Matador Minute with Baseball Head Coach Steve Rousey
June 9, 2009
What are your thoughts on the recently completed 2009 season?
We were close to having a really good season. Obviously, we didn't get the number of wins that we wanted, but when you take a closer look at what we did, we had twelve one-run losses. We didn't get that big hit or produce that inning on defense that could've gotten us over the top, but we were competitive in many games. With a little refinement, some improved talent in here next year and improved play, we can get over the top and put together a good record in 2010.
Which player(s) this season made significant improvements in their play?
Quite a few actually. Richard Cates had an outstanding season from top-to-bottom. Defensively, he improved as a left fielder and when our first baseman Dominic D'Anna, who was our leader in RBIs, suffered his season-ending injury, we moved Cates to first and he played very well there too. He only made four errors on the season at two different positions. As good as he was in the past, he made good improvements to his game. Brian Slover, our closer, coming of a two-year career which included one year of arm injury and one year of learning how to pitch because he was a catcher when he joined the team, put up dominant numbers and had an outstanding year. My son, P.J. Rousey, pitched at a below 2.00 E.R.A and gave up only one extra-base hit in 25 appearances. Jimmy Jolicoeur performed well in his 29 appearances out of the bullpen. Moving him from starter to reliever seemed to help him greatly. Dominic D'Anna had a great year, unfortunately it was cut short due to injury. He had power numbers at the plate that was comparable to the best in college baseball at the time of his injury.
The Matadors had a record of 15-1 when leading after six innings this season. Could you talk about the success of your bullpen in preserving this impressive record?
Part of our bullpen's success was due to what our starting pitchers gave us, which was a chance to do well at the end. Ryan Juarez, Billy Ott, Paul Tremlin, and Justen Gorski just to name a few didn't win every game, but they got us to the late innings. Regardless if we were ahead or not, we were in many games because of their performances. Our bullpen was well structured. Every pitcher had a specific role and each got the job done. Slover had the nine saves and had the low E.R.A., P.J. had the 25 appearances and the low E.R.A., Jolicoeur would have had a 2.39 E.R.A. if you take out two of his appearances, and he had strong power numbers. Tremlin got all of his seven wins basically out of the bullpen.
Richard Cates had a great senior season for the Matadors, what made him such a tough out at the plate?
Rich is just a natural hitter; he has a natural swing and tremendous hand-eye coordination. He also has a great work ethic-he hits and hits. He hits all day long. Often I had to tell him not to hit as much because I was afraid he would get tired. The biggest thing about Rich is that he understands how to approach an at-bat. He notices what type of pitcher he is facing and what he will bring, and Rich then takes advantage. The guy is simply a mature hitter.
Moving forward, how does your team replace the departing the Matadors?
The contributions that Rich made defensively and offensively, as well as John Parham's contributions as a catcher were great but I feel we have the people that can fill those roles. It will be tough replacing P.J. but I feel that we have some players who can fill his spot as well. The difficult player to replace will be Slover because he is going to sign. Slover possesses a power arm, the ability to close out games and throw about 95-96 MPH, and he has an above average breaking ball. We might get Jolicoeur back, so if he returns I think he can fulfill that closer role for us. We'll be alright. We've got guys to step into those roles.
Who were the players that made definite contributions, but possibly their performances sometimes went unnoticed in the box scores?
Firstly, this team played with great heart and desire but sometimes would not play with great skill. There was quite of a few players, but really the whole team. This was a close-knit team. The guys on the bench made contributions game-in and game-out, working the dugout and providing energy. I can't really point to one or two players. Statistically, perhaps Jeff Pruitt doesn't look all that productive on paper but defensively he took a lot of extra-base hits away from our opponents by running balls down in centerfield in a way that only he could do in the Big West Conference because he so athletic. The leadership role that TS Reed and John Parham played was important. The group as a whole made contributions to the intangibles needed to win ballgames.
There were several highlights to the season including a triple play turned against Texas Tech, seven walk-off wins and many terrific individual performances, which stands out as the most memorable highlight?
The sweep against Texas Tech was really nice, the walk-off hits were also really nice, but probably the two best moments had to be the series victory, winning two of three games, to open conference play against UC Santa Barbara and the 15 inning victory against Cal State Fullerton, which was a heck of a ballgame and really fun to be a part of.
Looking forward to next year, how do you envision the 2010 Matador season shaping out?
I have to use the word improvement. We had 23 freshman and sophomores on our rosters this year and only four seniors. Everybody coming back has experience and with good, hard work in summer ball we'll be improved based on that. These guys know what they need to do, so their wok should be focused on the exact things they need to do individually and collectively to make this team better. We've got a recruiting class coming in that is likely to be ranked in the top 25 in the country so there is some talent coming in here. Obviously, new talent does not have experience but the whole deal starts with talent. I think this will be the most talented recruiting class that Northridge has ever had. Improved talent and experience point to, what we feel will be a great season next year.
What are your thoughts on the College World Series? Is it safe to say that Cal State Fullerton is your pick to win it all?
Well, I went to Fullerton and I used to really like them, but now I compete against them. Fullerton is my team. I played there and won a National Championship while playing there. I have a close connection with that program. They are the Big West representative in Omaha, so naturally I am always going to favor whoever represents our conference. It looks to me like they have the starting pitching and the personnel to execute their style of play on offense and defense to get the job done, so Fullerton is my pick.