March 30, 2009


Nine Innings with Max Navalinski

By Phil Stanton Co-Founder


The Dayton Flyers are tied with Temple for the top spot in the Atlantic 10 with 6-0 conference marks. Dayton swept a three-game series this past weekend from preseason favorite Charlotte.


One of the top contributors for the Flyers is senior outfielder Max Navalinski. The Kirkland, Wash., native is batting .329 with 23 hits, four doubles, two homers, 13 runs and 11 RBI. His on-base percentage is .397 and he is 4 for 6 on stolen-base attempts.


The Flyers are 15-10 this season, including 11-4 in home contests.


Navalinski recently took time to answer our questions.


First Inning – What does it mean for Dayton to sweep A-10 favorite Charlotte?
We also swept them in 2006, which was the last time we made the A-10 tournament, finishing third in the conference. It is a benchmark for our team to know exactly how we stack up with the best of the A-10 and we can use a sweep like this to build up a great deal of momentum continuing on with the gauntlet that is A-10 conference play. (We are at Rhode Island and Richmond the next two weeks which have typically been perennial powers) Since my freshman year in 2006, we are 7-2 against Charlotte and 6-0 when they have come to our house.

Second Inning – What was the key in Sunday's comeback win?
Sunday's turning point was when our leadoff hitter, Jake Spaeth, hit a grand slam to even the game after being down 8-2 early on. From there, we took the momentum and never looked back. Freshman Cameron Hobson threw a solid 4.1, striking out 10 Charlotte batters he faced and allowing one unearned run and really breaking their spirit. We have also adopted the Miami Hurricanes' rally dance, which we do as a team in the dugout in the 7th inning. It is 2 for 2 so far this year, not to jinx it.

Third Inning – How strong is the Flyer offense?
Having faith in our team offense has been the key to our season. Last year, our pitching staff was lights out and our offense struggled at times. Coach Vittorio preaches to us that pitching and defense win championships, and while it does in tournament play, our team offense is what has carried us up to this point in the season and I believe will continue to do so throughout the year. This year, the offensive players have put an emphasis on carrying the team with quality at-bats and it has been a new player stepping up in each crucial moment. We have 11 or 12 guys who are capable of filling a role and contributing when they get their opportunity to do so.

Fourth Inning – How strong has the pitching been in the first six conference games?
Our pitching staff has quietly put together quality outings through the first six conference games. Our ace, Burny Mitchem, was virtually unhittable early this year. Another freshman, Mike Hauschild, has thrown extremely well. Quinn Haselhorst has been consistent in quality appearances and always guarantees us a chance to win games. The bullpen has been solid in conference as well, getting starters out of jams and finishing off games.

Fifth Inning – What do the Flyers have to do the rest of the season to continue their
We have to stay on an even keel. Although we would love to go undefeated in conference play, it is not indicative of the game of baseball. We are going to have bad days, we just have to keep finding ways to win within those bad days and really believe in one another to get the job done, as we have done thus far. This summer I played in the Southern Collegiate Baseball League for the Tennessee Tornado and we won both the league and tournament championship. We had just about every kind of personality and talent level, much like we do here at Dayton, but I attribute the reason we were so successful this summer as a team is because we all had confidence that someway, somehow, we would find a way to end up on top. The same concept applies at Dayton.

Sixth Inning – How strange was it to play three home games in three different locations the A-10 opening weekend against St. Bonaventure?
It was definitely a different experience. With college basketball's NCAA Tournament first and second rounds being held at UD Arena, we had to move our Friday and Sunday games to alternate locations. It basically felt like we were on the road because of the unfamiliar surroundings (Friday was at Wittenberg College) and that we had absolutely no fans other than parents at our games on those days.

Seventh Inning – What brought you from the state of Washington to Dayton?
The summer going into my senior year of high school, I was picked up to play with a summer team for a tournament at the end of the summer in San Diego. Their coach was Craig Bruce, who then came to Dayton as an assistant in the 2005 season. I had a great tournament, both pitching and offensively, and when we were in the terminal waiting to board the plane, he told me that he was going to recruit me to play at Dayton. Long story short, Dayton was my best option to both play Division I baseball straight out of high school and receive an education at a four-year school. I also saw it as a challenge to go somewhere 2,000+ miles away from home and not have any knowledge about where I was going or knowing anyone there.

Eighth Inning – What would it mean to you for UD to make the NCAA Tournament this season?

To make the NCAA Tournament this year would fulfill four years of hard work at the University of Dayton. The group of seniors comes from a wide range of places around the country for the same primary purpose and that is to get to a regional. Also, I believe it would be the first time the UD baseball team would have made it to the NCAA Tournament, which would be something to hold on to for the rest of our lives. Personally, it has been a journey full of ups, downs, ins and outs, and to make the NCAA Tournament in my final year here would be the icing on the cake.

Ninth Inning – You are a sports management major. What do you hope to do after your baseball career is over?
First and foremost, I hope to continue my baseball career after this season, but I have also come to the realization that it has to end at some point. As a sport management major, I feel there is a wide variety of options for me within the world of sports after baseball is over. Currently, I have applied to a number of internships, mainly back home in Seattle. Within the sports industry, I am interested in sports media, sports radio and aspects of how sports drive the business world. My dream job(s) include working in the front office of the Seattle Mariners, ESPN, or a job in sports radio, debating hotly-contested topics with the likes of Skip Bayless.

Extra Innings – What is your favorite A-10 road trip?
I believe I have made it to every A-10 site during my time here, with the exception of Charlotte. I enjoy whenever we travel to a big city, because I enjoy all of the types of personalities that are encountered in major cities in the East, such as New York (Fordham), Philadelphia (Saint Joseph's, La Salle, Temple), Pittsburgh (Duquesne), and Boston (UMass). My favorite trip, though, would have to be going to St. Louis. It is our only trip west, we get to stay across the street from New Busch Stadium, the city is not too crowded, they have great restaurants and other attractions, and it is also one of the only trips for us that isn't over seven hours, with Xavier (Cincinnati) being just about the only other one.