Casey At Bat

Feb. 5, 2001

TEMPE, Ariz. - After a tough start against Texas-Arlington, the Devils responded well with a sweep of Southern Utah this past weekend.

As a player, it was hard to lose the opener and then get rained out Saturday and Sunday. You want to get back on the field and play as soon as possible. We were flat and played with no enthusiasm. As a returning player, I take the responsibility for our lackluster effort and performance, as I am sure many of the other returners do as well. But after a week of intense practices, the team looks to be back on track.

We had stellar starting pitching from Andy Torres, Jon Switzer, and Ryan Schroyer. Even with a rough 1st inning, Torres settled to pitch five strong. Switzer was awesome, as close to unhittable as one can get. Schroyer, in his first collegiate appearance, pitched great. The bullpen was just as good with Aaron Klusman, Drew Friedberg, Angel Ramirez and Bryce Kartler having outstanding relief appearances. Mike Esposito returned to the mound roughly one year after going down for the season last February. It was great to see him back out there!

Offensively, Jonah Martin and Mel Stocker set the table by seemingly getting on base every time. Brooks Conrad and Mike Lopez continue to swing hot bats. Dennis Wyrick, Steve Garrabrants and Jeremy West are picking up the slack, while Phelps and myself are not currently in a groove at the plate. The reserves also did a terrific job off the bench as many of them collected their first collegiate hit.

By no means are we where we want to be, but we will keep building every week, trying to improve individually and as a team.

Q & A (questions from emails)

Q: At the end of last season Coach Murphy was struggling to find quality starters behind Jon Switzer. Who are the top candidates to become the #2 and #3 starters this year?

A: I can't speak for Coach Murphy, but we have four (eventually five) guys that should vie for the #2 and #3 spots this year. They are, Andy Torres, Ryan Schroyer, Tyler Johnson, and Jered Liebeck. When Mike Esposito gets back to full strength, he will also be in the mix.

Q: What are your approaches to the offensive and defensive part of the game? Do you think positively? Do you recognize anxiety that creates unnecessary pressures?

A: Offensively, I think it is essential to have a plan of attack that suits the type of player/hitter you are. In general, be very aggressive to your pitch - meaning if you're looking for a pitch to pull, take a pitcher's pitch on the outside half of the plate and vice versa if you're looking to go the other way. Be ready - pitchers are looking to get ahead so if they throw one out over the dish, be ready for it. Don't be afraid to hit deep in the count - some of the best pitches to hit come with two strikes. Lastly, in games, keep it simple. Know what you want to do and what you are looking for, then see it and hit it.

Defensively, as a catcher, it's catch everything that's in the air, block everything that's in the dirt, and if someone tries to run, be quick and accurate. In general, as an infielder or outfielder, you should always have the feeling 'Hit the ball to me.' Anticipate what's going to happen, and you'll always be ready.

I try to think positively. I think it's important. If you don't believe you will make the play, get the big hit, make that tough pitch, how are you going to do so?

Pressure is something that you put upon yourself. I try to control the way I behave, approaching every situation with the same mindset. I think everyone at some point is anxious, nervous, has butterflies, etc. but 'it's not how you feel, it's how you behave' (attributed to Harvey Dorfman, author of Mental Game of Baseball and ABC's of Pitching).

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