JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. (Sept. 24, 2012) – The ETSU baseball team wrapped up its third weekend of the fall season, and head coach Tony Skole was able to sit down with the ETSU athletic media relations staff for question-and-answer session to let the fans know how the team is doing.
Below is the Q&A with Coach Skole…
The team just finished up its third weekend of scrimmages, what are your thoughts of how the team has played so far this fall?
I think the start to our semester has been outstanding. First and foremost, our new players have settled in nicely to their new environment. They have really adjusted well and our returning players have played an important part of that equation. Our guys are beginning to understand the process, and how hard they need to work. The demands of being a Division I athlete are great and there is definitely a learning curve. We are not there yet, but every day our guys are improving and moving in the right direction.
As far as the performance on the field, I have been very pleased. The intensity of our practice sessions and our scrimmages has been outstanding. Our guys are beginning to play the game at the pace we want them to play. I have been impressed by the competitiveness of this ball club. We have had some great individual performances and I’m looking forward to seeing us continue to grow as a team.
On Saturday, the team made a handful of great defensive plays – especially in the outfield – talk about how the team has looked defensively on the field?
I’m very excited about our defense. This team is really going to be able to defend. Our overall athleticism is the best it has been in recent years and you can really see that on the defensive side. This team really shrinks the field. We get to a lot of balls, while our outfielders can really run and get the baseball. Plus, they are all accurate throwers, with some of them possessing very good arm strength. In the infield, we have guys who can make all the routine plays but are also very dynamic. But hands down, the most improved area on our defensive side has been this team’s willingness and ability to communicate. It is something we really stress and this team has been great in that area thus far.
When looking at how the scrimmages have been played, it seems the level of competitiveness has increased each and every weekend. How important is it for the team to bring it every day during these scrimmages?
We try to challenge our guys in every scrimmage in order to make it as game like as possible. Sometimes we will play “mini games” (3 or less innings) within a scrimmage to make sure we are covering specific scenarios. We want every scrimmage to have a result – a winner and a loser. This naturally gets the competitive juices flowing and insures we are playing with the proper intensity.
Also, we make sure our players understand they only have about 12-15 scrimmage opportunities this fall. Each and every time we line it up, they know it is very important in their development and in our evaluation.
What have you seen as the greatest improvement from the first weekend of scrimmages until now?
The most obvious area from a coaching standpoint has been our players are playing more relaxed. Their knowledge base is beginning to grow and they are now starting to understand what is expected of them. They are also starting to realize the importance of every pitch and every play.
With a lot of new guys on the roster, how important is this fall season for them to get adjusted to playing at a new level?
I think an overused phrase most coaches use is they want their new players to “catch up to the speed of the game.” Well, our new guys needed to learn how to just keep up with the pace of practice. They struggled early to just get through a regular day of practice. Now they understand what we want and they are handling it much better. We like to keep things moving and make sure we are using our practice time wisely. The NCAA really restricts our practice time, so we have to make sure we are organized and moving around with a purpose. By practicing at a game-like pace, it has made our players more comfortable when it comes to playing in our scrimmages.
With a few more weeks of practice still left, what do you hope to achieve with the remaining time on the diamond?
Our goal as a coaching staff is to continue to improve and build off our productive start both off and on the field. We want to continue to build on the toughness of our ball club, while also teaching them how to play the game more intelligently. It has been exciting to see these guys improve each day and I’m eager to see where their development is at the end of our fall season.
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