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2005 Big 12 Preseason Baseball Coaches Teleconference
February 03, 2005

In preparation for the upcoming baseball season, the coaches of the Big 12 were gathered together with local media outlets on Thursday, Feb. 3, via a teleconference call, and the following is a recap of what they had to say about what to expect in 2005:

Oklahoma Coach Larry Cochell:
“We have to replace only one player, 1B Ole Sheldon (2004 Big 12 Newcomer of the Year), and have eight guys who can step in there. We have confidence in the players we have returning on the mound and four junior college players who can help us immediately. I think our fans will appreciate the newcomers we have coming back. We lost our two good rotation pitchers in Mark Roberts and David Purcey, and we are trying to determine if Daniel McCutchen will start or come out of the bullpen. Garrett Patterson, who hurt his arm and didn’t pitch last year, is showing some promise. There will be a lot of people who will contend. Last year we were picked to finish sixth and ended up a half-game behind Texas (NCAA runnerup) in the Big 12 race. The tournaments helped give us confidence last season, and this year we have Arizona State, Cal State Fullerton, UCLA, Nevada, and South Alabama.”

Baylor Coach Steve Smith:
“Out theme this year is experience, and all our possible signable junior pitchers stayed with us. 3B Kevin Russo is our only new projected starter in the infield, and Michael Griffin, the consummate utility player, is now at second base. The outfield is a little deeper and more stable. Reid Brees had a good year at the plate last year and should be solid in left. Kevin Sevigny can be a good backup anywhere in the outfield. We had a very though schedule last year, and I liked the team. We just need to find a way to score a few more runs and win the close games. This year’s senior class is anxious to go out on a good note. We were eight games under .500 when we started conference play, and I think if we could have won two more games, we might have gotten an NCAA at-large bid. Ryan LaMotta may be go-to guy to get to our closer Abe Woody, but those roles will develop as the season starts. (Catcher) Josh Ford had a pretty decent year and could have signed, but we’re the beneficiary of that decision. We will be having in-season conference calls to determine tryouts for Team USA and have an outstanding coaching staff.”

Kansas Coach Ritch Price:
“We have made great progress. We had a team which had five straight losing seasons and then have been better the last two years. We have seven players who hit better than .300 last year, and we’ll start three freshmen against Hilo. The Feb. 1 practice starting date and around Mar. 1 will help us at Kansas, but I coached in California for 20 years, so I have some mixed emotions. It would help the Northern teams, and we have drawn record crowds in NCAA tournaments and great television interest, so I like the move of the schedule back a few weeks. Our next step is to compete on a national basis, and we have three starting pitchers who can pitch on weekends in the Big 12 series. We have started non-conference play at 20-6 in 2003 and 20-9 last year and have been able to compete with teams in our region outside the conference such as Oral Roberts and Wichita State. Having better pitching will allow us to stay in some games and try to manufacture runs in the later innings. This is a conference of shortstops (standout Ritchie Price at KU), and I expect as many as five to be selected in the first five rounds of the 2005 Major League draft.”

Kansas State Coach Brad Hill:
“We’re still playing arena baseball up here. The prospectus for the upcoming year is that we will have many new faces in the field. We do have three returning guys in the outfield, and we’ll rely on them to give us great leadership. Other than returning pitcher Eric Rollins, we don’t have enough experience on the mound. We have more athleticism, but the number of new players concerns us against the schedule we have. There’s so much depth and so many great coaches in this league, the Big 12 is a quality baseball conference. I like the possible uniform starting date in March (2007), and I’m all for playing in warmer weather. We have recruited well in Texas, and there are numbers in the high schools and junior colleges down there of quality players. A lot of credit goes to (assistant coach) Sean McCann for the work he has done in that area. We need to get outside and go play. Our guys have been getting a little testy seeing each other every day for over a month, and we’re anxious to see how some of our new kids will play in actual game situations.”

Missouri Coach Tim Jamieson:
“For the 2005 team we feel confident. The last couple of years have given us confidence with the postseason, but we have had quite a few people leave the team (graduation and signings). The talent level of this year’s squad is probably as good as the last two years, but we don’t have quite as much experience. We lost some marquee guys like Cody Ehlers, Lee Laskowski and Ryan Rallo and some quality pitchers, but I think our pitching staff will be a quality group again. A lot of the credit goes to how well our kids played in the Big 12 tournament and the conference’s reputation. Those enhance your confidence level. The offense is hard to tab at this point; we have been facing our own pitchers for the last nine months. We need to be disciplined hitters like we’ve had the last two years. We may not have that much power, but we have been able to score runs. That’s what we’re shooting for again this year. We are on the road the first three weekends, and we need to play well during that time.”

Nebraska Coach Mike Anderson:
“We have an interesting group this year. We ended up with some seniors back and have an interesting mix of veterans and freshmen, who have been rated as one of the best recruiting classes in the country. 3B Alex Gordon (preseason National Player of the Year) is a unique leader. Pitchers Phil Shirek and Brian Duensing are great comeback stories. We’ll play 60 games and go out to Hilo to start the season. We had a great start to 2004 and then lost some close games down the stretch. We have a great tradition of offense at Nebraska, and a lot will depend on the pitching staff. The six or seven key seniors on our team give us a great nucleus, and the trip to Hawai’i gives us a chance to get some games under our belt before we go to the Rice tournament. We have sold out our season ticket base of 4,300-4,400 tickets, and we could use 6-7 more home games financially. Having the College World Series in Omaha later gives us a chance for great weather, and college baseball brings a lot of enthusiasm and energy to later spring and summer baseball.

Oklahoma State Coach Frank Anderson:
“We lost so many quality kids last year and have so many kids who have yet to play Division I baseball that there will be a good battle at several positions. We have a drafted catcher in Matt Clarkson and a senior who caught in 150 games at Virginia Commonwealth in Jeff Parrish. Jeff has come down with mononucleosis, but we hope to have him back soon. At first base Adam Carr is a great hitter and will come into some games in the late innings in relief. Rusty Ryal will be moving over to third base from second and feels comfortable over there. I feel good about our defense, and we may be a little younger but very athletic. I like the uniform possible start date because it allows everyone to start on the same page. There are a lot of ramifications about playing up into late June or July with school and summer leagues. I’m not sure whether going to Oklahoma City is going to be a great advantage for Oklahoma State or Oklahoma, but the people in Oklahoma City have always treated all the Big 12 teams very well and have embraced the tournament. We’re looking forward to the opening Minute Maid Classic.”

Texas Coach Augie Garrido: 
“Basically, we’re going to start more seniors than we have in the past. With that experience we will be able to field a championship-type team. We have an adequate defense, a confident offense and a pitching staff that is capable. Buck Cody (P) and 2B-OF Seth Johnston have been in the College World Series for three consecutive years, and catcher Taylor Teagarden and (closer) J. Brent Cox provide a lot of leadership and help our younger kids with the little things. Cody will be a weekend starter. (New assistant coach) Greg Swindell will be a great asset, and we were sorry to lose Dennis Cook, who has triplets and family obligations. Greg dispenses coaching, personality and wisdom that a person who has been in the show’ gives a team. I have coached at Illinois and know how the elements can affect the season. Once television came into the NCAA picture, the seeding of the top eight teams brought the best teams from throughout the country through the tournaments. The southern section’ of the Big 12 normally has formed the top half of the division, and Missouri and Nebraska have great talent and coaching.”

Texas A&M Coach Mark Johnson:
“We’re excited to get started like everyone else. We have the toughest schedule we have had since I’ve been here. We appreciate the preseason national recognition, and there’s hard to get a base for it, but we felt good about our NCAA Regional play last year. We have six position starters returning, and some quality pitchers in Jason Meyer and Robert Ray and a quality closer in Kevin Whelan, who had a great season in the Cape Cod League. We feel Clayton Turner, a transfer from Northwestern State, has pitched well and could help us immediately. We need to be pretty sharp pretty quickly. Parker Dalton has come along pretty strong and could be the starter at 2B. We have some very solid returnees and some freshmen who could push for playing time. This could be a banner year for the Big 12. There are a lot of returning veterans and depth in the conference. The tournaments help us get ready for a lot of different competition on a neutral site, but we have a very challenging format and schedule. Our guys were also pleased to be playing in the well-conceived Texas Collegiate Leagueit can become one of the best in the country.”

Texas Tech Coach Larry Hays:
“We’re excited about the season, and it’s going to be a learn as you go situation and an almost totally new outfit. We have our shortstop Cameron Blair and two or three position players like Cooper Fouts catching, Madison Edwards in the outfield, and Cody Fuller in the outfield, and our Sunday pitcher Michael McGowan returns. We hope that Adam Fry and Randy Gattis (who has had arm surgery) will help us and eight newcomers will be able to come in and help us immediately. We return pitchers with just five of the 40 victories and need some people to step up quickly. Our freshman infielder Drew Roberts of McKinney, Texas, has been out throughout all our spring practice with some health issues, and he had a good round of fall practice. Everyone is looking for Texas to win the 2005 title, but this is the Big 12. Any team in the conference can beat anyone else on a given weekend.

 

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