Weekend Preview: May 8-10

Meaningful
Matchup
Texas A&M vs. Texas

Texas A&M expected to have a dominant pitching staff in 2009—a deep reservoir of power arms was the whole reason the Aggies ranked No. 1 in the nation in the preseason Top 25. With three weeks left before NCAA tournament selection day, A&M coach Rob Childress said he believes he has the kind of dominant staff he anticipated, even though it might not be structured exactly as planned.

Top 25
Schedule
(1) UC Irvine at Pacific

Central Florida at (2) Rice

(11) Florida at (3) Louisiana State

(4) North Carolina at North Carolina State

Winthrop at (5) Arizona State

(6) Cal State Fullerton at (12) Cal Poly

Mississippi State at (7) Mississippi

(14) Texas A&M vs./at/at (8) Texas

(16) Florida State at (9) Georgia Tech

Texas Tech at (10) Kansas State

Duke at (13) Virginia

Utah at (15) Texas Christian

(17) Arkansas at (21) Alabama

(18) Oklahoma vs. Oklahoma State (at Tulsa/ Oklahoma City)

Bethune-Cookman at (19) Miami

UNC Wilmington at (20) Clemson

Vanderbilt at (22) Georgia

(23) Kansas at Missouri

(24) East Carolina at Houston

(25) Oregon State at Washington

As a staff, A&M is challenging the school’s single-season strikeout
record (536). The Aggies have struck out eight or more in 35 of their
47 games this season, and they’ve reached double-digit strikeouts in 25
games. And over the last 13 games, since A&M dropped a series at
Kansas State and Childress decided to move junior righthander Alex
Wilson to the bullpen, the staff has been at its best. The Aggies
carried a 3.28 ERA over that span into Tuesday’s 8-2 win against Sam
Houston State; they’ve now won 11 of their last 13 games heading into a
huge series against rival Texas.

The Longhorns, of course, have been the nation’s most consistent
pitching staff all season, and they sport a 2.55 ERA that leads the
nation. But the way the Aggies have pitched lately, Texas’ edge on the
mound is miniscule.

“Texas, like every other year, has hung its hat on pitching and
defense, and this year their pitching is as good as any team in the
country,” Childress said. “I do feel like we’ve got a chance to match
up with them with our pitching staff. Look at what we’ve done last over
the 12 or 13 games: We’ve pitched up to our potential. The
change—putting Wilson in the bullpen—has made us a much stronger
pitching staff.”

Childress made the change because veteran relievers Travis Starling and
Kyle Thebeau were struggling to anchor the bullpen. Wilson’s power
stuff (a fastball up to 94 mph and a very good slider) and mean streak
are a perfect fit for the pen, and now he’s able to impact multiple
games in the course of a weekend. And Thebeau has returned to form in a
swingman role.

The move has worked partly because freshman lefthander Ross Hales (4-1,
4.10) has shown the composure and maturity to handle a move to the
weekend rotation. He also has an excellent three-pitch mix, including a
fastball that reaches the low 90s, a good curveball and feel for his
changeup. Sophomore righty Barret Loux (3-1, 4.11) has worked his way
through some elbow soreness and gave the Aggies six strong innings
against Dallas Baptist on Sunday. And sophomore lefthander Brooks Raley
(7-1, 1.96) is simply one of the nation’s best Friday starters, not to
mention a catalyst in the No. 2 hole in the lineup.

That lineup has also responded well to some tweaking, as second baseman
Brodie Greene (.358/.408/.599 with nine homers) has taken off since
moving to the leadoff spot, and seniors Luke Anders (.298 with 10
homers and 46 RBIs) and Kyle Colligan (.272 with 10 homers) have both
come on since Colligan moved from leadoff to the cleanup spot behind
Anders. It’s still not as dynamic an offense as the Aggies have sported
over the last two years, but it’s playing well at the right time and
capable of challenging even the Texas pitching staff.

The Longhorns have been consistently good all season long with the
exception of two weekends against Kansas and Kansas State, during which
Texas went 0-5-1. Coach Augie Garrido attributes some of the hiccups to
youth.

“Five of the six pitchers that are dominating our statistics and
creating the lowest ERA in the nation are sophomores and freshmen,”
Garrido said. “Austin Wood is the only senior, but he’s providing great
leadership for our staff. We have three sophomore outfielders, a
sophomore catcher, a freshman shortstop. So the season has been an
ongoing process of development and will continue to be. Therein lies
the ups and downs that baseball creates for everyone, but ours have
been a little more revealing, and it comes from the offensive side. But
they’ve responded well so far.”

Garrido, whose famously Zen-like approach seldom includes looking at
standings and postseason positioning, knows what’s on the line this
weekend. At 15-8 in the conference, Texas leads Texas A&M and
Kansas State by a game. The Longhorns are already a near-lock to host a
regional, and a series win this weekend would put them in strong
position to win the Big 12 regular-season title and earn a national
seed. Likewise, the Aggies can cement their hosting position with a
series win.

“The opportunities that are out in front of us are the ones you want at
this point,” Garrido said. “You want to be in position to be a
top-eight seed, you want the opportunity to win the conference
championship, and you want the chance to develop individually and
collectively. We have the opportunity to do all of those things.”

Marquee Mound
Matchup
Florida’s Stephen Locke vs. Louisiana State’s Anthony Ranaudo

Two of the three teams tied for first place in the Southeastern Conference will go head-to-head this weekend in Baton Rouge, as SEC East leader Florida visits SEC West co-leader LSU. Expect huge crowds at the New Alex Box Stadium to see two likely regional hosts jostling for national seed position. It’s the kind of atmosphere where the Gators would have struggled early this season, in part because they were relying on true freshmen in the weekend rotation.

2009
STATS
Player W L ERA IP H BB K AVGA
Locke 3 0 3.69

39 45

 8 32

.280
Ranaudo 5

3 3.28

71

52

26

105 .206

Everything has changed with the return of Locke, a senior lefthander who missed the first part of the season after he was arrested for drunken driving. Charges were dropped when police videotape refuted the arresting officer’s account, and the Gators reinstated Locke in late March. Locke doesn’t have overpowering stuff, but he brings poise and toughness to the Friday starter spot. Through seven starts, he is 3-0, 3.69 with 32 strikeouts and eight walks in 39 innings. And the Gators have won their last two weekend series, including a huge sweep at Georgia last weekend that propelled them to first place in the Eastern Division.

“Early on, we were rolling a lot of young guys out in the weekend rotation. Our kids just weren’t ready for Miami and Arkansas on the road,” Florida coach Kevin O’Sullivan said of the first month of the season, when his team was swept by the Hurricanes (in Gainesville) and Razorbacks (in Fayetteville). “When Locke got back, that just allowed us to do a whole lot of different things with our pitching staff. Everything fell into place.

“It allows you not to put some younger pitchers in roles they may not be comfortable with. He certainly has given us a lift, and he gets us deep into games. He’s the one guy on our staff that has proven he can give us seven, eight innings on a Friday or Saturday night and match up with another team’s No. 1 or No. 2. He’s done it more consistently.”

Locke will match up with one of the SEC’s best No. 1 starters Friday. Ranaudo, a sophomore righthander, has been downright dominant at times, with a heavy low-90s fastball, an excellent curveball and changeup. Through 11 starts, he is 5-3, 3.28 with 105 strikeouts and 26 walks in 71 innings.

Under The
Radar
Eric Harrington, rhp, Lamar

Lamar has had good luck with pitchers from the Harrington family in recent years. Lefthander Allen Harrington won 16 games over three years for the Cardinals and was a 13th-round pick of the Padres after going 9-4, 3.72 in 2007. His little brother Eric has established himself as Lamar’s ace as a freshman, going 7-0, 1.70 with 55 strikeouts and 20 walks in 69 innings this year. He has already made a larger impact than the coaching staff expected in his first season.

“When we recruited him, we thought he’d be a reliever and a midweek starter,” Lamar recruiting coordinator Jim Ricklefsen said. “Now he’s our Friday night guy. He has great intangibles—he’s acts like a senior on the mound. He has a tremendous feel for pitching, three pitches for strikes, just paints at the knees.”

Harrington doesn’t look intimidating at 5-foot-9, 170 pounds, but he has a quick arm and minimal effort. His breaking ball tends to be slurvy, but he is able to command it and his changeup, as well as an 88-92 mph fastball.

Harrington is a big reason the Cardinals are 32-18 overall and 16-11 in the Southland Conference heading into this weekend’s series against Texas-Arlington. The third-place Mavericks lead Lamar by a game in the conference standings, so the Cardinals have a chance to make a move up the pecking order this weekend.

Streakin’
Jesse Sawyer, 3b, South Dakota State

Sawyer has caught fire over the past two weeks, and the Jackrabbits have heated up along with him. Since an April 20 doubleheader against North Dakota, Sawyer his hitting .438/.585/1.208. Sawyer has hit 11 of his 15 home runs and collected 21 of his 38 RBIs over that 13-game span. Incidentally, the Jackrabbits are 11-2 in that stretch to improve to 18-26 overall. They have won eight straight Summit League games heading into this weekend’s four-game series against IPFW.

First-year head coach Ritchie Price, who was an assistant with the Jackrabbits last year, spent hours in the car recruiting Sawyer and Joel Blake, who both played junior college ball for Prairie Baseball Academy in Lethbridge, Alberta. Price (whose father Ritch has also enjoyed a fine season as Kansas’ head coach) said Sawyer also received calls from Oregon State and Washington State, but the Jackrabbits wound up winning a recruiting battle against a couple of Missouri Valley Conference teams who were interested in him. Sawyer’s outburst has made all the hours in the car worthwhile.

“Jesse Sawyer is a very good player with really good bat speed and tremendous power,” Price said. “When he flies out it seems like the ball is in the air forever. He has made a lot of progress defensively this year and I would say he is now a little bit above-average defensively. He is still really raw but has the talent to play professionally before he is done.”

The Jackrabbits have also overcome two significant pitching injuries. Their projected No. 1 starter heading into the year, Jared Koch, hurt his elbow a week before the season started and had Tommy John surgery. And senior righthander Kirby Morsching (who leads the team with a 4.83 ERA) hurt his arm against Oral Roberts in early April. Senior lefthander Caleb Thielbar (3-7, 6.68) has picked up some of the slack, though his numbers don’t show it. Thielbar works in the 86-91 mph range, according to Price, and has garnered some pro interest.

But along with Sawyer’s surge, the biggest reason for SDSU’s turnaround in its second season as a provisional Division I school has simply been improved confidence.

“We have gotten really hot with the bats the last couple of weeks,” Price said. “I also think we have gained a lot of confidence the last few weeks as we have played more teams that are at our level. If you look at our schedule, we have played a really tough nonconference schedule, and at times we were overmatched. We played Missouri State, Creighton, Washington State, Minnesota, Nebraska. So as a result our record wasn’t a clear indication of the team we have, but at the same time it could have been easy for our players to shut it down and just play out the year when our record was 7-25.

“But our players have kept working and playing hard and just going about things the right way, and now that we have won a few games, baseball is fun again, and the players are getting rewarded for not giving up when it would have been easy to do so.”

Slumpin’
Brad Stillings and Kyle Smith

Kent State has put together a 35-12 record even without strong seasons from its pair of highly touted, power-armed junior righthanders. Stillings (5-2, 5.91) and Smith (3-2, 5.14) both entered the season as potential top-two-rounds draft picks, and both have taken their lumps. Smith has pitched through shoulder tightness all season and finally sat out this past weekend at Buffalo. He was scheduled to have an MRI this week.

“He’s a tough kid and a team guy, but finally we pulled him out and said let’s see what’s going on here,” Kent State coach Scott Stricklin said. “We’re hoping for the best right now. He’s a great kid with tremendous upside.”

Stillings has been completely healthy and has shown very good stuff, working in the 91-94 mph range all season long. But since throwing a no-hitter against Toledo on April 10, Stillings has been tattooed each of the last three Fridays, allowing 23 earned runs in 12 2/3 innings.

“He’s been struggling a little bit. He hasn’t located the ball quite as well as he has in the past—he’s been elevating some balls,” Stricklin said. “The things that have helped our offense have been helping other offenses too. The ball has been flying out of the park, and it’s tough to pitch in those conditions. But he’s healthy, his velocity is up, he just needs to locate down in the zone. This past weekend he showed a better breaking ball and a better changeup, just had one bad inning. He was pitching really well, then ran into a trouble patch.”

With a potent offense that ranks 11th in the nation in scoring, Kent State can still win the Mid-American Conference even without Stillings and Smith performing at peak level. But if that duo can return to form down the stretch, the Golden Flashes are capable of making a deep postseason run. That is, if they make a regional.

Despite their gaudy record and deep, talented roster, the Flashes rank 79th in the RPI and might be left out of regionals if they fail to win the MAC tournament. Losing a series at Buffalo last weekend was a blow to Kent State’s at-large hopes.

“Obviously our record is very good. We stubbed our toe this past weekend,” Stricklin said. “The thing that hurts us as we go further into this is our RPI. We won two midweek games against Duquesne on the road, and our RPI went down five spots. It is what it is. Once we get into this part of the season, all of our RPIs work against each other. We just have to try to take care of ourselves.

“If we can finish strong and make a good run in our conference tournament, the argument is going to be there for an at-large bid if we don’t win the conference tournament. I think we’re worthy of it—I’m the most biased person on the planet, but people who have seen us play know we have talent and are capable of giving teams a lot of problems in the postseason.”

Bubble
Watch

Florida International
The Golden Panthers have plenty of work to do, but they have at least put themselves in position to compete for a regional berth in coach Turtle Thomas’ second season at the helm. FIU is 30-19 overall and 14-10 in the Sun Belt Conference, good enough for fourth place with two series remaining—both on the road against teams lower in the standings (South Alabama and Florida Atlantic). The Panthers are a lock to make the eight-team Sun Belt tournament, where they’ll have a chance to make a run at the league’s automatic bid or at least pad their at-large resume with a few more wins.

Florida International does need to finish strong. The Panthers rank 74th in the NCAA’s most recent RPI report, though they can hang their hat on quality series wins against Sun Belt heavyweight Western Kentucky, fellow Sun Belt bubble-dweller Troy and Big East leader South Florida. If FIU wins its final two series and avoids a poor showing in the conference tournament, they’ll have a solid case to earn a third bid out of the Sun Belt, joining WKU and either Middle Tennessee State or Troy.

Florida International has already won 10 more games than it did a year ago, and Thomas credits much of the improvement to weekend rotation workhorses Tom Ebert (5-3, 3.46) and Scott Rembisz (6-2, 3.73), who have put up solid numbers in a hitter-friendly league thanks to competitiveness and feel for pitching more than stuff.

The offense is led by junior right fielder Tyler Townsend (.431/.507/.818 with 18 homers and 63 RBIs), who has built on a good sophomore year and a great summer in the Valley League to emerge as one of the Sun Belt’s most feared hitters. Thomas compared him to Rockies outfielder Brad Hawpe, whom Thomas coached at Louisiana State.

“He used to play first base in the past, but he’s played a lot of right field this year, and he’s really helped himself,” Thomas said of Townsend. “He has a really smooth, fluid swing. He and (MTSU’s) Bryce Brentz have the best numbers in our league and are the best hitters in our league. I think his swing will translate to the pro level.”

One area scout agrees, estimating that Townsend stands a good chance to be drafted inside the top 10 rounds in June, though he might wind up at first base in pro ball. Townsend has worked hard to make himself much better this year. Just like the Golden Panthers as a whole.

“They’re getting better,” the scout said. “Give Turtle about two or three more years. They’re still not where they need to be, but they’re getting better.”

With a strong finish, Florida International might just wind up in regionals ahead of schedule.

Stat Of The
Week
6
Key players lost to injury in 2009 by San Diego, and—not coincidentally—consecutive losses for USD. The pitching staff has lost twin ace sophomores Sammy Solis (herniated disc in his back) and Kyle Blair (shoulder tendinitis) and has gotten just six innings out of senior righty Matt Couch, who was trying to work his way back from Tommy John surgery. The offense lost leadoff man/center fielder Kevin Muno (broken hand), slugging third baseman Victor Sanchez (torn labrum in non-throwing shoulder) and Steven Chatwood (fractured tibia).

The injury bug hit so hard that even the batboys are not immune; one got hit in the chest by a James Meador practice swing in March (though he bounced to his feet minutes later).

The Toreros have fought and clawed at every step but are in the midst of a six-game losing streak and in danger of missing the West Coast Conference championship series (they’re a full two games behind co-leaders Loyola Marymount and Gonzaga). But San Diego has been competitive in each of its last six losses—including a pair of tight one-run affairs at Arizona State this week—and figures to keep fighting in its final regular-season series this weekend against San Francisco. Relentlessly upbeat coach Rich Hill would have it no other way.

“Pat Riley coined the term: a thunderbolt hitting your team. That has obviously happened with this group,” Hill said. “But the resiliency and the persistence has been awesome. We’ve had to reinvent ourselves basically every weekend. Injuries and those kinds of things, we don’t like to term them as excuses, we’re going to forge ahead, but the reality is your life is different. So the makeup of the team, the personality of the team, all those things that you should be kicking into gear with, it’s just like Opening Day for us every day. But out of that, offensively, an aggressiveness has been born out of this.”

Two of San Diego’s top veterans have remained healthy and have put up big seasons. Outfielder James Meador (.386/.443/.579 with six homers and 44 RBIs) is a leading candidate for WCC player of the year honors, and shortstop Sean Nicol (.347/.416/.550 with seven homers and 35 RBIs) has improved to the point that Hill believes he could be drafted in the top 10 rounds this June. Talented youngsters Zach Walters (.374/.410/.508) and Bryan Haar (.293/.336/.466) have also come on strong, and walk-ons like Jon Hotta and Brian Farris have brought plenty of energy. With a pitching depleted staff that is bound to give up some runs, the Toreros cannot afford to give up many outs, so they seldom sacrifice, but they have enough good hitters to at least keep the offense afloat.

Pitching is a patchwork affair behind righthanders Matt Thomson (who owns terrific stuff but has struggled with his command) and A.J. Griffin (a converted closer pressed into starting duty). Pitching coach Eric Valenzuela has gotten creative, even calling for Scott Denault to throw an eephus pitch to get a critical out late in a win against St. Mary’s.

“We’re staffing it quite a bit, having guys go one time through the lineup, having guys get three outs, having guys get six outs, shorten the focus of the guys that we do have,” Hill said. “So out of something negative has come something positive. It’s a great opportunity to show our young people that you persevere through tough times, there’s a light at the end of the tunnel, and there’s always a way to get something done. You have to be creative, have a never-say-die attitude, and a lot of positives.”

If the Toreros can win their final weekend and snag an at-large bid (and they’re very much on the bubble right now despite a number of quality wins), they could get a boost in the postseason. Chatwood, Muno and Blair could all be back by June.

“If you get over 30 wins, have the RPI that we do (43rd in the most recent report), and play the schedule that we do, we should be rewarded,” Hill said. “Now as we start getting guys back into the fray, we can make some noise in the postseason. On the flip side, I think we’ve got to earn it, and the next week will tell.”

Scouting
Report
Florida State at Georgia Tech

There is not a hotter team in the nation than Florida State, which carries a 14-game winning streak into its series at Georgia Tech this weekend. The Seminoles have already clinched the ACC’s Atlantic Division title and are in strong position to host a regional, but a series win this weekend could lock it up. The Yellow Jackets rank third in the RPI and could wrap up their own hosting bid with a series win against FSU. An ACC coach who has seen both teams broke down the matchup.

“I think it’s going to be really, really close. Florida State has a way of playing really well at the right times. When they get big-time series, it seems like their guys step up every single time.

How does Florida State compare to their team last year? It’s nowhere close. If you go man for man, you’ll take Georgia Tech’s lineup over Florida State. But it’s just working for (the Seminoles) right now. They’re playing very, very well as a team. (Tyler) Holt at the top of the lineup does a great job, they’ve got (Stephen) Cardullo in the No. 2 hole, he and (Mike) McGee have taken their games up a notch. Then they have (Stuart) Tapley—they just have guys who are playing well at the right time.

“You’d probably take the starting rotation for Tech over Florida State’s. (Yellow Jackets ace) Deck McGuire’s got a chance to be a first-rounder (in 2010). Zach Von Tersch’s velocity has been down, and he can leave a lot of pitches over the plate. I thought Zach Brewster in the pen was their best arm. He’s got a chance to be real special down the road. Those two guys really do a good job.

“Good lefthanded pitchers can handle those lefthanded hitters Georgia Tech has. I think (FSU freshman lefty Sean) Gilmartin will give them fits. Gilmartin is a really, really good college pitcher. He’s not overpowering, but he can throw the breaking ball for strikes anytime he wants. It has enough depth to it that it keeps lefthanded hitters off balance. It’s tough for lefthanded hitters to stay off of it. Brian Busch is a very soft-throwing lefty who moves the ball in and out and has a pretty good breaking ball. He’s got a chance to do well against their lefties, because Georgia Tech’s lefties do not do a good job adjusting to breaking balls at all.

“I would not be surprised if Florida State wins two out of three. The way Florida State’s playing right now, they’re sweeping people, it seems like they’re playing really, really well right now.”

In The
Dugout
A.J. Pollock, of, Notre Dame

Pollock has been an impact player since the day he arrived at Notre Dame from Hebron, Conn. A three-year starter—first at third base, then at center field—Pollock really made a name for himself last summer in the Cape Cod League, earning the league’s MVP award and ranking as its No. 7 prospect. Major league scouting directors voted him onto the preseason All-America first team heading into this spring, and he has put together a strong season, batting .354/.441/.545 with six homers, 37 RBIs and 16 stolen bases in 20 attempts. He’s a likely first-round pick in June thanks to a solid all-around toolset that includes above-average speed and a pure line-drive stroke.

You’ve got a big series coming up this weekend against South Florida. What do you know about those guys, and what are your expectations coming into this weekend?

Last year we played them very closely. They swept us, I think we went to extra innings every game or two out of three games. It’s going to be a very evenly matched game, and we definitely have to step up for sure. Our backs are a little up against the ropes right now. They’ve got a great team—great hitting, great balance, their pitching has done well. I think we’re just itching to get back out there and play after exams.

Do you like where the team is at right now? It seems like you’ve had some high moments, like winning a series against a good Louisville team two weeks ago, and some tough losses, like last weekend against Connecticut. Why do you think this team has had so many ups and downs?

We’ve had stretches where we could beat anybody in the country. We took two out of three from Louisville, West Virginia. I think sometimes we just play down a bit to the competition. We’re in a tough spot now because we’re in the middle of the pack trying to fight for the tournament, and most of our losses have come against the teams in the lower part of our division. We’re not treating these teams like UConn very lightly. It’s really hard to explain. I think we just need to get the job done when it gets to the seventh, eighth innings.

Individually, are you pleased with the season you’ve had so far?

I feel good. You have those games where you feel locked in, maybe you go 0-for-3 but hit the ball well. I’m to a point where I feel like I can get rid of any statistical stuff and feel good regardless. Sometimes you can do everything right and not get it done. Personally, these next couple weeks, I really want to finish out the year well. The last couple years, I’ve had a little bit of a disappointing end of the year, and our team has done the same. I’m going to do all I can to really focus on getting some wins for this team.


You arrived at Notre Dame as an infielder, but now you’ve become one of the best center fielders in the nation. Do you like playing the outfield?

I love it now. At first it was tough, because I jumped right into the mix in center field, and we were already trying to win games, there was no time to get comfortable out there. Right now I love it. It’s a lot less intense than the infield. I played short in high school, then they moved me to third base—and that was just a rollercoaster, it’s ridiculous. You get to stretch out your legs a little in the outfield, go after some balls. I’ve played shortstop and infield my whole life, so it was more like an ego thing, letting it go. As a freshman and sophomore, you just try to find your way in the lineup. I’m happy they let me play in the middle of the field instead of right or left. I like to be in the middle, be a quarterback in the outfield.


Interesting that you should say that you like to be a sort of quarterback out there, because scouts who have watched you over the last few years say that you’re a very vocal player with a real leadership presence on the field. Is that a big part of your identity as a player?

Maybe not the rah-rah kind of stuff, but I definitely like talking to players and understanding what’s going through their heads. The outfield is so much communication. Third base is take any ball you can, that’s what they told me—that’s pretty simple. In the outfield, you’re moving around the left fielder and the right fielder, make sure they know exactly what you’re doing on an in-between ball. I love the game of baseball so much, I love having fun and talking first of all.

Besides just moving to the outfield, how else do you think you’ve developed as a player since you arrived at Notre Dame?

I think the first and primary thing would be the mental part of the game. My skills have been pretty similar; I’ve improved little mechanical stuff in my swing here and there. But playing baseball at the college level, you’re going to get weeded out if you don’t make the adjustments. You really get to understand that as you get to be a sophomore, junior and senior. You know what kind of pitches you’re going to get in certain situations. Instead of hitting down in the order, you’re hitting three now, so you have to understand what kind of attention you’re going to get from the other pitcher. If you’re going to have to make that leap to be a better player, you’re going to have to watch the pitcher; I’m thinking the game a lot more. That’s a big difference for me.

I know you played soccer a bit in high school, and your dad was a rugby player at Boston College, but was baseball always No. 1 for you growing up?

Everybody plays like six sports when they’re a kid, but it was always baseball, no question. Coming to school at Notre Dame, a tough academic school, I wanted to make sure baseball was a big priority here. I remember as far back as tee ball, it was competitive there. I’ve always taken baseball as my first priority as an athlete.


So I need to ask you about your budding career as a film producer. You and (Irish junior righthander) Eric Maust make movies?

Our freshman year, we do freshman skits, it’s a traditional thing. Our freshman year, we didn’t do them for some reason, so our team started blaming us for a sub-par season. So the next year me and Eric Maust took it into our own hands and made a movie. We’ve been doing it for the last couple years, it’s been great. Next year we’re going to re-make popular movies, like “Be Kind, Rewind,” with Jack Black. I hope the guys on the team like it. And if they don’t, I don’t really care!

Which was your best movie?

We’ve only made two so far. The first one was, ‘We want to make a movie, just throw it all together.’ The second one we used more editing techniques. That was an hour-long movie—I probably put more time into that this semester than my schoolwork. You get to make fun of anybody in those movies; anybody is fair game.

And you also play the guitar, right?

Yeah, and next year living in the senior house we’ll have a band. We play classic rock, alternative, a lot of guys are from California, so a little bit of that kind of stuff. I wouldn’t exactly call us an organized band yet, but we mess around. (Junior first baseman) Casey Martin is the ringleader, just because he’s got all the instruments—harmonica, banjoes, you name it. And (junior outfielder) Brayden Ashdown plays too.

You’re planning to live in a house with other seniors next year? What about the draft?

Most of the guys who go to Notre Dame, regardless if they’re drafted or not, they’ll come back for the fall semester. If you come to Notre Dame, you want to get your degree eventually. The draft and making it to the big leagues has always been a dream of mine. I am excited for that, but I’m doing everything I can to put that on hold for at least a couple weeks, and really finish the season off right.

College | #2009 #Weekend Preview

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