SPORTS: Nationally-ranked local college team looks to bounce back in weekend series against USU-Eastern
– Nick Garritano, head baseball coach of the College of Southern Nevada (CSN) Coyotes recently discussed his outlook for the nationally ranked team after a recent 2-2 road trip against Colorado Northwestern Community College in Rangely, Colorado. CSN sports reporter and radio host James Hernandez conducted the interview as a preview of this weekend’s series versus Utah State University Eastern at the Henderson campus’ Morse Stadium.
Hernandez: How did the cold weather temperatures affect the team’s play (last) weekend?
Garritano: It took a toll on us, but at the end of the day there are no excuses to be made. Last week I emphasized the importance of winning at least three out of the four games in the series, and at the end of the day going 2-2 is an unacceptable result. The pitching wasn’t very good, the offense was up and down, and I have to say that this was the worst four game set we have played all year, hands down.
Hernandez: The pitching staff surrendered 14 free passes over the weekend, how much did those walks contribute to the two losses?
Garritano: A ton of it. When you are Colorado Northwestern you are playing with nothing to lose and everything to gain. They were very active this weekend stealing bases, utilizing the hit and run and played great small ball.
Baseball is a funny game like that, where sometimes as a manager those type of things work out for the team, and other times you end up running yourself out of innings. I tip my cap to those guys, they got the best of us up there, and now it’s time to put that road trip (behind us).
Hernandez: With seven hits over the four games, is Tyler Brown starting to find his groove at the plate?
Garritano: We certainly hope so. Tyler is the best hitter we have on the team and he was pressing early, but now he is taking what the opposing pitchers are giving him instead of trying to pull everything. For this offense to fully realize their potential Tyler has to be the catalyst for us.
Hernandez: (Last) weekend the offense scored 25 runs. Is that number satisfactory to you, or does it need to be raised in order to win more consistently?
Garritano: Ideally you want to score 28-32 runs in a four game series. The problem (last) weekend was the offensive inconsistencies. In our two wins we scored ten runs in each game, but in our two losses we were held to four total runs, and our offense is better than that.
The team had a .344 average this weekend; unfortunately we struggled to get the big hit with runners in scoring position. To be honest with you, we played down to our competition instead of playing like the ninth ranked team in the country. We dug ourselves into a little bit of a hole and now it’s up to us to get ourselves out of it.
Hernandez: What specifically does the team need to do to get themselves back on the winning track?
Garritano: . . . We have won ten of our last twelve games, and you don’t win at that rate if you are not a good team. As a head coach I need to do a better job of getting our kids prepared and motivated to play in games like this past weekend, where they may not be as excited or motivated to compete.
I take (those kinds of) weekends like personally, and I will do a better job of motivating the team as we move forward. I can assure you that the next time we play Colorado Northwestern we will be more prepared.
Hernandez: This past weekend the pitching staff surrendered 27 hits in 27 innings pitched. Ultimately where would you like that number to be?
Garritano: To be fair we can’t blame that all on the pitching. The defense was compromised after we lost starting shortstop Cain Brady in game one of the series. From that point on we were scrambling defensively and guys were forced to play out of position which led to some fielding errors.
Our pitching is still the backbone of this club and although our starters struggled the bullpen was absolutely lights out. Hopefully it was a bit of humble pie for our starters and we can get back on track this weekend with some quality outings.
Hernandez: After injuring himself last weekend will Cain Brady be available to play the field in this upcoming series?
Garritano: With Brady and Brown I feel like we have one of the strongest middle infields in the country. After Brady went down my biggest fear came true. We were exposed with guys playing out of position, but if we need to sit Cain to ensure that he is completely healthy for the (upcoming road trip to Salt Lake), then that is what we will do. It truly is a day by day injury that we will evaluate as the week progresses.
Hernandez: Can you provide us with a brief scouting report of USU-Eastern?
Garritano: This is a club that has a few good arms, but the key to attacking them is to stay patient and get to their bullpen. We need to be more aggressive on the base paths whether it be stealing bases or utilizing the hit and run. This weekend presents us with a great opportunity to get ourselves back in the winning track.
Hernandez: What will be an acceptable result this weekend?
Hernandez: Is the starting pitching rotation set for the upcoming series?
Garritano: (The series began Thursday, with Phil Bickford pitching.) . . . Friday afternoon Aj Jones will pitch the early game followed by Gabe Gonzalez in game three. Anthony Martine will wrap things up for us Saturday morning in the final game of the series. | CSN
Fans can catch the games this weekend at Morse stadium, 700 College Dr. Friday at 2:00 and 4:30 p.m. and Saturday morning at 11:00 a.m.