The weather has hindered the Jackets preparation for the season but they’ve been able to get in most of their workouts. “It has kept us from getting on the field as much as we’d like but we’ve been able to get our work in and more importantly we’ve been able to get our pitchers throwing in our inter-squad games.” The team and especially the pitching staff are on target for where they want to be starting next weekend.
Coach Hall is excited about how hard they’ve worked and about where they’re at and what their prospects are heading into the season. The Jackets have been aided in their preseason preparation by the use of a new pitching machine that can simulate any type of pitch or pitcher. It’s been especially helpful in helping the hitters to bat against a breaking ball pitcher. “We have a lot of guys that are hungry and they can go in there on their own program the computer and if they have fifteen minutes to kill they can get fifty to seventy five pitches to hit.”
The Jackets enter the season ranked as the number six team in the country. “When you’re ranked like that, I think it gives the team confidence and the other teams would think we’re pretty good.” The Jackets know they have to play the schedule and justify that ranking. “We want to be in that position every year and that’s why you work hard and recruit hard and take you best and play against the rest of the best.”
The Jackets enter the season with more juniors and seniors on the team than in recent years. Players like Tony Plagman and Jay Dantzler return for their senior seasons and will add much needed leadership and experience to the team. The pitching staff returns juniors Deck McGuire and Brandon Cumpton who have pitched in a lot of big games. Juniors Derek Dietrich and Jeff Rowland add that same experience to the lineup every day. “Those guys help you. They’re older and wiser. They know what to expect and they know how to go about their business.”
While the Friday and Saturday starting positions in the rotation are set, there is still some strong competition for the Sunday and midweek starting spots. At the end of last season Mark Pope was transitioned into a starting role. Jed Bradley pitched a lot last year in the starting rotation and in the preseason has been just about unhittable. Luke Bard and Buck Farmer are two freshmen that will push for a spot in the rotation.
The team feels like they left a lot on the table last year and are determined to get to Omaha this year. “We want to be the last team standing when everyone is done playing. We have a mindset collectively that we want to take on all challenges.”
One of the positives going into the season is the depth of the pitching staff. Coach Hall feels he has more options on which he can pitch and feels that the team has better pitchers than they’ve had in the past. “We have guys that are not only going to be good on this level but are going to be good on the next level. We feel we can attack some people with our pitchers”
The coaches, staff, and players are staying focused on the team aspect of the game. They’ve had bits and pieces of great players in the past but have not had all of what they needed to win a national championship.” We’ve had teams in the past that have had talent but they were focused on where they were going in the draft and things of that nature. I’m not worried about these guys getting more focused on where they’re going in the draft as opposed to how good is our team going to be and what can I do to help our team.” Coach Hall is trying to make the players feel good about every day that they put the uniform on that they have a legitimate chance to do well.