Around the Horn with Jay Bergman

Jan. 17, 2007

Now that 2007 practices have begun, it is time to check in with UCF head baseball coach Jay Bergman about how the first couple of days have gone, how the team is shaping up and what lies ahead for the Golden Knights.

On the first few days of practice...
"We've been practicing for a few days now and it's been a lot of conditioning and getting the arms stretched out. The attitude has been really good, as it was in the fall. We are progressing, and I think we do have a lot of work in front of us. The month of February is really a killer schedule. But that is a good challenge for us. We will know more about the team, ability-wise, when we finish the month of February, which will get us into March and then the conference season. It's a work in progress, though. We are probably one more recruiting class away from being able to be at a contending position for the conference title.

"For our freshmen last year, it was a whole new game for them. They did not understand everything going into the season. Going through the season they went through and getting banged up a bit and having some failures, made them realize some of the areas that they needed to work harder in. I think they have done that and now time will tell just how good they can be.

"It will probably be mid-April when you will see the best part of this team, barring any injuries. We got wiped out in injuries last year so hopefully we can build up our depth a little bit since you never know what will happen injury-wise. That is always a factor in any team's success."

On what the team might be focusing on during January practices...
"Baseball is just getting yourself mentally and physically ready to play. And that's what we are doing. Whether we are playing FIU, Florida, Miami, it doesn't make any difference because you are playing against the scoreboard. You aren't playing the other team. We just have to get ourselves ready to play and that's what we are concentrating on. We have a lot of individual work we are focusing on and we are going through some defensive work too. This team has to play solid defense because there isn't a large margin for error with this team. We don't have a lot of home run hitters, we can't afford to get behind in games and make silly mental mistakes. Obviously we are going to make fielding mistakes and that's just the nature of the game. We've got to reduce those mistakes as much as possible and that was a point of emphasis in the fall, just minimizing our physical and mental mistakes and maximizing the increased team speed we have and the pitching depth.

"Particularly the first three weeks you are just getting ready to play that first game, getting your body and arm in game shape. We can't expect the hitters to be in mid-season form after just three weeks of hitting. So we are working on the little things, some individual drills and team concepts on the defensive side."

On the rotation and the rest of the pitching staff...
"We have got the first two games set for the opening series. But the next series we will have to find that third starter, and we will just rotate around. Brian Brooks will get a chance to start. Eric English may get a chance to start. Mitch Herold will probably be in a different role but should have a lot of opportunities. Watch out for Austin Hudson and Carmine Giardina as the season progresses. Those are two freshmen with pretty big ceilings."

On having any concerns with the lineup...
"Matt Horwath (second base) had his third operation, and this one has gone pretty well. And in comparison with past surgeries, he is progressing at a rate like he has never progressed before. That being said, we are still holding him back and he probably won't be in the lineup as a position player until the LSU series. He could still DH or pinch-hit for us.

"Another concern is our catching. We've had a good string of catchers in the last 10 years that were always drafted. Right now, we have five catchers, and two that could see most of the playing time in Steve Stropp and Brandon Romans. They will be in the lineup, either catching or at DH, because we need both of their bats in there. As far as defense goes, we've been kind of blessed and pampered by the good catching that we've had. We have to improve ourselves defensively behind the plate. The rest is just baseball."