Ask Dave, Part 2 of 2

TitanCentral.com has gotten together with assistant coach Dave Serrano to discuss his reation to getting to host a Super Regional and their next opponent Mississippi State.

TitanCentral.com: Time to move on to some of the Titans. Let's start with the pitching. In the words of Billy Crystal, Jon Smith looked simply "marvelous." How much did that extra two days help?

Coach Dave Serrano: Yeah, he was. Some people will say that was the best game he ever pitched... I don't know off hand but I think he's 24 or 25 and 7 in his career so it's hard to say that's the best game he's ever pitched but obviously that's one of the biggest games he's ever pitched. I wouldn't expect anything less from him. He's been a great pitcher for us for four years. It's all about him being rested and completely healthy and I would put him up against anyone in the country.

The plan we set out to do this weekend didn't work to our [ideal]. We were hoping to get through it in three games and not have to use him and really have him rested for next weekend. But when we had to go to our last game on Sunday we knew we had our Friday guy still there and we knew [Texas Tech] was going to their bullpen and I liked our chances, even with Texas Tech having the momentum.

TitanCentral.com: Jon obviously has one of the best pickoff moves in college baseball and it looked as though he had a bad balk call go against him late in the game. As someone who knows his move better than anyone, what was your take on that call?

Coach Dave Serrano: Well, to be quite honest with you, if it was a balk, we obliviously wouldn't have him do it. Jon has worked tremendously hard and he came into Fullerton with a great pickoff move. I think that what happens is, when we go up against umpires who aren't familiar with his move it surprises them because it's so good. Jon had done the same move three or four times before he called a balk and I think the guy was just looking to balk him on that.

TitanCentral.com: With umpires who are not familiar with his move, can you or do you go have a talk with them before the game?

Coach Dave Serrano: Yes, we try and plant the seed. I didn't talk with that umpire. The guys we get in the Big West and our middle week games are so familiar with Jon's move and they don't balk him so obviously they have broken it down and realize that it is not a balk. That is something I should have done prior to the game...

Jonny has a lot of different moves. He has the very good move, which is the one the umpire called the balk on. I tell him, when there's an umpire who hasn't seen him, to [make that good move] the first pickoff of the game so the ump see his best move and if he doesn't balk him on that he's going to give it to him the rest of the game.

TitanCentral.com: What's the status of Mike Nunez and what happened to him on Friday?

Coach Dave Serrano: Mike didn't get to pitch until the latter part of the year because of tendonitus in his arm so I knew he was getting a little tired. We had planned him to go only four innings at the most and he was into his forth. I went to the mound and he told me his triceps had started to stiffen. He received some treatment on Saturday and Sunday he said he felt fine and, if needed, he would be available.

It's just an ongoing thing. He'll get treatment this week and hopefully it's nothing major and he'll be in the bullpen this weekend.

TitanCentral.com: Have you decided on your 25 man roster for this weekend? Any injuries to report?

Coach Dave Serrano: Travis Esquibel has had severe tendonitus for the last month and a half and we're working on getting him a medical redshirt because he threw only two innings for us this year so he's not available. We have nine pitchers on the roster right now and we have to make a decision this week because we'll probably go down to only eight pitchers for this series because we're only going to play three games, whereas last week we had a chance to play five games. This decision will probably be made Wednesday or Thursday.

TitanCentral.com: Have you decided on a starting rotation yet?

Coach Dave Serrano: The order we pitched this last weekend, with Jonny pitching Sunday and Darric [Merrill] pitching Sunday, the most logical thing to do is pitch Kirk [Saarloos] on Friday. We'll make a decision, win or lose, after that. Jonny and Darric will both be available for Saturday and the other will be available for Sunday. We'll do reverse of what we have been doing [during the regular season], Kirk will start Friday and, knowing him, will probably be available for one or two innings on Sunday.

TitanCentral.com: Will Mississippi State send out Tanner Brock for the opener?

Coach Dave Serrano: I'm not sure. I know he is what they consider their better guy. I would be shocked if he wasn't going against us on Friday.

TitanCentral.com: How's Darric Merrill holding up both physically and mentally? Do you think his arm is getting tired?

Coach Dave Serrano: No, I don't think it is. I was just looking at his numbers today and yes he's getting up there in number of innings and he's pitched probably more innings in his life in one season but no, I don't. It's a mechanical thing I saw again on Sunday and we're going to try to refine that. You can't hold it against him because he has done such a phenomenal job for us. I truly believe he can get through this. In fact, I saw him talking to Kirk after the first game on Sunday and was asking Kirk what, mentally, he did when he hit a bump. I think that's just something he has to work through. He probably not pitching with as much confidence the last three times he's gone out. He hasn't been as good as he was at one time but he'll get through this and we need him to get through this. What a lot of people don't take into account is what he and Chad Cordero are doing is very unnatural for guys to do as a freshman. Yeah he had a rock last three outings but what he did prior to that is absolutely phenomenal for a freshman. And what Chief is continuing to do each and every time we give him the ball is unbelievable for a guy who just stepped out of high school and being a great, great closer for Cal State Fullerton.

TitanCentral.com: Do you think Chief will continue his Fullerton career as our closer?

Coach Dave Serrano: I don't foresee him leaving that spot. I think he really enjoys it and it's always a blessing to have a guy like him like we've had with Kirk his sophomore and junior year and like we had with Adam Johnson his freshman year. To know when you get to the seventh inning there's a guy on the team you can rely on and have confidence in that's an important role. That closer is just as important as any other starters we run out there.

TitanCentral.com: Let's talk about the crowds. On Friday and especially Saturday the crowds were simply amazing. And then on Sunday it appeared like we were hungover through most of the first game. They finally got into it but the size was rather disappointing, especially after the record-breaking crowd on Saturday night.

Coach Dave Serrano: I think it's a credit to the people and fans of Orange County. Saturday's crowd was phenomenal. Each and every player was excited about it. The coaching staff was excited about it. It wasn't just about the people in the stands, it was the noise and how they were very educated on trying to get the team going. No matter what was going on with us, good or bad, they were a big part of the victory and all the victories this weekend.

Sunday's crowd wasn't quite as good, for whatever reason, but you can't take that away from the people who were there. The people who were there were just fantastic. They really gave our team a boost. Even in that first game when it got ugly they were with us pitch to pitch when we were scrambling to come back. And I truly believe that the momentum we carried from the sixth inning on, tying to chip away at the lead even though the lead was too big, I think that momentum which was generated from the crowd really carried over into game two.

TitanCentral.com: And what a game two it was. That had to be one of the best all-around games the Titans have played this year considering the circumstances and how much was at stake.

Coach Dave Serrano: Yes, we did. We played a pretty perfect game for a team that got beat pretty bad just hours before. To know you're season's on the line and come back with a game like that in a fatigue game. Obviously Texas Tech was more fatigued than us but ti's still an emotional thing to lose such an important game so bad and have to turn it around 45 minutes later.

TitanCentral.com: Let's switch gears and talk about Shawn Norris. Of all the players on this year's team, his play has been criticized the most on TitanCentral and its message boards. And then he gets benched by the coaches for his three week slump. But he never gave up and became the most unlikely guy to win the Regional MVP. What a great tribute to him and the work he put into getting himself better and not giving up.

Coach Dave Serrano: That's exactly what coach Horton said to the team and to him after the game Sunday. Obviously he was disappointed. He had been in and out of the lineup the last couple weeks. It was a tribute to him that he stayed with himself, didn't give up, kept battling and fighting and sure enough the game rewarded him. He could have easily quit on himself or quit on the team and he wouldn't have done that [win the MVP] for us or himself this past weekend. He was a big part of us to get through this regional.

TitanCentral.com: Let's talk about one of TitanCentral.com's favorite players Shane Costa. What a great regional he had going 8 for 10 while not even playing every inning.

Coach Dave Serrano: He came from Golden West High School in Visalia. He is going to be ... not to label him so early in his career but we as a coaching staff believe he is going to be a very, very good player for the next couple years for us. He's a great athlete. Plays the game hard. Obviously is still learning, still hasn't reached his capabilities but he's doing some very special things as a freshman in a tough atmosphere. He's not in the lineup everyday. He comes off the bench sometimes and has done a phenomenal job and I don't think we've seen the best of Shane Costa yet.

TitanCentral.com: So what are the plans leading up to the regional?

Coach Dave Serrano: We'll practice each day at 10 in the morning and go for three to four hours, get our work in, refine some stuff. Without having to worry about finals this week, now they can just set their minds on baseball and getting through this next regional and getting to a goal we set at the start of the year and that's getting back to Omaha.