|Dr. Mike Marshall's Pitching Coach Services|
February 07, 1986 St. Petersburg Times
St. Petersburg Times
by Rick Stroud
February 7, 1986
SAINT LEO, FL:  The Saint Leo College baseball team had a suspect defense last season, but in the defense's defense, it must be noted that the 1985 Monarchs returned just two players with experience.
After committing 141 errors and suffering key injuries, coach Mike Marshall's club did well to finish 22-26 a year ago.
"We couldn't play any defense," said Marshall, the former National League Cy Young Award winner who took over the Saint Leo program last season.  "Then, at one point, when we were becoming a pretty decent club, we lost our shortstop, centerfielder and leftfielder.  That destroyed us."
Those three starters were lost in the same game.  So after a 19-7 start, Saint Leo limped home by dropping 19 of its last 22 games.
Marshall has taken measures to secure the Monarchs' defense this season, moving shortstop Joe Spagnuolo from the outfield to shortstop.  "He's been a shortstop all his life," says Marshall of Spagnuolo.  "Just never played it."
Despite the graduation loss of All-America slugger Phil Ross, 14 lettermen will return for Saint Leo when the Monarchs host Barry College in the season opener today at 3 p.m.
"Last season, it was Phil Ross and best wishes," Marshall says, "but I have reason to expect us to be a more solid ballclub now.  At least it'd take a hell of a lot of injuries to decimate us this year."
Among the proven players Saint Leo can count on this season is catcher Clyff Champion, whose .389 average was lost somewhere in the dreamy numbers (.484 average, 22 HRs, 90 RBI) Ross produced a year ago.  Senior first baseman Mike Henriquez (.327) and second baseman Cisco Johnson (.327) should provide some punch, while sophomore leftfielder Greg Sims (.202) has made strides at the plate since last season.
"He just gets better and better," Marshall says of Sims, "By leaps and bounds.
Sophomore lefty Brent Honeywell (1-1 in '84), and John Corsi, a senior righthander who led the club in starts with 11 are the only returning pitchers who worked more than 30 innings last season.
"Pitching-wise, it takes about a year to get used to my system," says Marshall, who has a Ph.D. in kinesiology (the physics and physiology of human movement) and applies that knowledge to improving his pitching staff.  "There's no question I teach far more than any pro team will teach.  But once you get it down, you can do things with a baseball you never thought possible."
"What I learned last season about all the strategies I thought would work, after all the observations I made in pro ball and adding a lot of things to them, was that those strategies really did work.  The style of play I want is functional play, and I was surprised it's not beyond the reach of college ballplayers--even average players.  So now I'm able to start trying more and more things within the limits of my team."
Hopefully for the Monarchs, all that will add up to more than 22 wins this season.
Saint Leo will be tested early.  After the opener with Barry, the Monarchs continue their seven-game homestand with a weekend series against Florida Atlantic, the No. 3 ranked Division II club in the national last season.
After those games, Saint Leo can look forward to a grueling 10-game road swing, including two Sunshine State Conference games against St. Thomas.