Last season the Hurricanes reached the College World Series and finished the season 45-17-1. This year, the Hurricanes return all of their position starters, their top four starting pitchers and their bullpen. There are high expectations for this squad.
I was able to catch up with senior pitcher J.D. Cockroft, junior outfielder Brian Barton and sophomore shortstop Ryan Braun, about the expectations of the upcoming season and the importance of fall practices.
How is it being back on the field for fall practices?
J.D.: It's been a long summer. We came up short a little bit last year. We know what it takes and with everyone coming back we have bigger hopes and bigger goals for this year.
Brian: It is a great feeling being back out here. We have been waiting for this moment ever since the World Series was over. We just want to get back on the field and prove that we can win a championship.
Ryan: It is extremely exciting. We have had, obviously a long fall with a lot of conditioning and working out. It is time to get back on the field and work on baseball related activities.
How important are these fall practices?
J.D.: These practices are vital. You have to start out high. You can't start out low and expect to get high. You have to start out high and climb to improve every practice, every intrasquad game. You just have to keep improving.
Brian: They are very, very important. We want to work on the little things working out all of the nooks and crannies before the season starts. We want to get off to good start and carry that momentum into the playoffs.
Ryan: Very important. Especially for a lot of the new guys, a lot of the young guys, to learn the system, to learn what we do around here. College level is a lot faster for them to adjust. And also for us (the older guys) to get back into the swing of things to start playing ball again.
What is it like knowing that everyone is coming back from a successful team a year ago?
J.D.: Everybody is thinking it is the most exciting time of year. Everyone is coming back and we have experience. We are really thinking that if we don't win it all, it will be a disappointing year. That is our mindset and that is what we are aiming for.
Brian: We have real high, high expectations. The most important thing is that we don't become too complacent. We know we have a team to go there. Personally I think we should have the best team in America. Our most important goal is not to become complacent and continue to work on the little things.
Ryan: We are extremely excited knowing that we have everybody back from last year. If we don't win the national championship, then we would consider this year a failure.
How are your position groups doing and what do you expect from them this year?
J.D.: We (the pitchers) have all three starters coming back and our closers. Everybody is coming back. It is really going to be a dogfight. We have a lot of young guys and guys that haven't played a lot. But, they are better and the pitching staff is going to be better.
Brian: Right now we are a little short in the outfield. We have a lot of people nursing injuries, but so far we look pretty good. We have a lot of young guys out there and so far they are stepping up. We are looking forward to having them in the regular season and doing some good things for us in the season.
Ryan: We (the infielders) look good. We have everybody back from last year and a lot of extremely talented young guys and new guys. Everybody looks good.
How did your summer go?
J.D.: I stayed here (in Miami) and worked out and ran everyday. I went to summer school. I didn't really throw very much. I took time off from throwing. I tried to get a little bit bigger, stronger and faster. I stayed here and relaxed watching a lot of tape. Mainly, just worked on my mechanics because that is a big part of the offseason, getting back to the fundamentals.
Brian: It went pretty well. I didn't play as much as I wanted to in the summer. I was nursing a sore throwing arm. But, overall I had a pretty good summer and I feel good.
Ryan: It went really well. I was able to rest and recuperate a little bit. I got a lot bigger and a lot stronger. I worked on a lot of little things that I needed to improve upon to help the team win.
What are your personal expectations?
J.D.: With some of the things that I did last year it just puts it in view of what I can do. It is what I expect of myself. I have done that last year and have bigger goals and bigger aspirations this year. I just have to keep working hard.
Brian: I just want to work hard and get better as much as I can.
Ryan: I just want to work hard every day and try to get better every day. I just want to put up as good of numbers as I can to help the team win.
Christopher Stock is a Staff Columnist for CanesTime and can be contacted by emailing him at firstname.lastname@example.org
Q&A with J.D., Brian and Ryan
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