(WVUE) - The makeup of UNO head coach Blake Dean's first two teams featured a big offense, with lineups capable of taking over a game in a single inning.
While he's still one of the best hitting coaches around, his team may have some growing to do in that area "Now the see-saw's down with less hitters, a lot of pitchers. We're trying to get in that perfect balance."
The Privateers have to replace two outfielders, and the entire infield besides Owen Magee at 3rd base, while 2nd-team all-conference catcher John Cable recovers from a torn hamstring. Needless to say, the incoming freshmen and transfers have some big shoes to fill at the plate.
"Last year, I think we relied a lot more on the long ball and doubles and hitting balls in the gap and scoring runs that way," Magee says. "This year, I think we're going to have to do a lot more of the small things, small ball, bunting, hit and runs, getting runners over and making sure when runners are in scoring position, we do our jobs and make sure we score that run."
But on the flip side of that; if they do have the run support, UNO should have a bullpen strong enough and deep enough to hold a lead, which hasn't always been the case "Our theory this year is if our starters can go five innings, we should be pretty set the rest of the way out," says Dean. "We've got a lot of bullpen arms and a lot of options."
Junior lefthanded Bryan Warzek sees the strengths of his position group "We have a lot of hard workers. We have a no quit mentality. That all starts with Rudy Darrow, our pitching coach. He's done a phenomenal job this year, as well as last year."
Entering his third season, Dean's goals are clear "Everyone knows that if you want to go far in the postseason, it's not the hitting that gets you there, it's always the pitching and defense. We've kind of loaded up on that."
The Privateers' season starts Friday, February 16th against Illinois-Chicago, with first pitch set for 6:30 p.m.