New University: You said this team would be at its best in the last third of the season, do you still feel that way?
Pat Shine: The leadership is there and the potential to win in the postseason is there, but can we just sit back and wait for it to happen? No. There needs to be more of a sense of urgency.
New U: Is there a sense of urgency that’s lacking?
Shine: No, I don’t think it’s lacking, I think some details are lacking on the defensive side of things. We’ve got to become more detail-oriented on defense, and we have to get better offensively. If we do those two things, it’s that simple. We can pitch. We’ve got maturity, we’ve got leadership, and we’ve got experience in the postseason. But we can’t rely on that experience. We have to get better.
New U: The offense has been a little inconsistent lately, what do you make of that?
Shine: We’ll have a hitter’s meeting and I’ll tell them, ‘We’re a good offensive team, we’ve shown signs of it, and we’ve got to improve.’ The curveball and two-seam fastball exposed us [last week] so we worked at it in the cages. What else do you do in baseball? It’s never clear sailing, but you use the adversity to your advantage.
New U: Does having adversity in the middle of the season become beneficial in the postseason?
Shine: Very few teams are going to breeze through the year and win it. The teams that win it go through some things in the middle to make you better. The Big West conference is extremely competitive. Teams are [pumped] to play Irvine because of the respect we’ve received nationally.
New U: How has Tony Asaro made the jump to becoming such a great hitter?
Shine: He’s worked his way to becoming what he is. He’s a blue-collar, hard-nosed, tough kid that had a little bit of adversity early in the year, but handled it exactly how a mature good athlete would handle it. He wasn’t performing the way he wanted to, so he got here early and stayed here late. There was no pouting, just a real mature mentality that enabled him to work himself back.
New U: There seems to be a great competitive atmosphere within the team with so many talented hitters and limited spots in the lineup. Does the competition improve the players’ performance?
Shine: You hope that’s happening. You hope players respond to it the way Dillon Bell and Asaro have. They’re perfect examples of the game rewarding the right guys. The game will reward the right type of mentality.
New U: There’s been lots of shuffling with the lineup, how does that affect the players?
Shine: The good side of that is that everyone has to be ready to play—everyone’s getting an opportunity. It promotes competitiveness and work ethic. There shouldn’t be any lackadaisical approach, because if you’re not performing, there’s someone else who will. It’s really been more about the defense that has caused the shuffle.
New U: Is the defense the primary concern for this team?
Shine: Well, I think at times the defense, if it had been better, we would have won more. And now we’re starting to play some guys who are really good defenders first and foremost, and then we hope those guys hit. Eric Deragisch is our best third baseman, and now he’s gotten the chance to hit and he’s become one of our better hitters.
New U: Who’s been the biggest surprise so far?
Shine: Well the first guy that comes to mind is Daniel Bibona. I shouldn’t be surprised because he works so hard, but that guy is money. It’s really about his mentality and work ethic. He’s been our biggest asset and probably our biggest surprise on the team.
New U: Who do you expect to break out towards the end of the season?
Shine: I think Aaron Lowenstein has some upside still. Defensively, he’s one of the best in the country. I think offensively, with his experience, he can be clutch for us. The farther the season comes along, the more experience comes in to play.
New U: How would you assess the power in the lineup?
Shine: There is no power. There’s no true power in the middle of the lineup. You can’t sit back and wait for two guys to get on and then hit. It’s got to be guys one through nine playing together and playing team offense.
New U: It seems like Ollie Linton hit for power if he wanted to.
Shine: Pound for pound, he’s our strongest hitter. He knows how to use his leverage and his hands well. If we taught him more of a power stroke would he hit a lot more home runs? Maybe. But it’s all because of his ability to have good balance. If he’s 165 pounds, he has a chance to put 165 pounds into every pitch. There are some guys who are 250 pounds, but if they get out on their front foot, they’re putting 120 pounds into their swing because of lack of balance.
New U: How do you feel about the recently signed recruits?
Shine: Very good, very positive. It’s a capable group of guys that can help make this team very good next year. It’s going to be very competitive.