bleedCrimson.net Weekly Coach Rodolph Interview :: 02/16/11

bleedCrimson.net: Your thoughts on the opening weekend?
Kathy Rodolph: We started practice January 8th and so we'd been practicing an awful long time and I feel like the kids came out with tremendous energy and excitement to play and I thought that carried throughout the whole weekend. Probably what I was most excited about on the weekend was the solid contributions that we got from a lot of people. It speaks for now as well as in the future.

bc.net: Teresa Conrad and Valerie Swedberg put up some big numbers in the opening weekend and for Conrad, her numbers were a big jump over last year.
KR: Teresa had a really good fall for us and hit really well all fall and probably the most notable accomplishment for Teresa on the weekend is Cat moved her into the five hole to protect Hoku because Hoku was getting walked a lot and Teresa was really able to solidify and come through in clutch situations protecting Hoku in that five hole. Teresa did a great job offensively for us.

Valerie Swedberg is a heck of a hitter. She had broken Angie Ortega's home run record for high school so I knew that when I got her I really had a good one coming in as a freshman.

bc.net: Valerie Swedberg had 8 RBIs on the weekend and really came through in clutch situations with runners in scoring position. As a freshman, what enabled her to do that?
KR: Val had an outstanding high school career and she had come in in the fall and was adjusting to Cat's style of hitting but all along I knew that she was going to be a player. This spring when we came back for practice, all of the sudden as we started scrimmaging she started doing better and better and caught the eye of her teammates and they were like, "Val is a great hitter!" She definitely is. She loves to hit, she's very confident. Obviously she's going to have to adjust to Division I pitching but she's definitely going to help us this year.

bc.net: Who were one or two players that really had good opening weekends for you that maybe aren't household names?
KR: It's hard to say because Kandis Jones and Tiare Jennings also really stood out and Hoku was force in the lineup that had to reckoned with the whole time. Probably one of the best things about this weekend was we were able to move Tehani Kaaihue from second to third to first so she really showed her versatility on defense for us. I think that by being able to play everybody it's going to keep a lot of kids that have been carrying the pressure over the last couple of years a lot more fresh when we get to conference.

bc.net: Alex Newman had a very good opening weekend in the circle and you also got a very strong performance out of Kelsey Schueler on Sunday against Colorado State.
KR: Absolutely. Alex Newman last year had done a great job for us in a relief role and one of our goals for this spring was to be able to come in if we needed her, to be able to start games, to really be able to keep things under control as we started playing. I thought she did a fantastic job.

Kelsey came in on Sunday and really worked all four parts of the zone well and varied the speed. On Friday night Alex Villalobos came in did a great job. Also, Sydney Williard had a good outing this past weekend too. Probably the highlight for me was walking only eight batters in six games. That's definitely an improvement over last year.

bc.net: Carissa Theis had a big of a rough start to the weekend. What adjustments would you like to see from her this coming weekend?
KR: Carissa came out and was throwing from behind quite a bit and so that created some issues for her. She has come back in determined to try to work ahead. Carissa has terrific movement but we've got to be able to make sure we get that movement through the zone and not late movement out of the zone.

bc.net: This weekend you host the Troy Cox Classic with nationally ranked Oklahoma as well as Sam Houston State who had a very strong opening weekend in the tournament at Louisiana-Lafayette.
KR: I think the caliber of play looks like is going to continue to get better every week and that's the way we designed the season to where we were going to try to expose our weaknesses and figure out what we need to work on. We're excited to have Oklahoma come in. They moved up in the polls to No. 8 and they have quite a powerful offense. It's going to be quite a good challenge. They have outstanding pitching. I just think the kids are excited for the opportunity to play them. I'm hoping that we'll come out and be ourselves and keep our nerves under wraps and just enjoy playing.

bc.net: Obviously with Oklahoma coming in you'll be facing Kalani Ricketts, their outstanding pitcher. Is there any similarity her style of pitching to that of her sister Stephanie at Hawai'i?
KR: I don't know that I would say that Steph and Kalani are similar. They both throw hard. Kalani has great movement, she's left-handed and Stephanie is right-handed. Kalani probably throws a little harder, she'll be touching 70 to 72 mph, I think Stephanie at her best is 65 to 68 mph. Both of them are very tough mentally. They come from an outstanding family of competitors with their older sister who was up for the Gatorade Player of the Year at Oklahoma, she was a first baseman a few years back. They've got a brother that plays for the Air Force Academy. Definitely high expectations. I recruited Stephanie before she went to Hawai'i and she's had an outstanding career. I think Kalani not only being left-handed but throwing as hard as she does is going to be a challenge for our hitters.

bc.net: What are some of the challenges for your hitters this weekend facing a left-hander that throws that hard?
KR: Anybody that watches us, our hitters love to hit and they are definitely excited to face the best because they know if they can compete against them they are getting better. What we're really trying to do in what we consider the preseason is try to get better and try to grow every opportunity we go on the field. It just happens that this weekend we're going to get to test the waters against a Top 10 team.

bc.net: What are some improvements that you're looking to see this weekend from the first weekend?
KR: I feel like in the circle we gave up too many runs. We did a better job against leadoffs but we gave up too many extra basehits. We definitely need to cut that down. I would like to see us get a little better jump on the ball. We always pride ourselves on defense but we need to get a little better jumps. Offensively we left too many runners on base. We're definitely going to capitalize when we get runners on, especially when we get runners on against outstanding teams and outstanding pitchers. You've gotta capitalize when you have them on. We've gotta be able to excite the bunt and run and the hit and run and really focus on running our offense.

bc.net: One of the things that happened in a couple of the games this weekend is you had some leads and then gave up a couple of big innings which is something that you had happen to you at the end of last season. This year in that same situation your team really seemed to handle it well mentally and was able to bounce back and regroup.
KR: We did give up late leads at the end of last season and we were all really disappointed in it and so one of the things we've really worked on is our mental toughness and the attitude of if something happens "so what?" and get into the next pitch and not let us shake us or rock us. I really challenged the kids this year that if somebody is going to beat them, make the beat us. Don't give it up because we get frustrated or nervous and we're really working on the mental side of things and playing pitch by pitch and really challenging ourselves to get better.