NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Jeff Forehand admits it is difficult to look at Friday night’s game with Vanderbilt as just another game.
But as his Lipscomb Bisons head into the NCAA Regional at 7:05 at Hawkins Field against the defending NCAA National Champions, he has no plans for any sound or light show or any great orations to spur on his team.
“I don’t know if there is any formula or potion that is different for tournament games,” Forehand said. “We have talked about a lot of things and how far this program has come. We don’t want to let this game be any bigger than it already is.
“But they need to understand that the game is the same. We have the same goals and the same strategy we have in every game whether we are playing intra-squad, North Florida or Vandy. Going rah, rah and talking about winning one for the Gipper is not what we are all about.”
Forehand draws from several sources for his coaching philosophy. His father, Fred, was a high school coaching legend in Nashville. He played for Dave Whitten at Belmont. He talks on a regular basis with Jim McGuire, the coach at Middle Tennessee; Matt Bragga at Tennessee Tech; Dave Jarvis at Belmont and Trevecca’s Ryan Schmalz.
He goes back to his NAIA days at Trevecca where he competed against veteran Cumberland University coach Woody Hunt.
“Every team coach Hunt has ever had, no matter if they were great during the regular season or not great in the regular season, has always played well at the end of the season,” Forehand said. “He has inspired me to do some things.”
Ironically, he also often picks the brain of Vanderbilt coach Tim Corbin.
“We all learn from each other,” Forehand said. “I got some of the drills that we do from Tim by watching what they do. I sat in Tim’s office years ago and frantically took notes on what he had to say. The way we run batting practice is something I changed because of him.
“We all keep learning. Everything I have learned I have stolen from someone else. When you play the best you learn from those guys. Our fraternity is pretty special. We are friends first and competitors second.”
Forehand usually finds a way to take praise aimed at him and deflect it in the direction of others.
“This year I have to give a lot of credit to the players,” Forehand said. “We have an older bunch. We have seniors who have been around here for a long time and we have added some junior college players who have really bought in to what we are doing.
“In everything that we do we put the players first. We are thinking about them all the time. We aren’t coddling them, but we are mindful they have more things going on than just baseball. They have life, school and families. Sometimes as coaches we get tunnel vision. We try to be respectful of all the things they are doing.”
He points to the culture of the team, something he also saw back in 2008 when the Bisons made their first NCAA trip to Athens, Georgia and upset host Georgia in the first game.
“I look at that team with Caleb Joseph, Blake Bratcher, Rex Brothers, Ben Williams, Brandon Cadavid and Alan Bolden,” Forehand said. “There was something burning in them to make them want to do it.
“I wouldn’t say I am doing anything different. Not to be too cliché’ but it is a will to win type of thing with our team this year more than what I might be doing. I have to give credit to the older guys for the culture they have developed.”
Forehand always wants to be in the NCAA Regionals, but he especially wanted it this year for seniors Grant Massey, Ian Martinez-McGraw, Nick Andros, Jonathan Allison, Josh Lee, Mike Korte, Will Blalock, Tyson Ashcraft, Jason Ziegler and Griffin Moore
“It is because of the kind of people they are,” Forehand said. “We talk about wanting a relationship between the coaches and the players. Not that I haven’t gotten close to teams in the past, but the relationship I have with this group and that the coaching staff has with this group is second to none.
“One of the things I learned from my Dad is that it is all about relationships. I probably do it different than some people. It all goes back to the relationship and the rapport you have with players and hoping that gets them excited about wanting to do well not only for themselves but as part of the team atmosphere. Win, lose or draw this group is pretty special.”