Do you think they deserve the No. 1 ranking?
“No, it is a preseason poll. We all know what that means. I would be kidding if I didn’t say that certainly it is an honor and that people think that we have a chance at being pretty good. If I had my druthers we wouldn’t be because it comes with some very high expectations and you worry about how your team is going to manage all those. Maybe a little bit more difficult because there is only one place to go and that’s down. That is probably going to happen because you are not going to win every game. The expectations, we are fine with those and what we will have to do to hopefully live up to them. The end poll is the one we are most worried about. That postseason one.”
How do you feel about the experience coming back with this team?
“That is a good feeling, that is a good feeling for every coach. To have a good nucleus of players that have been there and done that before because you can’t coach it, you can’t teach it and you just have to have it. You have to work through freshman and young guys playing and getting some experience. That is the biggest plus of our team this year is probably just experience.”
How did the ending of last season motivate this team’s offseason?
“I think it is there. It is kind of unspoken. Our players are all competitive and they remember that feeling. It is not a good feeling to end your season, especially at home for this group for the past few years. I don’t know if we needed any extra motivation but I think our players are hoping not to repeat that.”
Two years ago you started off your season heading out to California. This year you are heading out to Houston not at the very beginning of the season – that kind of helped propel your team. What can Houston do for you?
“That trip – we came back 4-0 and you could tell it was like a shot of confidence throughout our whole team that we may have a chance to be pretty good. Houston will be a big test. I mean Seton Hall will be a big test and Stony Brook will be a big test so we don’t want to get ahead of ourselves. I know our players are excited about that because not only is it against good teams but it is a major league park and we will guarantee that we will definitely get in all of our games.”
What freshmen do you expect to contribute right away?
“We have a number of them that will have an opportunity probably Skye Bolt in the outfield, Landon Lassiter, Alex Raburn, Korey Dunbar behind the plate. On the mound three freshman pitchers in Trent Thornton, Riley Hovis and Taylore Cherry are probably all in the mix to get an opportunity to get on the field in some shape or form.”
How is the depth going to be on the mound this season?
“Luis Paula, Chris O’Brien and Tate Parrish and Shane Taylor – I did not mention him starting, last year against Duke he was sensational. He is in the mix. The three freshmen – Trent Thornton probably will be the freshman who will be the first one that we will throw out there and have him jump in the water. Trevor Kelly – if we had to start tomorrow our closer would be Trevor Kelly based on what we saw in the fall and so far in the preseason. That may change. Rob Wooten went into the season his junior year and was not even mentioned and then he had 40 appearances. So we never really know how that will shake out.”
When you recruit kids and you are looking for leaders and winners with good character – did you see that in these guys that you recruited three to five years ago?
“I wish I could say yes but I really can’t. You hope so but these kids are committing so early now it is really scary. You hope you have done your homework and you know kids. You have to filter them from the time you offer and they commit until the time they get here then after that. You have to see what they do their junior year and senior year in high school. Usually the way they respond to emails and getting their application in on time and how they talk to you. You can start to see. You could see it early on with Trent Thornton. You can see it with the 13 kids we have signed. They are on the ball. They already sort of have a leg up. I did see that in Kent [Emanuel], but I didn’t see it with Colin Moran because it was so late with him and he was so quiet. Who would have known? We basically signed Colin Moran late because we thought that Sean Coyle and Connor Narron were going to sign. Who knows he might get to the big leagues before they do. This group of freshmen are so much more mature and ahead of the game compared to last year’s class in general. I hope that will serve us well this year and in future years.”