Weekly Coach Rodolph Interview :: 03/18/08 will be conducting weekly interviews with Aggie women's softball head coach Kathy Rodolph throughout the 2008 season as the Aggies take aim at the WAC title. In this week's interview Coach Rodolph recaps last week's games against UTEP, the San Diego State tournament and gives analysis on her team's play through the end of the non-conference tournament play. Can you talk a little bit about the doubleheader down in El Paso last Wednesday? You fell 3-0 in the first game and 6-5 in nine innings in the second game.
Kathy Rodolph: Honestly, I feel like we were a little bit shaky. UTEP played well, they just absolutely outplayed us. We were a little rocky and had opportunities but we just could not get our feet underneath us to come through. Can you talk about the San Diego Tournament?
KR: I was a little bit disappointed in the Long Beach State game, I know they're in the Top 20 but Kim was pitching a great game but then hung a pitch on the outside that allowed them to score three runs. I feel like if you take that one pitch away then it's a totally different ball game. I absolutely respect Long Beach and their talent, I just feel like that was a closer ball game than the score indicated. That pitch was that was hung, was late in the fifth or sixth inning.

Then San Diego State, they're a legit Top 20 team, pitching, fielding, hitting, we were never in the ball game with them. The game against Iowa State, you won 4-2. This was the second time you had faced them. In the first game they got a big six run second inning that was the difference in the game and when we talked last week you talked about wanting Iowa State to see the real NMSU softball team the second time around and it looks like they did.
KR: I felt a lot better because we played solid defense and held our own in the circle and came through with some clutch hits. I definitely feel like that was a lot more representative of the two ball clubs than the first time around. The first time we met them we just started throwing the ball around and totally got out of sync. I was excited to have an opportunity to play them again. In the last game you faced San Diego and had a big five run inning in the eighth to win that game.
KR: What I liked about that is, we had been on the other end of that quite a few times where we had the ballgame and then coughed it up due to pressure and I felt like Colleen Kimbro got up as a senior, led us off in the top of the eight with a solid hit and then we were able to crack it open and capitalize on it and keep coming and so it was nice to be on the other end of that. You guys are all done with your tournament play, how would you assess your team's performance to this point relative to where you'd hoped they be? You're 15-19 overall and have played some incredibly tough competition but have been in nearly every game you played.
KR: We had kind of a state of the union meeting with the team and recapped the preseason prior to going into conference going into Hawai'i next Monday. I feel like we've been put into the different situations that we needed to, to figure out how to handle the pressure and be poised and confident in late innings. We had a great day of practice yesterday. We gave the kids specific things they needed to bring to us this week when we play Loyola Marymount and when we play Hawai'i so that we have an opportunity to come out on top. What are you looking to get out of the Loyola game before heading to Hawai'i to open conference play?
KR: Loyola is a strong ballclub, very fundamentally sound, solid pitching. I believe that their top pitcher is a down-zone pitcher and we faced her last year at our tournament here. That'll be a good opportunity for us to see a good down-zone pitcher before seeing Kate Robinson of Hawai'i. She's an outstanding drop-ball, drop-curve, backdoor-curve type pitcher. So hopefully that game will get us even more prepared for the Hawai'i series. You came into the season with a whole bunch of new freshmen playing, how do you think they've adjusted to playing at the Division I level?
KR: I think at the beginning when we got into the heart of the preseason and playing al those Top 25 teams back to back, it absolutely rocked them to the core and shook their confidence and made them question whether they had the courage or the ability to at the level that we're wanting to play at. I feel like they're starting to come out of that now and understanding that the real big difference between the elite Top 25 and the mid-majors is playing poised and confident under pressure. They're starting to understand that if you stick to the gameplan instead of panicking, good things will happen. You open up the conference season at Hawai'i, another ranked team. What lessons has your team learned through the tough non-conference that your team can take into the conference portion of the season?
KR: I'm hoping that we won't be intimidated by Hawai'i or their ranking and we'll allow the game to flow to decide the outcome instead of being beat by the rankings before you even start the game. Hawai'i is an outstanding team, they have great pitching, they absolutely swing the bats well. It'll take everything we have collectively as a team to go in there and battle them on their home field. I think from the tough preseason, we're more prepared than we would have been if we had played a softer preseason schedule. Can you talk about your team's defense and having all the young players in the infield and how have they performed thus far?
KR: There have been times, the Iowa State game sticks in my mind and the Arizona game sticks in my mind, to where they have been flustered. But then when I think about playing Oregon and playing Ohio State and 2-0 against Oregon and 3-1 against Ohio State, we absolutely held our own and played good solid defense and made somebody beat us. We weren't going to give the game away and that's what I was hoping to accomplish by the tough schedule. They're starting to understand that if they play as a unit and everybody sticks to the gameplan, gets their coverages and make sure we're backing up on every play, great things can happen. Before the beginning of the season you found out that you'd be without your outstanding catcher Ashley Roszkos, you've had a couple young players step in, how have they done filling in for her?
KR: It's hard to replace a senior All-Regional player and that's hurt us tremendously this year. But with that said, Brittany Clifton has done a great as a freshman. She's had big shoes to fill and has really had to learn the Division I game by trial and error and firefighting so I'm very proud of Britt and the job she's done. Last weekend we moved Ali Baumhover behind the plate and she was able to throw out the first baserunner that attempted to steal on her, very calm and poised back there and I feel like she did a great job for us. Can you talk about your pitching staff, they've done a really good job against these top-tier caliber teams that you've played in the non-conference.
KR: Kim Watson is definitely improved with her experience over the last two years. She's able to throw the ball to all zones and vary her speeds. Most importantly she's learned to keep composure in the circle when things start to get tight and it really starts to get tough in the late innings. Kim's understanding how to stay poised under pressure and I'm real proud of her.

Vanessa Fitzgerald is starting to come back around and help us a lot and getting great movement. She's starting to help eliminate some of the walks she was giving up early in the season.

Sammie Dillard has really come on and sparked us, been able to come in in closing type situations and hold somebody with our defense backing her up.