bleedCrimson.net will be conducting weekly interviews with Aggie baseball head coach Rocky Ward throughout the 2008 season as the Aggies open their third season in the WAC. In part two of this week's interview Coach Ward talks about trying to win four games in a row and the excitement level of his club right now.
bleedCrimson.net: The Aggies swept Sacramento State earlier in the season giving you four conference wins in three days, with a similar setup of needing to win four games in four days does that give your team any kind of mental advantage?
Rocky Ward: I hadn't thought of it that way. It's pretty subconscious but I think it does. I know that when we won the Sun Belt tournament we had swept Arkansas State for our first sweep in conference, maybe in team history. So yeah, I think there's a little advantage to that but at the same time people always say that, especially in baseball because the game finds a way of evening itself out just the way it's played, it's hard to beat a team x number of times in a season. Yet, I'd much rather be on the team who had won four in a row playing in the fifth game than the team that had lost four in a row and waiting for baseball to turn around and help them.
Dad when he used to talk to us at Oklahoma State he always talked about the season in three parts. He talked about the preseason or the non-conference schedule as kind of a learning time and a time where you could make a few more mistakes and you could forgive yourself a little easier if you lost a game during that period. Then obviously the second season was the conference regular season and you have to play well during that period of time. We were clearly expected to win the conference title. I think my teams won the 13th, 14th and 15th straight and so there were high expectations. Then he would talk about the third season being the playoffs and how different they were and you had to be playing at the top of your game and some mistakes that may have been acceptable early in the year are no longer acceptable. You have no reason, you've made your mistakes, you've learned from your mistakes and now it's time to play real clean baseball. So I don't know that there's all that much you can pull from the regular season that fits into the right slot. I think most of what's important to what we've done with the psyche of the ballclub is we've talked to them consistently about keeping their eyes on the prize and the prize is winning four games in Ruston, LA and going to a regional. And whatever happens along the way make sure you do anything and everything you can do to give yourself an opportunity to win four games in a row and go to a regional. To this point we've reached those goals and now we're a few days away from taking a shot at that four game run.
bc.net: This being the club's first tournament appearance since joining the WAC what is the excitement level of your ballclub right now?
RW: I think overall I'm really kind of pleased with how relaxed they've been. A little bit irritated this weekend during the series about that level of relaxation because we had games to play and I think it cost us one of those games. The one advantage I've always felt like I would have as a coach and I feel like I have right now is that I've been to Omaha. I grew up as a kid there, I played there, dad's time and experience there, this time of year as a staff we're very comfortable with it and I think that transcends to the players. I think it's the sole reason that we walked into the first qualified conference tournament in school history in 2002 and won it, because we had the experience. None of the kids had it, the program hadn't. But we were both very comfortable in those settings.
So I think that our level of excitement is appropriate. I think they're proud of what they've accomplished. They know, these kids who are playing for me know the difficulty we've had the last two years even though a lot of those kids weren't part of it. A lot of these guys are new. There are only a couple of guys, Connor, Quade, McFadden, Sturdevant, who were on the club for the last conference tournament. They know how very well how important this is. They've seen the transition, they know why this happened, they know how important it is to me and I sure as heck know how important it is to those guys. Those four or five guys who were with me four years ago for the last qualified tournament, they get it. They have the full perspective. I think the new players are keenly aware of that as well. But they don't have to carry the baggage of the last couple of years with them and I think that's a big advantage. Auten and Marquez and you can go on and on, half my starting ballclub, they feel like they had a significant impact in a positive way to getting there. Right now I think my ballclub understands very clearly where we are. We've reached the goals that we set at the beginning of the year.
bc.net: What has the reaction among the league's coaches to the news about Tanner Scheppers from Fresno State being out?
RW: I don't think anyone is willing to come out too much publicly and make any direct statements, we all know, I have compassion for Batesole and what it does to his team and I think that some people believe that impacted how they performed at Sacramento. But on the other side I think that most of us behind closed doors think that it opened the tournament wide open. I think that it took away the one big advantage. I think from the team standpoint that everybody feels like it makes the tournament wide open and anybody can win it.