys to maybe take that role. Pitching seems to be wide open. But we like it. It’s hard to say, there’s some unproven guys. Yet, you have a (T.J.) Macy and a (Mike) Lorentson and (Calvin) Grumley coming back for his third year. Losing (Mike) Wanamaker definitely hurts us. He was a guy that you could count on to eat up a bunch of innings. When you’re talking about how many innings he pitched last year for us, quality innings, and to be without someone like that, that’s something you don’t plan on. So that’s going to hurt a little bit, but I look at it as an opportunity for an (Ryan) Ignas, an (Drew) Irsfeld, a (Mike) Pierce, a (David) Lutz and those guys to get more innings, and they’ve stepped up and done pretty good so far this spring.
Q: What are some of the goals you guys have laid out for this season?
A: To add to that, we have a little bit of an older group this year that has been to the Big Ten tournament a couple years. We’ve come close a couple of years. We know what it’s all about. In the fall meetings, at the end of the fall when you over it with everybody, 99 percent of the guys’ first comment was “this is a close group.” The older guys took the younger guys. There wasn’t any separation there. The new guys fit in with the veteran guys and the returning guys. The chemistry is off the chart. I think that’s what takes championship teams down the road. The other thing is we haven’t mentioned Omaha. We haven’t mentioned regionals. This group shows up one day at a time. Yes, it’s in our minds, and you throw that question out there and every one of these guys better answer it that way. But, there’s not a lot of talk about it. Get better today. We have a practice today. We’re going to go outside and have some fresh air. It’s not going to be much of a practice, but it’s something to get outside, run around outside and see what the sun looks like. A little breeze maybe, I don’t know. We can get used to the temperatures too.
Q: What do you guys need to do to get over the hump and reach that ultimate goal?
A: I think the way the Big Ten stacks up: Michigan had a great recruiting class four years ago. They had some guys. You look at them and what they’ve done, and I guess if you want to see how they did it and what they did. They lost a lot of key guys last year. So if you’re looking at a team to face. I look at these predictions and all this every year, and none of us think twice about any of those. I don’t care if they ranked us No. 1; it doesn’t mean anything. I think last year we might have been picked eighth or tenth in the Big Ten, and the year before something like the same thing. We ended up coming in and tying for second and third. You gotta play the games. I wouldn’t say we have an absolute star. Last year, Drew O’Neil was our guy. This year we don’t have a Drew O’Neil. We have just a good team that plays together. Everybody is going to do their little thing, and hopefully we win some games. We need to play as a team, stay healthy, play as a team, do the little things, catch ground balls and don’t beat ourselves. That’s what we did early. If you dig yourself a hole early, you better win the Big Ten to get yourself that regional bid. It’s a tough conference in baseball. No doubt about it. You don’t get a lot of respect. It’s tough to get RPI. Traveling is probably the toughest I know of as far as when we get into town and when we get out of town. There are no excuses for these guys. They know we have an older club that can handle that.
Q: You talked about the lack of certainty in terms of placement of the pitchers and other positions. As a coach, what do you see from the players knowing that they have a chance at a starting role? What are your thoughts about the openness?
A: That’s the way it should be. Competition makes the team better. You look at Mike (Deese), who was introduced as an infielder. Mike is going to play some outfield for us too, which will push a (Grant) Youngblood, a (Blake) Lynd, a (Ryan) Boonie and make all those guys better. Outfield, infield, first, third, and that’s the kind of team we have. Wes Borden is going to play around different positions. Whoever is hot is going to be in there. The thing that’s happened to us the past two years is these guys know their roles. By the end of the year, they know their roles and they’re pulling for one another, and it just clicks. It’s hard to explain when that chemistry starts. It’s hard. And when you talk about the hump to get over with, the key is to start off good. Period. Then we’ll be alright.
Q: As far as pitching, who are some of the guys we might see as starters in the first part of the season?
A: I don’t want to let the secret out of the bag because I know everybody in the country is going to be listening to this. Scott Kelley has emerged as possibly our No. 1 guy. But, that’s not taking away from (Mike) Lorentson and (T.J.) Macy. It’s just the role and where they fit in. Scott Kelley has gone 100 percent pitching, and he’s become a prospect. (Mike) Lorentson, his maturity over the year and what he’s doing out there now: he’s in total control. And then T.J. Macy, he has his moments. He’s got brilliance. When he becomes more consistent pitch-by-pitch, he could be something special too. On top of that, then you have (Calvin) Grumley who’s another guy who seems to be just there. He’s on the verge. You never know what’s going to happen with him. Those four are the starters. I anticipate Paul Cianciolo fitting in there getting some starts, getting some innings. We need him to do something too. He’s just coming off of football and, shoot, he’s just learning how to pitch. You can’t expect a lot out of him. But, with his work ethic, he’s been there. We like that.
Senior Mike Deese, IF/OF
Q: How hard it is to adjust to all the long trips to the south? You’re here or home for so long and then you spend so many weekends in the south. Is that difficult to adjust?
A: You get used to it. The trips take a toll on your body a little bit but it’s really nice to get out and get down south where it’s warmer and get on a field and play a lot of baseball. The traveling, it takes a toll a little bit on your academics. Other than that, it’s a way to get on the field, so we usually don’t complain about it. It’s something we want to do – get down there and play a lot of ball.
Q: How much are you personally looking forward to the season coming back and how did the fall go for you?
A: I’m stoked about the season. I love it. Last year I was ready to go, and then got six games into it and had to pull out with a wrist injury. Now, it’s been a year of rehab and inter-squad. I’m ready to go. I’m ready to play. The 20th couldn’t come soon enough for me. I think it’s going to be a great year. We have a lot of guys who are just as excited as I am to start playing this year.
Q: What are some of the goals you guys have laid out for this season?
A: We want to win. Omaha. We preach it every time we can. We want to go to Omaha. We have a great group of guys this year and we’re coming together. It’s going to be a lot of fun. We’re gonna win some ball games. We definitely want to run down the Big Ten first, take care of that. From there, you just want to get in a regional and see where it takes you.