College Baseball Daily continues our series of interviews with coaches from across the country today with Wofford head coach Todd Interdonato who is entering his fourth season in charge of the Terriers program. He enters the year with a career record of 58-105 while going 17-38 overall and 9-21 in Southern Conference play last season. the Terriers return one of the top prospects in the entire country with catcher Mac Doyle.
CBD: Wofford finished last season with a 17-38 record while going 9-21 in Southern Conference play. What are your expectations for the 2011 squad?
TI: This year’s team should be one of the more experienced we’ve had in my six years here. Over the past two seasons we have really been a team dominated by freshmen and sophomores in the lineup and on the mound. We feel like the experience these players have received over the past two season should really pay dividends this year. These players have had multiple game series with some of the top programs in the country such as Arizona St., Vanderbilt, South Carolina, Pittsburgh, Virginia Tech, and New Mexico St. where they have gained valuable experience. Mostly, I expect our pitching staff to make a big jump this season. They are an extremely hard working group of players under our pitching coach Dusty Blake’s direction. They seem to have a confidence and focus about them this year that I have not seen from them before. Most importantly, two of our strongest leaders in our program, John Cornely and Drew Sheridan, will fill major roles for us on the mound this year. Their influence on our younger players and overall culture has really started to come through this year.
CBD: Kyle Behrendt is the only everyday position starter not on the squad this season. Who do you expect to take over his spot in the lineup and in the field?
TI: Kyle was a truly special player for this program over the past four seasons and he could not have had a better season to close out his career. As of now, we have moved Josh McKinney back in from the OF this year to begin taking the lead at third base. Josh came in as an INF but converted to the OF based on our needs. We feel very confident in him this year going in to hold down that position based on his experience. He had an outstanding fall that culminated by him being named our team’s top position player. With Josh being as versatile as he is we are hoping we are going to be able to find some time for a talented freshman 3B, Eric Brenk.
TI: Mac is a player who doesn’t come along very often for any head coach. We knew this when we were in the recruiting process with him three years ago he was not only a special talent, but a unique young man. What was most impressive about him during the process is how you could see his leadership skills already developed at 17. We talked often about what his role in this program would be and he has done nothing but live up to the high expectations we had set for him. He finished his freshman season with decent numbers for a first year player but it was easy to see there was so much more in him. Over the course of last year he became one of the best hitters in the league and a guy every player on our team respects for his work ethic and dedication. He and our other catcher, David Roney, constantly are challenging each other in every aspect of the game. What most people assume about Mac is he relies on his talent to be successful, which couldn’t be further from the truth. He is a player who wants to go over each pitch in each at bat he saw throughout the course of the game with a coach. He is constantly trying to improve his approach because he knows how important having a game plan is to be successful.
CBD: The Terriers bring back the entire weekend rotation this season after a rough season in 2010 with a 7.87 staff ERA. Do you expect to continue to use John Cornely, J.D. Osborne, and Gus White in the rotation or will there be a shakeup?
TI: The biggest strength we have going into this season is the experience our pitching staff will bring to the mound. As of right now, we have really had some players take huge strides since the end of last season until now getting ready to begin spring practice. John Cornely we feel has shown more aptitude to finishing games than starting him so we are constructing our roles going from the 9th back to the 1st, and it starts with John. We aren’t going to limit him to one inning to close; we are going to use him as needed to help us finish games in the best way we see fit. We had so many guys pitch so well this fall we still have yet to hammer down our weekend guys. We will likely pick three from the following five: Cash Collins, JD Osborne, Brandon Yarusi, Tom Dolinak, and Drew Sheridan. There is no doubt these five, in no matter which role, are going to be guys we really lean on.
CBD: Have any of the incoming freshmen impressed you during Fall workouts? Do you expect any of them to break into the starting lineup/rotation this spring?
TI: Our freshman class we brought in this year has been very impressive in their work ethic and their desire to learn the game at this level. The one position player who has really stood out is 3B Eric Brenk. He is a special athlete who is 6’4” 210 pounds and moves very well. He really caught on to the speed of the college game and has been a tireless worker who doesn’t seem to ever be satisfied. The freshman pitcher who impressed the most so far was Eric Eck. He showed to have the innate ability to compete and succeed even when you could tell he didn’t have his best stuff in an outing. He has a good shot of gaining a significant role this season and developing into a weekend rotation type pitcher later in his career.
CBD: Heading into the 2011 season, Who will be the biggest challenge for the Terriers for a conference title?
TI: This league is better than most people realize, there are so many challenges out there. I would say right now College of Charleston and Elon seem to be the teams who will be the toughest challenge for anyone in our league. Charleston has so many good position players returning and it’s tough to bet against them in any season. Elon is so well constructed and so well coached they rarely ever have a hole in their lineup and pitching staff. They seem to be the team who can beat you in so many different ways. With all that being said, you can’t ever count out The Citadel from being in the mix. They had a tremendous season last year and bring pack a lot of key pieces who helped them be so tough last season.
CBD: This season we will see a new bat standard go into effect. Has your squad had a chance to try out these new bats and if so, what are your thoughts on them?
TI: Our sponsor, Wilson/Demarini was really ahead of the curve and provided us bats before we ever opened fall practice so we were able to use them in every intersquad this fall. Personally, I like the change in the standard and what it is going to do for our sport. It seems to going to put more focus on the fundamentals of the game and really challenge players and coaches to focus on the details. The change reminds me of what happened in 1999 when NCAA went from 2 ¾” barrel to 2 5/8” and from -5 to -3. The players will adapt to the change this year just as they did in ’99 and the best hitters will still be the best hitters.
CBD: We have now been through three seasons with the Uniform Start Date being in effect. What is your opinion on the rule change? Has it been a good move?
TI: I believe I am one of the few head coaches in the south who has really enjoyed the uniform start date. I know the influence came from northern schools but it was a change to get everyone on the same schedule and I believe it has created a little more parity, which is always a good thing in sports.
CBD: Who has been your biggest influence on your coaching philosophy or career?
TI: During my playing career, I was so fortunate to not only have good coaches, but so many of them. Still to this day the biggest influence any coach has on me is my HS Coach Jerry Dawson. He is arguably the most successfully HS coach in Arizona history and I can’t tell you how special it is to me to still have the close relationship I have with him. I learned from him how attention to detail, organization, and team structure play such a critical role in improving your team. The best part about Coach Dawson is if you ask him how many state titles he has won his answer is “I haven’t won any, the kids won eight.”
As far as learning the game Mike Roberts, who was my college coach for my senior season, is still the smartest baseball mind I have been around. The areas of the game he is able to see and teach to his players is second to none. He had such a fearless approach to coaching and you couldn’t help but feed off his confidence. He was able to put himself in his players’ shoes and really teach the game to you from the player’s perspective. It’s no coincidence his son is one of the smartest players in Major League Baseball right now.
Lastly, my parents have been so supportive in my career it’s impossible to say I would be here without them. We all know in this profession it is so hard getting started and making a career in coaching and without their support I wouldn’t be in such a great position I am at Wofford.
College Baseball Daily would like to thank Coach Interdonato for taking the time out of his busy schedule to talk with us. Special thanks to Assistant Athletic Director for Media Relations Brent Williamson for sending us the photos for use in the article. If any other SID’s or coaches would like to be featured in a future interview feel free to send me an email.