bleedCrimson.net will be conducting weekly interviews with Aggie women's softball head coach Kathy Rodolph throughout the 2009 season as the Aggies take aim at the WAC title. In this week's interview Coach Rodolph talks about this past week's tournament play in San Diego, hosting #12 Arizona on Wednesday and previews this weekend's conference opening series at Nevada.
bleedCrimson.net: Your thoughts on the weekend overall?
Kathy Rodolph: Overall I felt like we did get better on the weekend and that's what we were hoping to do and finishing strong against Iowa State in the last one in eight innings winning 1-0 with a good pressure game the entire time was a good victory for us.
bc.net: In the first game against Texas Tech you were playing your first game back after a 12 day layoff and it didn't take long to knock any rust off, you got a win 9-1 run rule victory.
KR: I believe that Texas Tech is a much better team than they're playing right now. I think with the coaching change they're a little bit on their heels and so we tried to dominate and dictate the tempo of the game and I feel like we were able to do that.
bc.net: In the afternoon you faced UConn, a team that you hadn't played before and ended up losing 2-1.
KR: It was really a pretty good game and then I felt like Vanessa [Fitzgerald] really struggled a little bit finding her changeup and they got a couple of good deep hits to right and that was pretty much the difference in the game. She came back and went 1-2-3 in the next inning but it was a little too late.
bc.net: Then you faced Miami (OH), now you talked a little bit about the Iowa State victory in extra innings being a big game but this one I thought was big for you because it was 0-0 heading into 5th and your team exploded for five runs, then six in the top 6th and that was the kind of game that seemed to go the opposite way against you last year.
KR: You're absolutely right. After the tough loss to UConn the night before I do feel like we kind of came out tight against Miami but we were really able to play solid defense and hold our own until we could get our feet under us and really break it open offensively.
bc.net: Then you faced tournament co-host San Diego State and faced a very good pitcher in Samantha Beasley, you ended up losing 8-1. You had talked last week about the pitching and not wanting your girls to pass up good pitches early in the count.
KR: We kind of got on our heels with a couple of passed balls and then a couple of hung pitches early and then that created a sensation of pressing offensively and I think we started swinging out of the zone and watching good pitches go by. I tip my hat to San Diego State, they're a talented team but I think if you take away the errors and a couple of pitches it would have been a lot closer game.
bc.net: Kim Watson bookended her weekend with two dynamite games against Big XII opponents picking up a 1-0 extra innings victory over Iowa State.
KR: Kim did a great job of moving the ball and she continued to do a good job of moving the ball late in the game and I was really pleased with that. She was able to vary the speeds. Stacy Lien, a senior, stepped up and got a hit when we needed to score that run and then we played solid defense to finish out the game. I'm very pleased with that.
bc.net: We had talked last week about the difference in climate affecting the home run ball, your team hit just one home run but you still scored 23 runs in five games.
KR: I really feel like part of the home runs was the air was a lot thicker with the humidity but both fields, San Diego State's and University of San Diego's are a lot bigger than ours. They're like 210 in the corners where ours are 190, and it was 225 in center where ours is 220. So a lot bigger fields plus thicker air, but I was very proud of the girls to really change their mindset at the plate and go for line drives to be able to score those runs instead of just swinging and hitting fly balls to the outfield.
bc.net: Stacy Lien, is certainly not the forgotten senior, but maybe the less well known senior of your group of seniors, she had a big weekend for you.
KR: Stacy was solid for us all weekend in the middle of the lineup and really good in the clutch and came through when we needed her to. She had a very good mindset and a good approach at the plate and I expect going into conference play this weekend that Stacy will be in the middle of the lineup doing a good job for us.
bc.net: Tomorrow you've got a doubleheader against #12 Arizona. They have two girls, Stacie Chambers and Jenae Leles who've combined to hit 30 home runs, as a team you've hit 35.
KR: Arizona is just a phenomenal team, they've got tradition, they've got outstanding athletes. I feel like in order for us to compete with them tomorrow night we're going to have to come in and stay composed and calm in pressure situations and just play pitch by pitch.
bc.net: Those two hitters, Jenae Leles and Stacie Chamber, Stacie comes in as the National Player of the Week, she's hit 19 of the 30 home runs, but you pitchers did well against Arizona State's two big guns, Kaitlin Cochran and Krista Donnewirth (1-7). How much confidence can you draw from that?
KR: I feel like hopefully being at home is going to give us a little bit of comfort, I expect a big crowd. Basically if my pitchers stick to the gameplan and don't try to be bigger than what they are, I think we'll do fine.
bc.net: You've got some familiarity with Arizona, you faced them last season in Tucson, but you also faced the U.S. National team which was coached by Arizona's head coach Mike Candrea so you've gotten two looks at what they do, how much will that help you?
KR: Arizona is extremely fundamentally sound. If we want to come out on top of either game we're going to have to create our own breaks because they're not going to cough up anything to us. And when you're playing a team that's traditionally in the Top 25 then you've got to be able to capitalize on any opportunity because you're not going to get that many.
bc.net: Just as important as these two games tomorrow you open up conference play this weekend at Nevada. You had some three really good battles with them last season, you won the first game and then had two you felt like you should have won. They return Katie Holverson in the circle but last season you were able to get to her a little bit in that series.
KR: Katie Holverson is an outstanding pitcher and I think she's done a great job and really feeds off her team and the energy they play with. In order for us to be successful against her we're going to have to hit strikes and lay off the non-strikes.
bc.net: This is the beginning of a very tough stretch of games for you, by far the best competition of the season coming up, starting with #12 Arizona, then at Nevada, a rivalry game against New Mexico next Tuesday at home and then a home series against #25 Fresno State. What are you looking for from your kids during this two week stretch?
KR: Honestly, to be able to handle pressure and to look to the next pitch instead of if something doesn't go our way or we falter in some way, just keep looking forward and gain strength on how hard they've been working and knowing that at any moment we can come back and counteract anything anyone does.
bc.net: You had the tough schedule last year where you faced all those Top 25 teams and teams just outside the Top 25 and then this year you've hosted and beat Ohio State. How much confidence does your team have this year versus last year, what's the difference when your team takes the field against one of the top teams.
KR: Last year did for me exactly what I wanted it to. I wanted it to give our kids experience playing that caliber of team so that we knew where we aspired to be. We want to be in the Top 25, we want to be a contender, we want to be able to get into the NCAA Tournament. To be able to do that you have to understand the level those teams are playing at. We did that last year starting five freshmen. Those freshmen have come back now as sophomores and have a lot more experience and look forward to the challenge instead of being intimidated by the challenge.
WAC Softball Blog: What did you learn about your team this past weekend in San Diego?
Kathy Rodolph: That basically we're going to have to be able to be nimble offensively if we don't have the long ball, to be able to still score runs. To be able to capitalize on hitting good pitching. As we go further and further into the conference, especially over the next couple weeks, we're going to see some good pitchers. So we've got to find the challenge of the game within the game.
WSB: Do you have any concerns about playing a tough doubleheader with Arizona less than 72 hours before you begin the WAC season on the road against Nevada?
KR: No, because we're healthy as a team. Obviously if things were to go crazy tomorrow night we'd have to make sure that we're able to recover from it. But we welcome the opportunity to have Arizona in here in our place. That's an honor and we're really looking forward to the game and we realize that come Saturday it's time to step up to the plate and start conference.
WSB: Do you consider the games with Arizona vital to your NCAA Tournament at-large hopes if it should come to that?
KR: I think to be able to get a win from Arizona would definitely help our RPI rating and afford us more of an opportunity to get an at-large bit. It's definitely an opportunity to advance us.
WSB: There's been a lot of talk around the WAC about Fresno State's tough schedule full of Top 25 teams. This is something that you did last year as well. Do you think the Bulldogs might have over-scheduled, or do you think it's just made them more prepared?
KR: Well, obviously if a couple of those games had gone Fresno's way that they very well in, everybody would have thought that was a fantastic schedule. Since they no doubt have had a grueling schedule but I definitely expect when conference starts Fresno State is going to be Fresno State and they're going to be one of the very top teams to go after and try to beat.
WSB: These two series, Wednesday against Arizona and this weekend against Nevada, all three teams, yours included, are hitting over .350. With three great offenses, is there any chance that these games turn into a pitching battle?
KR: I would venture a guess that there's going to be runs scored. Talking to the kids we told them, don't be surprised, they're going to score. They're very talented offensively and we're just going to have to outscore them if we want to win the game.