The Quinnipiac baseball team is coming off a tough 2009 campaign in which it finished in sixth place in the Northeast Conference and missed the NEC playoffs for the second consecutive season.
This year they were selected to finish seventh in the conference by the pre-season coaches poll and have gotten off to a rough 0-12 start. “We’ve had a little rocky start,” Quinnipiac skipper Dan Gooley said. “The baseball gods are testing us, and when they test you, they test you. They got us doing our homework.”
In an exclusive one-on-one interview with The Chronicle, Gooley talks about the team’s southern road trip, his goals for the season, and a few players to watch out for in 2010.
Chronicle: Coach, what kind of style of baseball do you want your team to be playing this year?:
Gooley: I’m a pretty easy guy to read baseball wise. I’ve always believed that you’ve got to have good, solid frontline pitching, you’ve got to play real good team defense, and you’ve got to figure out a way to get two out hits and two out runs. That’s always the way I’ve coached, that’s always the way I’ve been. We make adjustments from there, but basically speaking, that’s what you’ve got to try to develop.
Chronicle: Talk a little bit about your season-opening southern road trip:
Gooley: Great road trip! Excellent road trip against excellent teams. Of the nine games we played on the road, three of them we had a chance to win, which we didn’t but we were right there at the end. The other six we were out of. We’re trying to figure out our rotation, and we’re trying to figure out who we want to put out on to the field on a daily basis.
Chronicle: What’s happened in the three games since the road trip?
Gooley: I think things are starting to shape up. We played good over the weekend, but not good enough to win. We got beat 3-2 in 10 innings on Thursday, we were up 4-0 in the first inning at Holy Cross and got beat 8-7. Yesterday we were up 4-1 in the seventh and got beat 6-4. We’re getting close.
Chronicle: How do you keep the guys motivated with such a slow start?
Gooley: Every day is a brand new day. You still have a lot of goals to achieve, and you have to look at it that way. If you don’t look at it that way, what’s the sense of going on? We’ve got eleven non-conference games left. Win them all. You have a 32 regular season conference schedule left, the largest conference schedule in the country by the way. Nobody plays a larger conference schedule than the Northeast Conference: 32 games. Play all your games in the conference, I would love to go undefeated. Is that realistic? No! If somebody goes through the conference and goes undefeated in the conference, you’ve got to tip your hat to them. That would be a big league effort.
Chronicle: What are the goals, and where do you see your team in the NEC, this season?
Gooley: We’ll certainly have our hands full; I don’t think there’s any question about that. My goal and expectation is to win the conference outright. And if we don’t win the conference outright, to finish inside the top 4. My other goal in the NEC is to keep our losses in the single digits. Right now we can’t do that. Our losses are in double digits right now, but we still can reach our goal in keeping our losses in the NEC in single digits.
Chronicle: You lost a couple of starting pitchers to graduation last year, most notably Chris Gloor. Can you tell us who the starting pitchers will be this year?
Gooley: Mike Oskandy, he was outstanding Thursday, Todd DeFrancesco, Tony Cinelli, and Kyle Birdsall will be the frontline guys in the rotation.
Chronicle: Which player has stood out to you early on in the season?
Gooley: I think the kid who stood out so far is our sophomore catcher Kyle Nisson. I think he’s done an excellent job. I think he leads us in batting average and on-base percentage. The kid is really developing defensively.
Chronicle: Are there any freshmen we will need to keep an eye out for this year?
Gooley: I think you’ve got to look at guys like Derek Lamacchia, Spencer Kane, Alex Russow, pitching wise. A kid by the name of Kevin Castodio has done a solid job.
Chronicle: How’s the leadership on the team?
Gooley: The guys have been great. I’ll tell you what, the leadership has been outstanding and I have to credit all the senior guys. Jeff Carino, Brian Monack, Todd DeFrancesco, Mike Oskandy, Ryan Ullrich. All of those five seniors have done a great job of leadership. They’re baseball attitudes and their baseball leadership has been outstanding.
Chronicle: After this nine game road trip, how are the legs of the players feeling right now?
Gooley: We’re a little banged up. You are going to get banged up a little bit. But it’s all part of the game. The kid Migani got a hamstring pull, he’s been out about 10 days. You keep marching to the sound of the guns, and when someone goes down, you take him out and put him back into mash unit, and you squeeze the troops together and you keep going.
Chronicle: Is the team deep enough to replace injured guys when they are out?
Gooley: We have guys that can fill in for a time period, until we can get those guys healthy. There aren’t a lot of outstanding college baseball teams that are so deep that when a frontline starter goes down that somebody can jump in the slot and play there for two weeks. I think we’ve got legitimate replacements that can help out for a period of time, but not extended period of time.