Do you know who leads the Diamond Heels in wins this season?
“Yeah, I do. The starters talk trash about it how I am always in there snaking their wins but it is all in fun as long as we win. That is all we care about. I have had some good ones. Kent [Emanuel] puts the hat on me and calls me Slytherin from Harry Potter, snake, vulture - I have gotten them all.”
What do you think of your role as one of the primary relief pitchers this season and how has your arm been feeling this season?
“I love my role this year. This way I can pitch in every game and I am always there looking at batters and trying to get an edge on them. My arm actually has been feeling better as the season has been going on. Since I have been throwing more my arm has been in better shape. With all the athletic trainers, Terri Jo [Rucinski] ... they really help make sure that I stay flexible and strong to stay healthy throughout the year.”
Coach Fox lauds on the manner in which Coach Forbes keeps the pitching staff sharp. Can you compare how Coach Forbes has kept up with your work this season as compared to earlier in your career where you were used more sporadically?
“So in mid-week games he definitely wants to get in everybody especially guys who have not thrown as much. When we have days off there is more work on the mound and on mechanics and trying to throw a lot of bullpens to make sure everybody stays fresh and still has that game mentality when they step on the mound.”
What pitches have been effective for you this season to strike out opposing batters?
“I have had a good mix with my fastball, curve and slider. Mostly sliders to left handers and curves and fastballs to right-handers. It starts with strike one, which I had a big problem with last year. I am getting ahead of guys and then they are finding themselves fighting and then I just try to expand the zone. That is what we have really focused on, still attacking and that is what has helped out my numbers.”
Can you discuss your level of trust with senior catcher Jacob Stallings's handling of the pitching staff?
“Jacob is the best catcher that I have ever had. I feel that every close pitch that we get he sticks them real well. Curve balls that are really high he catches them on his chest and that helps us out a lot. When you look at the difference between [batting averages] between [hitting] with strike one and ball one he is one of the main reasons that why we have had such success with him behind the plate.”
How has Coach Gatz helped to physically develop the baseball team in the weight room and how you have improved physically in college?
“We have such a great support staff here. It starts in the weight room with Coach Gatz working on our core strength, leg strength and sprints. Then athletic training wise with Terri Jo [Rucinski] making sure we are doing our shoulder stability work and making sure we stay flexible. Then we have Mary Ellen [Bingham] our nutritionist who makes sure that our pre-game meals are healthy and gives us sample plans of how they should eat and balance their days between with classes and meals. With Coach Forbes and Woodard they are always working on our mechanics and with Right View Pro we check our mechanics on TV and it is just unbelievable how much help we have here. It really helps.”
Do you already know your plans for this summer as far as where you might play in the summer leagues or put any thoughts towards the 2012 Major League Draft as a junior pitching prospect?
“Right now I don’t have any plans. I am just focused on this season, trying to get back to Omaha and winning the first national championship.”
The Diamond Heels have been playing very efficient defense lately in the field. Can you give your impressions of the defensive improvements from a pitcher’s perspective?
“It starts with pitching and defense every year. That is what Coach Fox always preaches. With Tommy [Coyle] moving back to his natural spot and Colin [Moran] coming back it has made it a lot better. We have turned more double plays and are making less errors. When you can keep pitchers' pitch counts low in innings and not make an error here and there it helps out everybody. That is the reason why we have had this good streak the past 15-20 games.”
How is the team looking forward to the post-season?
“To be honest about it we have not talked about it that much. Our goal isn’t to be in second place in the ACC. Our goal is to go to Omaha. To do that we have to focus on every game one at a time. So we are just focused on beating Virginia Tech and going from there.”
Right now the Diamond Heels are on pace to host the Regionals and the Super Regionals. How important is the advantage of getting to play on Bryson Field during the post-season?
“It helped a lot last year. Not having to travel to Oklahoma and having to play in a hostile environment makes a huge difference. You are used to playing at home and you know what to expect. You have been here for the last year and it helps a lot. You can keep a regular daily routine and you get to stay at home and not in a hotel. You can keep your regular routine and it is just like every other game. It makes a big difference.”