February 15, 2008

Rousey Optimistic Heading Into 2008


Rousey Optimistic Heading Into 2008
LONG BEACH, Calif. -- Head Coach Steve Rousey is optimistic heading into 2008, and he expressed as much in his comments Wednesday at the 2008 SoCal Baseball Media Day in Long Beach, Calif. "The theme for our team this season is raising expectations," said Rousey. "We're going to wipe the slate clean and go about things the right way."

Coach Rousey and his team have had a tumultuous 12 months. Last February, the team embarked on a 2007 campaign that would see the struggle down the stretch on the way to a eight-place Big West finish. The off-season brought the arrival of the most most heralded freshman class in Rousey's tenure, a much-needed group following the departure of 11 players form the 2007 roster, including three current minor league farmhands.

The fall signaled the start of practices, but that too brough with it a new set of challenges: navigating the brand new NCAA schedule which constrained practices throughout the fall and winter. On February 1st, the Matadors began final preparation for the 2008 season in the form of three weeks of intrasquad games that pit Northridge hitters against Northridge pitchers at full speed. On Monday, the team will finally look ahead to Northwestern, the squad's opening week opponent.

For now, Rousey's counting on a solid returning class to ease the transition for his 17-man freshman class, the largest in all of NCAA Division I baseball.

"I'm really excited about those returners and how they've responded to our elevated expectations," Rousey went on to say. "When you struggle like we did last year, it's tough to go about things the right way. It's a lot easier to hang your head a little bit, and feel sorry for yourself and all of those other cliches, but guys like C.J. Belanger... have led the way and served notice that we're going to wipe the slate clean and go about things the right way."

Rousey also acknowledged his freshman class, calling their perspective "fresh" and appreciating their excitement, saying "they get exited about a lot of things, sometimes over excited."

"It's been a fun mix for us and I really feel good about the way we're going about things."

Rousey went on to note the marked improvement among his returners as well as the overall talent level of his freshman class relative to others he's seen.

When given an opportunity to point towards a few individuals, Rousey quipped that with the kind of schedules teams are facing this season "you may need one and a half starting nines." Even so, Rousey mentioned Belanger, along with Richard Cates and Jowen-James Murray-Thornton, each of whom is expected to start in the field. Jimmy Jolicoeur and Phil Hann were pitchers that Rousey mentioned as players who are raising the bar, and each is expected to be in the starting rotation for the opening weekend.

Together with fellow returners John Parham and Billy Swanson, the freshman class will see plenty of action and will make the Matadors one of the youngest teams out there in 2008. It's a similar story on the mound, where returners Eric Billings, Mark Haderlein, P.J. Rousey, Billy Ott, Davin Tate, and Edwin Quirarte team with six freshmen to round out the pitching corps.

The press conference finished as Rousey rounded out his thoughts on the team and schedule, with nothing left to say, Rousey ended his time behind the podium neatly:

"...and that's the Matadors in 2008."