By Justin Lemanski, sports reporter
After posting a strong 16-2 fall record, the Fighting Saints baseball team headed south on Saturday, Feb. 14, 2015, to kick off spring play. They will begin in Mississippi for spring training before traveling to Louisiana to begin their season against William Carey University, Loyola University, and Delgado Community College.
William Carrey University is a NAIA Division I opponent who will challenge the Saints; they have made appearances in the NAIA national tournament twice in the past four years and have a history of success.
Loyola University is another NAIA Division I team who plays in the same conference as William Carey. They are currently 6-2 on the season and will be a challenge for the Saints.
Delgado will likely be the program’s toughest opponent. They are consistently ranked high in the NJCAA Division I league. Within the past eight years, Delgado has produced five All-Americans, and eight players that currently play professional baseball.
Baseball staff answer some questions about the upcoming season:
Q&A with Head Coach Bob Godlewski
Q: After an impressive fall season with a record of 16-2, how do you feel going into the start of the spring season?
A: We feel that we have put ourselves in a good position to be successful. That being said, the fall season was the fall season and what matters most is what happens between now and the middle of May.
Q: With a 60-plus game schedule what do you think is most important for the team to stay healthy and to be playing at their best down the stretch? What have you and the coaching staff done to prepare them for a extremely competitive and lengthy schedule?
A: It’s important for guys to stay healthy and be at their strongest at the end of the season. This is where our depth becomes so crucial. We need to have guys who are able to step in and effectively give our starters a break. All of our players went through a strenuous training program for five weeks in the fall and we are at our strongest right now. It’s important that guys maintain that strength so they don’t break down throughout our lengthy season.
Q: How do you think the team will play against the competition down south during the spring trip?
A: We are going to be playing a very competitive schedule, especially early on. It can be difficult for northern teams to have a lot of success early on because we haven’t been able to get outside, but our goal is to compete every time we step on the field. Fortunately, we have a pitching staff that we expect will keep us in every game we play.
Q: What do you think will be a deciding factor in the team’s success this season?
A: Team comraderie is going to be huge. Throughout the course of a season players on the team spend a ton of time together. If these guys reach the point where everyone on the team cares about each of his teammates more than he cares about himself, then we have a chance to become very successful. Talent-wise we should be in position to be thrive, but the extent of our success will depend on how badly they want to succeed for one another.”
Q: Who are your team’s leaders? And how do you think they will help the team on and off the field this season?
A: Although we have a young team, a lot of leaders have emerged throughout the fall on and off the field. We have a strong group of juniors who have stepped into leadership roles, but there have also been some freshmen who are equally able to lead both vocally and by example.
Q: What are the expectations and goals for the team this year?
A: We expect to play hard and compete every time we step on the field. Our players have done a great job representing the college thus far, and if they continue to work hard and stay together the sky is the limit! Few teams can be fortunate enough to win their last game of the season, but that’s our ultimate goal.
Q&A with Patrick Riley, pitching coach
Q: With as many games as you will play this season, do you believe the pitching staff has what it takes to be successful?
A: Absolutely. In order for our pitching staff to be successful, everybody is going to have to contribute. I look at the lengthy schedule as a great opportunity for everybody to get their innings. This group has worked extremely hard prior to this point. We have a talented bunch of guys who will push one another and hopefully feed off each other’s successes.
Q: How have you prepared your pitchers to throw as much as they will this season?
A: The pitchers are right on schedule on where they need to be in terms of throwing. You can never predict what’s going to happen during the course of the year. Injuries and plaguing arms are going to happen. These guys have done everything that’s been asked of them by the coaches. It’s our hope that this group will continue to get stronger throughout the season and will be pitching to the best of their ability down the stretch when it really matters.
Q: What are your expectations for the pitching staff heading into the season?
A: We [the coaches] have very high expectations for this staff. However, in the scheme of things, it doesn’t really matter what we think. These guys are the one’s ultimately going out there and competing. We know from a talent level that our staff has the potential to be really good. If we compete each and every pitch, the ability is there for this to be a special group in this inaugural season.
Q&A with Cam Curler, third base/hitting coach
Q: What will be a key factor in creating opportunities to get runs on the board?
A: Execution. We expect everyone in the lineup to be able to bunt a runner over, or drive him in. The mark of a great offense is the ability to score when the team isn’t hitting well. Although we have confidence in our hitters, there are going to be certain games and situations where it’s crucial that we find a way to manufacture runs, sometimes without getting hits.
Q&A with Hitting Coach Matt Pause
Q: What are you expecting most out of your offense?
A: Similar to the answer before, execution. We are expecting our guys to contribute by getting on base, moving guys over, and driving in runs. Guys will be called in doing different things in certain situations. The main thing we are expecting is for our guys to drive in runs in run scoring situations. If everyone does their job and executes, we will have no problems scoring runs. We are excited about the upside of our team offensively. We are anxious in seeing who will step up for our team offensively.