LOCH SHELDRAKE November 27, 2007 After completing six weeks of fall baseball drills and scrimmages, Sullivan County Community College (SCCC) Coach Mike Marra recently sat down to share his thoughts on how the fall went and his expectations for the 2008 season.
What were your overall impressions from fall workouts and scrimmages?
“My overall impressions were that we have a chance to have some quality starting pitching at the front end of our rotation,” Marra said. “We have to find a group of three or four pitchers that can give us some quality middle, short and situational relief. I think we have a good group to choose from but no one has really separated themselves from the pack.
“Starting pitching should be our strength. Mike Prunka, John DeGroodt, Jess Kelly, Willie Vega, Warren Veras and Wellington Vargas all look to be able to start and give us six-plus innings per outing this spring.
“Offensively, we did a very good job of seeing a lot of pitches and working pitchers deep into the count and hitting to the situation. Chris Gonzalez had an excellent fall at the plate and he’s expected to carry the load in the middle of the order as he did last year, earning recognition as a First Team All-Region XV Outfielder. We have a great deal more team speed than we did last year which will help us create more opportunities to score runs. Fred Moore won the catching duties behind the plate with an impressive fall performance.
“Defensively, we played very well in the infield and have some good competition going on there. Mark Roarty had a good fall defensively at third base as did Melvin Simmons at short. Sandy Delacruz and O’brian Rivera battled hard at second base. John DeGroodt and Danny Rodriguez showed that they should be able to handle playing first base.”
With a number of newcomers on the squad, how well has the team jelled this fall and what do you see as their role on a team with some of the veteran players?
“We have 10 quality veterans from last year’s 16-20 team, there’s a great opportunity for the freshmen to make an impact this spring,” Marra replied. “I think our team has come together well to this point, but the fall conditioning period and the preseason practice in January will really aid that as well.”
On the mound, there appears to be a lot of guys which will provide some depth in the bullpen.
“Well, from a starting pitcher standpoint, John DeGroodt brings a wealth of confidence, ability and success to his role,” Marra said. “Right now, I feel really good about Mike Prunka, Jess Kelly, Wellington Vargas, Warren Veras and Willie Vega as guys that could be quality starters at the top level.
“Will Soto will most likely end up in the bullpen since he throws a lot of strikes. Eddie Pagan also can anchor the middle innings or be a spot starter.
“Overall, the depth of our bullpen has a chance to be good, but we won’t know how good until spring practice gets here.”
Why it is important to have veterans on your squad?
“It doesn’t necessarily raise my expectation of their performance in the spring,” Marra stated. “We want to keep the same expectations we always have for any team at SCCC, regardless of the makeup of the team.
“However, I do have higher expectations for this team in the areas of team discipline, effort in practice, etc. Most of the veteran players know how we want to act off the field, perform in the classroom and handle ourselves in practice so I’m a lot less tolerant of deficiencies in these areas than I may be with a younger team.”
How has the local talent performed this fall?
“I said when I took over in July of 2005, that the baseball talent in the Hudson Valley is strong,” Marra replied. “We can compete with kids from Sullivan County. The local talent has had an impact this fall and I believe will continue to contribute this spring. Casey Pazzalia (Liberty Central School), Mike Cook (Liberty) Corey VanKeuren (Liberty), Chris Gates (Fallsburg Central School) and Mike Prunka (Eldred Central School) all had an impact on our success last season. Now we’ve added Fred Moore (Tri-Valley Central School), who was the best high school player in the county last spring to our club. I’m very pleased that we have been able to convince the local kids, coaches and parents that Sullivan County Community College provides students with a opportunity to be successful right here in their own backyard.”
What do you feel this team has to do between now and the season to get better?
“For the most part, I think this team has championship ability,” Marra said. “We want to take the next step advancing from the Final Four to the Regional Championship. The challenge I have laid out for this team is, like I said before, to come to the ballpark every day with a burning desire and positive energy to play Generals baseball effort and execution of the fundamentals.
“We all need to get better, me included, and I think the effort that takes is something you can control. You just have to decide daily to do it!”