WKU Baseball Preview 4 of 4: Blake Allen Interview


For those who follow WKU baseball at all know a good portion of this year’s coaching staff. Not just Matt Myers, who enters his 7th season on the Hill and 3rd at the helm, but former players and Volunteer Assistant Casey Dykes along with Undergraduate Assistant Devin Kelly as well. However, there are two other pieces to this Hilltopper coaching staff – Assistant Coach Brendan Dougherty and Assistant Coach Blake Allen -the latter of which was kind enough to sit down with me for an interview to help preview the season from an inside perspective.

Coach Allen has been on the Hill for 6 years, and, after it was announced on Media Day Tuesday that Coach Myers will fully step away from pitching-coach duties, will head this year’s strong pitching staff, after spending the past few years working with catchers. Coach Allen also plays a big hand in Tops recruiting. There is a lot of optimism around the program this year, as there usually is at the beginning of the season, but more so this season than in the past. Coach Allen was kind enough to sit with me and chat about what you’ll see on the diamond from WKU.

Wave The Red Towel: Last season, about three-fourth’s of the way through, you’re leading the conference, probably on the verge of a postseason birth, and then things don’t go your way. So, if I asked you to put last season in a nutshell, what would you say?
Coach Allen: I’d say we just didn’t finish the season. I can’t put a finger on exactly what went wrong, so to speak, but we didn’t get it done in the back end. Obviously, the opponents we played at the end were pretty solid, so that probably had a lot to do with it as well.

Q: How did Coach Myers’ second year as head coach compare to his first season here on the Hill?
A: Well, it’s not his first time as a head coach, he was a head coach at Ashville, so he’s been through this before. But here on his second year here on the Hill, I think with anything it’s just able to slow it down a little better, and being able to manage and over-see the entire program as a whole, and obviously with him trusting me to do pitching this year, it’s just another step in the transition phase of the whole coaching balance, which is what he talks about a lot, and I think we have a lot more balance now. With experience, it’s just getting better at your craft.

Q: Is him (Myers) taking a step back from the pitching side of things going to change anything drastically, or is it just a minor detail that shouldn’t really change the complexion of the team?
A: It wont change the complexion, it’ll change him being able to manage the entire team – from an offensive side, from a defensive side, and a pitching side – and really just take charge as a head coach. I spent 5 years with him with doing the catches, and we are just rolling with his plan. He’s had a lot of success here with that.

Q: What’s the one thing you want to improve on from last year to this year?
A: I want to eliminate our walks from a pitching side. I want to be able to trust our defense more. We have a really, really good defense, we have a really nice shortstop – Scott Wilcox will play second and [Cody] Wofford will play short – and Cody Wofford is a great defender, so we are going to try to get as many balls hit to him and Thomas Peter and whoever’s playing thirdbase if possible.

Q: You’ve got four local kids on the team this year (Ben Morrison, Ty Downing, Jackson Sowell, Josh Bartley). Is in state – and I guess specifically in area – recruiting becoming a more emphasis, or are those guys being here just happy circumstance?
A: I think it’s a combination of both. I think on our roster you’re going to see 19 Kentucky kids, and obviously with the local guys, it’s definitely an emphasis. If you’ve got kids in your backyard who can play, you got to get them. And obviously, trying to win the state battle to get some of these kids is priority number 1.

Q: What’s it going to be like not to have Andrew Edwards and Ryan Huck on the squad this year?
A: Well, obviously you lose your best arm from last year numbers wise, and in the league. I think he had the most wins of any Sun Belt Conference pitcher. And obviously with Huck, his numbers were unbelievable. You don’t necessarily try to replace those guys, you just hope the young guys are a year better, and with the addition of some of these JUCO guys, you hope you’re more balanced in pitching and hitting.

Q: You have those two guys leaving the field, but you have guys like Devin Kelly and Casey Dykes staying with the program, what are they going to bring from a coaching standpoint?
A: It was great for Devin to just step right in and take over the catching-coaching position. I had a chance to spend two years with him, and vice versa, and I really trust him and what his plan is, it’s just like my plan being under Coach Myers for 5 seasons, so it was an easy transition. I trust Devin to put the plan I had in place when he was a player here to kind of take that and run with it. And Dykes played on some really good teams, and he’s a winner. He brings a great disposition about him, he’s a positive kid and the guys really like him.

Q: Tough schedule this year. Three SEC teams with Vanderbilt, Georgia and Kentucky, playing Louisville again, playing Illinois – what went into the mindset of scheduling such a tough schedule?
A: Well, I think Coach Myers, from the day he took over as our head coach, that was one of his big emphasis was to try to play the toughest schedule possible. To get these guys ready for ultimately, win a Sun Belt Conference championship and get these guys to a regional. You’re not going to do that by playing weak teams. You need to play the best in order to get your team prepared for those situations late in the season.

Q: What non-conference game are you most looking forward to?
A: I can’t pick out one, to be honest with you. I think they’re all as equally important as the next, and that’s what Coach Myers always talks about – game to game. The game you’re playing is the most important one.

Q: I spoke with Coach Myers before the season last year, and he said that when the guys play schools like Kentucky and Louisville, they don’t see it as “little brother vs. big brother.” They’re on an equal playing field. Do you think that’s something their going to take with them as they play the Vanderbilt’s and the Georgia’s and the other regional teams?
A: It’s easy to get up for those games. It’s a lot easier to get your team prepared for the Vanderbilt’s, the Louisville’s, Kentucky, because the motivation is going to be there. Sometimes, it’s the teams who aren’t the Kentucky’s, the Louisville’s, the Vanderbilt’s, it’s a little tougher to get them to play. All these kids who are in-state, they’ve played against a lot of those guys on Kentucky’s roster and on Louisville’s roster and we recruit a lot of those kids. So, we don’t look at them as any huge monster that can’t be beaten, and we’ve proven that over the past few years.

Q: Of the guys from last year’s roster, who are you most excited to have back and who will have the biggest impact?
A: I don’t know if I can say one guy. I’m really excited about where Justin Hageman‘s mindset is right now on the mound, and that’s why he’s going to start Friday night. I think Regan Flaherty and Scott Wilcox are going to have a great year, all those guys. I think everyone’s a year better, I think there’s some motivation that they’re all going to play with a chip on their shoulder, at least that’s what they’ve done to this point. I think if you can find a cause greater than yourself to play for, I think we have that right now. It’s got a chance to be a special season.

Q: Which one of the newcomers, whether he be a freshman or a JUCO transfer, are you most looking forward to having and think will make the biggest impact?
A: Cody Wofford, our shortstop, is going to be the guy. He can really play defense, he has a lot of energy, he’s going to hit near the top of the order. He’s a table setter, he’s just a baseball player – you’re going to like watching him play. On the pitching side, we have a lot of guys who are a year better, we have some freshman who did really well in the fall and preseason, and a couple of JUCO guys sprinkled in there, and we are happy with all those guys.

Q: What, in your eyes, is the strong position on the team right now?
A: I think our defense right now. Just our entire defense – the unit we are going to put out there day one is going to be defense. Coach Myers has been stressing that all preseason and all fall. It’s going to be trying to get guys to hit balls early in the count so our guys can make plays. Our defense is our strong point for this year.

Thank you to Coach Allen for taking time out of his busy schedule leading up to the season to talk to us.

Hard to believe, but it’s 100% true – WKU opens their baseball season in under 24 hours against Southern Illinois.

Stand up and cheers.