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Q and A: Head Coach Rob Smith on Fall Ball

OHIOBOBCATS.COM Rob Smith
OHIOBOBCATS.COM
Rob Smith
OHIOBOBCATS.COM

Oct. 28, 2013

On the freshman competing in fall practice
"It started with our summer program where we had all our players here lifting together and training together. That carried over into the fall and gave us a big head start in terms of what we were trying to get done. I think it was an extremely productive six weeks for us, especially with a lot of the new players we had in, and even with some of our returning guys that were coming back from injury like Garrett Black, Taylor Emody, and guys that had missed last spring. It was good for them to get back out there and get caught up."

On freshman pitchers
"We saw a lot of great progress in many of our young pitchers. We had a few guys that certainly separated themselves from the rest. Jake Roehn, one of our freshman arms, did a tremendous job establishing himself as a player we can count on. "

"I thought Corey Wells did an excellent job. He showed he's a guy we can count on to pitch in the back end of games this fall and we hope that he can continue to do that come spring."

"I thought Gerry Salisbury, a freshman lefty, did a nice job on the mound. That gives us some options there, as well as Jake Rudnicki, another right-hander, and he showed really well."

"There were a handful of young arms that did well and definitely showed they have enough poise and command to pitch at this level sooner rather than later, and we're looking forward to seeing how that looks when we get in to real action."

On replacing seniors in the infield
"One of the things we're excited about is our infield depth. Last year our guys played hard, I give them a lot of credit, but we simply didn't have any depth, and that made it very difficult. This year we have a lot more depth. We're very strong at each infield position - we have four very capable middle infielders. We had a lot of work at third base. John Adryan has shown that he's really competing for that job and if he continues to do so, he'll be our opening day third baseman. It's been good to see the development of all the players in the infield."

On John Adryan
"Obviously to go 4-for-4 in the last game in the season shows he can do a great job. He showed that he can carry himself and he carried that momentum through the summer and into fall practice. He's hit the ball extremely well and if he continues to hit like that, he's definitely going to be a valuable part of our offense."

On depth in the pitching staff
"We definitely have a lot more depth on the mound and it's going to make a huge difference in terms of giving us a lot of options. It's allowed us to really start to build a bullpen, based not just on who's available, but who matches up. It also shortens what we have to ask guys to do. It's often easier to ask a guy to go out and get you three outs than it is to just put him out there and hope he can pitch as long as he can. We can really start to formulate a good bullpen plan, and that'll allow us to manage the game much differently than last year, for sure."

On veteran infielder Jake Madsen
"I think certainly Jake Madsen will have to perform well this year. If we're going to have a good offense, he's going to have to perform in the middle of that offense and be productive with his RBI and his ability to drive in runners."

On veteran outfielder Tyler Wells
"Tyler obviously had a nice freshman year. I think last year we were putting a lot on his plate. We were asking him to hit four-hole and things like that. He had a little bit of a struggle, but he got better as time went on. He hit better in the last few weeks of the season and he's been productive this fall. He's a good player and we're looking forward to seeing the kind of production he's going to give the team this year."

On the outfield
"Right now I think we have four guys and we have to figure out how we're going to run that rotation. Mitch Longo, freshman centerfielder, will probably be out there anchoring the middle part of that outfield. On the corners we have Scott White, a senior who had a very good fall; Tyler Wells, who we've mentioned before; and Chandler Geller, who was hurt most of last year and got himself healthy in the last few weeks of the season and has a very productive fall. Between those four guys, they'll probably do the bulk of playing for our outfield. You'll see Connor Callery out there in left field sometimes when we're trying to get his bat in the lineup. So, that'll be the mix that we probably see in the outfield this year."

On the improved defense
"Ideally, you like to have a goal of no more than one error per game. It'll put you at 55-60 errors, and if you do that it'll put you as one of the, if not the best, fielding team in the league. We had a significant reduction in errors - about 25 percent - from one year to the next. We're hoping we can see an additional growth in that area. From what we saw of the interior defense this fall, I think it's promising that we'll be able to lower that error total again this year."

On the importance of the Bobcats' defense
"It's huge. We're based on pitching and defense, and if you can't defend, that system doesn't work. We've gotten much better defensively and our young pitchers will continue to learn to throw strikes and let those guys work for them. It's critical that we defend. We saw last year that we kept ourselves in many games scenarios where we had defensive breakdowns, that's where the game is won and lost, and if you're going to play championship baseball, you've got to be able to defend."

On the overall performance during fall ball
"Well we saw a lot of growth in a lot of areas. Not just on the field, but in the overall enthusiasm of the team. As you're trying to change culture, it's important that there's a belief system in place. I think our guys are starting to understand why we do what we do. They're starting to see an improvement on the field and because of that we're seeing more guys buy in and there's a general enthusiasm about what's going on after the fall. We're looking forward to the next six weeks to improve their individual skill development and anxiously awaiting the spring to get here so we can get out and play an outside opponent and see what we can do."

On Steve Swisher returning
"I thought it was great. Swisher was great when he was here. He spent a lot of time with our players, talking with them and sharing stories and what it takes to be a successful Ohio baseball player. That's what we're trying to instill in these guys - that there's been a great successful tradition here in the past, which is that you can win at a high level here - and I think it all starts with an attitude and a mentality. To have Swish back for the weekend was great because he was really able to communicate that to our players and talk about some of the great teams he's been a part of and some of the great players he's played with. I think it's important for our guys to connect with that and realize it's been done here in the past and there's no reason it can't be done here in the future."