In his own words: Mike Diaz 2014 season preview
Thursday, January 30, 2014

After finishing the 2013 season with a 26-15 record and 15-5 in the SCAC, Centenary skipper Mike Diaz and the 2014 edition of the Gents prepare to embark on the season which begins on Feb. 7 at East Texas Baptist University. Coach Diaz sat down with GoCentenary.com for a preview to the 2014 season.

 

On the schedule:

The schedule is based the same principles every year. We want to start with some tough opponents to see where we are and that’s the reason we open with a tough East Texas Baptist team out of the America Southwest Conference and then face two top teams in a top 10 UT-Tyler and top 30 LSU-Alexandria. The point in the schedule is to make it tough early and see where you are at in the season.

 

Last year’s success:

We need to build on it as a program, but year in and year out every team is individual of itself. We feel really good knowing we’ve got something there, but we aren’t sure how good we are going to be.  We know we aren’t going to be bad, but when you start this many freshmen you may have some days where there are some growing pains. I feel, with us, we need to get some games under our belt. Hopefully the schedule we have early tests us and gets us ready for conference. I think we have a good dynamic group, but it’s just seeing how they transition.  

 

On the SCAC:

It’s hard to tell about this season. When you take from top to bottom, Trinity is year in and year out has been a top 10 team if not playing for a national title. You know what you are getting there. They are going to be one of the best teams in Division III.  I don’t know Texas Lutheran. We never played them when in the ASC, but I know they are generally pretty strong. I know they made a regional last year and got as high as the top 15 in the country, so they have to be pretty good. Southwestern had a new coach last year and it was a rebuilding year and I know RJ did a really good job at Hendrix so I expect them to be better. We haven’t come across the same recruits with Austin College and Dallas so I don’t really know about them, but they were both good last year and I anticipate them getting better. That’s what you’ve got to do. You’ve got to gear up for them being better than the year before. I think on the top end, we have a really strong conference. You are looking at three top 25 teams in our new conference and I think any time you have three out of seven teams that are top 25 the year before there’s going to be a good battle at the top.

 

What have you seen in your team:

We are going to be two fold. On the pitching side we are going to lean on our returners and on the offensive side we are going to lean on newcomers. We are going to start five newcomers on offense. Pitching we are have the same core of guys with the exception of Cole Thompson. We will go Taylor Henry, Layton Tromba and Paul Arcement. The returners coming out of the pen will be the same as it was last year along with a newcomer we will be looking at in Grant Debevec.

 

Replacing bats from last season:

It’s hard to say that someone is a standout offensively. We have four freshmen and newcomer coming in to play, so it’s hard to say someone is standing out, but someone we will be leaning on will be Kody Carson who has two years of college experience at Kellogg Community College. He did really well and was on a World Series team. The four other freshmen are dynamic, but you don’t know what you are going to get from them. They’ve all did really well in the fall and since we’ve got back, but you just never know until you get out there against someone in a different uniform.

 

Newomcers on the mound:

Grant Debevec out of Bolton High School in Alexandria got mono in the fall. We saw him early, but then he came down with mono and was out the rest of the fall. He’s come back and has done really well in our two scrimmages, but he’s a kid out of high school we were really high on. We think he could be a kid that can come out and be a top three arm. We are going to start him in a relief role to bring him along. I think a returner coming back is Devin Bench. He’s a guy that always had a good arm, but struggled offensively. We put him more in the pitcher only role and he’s got a strong arm and had some success in the fall, but he’s a returner that we are looking at as a newcomer. We are excited to see what he has also.

 

Utlilty players:

We’ve got a couple utility guys that we are looking at. We may have a platoon situation at third with Brooks Williams and Michael Schimpf that can play a couple different positions. At catcher, we have a couple of converted outfielders in Ethan Hyatt and Preston LeJeuneEthan has played a little first, outfield and catcher for us and Preston has played catcher and outfield, but those two guys are going out and platoon for us the first weekend. There are a couple others guys in the mix, but we are going to see how they go the first weekend.

 

Field turf:

In recruiting we’ve seen dramatic, positive responses from our recruits. I’ve always thought we had a solid facility. I think just the look of the turf gives you the initial response of ‘Wow. That’s really nice. I want to play on that’ and I think the parents and recruits love it. I think it something you can look at as a positive recruiting tool here. In terms of playing, it’s not as slow as I thought. As far as the speed of the game, it’s right along the same lines. It’s a little more bouncy and have more long hops than normal, but the speed of the game is really similar. I think our guys really like it. When you’ve got nice stuff you are happy to be at practice. It’s fun to come out and having it be new, I know the guys are really jacked about it.