A Sit-Down with Coach Walk: The State of the Big Red
After dropping 3 out of 4 to Lou Gehrig division leading UPenn, Coach Bill Walkenbach’s Big Red have backed themselves into a corner heading into this weekend’s series against the reigning Ivy League champion Columbia Lions. Big Red Sports Network’s Max Fogle sat down with Coach Walk to ask about the team’s mindset going into the critical weekend series.
On the morale of the team
Under Coach Walkenbach’s tenure, the team has certainly worked on the psychological aspects of the game. Coach noted that “In my experience, baseball is not a game where anger is something you are looking for. I’m not going to say anything unless it’s going to be productive.” Coach stressed the difficulty of understanding what’s happening in the minds of a team of college baseball players. “To say we’re in touch with the psychological side is not always accurate. But we do put an emphasis on it.”
On the importance of midweek games
On the heels of a recent midweek addition to the schedule against Binghamton on Thursday April 17, Coach Walk noted that midweek games are an essential part of the college baseball season. For a team with a large pitching staff, it’s a chance to get everybody some innings. The plan Thursday against Binghamton is to “throw quite a few arms at them.”
For hitters, it can be a time to get a look at inexperienced players. Sophomore Jordan Winawer is one such player that has seized a prominent role with the team, after first getting a chance in a mid-week game. Winawer has taken full advantage of his opportunity, receiving Ivy League Rookie of the Week honors after a 9 for 17 week at the plate. But for other hitters, these games are a chance to stay sharp between weekends. “It’s very difficult to go five games without seeing live pitching.”
On the starting rotation
Coach Walkenbach mentioned that besides rotation anchors Brent Jones and Michael Byrne, “We are going to try some new things in the starting rotation.” While this is just speculation, starting options include Paul Balestrieri, Connor Kaufmann, Nick Busto, and Roberto Suppa, but freshman hurlers like Tim Willittes and Tiger Smith are possible options as well.
Sophomore Michael Byrne has been a consistent presence on the pitching staff. Coach Walkenbach described him as the “rock of the rotation”. Byrne was a “tremendous, pleasant surprise last year, and he picked up right where he left off. He does a fantastic job of battling and keeping us in games.” He does more than just battle; he dominates. His 1.33 ERA on the year is sure to open up more than a few eyes.
The other mainstay in the rotation is Junior Brent Jones. While Jones has shown “flashes of brilliance,” the results were not there for the right-hander last weekend at Penn. The four errors committed in his start certainly did not help his cause. Still, Coach Walkenbach said the outing was “competitively, one of (his) better starts of the year.”
On MLB managers
Max asked Coach Walk about Major League managers that he particularly admires or tries to emulate. His answer included Tampa Bay’s Joe Maddon, Pittsburgh’s Clint Hurdle, and Cleveland’s Terry Francona: “Those guys really work with players to get the most out of them. They have demonstrated the ability to get results over a long time, and they have earned a lot of respect around baseball.”
As a reminder, the Thursday contest against Binghamton as well as the four game weekend series against Columbia can be heard and/or watched at the following link: http://www.ivyleaguedigitalnetwork.com/ivyleague/schedule
Coverage begins approximately 15 minutes before first pitch, which is set for Thursday at 4:00pm and for Saturday at 12:00pm.