Jay Sirianni succeeds Matt Deggs as the 10th head baseball coach in Sam Houston State University history heading into the 2020 season.
You have been around this team for the last five years. Do you think that gives you and the program any kind of advantage over perhaps bringing in someone from the outside that does not know this group of guys and athletic department as well?
“Oh yeah. When you’ve been around here there is a certain culture we’re all used to. With 13 returning guys, they’re used to that culture as well and they’ve been able to help us get the 22 new guys all on the same page. Being here with the experience… of what Sam Houston State baseball is all about has been really easy since I’ve been here.”
In the last four years this program has seen remarkable success: three regular season conference titles and the NCAA Super Regional appearance in 2017. Do you feel any added pressure based on that as you take over? And how much do you think about those expectations?
“There is an expectation. Our entire athletic department is really used to winning, and that is a good pressure to have. I don’t really feel it as pressure. It is just another opportunity to compete. You come in and tackle it one day at a time, and you look up at the end and you see how you’ve done. We understand that there is an expectation, but our vision will never change and that’s to get to Omaha.”
What was your reaction when you first learned the news about Deggs leaving? What were the conversations that took place between then and now that led to you becoming the new head coach?
“It’s always a little uneasy. With [Tony Robichaux] passing at Lafayette, we were all really close to [him]. It was a tough summer needless to say. I think Matt [Deggs] had a calling to go back, and I totally respect that. My family and I love it here, and we just really didn’t have interest to go that way. Talking with Williams over the last four or five years, I feel like we had a connection and thankfully he gave me the opportunity to do this.”
You were the pitching coach the last few years before taking this new position as head coach, and your pitching staffs in recent years have been very good. Why is it so important to you to have that consistent presence on the mound?
“Pitching drives the train. If you don’t have pitching it gets uncomfortable in a hurry. I’m a pitching coach by nature. That’s what I’ll continue to be. I prefer that side of the ball. Our staff here is really good. With me now being the head coach… I have to make the final decisions. Not much is going to change as far as that goes. It’s a team effort from the staff standpoint. We’re only as good as the pitching.”
SHSU has a tough road schedule this year including games at the University of Texas, Louisiana Lafayette (to face Deggs and the Ragin’ Cajuns), TCU, Rice, Baylor and Oklahoma. Why is it good to have tough tests like that throughout the season?
“Anytime you get on the road and play quality competition it just toughens you up. Our team this year is going to be a work in progress. Anytime you can get on the road and get on the bus, you really start to come together more as a team and you just keep building. But we’re going to play a tough schedule every year. It’s kind of funny… I’ve done the schedule for five years here and so we had the [series against Louisiana Lafayette] worked out maybe two or three years ago and then this all happened and [Deggs and I] were sitting there joking about it. It’ll be a fun series, for sure.”
The Southland Conference Tournament is in a new location this season. It will be played at Whataburger Field in Corpus Christi May 20-23. How does the team feel about that?
“I don’t know how many of them have been there. I think anytime you get to play in a AA, AAA or big league ballpark it’s a pretty cool experience. We will actually finish the regular season at Corpus and we’ll probably come back and then turn around and go right back. Mission one is just keep playing good, get in the tournament and be ready to go. Be prepared the best we can to go win it.”
How would you sum up the mentality of this year’s team?
“These guys have been really steady from day one. The highs haven’t been real high and the lows haven’t been real low. That is always a really good place to start. Now, we need to get better just like every team in the country. But the way [our support staff] works… I think we’re going to be in a good position to keep building as the year goes along. I like our mentality. We keep coming together as a team. We’re getting there, but it’s going to be a work in progress.”