Duane Monlux is the Head Coach of the Bellevue University Bruins. The Bruins finished third at the NAIA Baseball National Championship last season His record at Bellevue over seven seasons is 256-97-3. He was selected as Coach of the Year by the North Star Athletic Association for the 2016 season. This interview took place on February 12, 2017, after the Bruins split a double-header with the University of Science and Arts of Oklahoma Drovers.
Bob Broughton, courtesyrunner.com: I hadn’t originally planned on talking to you about today’s games [vs. Science and Arts of Oklahoma], but USAO’s got some pitching.
Duane Monlux: Yeah, they do. They had some good arms in both games, and not only that, in the games they played previously. They have some really good starting pitchers, they have the ability to strike people out. They’re a good team. They hit the ball well today, and they’re going to beat a lot of teams, that’s for sure.
BB: We had a lot of balls bobbled by the infielders,but they came up with a couple of big defensive plays in the outfield when they needed them [by RF Randy Ventura]. I’m thinking specifically of the sixth inning of the first game. The right fielder robbed you guys of an extra-base hit, at a point when it really mattered.
DM: Well, we got it back to 4-2, and that would have changed that inning. That was a heck of a play. They played a clean game. They’re a very good baseball team, with good pitching, good hitting, and pretty good defense. They went through the whole nine-inning game with no errors, and they’re absolutely a World Series-caliber team.
BB: Bellevue has established itself as one of the best teams in the country. What do you have to say about making another trip to the National Championship tournament this year?
DM: Well, obviously, we would love to make another trip, but there’s a lot of baseball to be played, so we’re just trying to find ourself now. We have a lot of new faces, and there’s a lot of things we’ve got to work on. Ten errors in four games, that’s not World Series caliber at all. We’ve got a ton of work to do, and we’re just happy to finally get outside and get a chance to play; track a ball, see a pitcher live so we’re hitting it, field ground balls off of an infield, so there’s a lot work we have to do. I think everybody has a goal right now of playing deep into the post-season, but there’s a lot of teams and a lot of baseball to be played yet.
BB: Now, I wanted to ask you about last year’s World Series, specifically about the game against Lewis-Clark State. What recollections do you have?
DM: We were playing against the home team at night, with the crowd, and what was at stake at the time. The game was back and forth, there was scoring in every inning but one, I believe. When one of two teams score, there’s constant action going on, a couple of huge defensive plays... The atmosphere is what I remember the most, and just what was on the line. When L-C plays at home, there’s a heck of an atmosphere, a heck of a crowd, the night game there, it was just a fantastic experience.
BB: The [semifinal] game against Faulkner...
DM: There was a lot at stake, to get to the national title game. We hung in there for a while, pulled it to 6-5 going into the sixth, and just ran out of gas. The bullpen was a little bit taxed at that point. They brought in their lefty [Ivan Pelaez] that kind of took the bat out of our hands the last few innings, and we just kind of ran out of gas, which a lot of teams do at that point of the season, and deep into a tournament, your bullpen gets used more than they’re probably used to. That was the spot that we were in, and just came up a little bit short.
BB: Did you know that Faulkner has started the season 7-0?
DM: Yeah, and they’ve played some pretty good teams. Three ranked teams, so they’re going to be just as good as they’ve been, obviously. They’re one of the top established programs in the country, so they’re going to continue to be very good. There’s a lot of good teams right now playing some good baseball, but it’s early for everybody now, even some of the northern teams. They’re trying to get outside and do some things. Every team now, this early, is just trying to find themselves, find out what they’re good and bad at, and what they need to work on. We’re no different, they’re no different, than any other team. We’re just glad to be out playing baseball.
BB: Bellevue has a long history of putting good teams on the field. One thing I’ve noticed, over the years, is you’ve gotten a lot of players out of the Pacific Northwest and out of the community colleges.
DM: Something that we’ve been able to do, we’ve gotten some pretty good players, especially from the NWAC [Northwest Athletic Conference]. It’s a league that we recruit pretty hard, had good success. The pitchers that threw that second game for us were both NWAC kids. Colten Barnes [Pierce College] and Max Dwyer [Shoreline CC] who came in and got the save. Our catcher [Jake Browne, Walla Walla CC]. We've had some really good players from there, and it’s been a spot that’s been really good for us recruiting-wise. The West Coast in general, California and the Pacific Northwest, has been a good area for us.
BB: And you’ve got a couple of foreign players on the team, too. You’ve got one Canadian...
DM: A Canadian[LHP Dylan Thorp], an Australian[OF John King], and a Venezuelan [IF Diego Iribarren]. We’ve got guys from all over the place, all over the country, and a few different countries, too.
BB: What brings these guys to Bellevue? What are Bellevue’s assets?
DM: Hopefully, the tradition of the baseball program is one that helps, and one thing that’s nice, too, is we have low tuition. That helps a lot of these kids, to make it work financially as well. So, I think tradition, having a good relationship the kids, and how we recruit them, and doing our research on the guys, and then, like I said, the low cost of school is a major help for us.
BB: Is there anything in particular that Bellevue is known for academically?
DM: We’re a business school. We have a lot of majors, but that’s our main one. That’s what Bellevue was founded on, as a business school. That’s been the backbone of our academics, but we have 40-some majors.