This article originally appeared on army.rivals.com on May 14, 2009 and was written by A.M. Allan.
On Sunday, Army came out smoking as the Black Knights came away with a decisive 11-0 win over Holy Cross in the final game of the Patriot League Tournament best-of-three semifinal series. The victory earned Army the right to face off against Lafayette for the Patriot League Championship Series, with an NCAA bid at stake.
GoBlackKnights.com had a chance to catch-up with Army Head Coach, Joe Sottolano to discuss his team's performance, preparation, mindset, as well as his thoughts on the Black Knights upcoming opponent, Lafayette.
GBK.com: What do you attribute this late season surge to (pitching, hitting, etc.)?
Coach Sottolano: We always look at the beginning of the year to get better as the season goes on, through practice and preparation, I think that is the way we have staged it. We have a sort of trend of operating that way... if you look at our previous years.
We played some great ball games early and won some good games, but the level of consistency comes through many reps of operation and constantly adjusting and readjusting depending on some of the things you see in your current players. That includes some of the successes and deficiencies or areas of concern. It's their constant push and drive in practice and increase in those areas of concern and solidifying those and building on their previous successes.
GBK.com: Six of the nine starters are freshmen or sophomores ... How are the young players are handling the pressure of the post season?
Coach Sottolano: I don't know if we look at it that way. What we try to do is stay focused on ourselves and what we can control. Weather we are playing Florida State, Florida, Lafayette, championships, pre-season. I guarantee you, that we treat our fall games the same we do our spring games. It's for preparation for times like this. So that we understand that we are just worried about what we can control, that's how we go about our business.
GBK.com: What is the overall excitement & mindset of the team entering the weekend?
Coach Sottolano: Very focused. This week we are working very hard on just on staying where we are with certain things and preparing for the some the things that I think that Lafayette will bring to the table. Remaining on the subject matter, such swings, on our defensive things, on our pitching, location ... really focusing on things that we have been working on all year, but just trying to fine tune them and sharpen them.
GBK.com: Can you speak a little about how the small senior class (and a virtually nonexistent junior class) is stepping up to lead the way for the younger guys?
Coach Sottolano: There's a couple in each (class) and what you try to do is have significant players in each class. The seniors have done a tremendous job ... absolutely tremendous. You're saying small, but you're talking about five guys that really played a big impact for us and five guys out of a field of nine is a lot. So you are looking at the three starters in Polchinski (J.P.), Fleming (Kyle) and Ernesto (Andy) and their numbers are very strong. And they are significant, offensively and defensively they have done a tremendous job and obviously their leadership ability.
Then you look at an Anderegg who has been outstanding coming out of the bullpen, and also Tony Capozzi has been tremendous when he's played and also our defensive replacement late in the game and he's done tremendous, batting average has been great and his leadership has been great
It's small in terms of the overall numbers and percentages of the team, but large in terms of their contribution.
GBK.com: That being said, can you speak about how the seniors have embraced the young stars and helped them mature as players (most notably Tony Capozzi, who was a three year starter before being replaced by Zach Price this year)?
Coach Sottolano: The senior guys have done an outstanding job bringing these guys in and taking them under their wings, as well as developing a culture that doesn't tear.... A culture that treats its lawn. And that's what we talk about as a family and as a team and we are all sharing the same sweat, no matter if you are freshmen all the way up to senior. We have much leadership out of Zach Price & J.T. Watkins who freshmen then we do our senior and they take strong roles but it's because they feel comfortable because of the environment that the seniors have created.
GBK.com: Can you talk about the importance of the bullpen's performance over the past month and how it affects the mentality of the team entering this weekend?
Coach Sottolano: We've been fortunate, where we have guys that have come in and settle into roles. And I think the people out of the bullpen understand their roles, take pride in their roles and have done nice job getting ground balls when we need them or big strike outs or whatever it is. They done a nice job ... it has really added depth to our club and also given us confidence in the later innings, which I think is important to bring in an Anderegg (Tyler) or McKague (Kevin) to stop it, finish it or close it off.
GBK.com: Who do you feel has the biggest chance to hurt Army this weekend from the Lafayette lineup?
Coach Sottolano: Their line-up is deep and they do a lot of good things throughout their lineup. It's very difficult to peg one. I look in terms of more of what we need to do consistently then I look at what they do. You know like, how are we going to pitch certain guys. I think they have talent throughout their lineup ... all the way from their leadoff guy Froio (Rob), through Bierce (Daniel), through Hall (Matt), through Miller (AJ). I think they all do good things and they are well rounded ... they are batting over .300 as a team and that's for a recent.
GBK.com: How do you feel your team matches up against Lafayette this weekend?
Coach Sottolano: I think they are two teams that are similar in nature. Both swing the bats well, play good defense and both have quality arms. It's going to be an interesting and challenging series and one well deserved on both ends. I compliment Lafayette for their effort and I certainly compliment our guys for ours, and we'll settle it on the field.