Dr. Mike Marshall's Pitching Coach Services

May 04, 1985 St. Petersburg Times

Hints of Future Success Temper Frustrations of a Losing Season
St. Petersburg Times
May 4, 1985
by Dave Dye

SAINT LEO, FL:  Item.  For the first time in a decade, the Saint Leo College baseball team will finish with a losing record.

From viewing that statement alone, it would be easy to interpret Mike Marshall's first season of coaching as a failure.

Nothing could be further from the truth.

Amidst the horrible skid experienced by Saint Leo in the second half of the season has come definite hints of future success.

One of those occurred Wednesday afternoon when the Monarchs, winners of only one of their previous 16 games, surprised Florida Southern, rated No. 1 in Division II and champions of the Sunshine State Conference.

A 10-6 Saint Leo victory sufficiently proved that Marshall's players had done anything but quit on their coach, the former Cy Young Award winning relief specialist of the Los Angeles Dodgers, and his unorthodox techniques.  They believe in the man.

"I guess a victory like that tends to tell the guys that the way we're doing things here is the way to go," Marshall said.  "They realize that the way we try to get our pitchers to keep an inning under control, the way we swing the bat, the alignments we use for the fielders and all the other things we do differently, work for you and are the best ways to play the game of baseball.  I really don't think they ever doubted me, but for most people the bottom line is winning.  That's the best evidence.  So this helped."

A little over a month ago, Saint Leo had rolled off its 12th victory in succession, raising its overall record to 18-7-2.  All was moving along swiftly.

Then, suddenly, as if they ran into a brick wall, the Monarchs couldn't buy a victory.  Once the SSC season began, they went from March 30 to April 28 without winning, a string of 14 losses.

Injuries were a factor, especially shortstop Bobby White's broken thumb, but as senior first baseman Phil Ross pointed out, "We were playing a lot of Northern teams early in the year and they hadn't been playing for long and a lot of them were pretty weak.  The teams in our league play more and are much stronger.

"With a club made up predominately of freshmen and sophomores--none of which Marshall even recruited himself since he wasn't hired until last July--following a tough year of graduation, the young Monarchs couldn't handle the day-in and day-out pressures that preside in conference play.

Still, through it all, Ross stood out, epitomizing what Marshall is attempting to accomplish at Saint Leo.  Ross is that other hint of progress.

A year ago, he hit .313 with eight home runs, but was known to be a moody player with somewhat of a slow bat.

Entering Thursday's season finale against Eckard--which Saint Leo lost 13-5--Ross was hitting .484 with 21 homers and 88 RBI this year.

The left-handed slugger always possessed some natural ability, but when combined with the new compact swing he learned from Marshall, Ross turned into a small-college superstar.

"What Mike has done with Ross is amazing," said Saint Leo athletic director Norm Kaye, a former baseball coach himself.  "I had talked with scouts who said his swing just wasn't quick enough, so he probably wouldn't be drafted.  Now look.  Teams won't even pitch to him, and it's obvious that after hitting .480 that Ross is going to be drafted.  I'm sold on Mike Marshall."

Said Ross, "He's the difference.  Coach Marshall deserves a lot better than this team's record (22-25-2).  I'm certain this program is going to do great things in the next couple of years."

Between the upset of Florida Southern and Ross' incredible improvement, Dr. Mike Marshall, despite the losing record, has dropped enough promising marks on his new program to deserve such optimism.

"Next season, when these guys have a year of these techniques under them," Marshall said, "I expect to see a few more Phil Ross-types.  Maybe not all of the home runs because that was his own strength, but you'll see the hard line drives more and more.  Some of them were just too young to catch on as quickly as Phil did.

"Once they get to where the technique comes naturally and all they have to worry is about is the pitcher throwing the ball, it's going to be a lot easier.  I think you'll see more of that next year."

Losing season, huh?  Then it says here that Saint Leo accomplished more in losing than it did in winning 46 last season.  It's just going to take a year or two to become apparent.

Happy Pitching Everybody

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