Tyrrell: We feel pretty confident about going to the World Series

James Kay, Sports Editor

COD’s baseball Head Coach, Kevin Tyrrell, sat down with Courier sports editor James Kay last week to discuss what his team is looking like this year. After a promising season last year where COD finished 19 games above .500, Tyrrell is hoping his team can build off that momentum. Here is what he had to say.

James Kay: How many returning players do you have from last year’s squad?

Kevin Tyrrell: As far as starting lineup guys, I think we have nine including pitchers. A couple of reserves from last year’s team have come back this year to either fill in a reserve role or have worked their way into the starting lineup. So I think we have 14 guys returning from last year’s team total.

JK: Last year, you said you could rely on seven or eight guys to go to on the bump. Do you have the same luxury this year with your starting rotation?

KT: You know, and I am going to have to knock on wood when I say this, we may be even deeper this year. We have a lot of those guys returning. Unfortunately, we lost four guys to graduation but we have a couple of transfers, and we have a couple guys step into starting roles as freshmen that really turned heads in the fall. The number is probably at 10 to 11 guys we feel we can win with, or give us a chance to win at least.

JK: You said that is mostly freshmen?

KT: It’s mostly new guys but probably three of them are sophomore transfers. Wyatt [Trautwein] is back from last year. Jimmy [McDonald] is back from last year. Austen [Kapusinski] is back from last year. They were our main returning guys that we were most excited about. We had a sophomore transfer from Odessa College in Texas, and a sophomore transfer from Northwestern Ohio and four freshmen that came into starting roles.

JK: Who were the other starting pitchers that left?

KT: Mike Hansen, Tomas Aguilar, Steve Waldrop and Jason Adams were big losses on the mound. I think those guys combined in their two years here for 30-40 victories on the mound for us. When we lost them, we lost a lot of experience and leadership but also a lot of victories. As far as returning guys, we have 19 victories returning on the mound in Austen, Wyatt and Jimmy, but we also had a guy John Barnes transfer in from Northwestern Ohio. Chase Lowman transferred from Odessa College in Texas. Both of those guys will be in the top-6 in the rotation. Cole Nelson, who is still a freshman, transferred in from Augustana College; Collin Brauer, from Lincoln-Way Central High School; Tyler Zunkel, a freshman from Willowbrook High School; Tom Hickey from Lyons Township, another freshman, should get significant starts on the mound this year. We are pretty evenly spread out, but we have a clear top four or five. I would say that our 6-11 are better than most teams’ two or three. We just have a really good nucleus of arms and a really good pitching staff.

JK: In the MLB there’s a new formula where teams need four solid starters that can go six innings and then hand the ball off to a lights-out bullpen. How important, if at all, is that at the community college level?

KT: It’s a little larger of a number that you need to have. At the MLB level you usually have one game a day with one day off a week. We are playing 8-10 games in a week, so you need to have 8-10 starters ideally. I don’t like starting one guy twice in seven-day period. Especially if you have rain last week, this week you might have 14 games. You need at least 10 guys that you feel confident in starting. At our level nobody usually has that. That is a big reason for why our win total was so high because of all the rescheduled games. We were facing depleted pitching staffs when we were still deep. I think we will run into that whether or not the weather is good this year. I think we will still have the deepest pitching staff. Even if our number seven is facing another team’s number one we still feel like we have a fighting chance because we hit well, we catch and throw the baseball defensively well and our number seven is better than most teams’ number two.

JK: So how many of those guys are two-way players? Or are most of them P.O.’s (Pitcher Only?)

KT: Most of them are P.O.’s. Brauer and Zunkel are competing for time on the infield. There are a couple of other guys who will get innings on the mound that I can’t name as starters because we are just too deep, but any other year would be starters. Sam Ledbetter is pushing for time at third base. He’s also a really good looking freshman pitcher. He will start some games this year, but he won’t be in the starting rotation because he will be getting a lot of innings at third base. David Cordick, who is pushing for time on the infield, and will also get innings on the mound. So we have four guys total who are going to get innings on the mound, and who will get innings at a position.

JK: Madison has been the powerhouse in the conference the past few years. How do you plan on competing with them?

KT: I think in the conference Madison is still the favorite, but lucky for us they are division-two, and we are division-three. So at the end of the year when we go to the regional we won’t have to get through them. I don’t know if anyone can compete with Madison in the conference. Aside from Madison, you have Triton, Joliet, Harper, Rock Valley and Milwaukee Tech, and I think we match up well against those teams.

JK: You guys are going to South Carolina a month from now, and last year you had great success there. What are you hoping to achieve in South Carolina this year?

KT: Last year, we stole a couple of games from good competition early because of our energy level. We came out a little more ferocious than they did. We won a couple of one-run ball games because the team we were playing against didn’t have the energy level we had. If we can come out with that same energy level game in and game out while we are down there I think we will compete really well. I’ve seen our schedule, and the teams on paper that we are playing this year are better than the teams we played last year; so it’ll be a lot tougher. We are also playing more games down there because we are going to be down there for a longer period of time. Last year we played five or six games. This year we are going to play 10.

JK: Will these games count towards your record overall?

KT: These games will count towards our record overall, but none of the teams we are playing are in our region, so they won’t count towards our region record. Which is also a good thing and a bad thing depending on how you do. If you do well then you want those games towards your region record, but if you don’t it doesn’t matter. At the very least we know we are going to be playing very good competition that will prepare us for our region games.

JK: Would you rather play teams down below the spectrum to gain momentum for your regional games, or would you rather play tougher competition that will test your team’s talent this early on?

KT: In other years when I didn’t feel like we had a chance to compete at the national level, I would have said that I wanted to start out with inferior competition to have us get some confidence and be able to run some offense and defensive plays that we practice. In a year like this and a year like last year, I would prefer to start with the stiffest form of competition possible so we can be prepared at the beginning of the season for what we will see at the end of the season. Last year, I think the competition was a little bit weak at the beginning of the season, which is why we started off 10-1. This year I don’t expect to start off 10-1. If we are .500 coming out of Myrtle Beach I’ll be pretty happy and excited about things to come because the teams we are playing down there are division-one and division-two, highly ranked teams for the most part, so it’ll be interesting to see how we can compete.

JK: What are your expectations for the postseason? I know it’s hard to determine right now but what are your goals going into the year?

KT: It is difficult because I haven’t seen what everyone else has. I do know that this is our most talented group since I’ve been here. Joliet is always going to be extremely tough to get through. Their coach has been there 30 plus years. We swept them at our place last year and split at their place, so we took three out of four from them last year during the regular season. They made it to the World Series without having to play us because we got eliminated before having to play them. Obviously, that is a really good measuring stick when you can compare yourself to Joliet. If we can compete with Joliet, we have them four times again this year, if we can hold our own or beat them like we did last year, we feel pretty confident about going to a world series.