MONROE, La. -- With the start of the 2013 ULM Baseball season just a few days away, head coach Jeff Schexnaider sat down with director of media relations Alex Edwards to discuss the upcoming baseball season.
Q: What are the team's goals this season and how can the team reach those goals?
A: Our goals are the same every year. We want to win a conference championship, get a chance to play in a NCAA Regional and to get as far as we can. We have goals to get better each and every day and we're excited about the start of the season.
Q: The 2013 schedule features several strong programs, most of which you will face before conference play. How do you feel playing those teams will help the club once they enter league play?
A: We have a very good schedule that can help our Ratings Percentage Index (RPI). It's a tough schedule, but our guys feel like they can compete with anybody. We appreciate Ole Miss agreeing to play two games here at Warhawk Field in March. We also have an ACC opponent in Wake Forest coming to Monroe. It may be the first ACC team to ever come to ULM.
Those things only make you better. If you want to compete at the highest level, you have to play those teams. It also gets us ready for competing in our conference, which is usually in the top seven in conference RPI rankings.
All of those games are important and we have a lot of teams coming to our place so our fans can enjoy seeing different teams from different conferences. Our fans have been so loyal to us that any time we get those types of teams in here, we try to do it.
Q: What is it is like coaching and competing in the Sun Belt Conference?
A: The Sun Belt Conference is exciting and there are great programs throughout. There's no place you can go one weekend and just show up and win. You have to play your best baseball every weekend to have a chance because they're all well-coached and very competitive and it shows in their non-conference games year in and year out. We love our conference and we feel it's competitive and we love being part of it.
Q: The conference tournament is changing back to a double-elimination format rather than the pool play system that was utilized the previous two seasons. What were your initial thoughts on the change and how does it impact the tournament?
A: We voted on it after last season and I think, as far as a tournament is concerned, it's better to have a double elimination because every game you play, you still have a chance to win the tournament.
The old format was better for the teams that do get to go to the NCAA Regional because you know exactly when you are scheduled to play and it's not as stressful on your pitchers. That was the intent of the round robin.
As I mentioned, we did vote against that this year, but an extra day was added to the tournament to help relieve the pitching and to give the team or teams that advance to the NCAA Regional a chance to compete.
Q: The three top hitters from last season's team graduated and three pitchers that combined to win 20 of the team's 32 games have departed, how do you expect to fill those holes?
A: In this profession, it seems like every year, guys step up and you wonder how you're going to replace them. I've been saying that every year for 25 years. I'm looking for some of our new talent to step up and fill those spots. Those guys last year did what they had to do to help us have a successful season. They had a very good year and four of them were rewarded and are able to play in professional baseball.
We have a good group of seniors this year, a lot of three- and four-year guys, combined with some new talent, and it should to be exciting.
Q: The team welcomes a total of 14 newcomers for the 2013 season, who are some of the players that Warhawk fans should expect to be significant contributors right away?
A: There are several new guys that will have the opportunity to see playing time and get a chance to compete for a starting position.
Dalton Harrington, a center fielder and Kodie Tidwell, a shortstop, should see action. We also added a catcher, Dalton Todd that's going to get some action and help behind the plate.
Of course we have a lot of new pitching. We have Cale Wine back as a veteran and Trey Setzer is a left-handed pitcher that could make his way on the weekend rotation. Freshman Josh Leone has done really well and Alex Dumaine, a left-handed pitcher, had a great fall. Carey Taylor is another junior college arm that is going to be in the mix. As a coaching staff, we're excited about the depth on the mound and the depth position wise.