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 the series sweep of San Jose State, Ashley Maroda, Kim Watson, Angie Ortega and the upcoming stretch of six games in five days against Boise State and Utah State.
bleedCrimson.net: Your thoughts on series against San Jose State?
Kathy Rodolph:: I was excited how the kids responded after not playing in a couple weeks. They were a little bit anxious at the beginning but they were able to stay the course and attack and I was pleased with the effort.
bc.net: In game one, they scored the first run in the top of the first inning but then you come back and score 11 runs in the first and second innings and in the first inning Ashley Maroda hit her first home run in 17 games.
KR: Ashley had been on the verge of really breaking out and I felt like it was just a matter of time until she got back into a flow. She had been really having some great approaches in practice and it was nice to see all that hard work pay off for her. In the first game I felt like we came out and really tried to dictate the tempo early and were able to do that offensively.
bc.net: Kim Watson picked up four strikeouts and became the all-time strikeout leader at New Mexico State in the first game.
KR: It's funny because even when Kim was asked about it Kim said, "I really wasn't paying that much attention, I was excited that it happened but I really wasn't focused on it." The thing I really like about Kim is she is so focused on getting this team as far as she can this year in her senior year after going through all the ups and downs of a rebuilding program.
bc.net: Game two you put Kim back out there again and she pitched a shutout.
KR: I felt like because Kim's pitch count was really low in the first game it afforded me the opportunity to go with her in the second game with the idea that I might let somebody else come in and close it but to use the momentum Kim had gotten in the first game to go into the second game and I felt like it worked well for us.
bc.net: In the third game they jumped out to a 7-0 lead and it was the bottom of the fourth inning and you come out and score 16 runs in the next three innings to turn a potential run rule victory by them into a run rule victory by you.
KR: You know, I was disappointed with the way that we came out on day two, not to take anything away from San Jose State because San Jose State came out strong and made a strong push but I felt like because we had beat them pretty decisively on day one, we didn't come out with the same approach and same intensity. In conference series, it doesn't matter who wins game one or game two, game three is always going to be a battle and it is just absolutely somebody's will. I challenged us pretty hard and I thought we responded.
bc.net: What would you say was the turning point in that game? An at bat, a particular pitch?
KR: We conferenced and I brought it to their attention that I didn't feel like we were taking care of business or playing up to our level and we definitely weren't playing with drive and intensity. I challenged them to play every pitch and don't decide who's going to win or lose and don't get frustrated by what hasn't happened for us yet but get determined to swing the momentum back our way and I feel like we absolutely did that. What I've noticed about us is that there is strength in numbers and if somebody opens the door, then our kids usually kick it in.
bc.net: Speaking of opening doors and kicking them in, in the four games that you've played against San Jose State this season you've scored 14 runs, 14 runs, six runs and 16 runs. What is it about the matchup with the Spartans that your team is able to capitalize on?
KR: I think San Jose is a very talented team that is struggling a bit due to injury. I've been in that situation before. This year we happen to all be healthy at the right time so there's strength in numbers and you can swing momentum at any time regardless of what the other team does if you really believe it collectively as a team. If you'll look at what somebody is doing to you, take in that information and then attack it I feel like, if you're healthy late in the season, then good things can happen.
WSB: Kim Watson pitched almost all the innings this past weekend. How important is it this weekend for one or two of your other pitchers to step up and take some of the load off of Kim, particularly with six games in five days this weekend?
KR: We've been working as a staff all week and Vanessa has gotten back in the bullpen and is really working hard to be able to come through for us this weekend and I anticipate Sydney [Williard], Kelsey [Schueler] and Cole [Nicole Russell] as well getting some time. Every one of them is working so that when they're called upon that I'm going to be able to count on them. I have every belief that Kim is going to be able to throw whatever we need her to throw but I feel like we have a strong enough staff to get some contributions from others.
bc.net: For your team's performance of the week you picked up Pitcher and Hitter of the Week honors.
KR: I think that it is a big honor and I feel like both Kim and Angie both played hard enough to deserve that. Angie with her home runs and 10 RBIs in crucial situations just dominated at the plate for us. With Kim throwing all but 1.2 innings of three games, I felt like she did a great job as well. She's slowly and steadily getting stronger.
bc.net: Going back to the weekend that Ashley Maroda had, she was definitely struggling a little bit over the past 17 games but one of the things that I noticed in the games that I've seen here at home was that no matter what happened with an at bat for her during that stretch there was always a high five or a pat on the helmet, something positive from her teammates as she headed back to the dugout. Her teammates displayed faith in her even though things were clearly not going her way at the plate.
KR: The first thing that I'll say is that even though things might not have gone her way at the plate, she never showed it on defense. She never pouted and she never left her teammate hanging. Everybody believes that Ashley is an outstanding hitter that just went into a slump. What I appreciate most about this team and the team chemistry that we have is that it's an extremely supportive environment of each other. Nothing makes them happier than one of their teammates busting out and doing well. Shaleese hitting the grand slam to end the game on Saturday, everybody was just ecstatic that she had done that. I feel like across the board, in the past we might have had some jealousy or some people disappointed that they weren't the ones doing it but that's definitely not the chemistry or the makeup of this team.
bc.net: This weekend you face Boise State, a team that you have never played before.
KR: I feel that in itself is going to be a big challenge. With familiarity of the teams that you're playing you understand more how to prepare. Since we haven't played them yet, we're just going to try to come out and play our game as strong as we can and make adjustments as we need.
bc.net: Given that unfamiliarity and both teams going to dealing with that, how big an advantage is it for you then to be playing at home?
KR: I definitely think that any time we get to play at home, we're getting a good crowd out and we're getting good support, your yard just brings a sense of pride and determination that, this is ours and we've got to take care of it. I'm definitely excited to be playing at home.
bc.net: After you end the series with Boise State you'll be hopping on a plane to Logan to face Utah State on Monday.
KR: We're going to fly out at 7:30 Sunday morning, we'll have enough time to pack a bag Saturday night and then head out. We all understand that in order for us to keep our goal alive of making it to postseason, every single game is critical. So we're taking every opportunity, every at bat, every chance we get to play with the idea that our big picture is that we want to continue to get better, get stronger heading into the conference tournament and hopefully get into postseason this year. I feel that the Utah State series is another piece of that goal?
bc.net: What are some difficulties in terms of preparation that you face when you have that quick a turnaround?
KR: Because we've already played Utah State once at Arizona State's tournament, we kind of have a little bit of familiarity with each other and we did go to Logan last year so we've already played on their field and most of the kids return. I expect that Utah State is going to come out very strong. It's going to be a short turnaround for both of us with travel added on for us. We're just going to have to make sure that we have our legs under us. When you travel in that short amount of time you can sometimes lose your legs a little bit and not be as sharp mentally so we're going to have to really make sure that doesn't happen.
WSB: Boise State and Utah State have struggled lately. They're 6-33 combined in their last 39 games. Do you think it's sometimes more difficult to go up against teams that are playing with nothing to lose?
KR: Anybody that was looking at the games this last weekend where Utah State lost by one run in 10 innings to Hawai'i and then lost by one run in seven innings knows that Utah State is very much fighting. I expect that to be a very tough series. Boise went in to San Jose and got a game against San Jose and they were able to sweep Utah State so I expect them to give a big push too.
WSB: Last season 4 WAC teams finished with winning records and all 4 advanced to the NCAA Tournament as well as their regional championship games. This season the league is actually stronger overall and there are 6 teams at .500 or better, but everyone seems to be beating each other up. Do you still think there's a chance for three or four WAC teams to earn NCAA bids?
KR: You know, I really don't know. As weekly RPIs come out we fluctuate a little bit up and down. I know that all we can do is try to win every single game that we get a chance to play. Hopefully with that combination of strength of schedule and winning percentage will help us with a chance to get into postseason. But there's a lot of good teams in the region like Cal Poly, Long Beach State as well as Fresno and Nevada and Hawai'i. I don't know. I know the only thing we can control is what we do when we step out on the field.
bc.net: With the way the league race is panning out it really looks like you and Nevada are going to have to make up that game you didn't play. If that has to happen, when and where will that game be played?
KR: Actually, our game is the only game, according to our rules, that will not have a chance to be made up. At the meetings in June it was decided that any game that has started and then canceled will not be made up. So really the only game that could be made up that wasn't started was our series against Utah State or the Boise State game against Louisiana Tech.
WSB: Are you a voter in any of the major weekly softball polls? And how much of a role do you think politics plays in the polls?
KR: I do not. I believe the voting representative of the league is the Utah State coach. Obviously teams that have been there for significant amount of time probably get a little more leeway. If we were to have quite a few hiccups to finish the season, then it would definitely affect us.