PROVIDENCE, R.I. – Just two days before the Brown Bear baseball team opens its 2011 season against No. 2 Vanderbilt in Nashville, Tenn., head coach Marek Drabinski took time to sit down with BrownBears.com and answer questions about the newest edition Brown baseball, including starting the season off against the No. 2 and No. 6 teams in the Country, the return of a potent Brown offensive attack, arms to watch on this year's staff and the players who might make an impact as early as tomorrow.
BrownBears.com: Brown plays No. 2 Vanderbilt and No. 6 Texas to open the 2011 season. What is the importance of scheduling such a difficult slate at the beginning of the year?
Marek Drabinski: The importance of playing Texas and Vandy is, a) the experience – environment, fans, facilities, etc., b) to see where we stand early in the season and see which of our guys rise to the challenge, c) make us better for the Ivy season by facing some of the best pitchers in collegiate baseball, specifically Vanderbilt's junior RHP Sonny Gray and Texas' junior RHP Taylor Jungmann, and d) if we reach our goal, which is an Ivy title, we'll have to play again at one of those great venues, so we will be prepared and not overwhelmed.
BB: The Ivy League season starts on April 2. What do you expect from your team during the non-conference schedule to start the season?
MD: Be competitive! Win some certainly! Also, we want to solidify our lineup and rotation so we'll have guys competing for those spots. Over the next three to four weeks, roles will be won or lost.
BB: The pitching staff looks to be reloaded after a down season in 2010. What can we expect from the staff this year?
MD: The big thing for our staff is to stay healthy. Last year, losing redshirt junior LHP Mark Gormley right before spring break and not having senior RHP Josh Feit and senior RHP Connor Burke. Really hurt us. It forced us to move senior RHP Matthew Kimball from closer to starter and we had to start freshmen who many not have been ready. All three look good right now and our depth (14 pitchers) is our strength. I'm excited about of staff for sure.
BB: Brown was fueled by its offensive productivity last season. Can we expect the same in 2011?
MD: I hope so! We only lost two players from our offense and neither was a go-to-guy. I hope we can repeat what we did last year. We just need our returnees to relax and do what they've done in the past.
BB: Who is the player to watch in the lineup?
MD: That's a tough one. Seniors Matt Colantonio, Pete Greskoff, Ryan Zrenda and Feit, and junior Mike DiBiase are all solid, but there are a few freshmen in Wes Van Boom, Daniel Massey, and Matt DeRenzi who could surprise!
BB: Who is the player to watch on the pitching staff?
MD: I would say Gromley, to see if he makes it back to his form from two years ago. Also, freshman Lucas Whitehill, who will probably be a conference starter, will be someone to watch.
BB: Who is the player to watch defensively?
MD: Freshman J.J. Franco at second base. He is probably the best defensive infielder I have ever seen in 18 years of collegiate baseball.
BB: Who is the rookie to watch in 2011?
MD: Whitehill would be my guess! He has a chance to be a special pitcher down the road.
The Bears open there season on Friday, March 4 at 5 p.m. in Nashville, Tenn., against No. 2 Vanderbilt. Brown will play three games against the Commodores. Game two is scheduled for Saturday at 3 p.m., with the final game being played on Sunday at 2 p.m.