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Rooney wants his Purdue pitchers to be aggressive, strike-throwers

By STEVE KRAH
http://www.IndianaRBI.com

Terry Rooney has returned to a familiar role in his second season as a Purdue University baseball coach.
Rooney is the Boilermakers pitching coach on head coach Greg Goff’s staff for 2022-23.
Since his coaching career began in 1997, Rooney had been a recruiting coordinator and pitching coach. He focused just on recruiting in 2021-22 as he rejoined Goff (the two worked together at the University of Alabama during the 2017 season).
“He’s one of the greatest coaches there is in college baseball,” says Rooney of Goff. “What he brings to the field every single day is unmatched.”
With a 15-0 start, Purdue went 29-21 overall and 9-12 in the Big Ten Conference in 2022.
This fall, which includes an exhibition game at 1 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 8 against Dayton in West Lafayette, Rooney is evaluating his pitchers while implementing systems.
“We want to be an ultra-aggressive, confident, strike-throwing pitching staff … guys that pound the strike zone,” says Rooney. “We have a phrase around here — A3P and that’s ‘ahead after three pitches.’ One of our main focuses is to get to that advantage count of 1-2.
“The difference in a hitter hitting in a 2-1 count and a 1-2 count is about 200 points (roughly .360 vs. .160). We say it all the time — 1-2 is our full count. We’re doing everything we can to get to that advantage count of 1-2.”
Rooney says the goal is to be able to throw something other than a fastball on 1-2.
“You want to have the ability to throw multiple pitches for a strike,” says Rooney. “We talk about locating fastballs ahead (in the count) and controlled off-speed pitches behind.”
It’s all about attacking the strike zone.
“It’s hard to be ultra-competitive and ultra-confident and aggressive if you’re falling behind 2-1 and 3-1 all the time,” says Rooney. “Your actions have to mimic what you want to be.”
Rooney says the challenge that players face at the highest level of college baseball — as opposed to high school or even junior college — is a smaller margin for error. There are more great hitters at NCAA D-I.
“As a pitcher the stuff hasn’t changed,” says Rooney. “You’re still the same guy. But you can get away with more at those levels. Here, you can’t get away with much. You’re exposed so to speak.”
With all the concentration on velocity Rooney says the change-up has become almost a lost art.
“A change-up is a switch pitch,” says Rooney. “That’s how you mess up (the hitter’s) timing. The hitter is swinging at the arm speed of the pitcher and it looks like a fastball.
“They’re taught on breaking balls, sliders and cutters to lay off that pitch until two strikes. But the change-up you can’t lay off because it looks like the fastball.”
Rooney came to Purdue in July 2021.
“My relationship with Coach Goff was certainly the No. 1 reason (for coming to West Lafayette),” says Rooney, 48. “Last year was the first time in 24 years that I didn’t do the pitching. For the chance to come in and really focus on recruiting was another reason that I did it.
“The third thing is just what Purdue is, what I think it’s going to be and what it has been.”
Coming back to a “college town” really appealed to Terry and wife Shaun (who have a daughter, Milly Margaret).
The couple met when Terry was on Paul Mainieri’s staff at Notre Dame (2004-06).
“We have been in a lot of college towns together,” says Rooney. “We loved our time in Houston (Texas) and I had a great four years there.”
Rooney enjoys the fact that he lives 10 minutes from Purdue’s Alexander Field.
A native of Fairfax County, Va., and the Washington D.C. area, Rooney pitched at Davis & Elkins College (Elkins, W.Va.) in 1993 and Radford (Va.) University 1994-96.
Purdue is the 10th school where Rooney has coached. It started with George Washington University (Washington D.C.) in 1997, followed by James Madison University (Harrisonburg, Va.) 1998-99, Old Dominion University (Norfolk, Va.) 2000-01, Stetson University (DeLand, Fla.) 2002-03, Notre Dame, Louisiana State University (Baton Rouge, La.) 2007-08, University of Central Florida (Orlando, Fla.) 2009-16, Alabama and the University of Houston 2018-21. He was an assistant to Mainieri at LSU and went to the College World Series with the Tigers in 2008 and head coach at UCF.
Rooney recruited or signed future Major League Baseball all-stars Justin Verlander (Old Dominion), D.J. LeMahieu (LSU) and A.J. Pollock (Notre Dame).
He coached six different schools to NCAA regional appearances (10 total bids): 2000 (Old Dominion), 2002-2003 (Stetson), 2004-2006 (Notre Dame), 2008 (LSU), 2011-2012 (UCF) and 2018 (Houston).
He was part of the coaching staff with six 40-win teams, including talented teams at Stetson, Notre Dame, LSU and UCF.
Rooney counts himself lucky to have worked with so many good coaches during his career. Three of them — Mainieri (1,505), Pete Dunn (1,312) and Tom Walter (790) — have 3,607 victories between them. Current Wake Forest head coach Walter was Rooney’s boss at George Washington. Dunn was in charge when Rooney was at Stetson.
A 30-day NCAA recruiting window is coming to a close soon.
While coach Chris Marx has been on the road for the Boilermakers much of the time and volunteer Daniel Furuto has been very engaged, Rooney has generally worked with pitchers on-campus during weekdays and hit the recruiting trail on weekends.
“We have devoted almost all of our (fall) efforts to junior college,” says Rooney. “The summer is really high school dominant along with the (NCAA) Transfer Portal.
Besides the Dayton game, Purdue has scheduled 3 p.m. open scrimmages for Oct. 12, 13, 14 and 18, the Black and Gold Series Oct. 20-22 and Halloween Bash at 6 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 27.

Terry Rooney. (Purdue University Photo)
Terry Rooney. (Purdue University Photo)

Ball State leads nation in RPI, Strength of Schedule

BY STEVE KRAH

http://www.IndianaRBI.com

Making memories against formidable foes.

That’s one thing Ball State University head baseball coach Rich Maloney considers when putting together the Cardinals schedule.

When the opportunity came to open the season at perennial powerhouse Arizona, Maloney jumped at it.

Kent State had planned to visit the Wildcats, but was not allowed to travel.

Maloney asked Ball State director of athletics Beth Goetz about taking the place of their Mid-American Conference partners.

“We’ve got a veteran team,” says Maloney of his sales pitch to Goetz. “They didn’t get to go last year (because of a pandemic-shortened 2020 season). They’re hungry. We wanted to be able to go somewhere and play.

“I try to schedule really good opponents and get the kids to have the opportunity for experiences that they can remember and go to places they’ll never forget.”

A couple of items sweetened the deal. Arizona offered a guarantee in case the series could not be played because of COVID-19.

Also, one of Maloney’s former players at Michigan — Derek Kerr — is an Executive Vice President and Chief Financial Officer at American Airlines and that just happens to be the carrier the Cards chose to take to Tucson.

“It was totally incidental,” says Maloney. “I called and asked Derek if there was any way he could help Coach out and get an extension in case we got hit with COVID and couldn’t make the trip to Arizona. He promised and that’s what gave Beth Goetz the green light to say it’s OK to schedule the flight.

“Our guys have done a nice job of staying in their bubble the best they can and we’ve been able to make these trips.”

With senior right-handed pitcher John Baker playing a major role, Ball State split four games Feb. 19-22 at Arizona, went 2-1 Feb. 26-27 against Bradley in Normal, Ill., and 2-1 March 5-7 at Kentucky for a 6-4 start to 2021 season.

Baker has made four appearances (three in relief) and is 1-0 with a 1.45 earned run average. Opponents are hitting .127 against him.

“He should have gone to pro ball a long time ago,” says Maloney of Baker. “He has amazing moxie. 

“He’s so underrated. He has the ‘It’ factor.”

Senior left-hander Lukas Jaksich (2-0), junior right-hander Chayce McDermott (1-0), junior Tyler Ruetschle (1-1) and sophomore right-hander Andre Oreselli (1-0) have accounted for the other mound victories.

In Sunday’s 4-3 win at UK, the Cards’ starting batting order featured junior second baseman Noah Navarro, freshman designated hitter Decker Scheffler, senior right fielder Ross Messina, junior first baseman Trenton Quartermaine, senior catcher Chase Sebby, junior left fielder Nick Powell, sophomore third baseman Ryan Peltier, sophomore shortstop Justin Conant and senior center fielder Aaron Simpson.

Those nine represent 521 games (with 465 starts) in their Ball State careers. 

Sebby, the 2019 MAC Defensive Player of the Year, has started 122 of his 130 games while Messina and Simpson have started all 83 times they’ve been in the lineup.

“We’ve got a great bunch,” says Maloney. “It’s a fun team to coach. They’re highly-competitive and they’re experienced.

“They’ve done some pretty incredible things in the first couple of weekends. I’m certainly happy for them. They’ve created some great memories. But we’ve got a long way to go. We can get a lot better than we are.”

Maloney says he is encouraged by the “grit” of his team, which has several players back — right-handed fireballers Drey Jameson and Kyle Nicolas being the notable exceptions — from that went 38-19 overall and 20-5 in the MAC while Central Michigan was having stronger year at 47-14 and 22-5.

“In any other year we would have been a (conference) champion,” says Maloney. 

WarrenNolan.com has Ball State No. 1 in both RPI and Strength of Schedule among NCAA Division I programs. Indiana State is No. 9 and No. 10, Notre Dame No. 20 and No. 35.

Maloney says high-profile wins can only help the Cards.

“Over the years we’ve been good enough to be in the NCAA tournament but because (the MAC) has been a one-team bid we just haven’t been able to get over the top in tournament play.

“The RPI — the power of the league — has held us back.”

When Maloney was head coach at Michigan, the Big Ten had bids for the conference champion and an at-large bid — something not enjoyed by the MAC.

“I talk about it a lot with the other coaches. There’s going when we can get two teams in. I don’t know if this is the year or not. Our conference is winning some games out of conference.

“The Mid-American Conference is at the highest level its been in a long, long time.”

For example: Kent State beat No. 2-ranked Mississippi State Saturday, March 6.

“The difference between David and Goliath isn’t really that big,” say Maloney.

Next up for Ball State is a three-game series March 12-14 at Old Dominion University in Norfolk, Va.

The Cardinals is scheduled to open the home portion of their season with a four-game set March 19-21 against MAC foe Western Michigan.