bleedCrimson.net: Your thoughts on the weekend?
Rocky Ward: When you have a tournament like we did when you have three teams, you worry about them because you have a tendency to end up with pitching mismatches. What basically happened is VMI went against us with their number one and number two and they were pretty good to really good. We played in rainy, wet conditions. It was high humidity. The conditions actually weren't that terrible the first game of the doubleheader.
We faced two number ones on Friday and did a pretty good job against the kid from VMI and him on the ropes. It was one of those baseball games that we lost just because it's baseball. It seems like everything they put into play found a hole and everything we hit was "at 'em". I thought the kids battled the kid pretty well and we got him out of the game, we just couldn't get the breakthrough hit. The top of the eighth we had the bases loaded with two outs and had a chance to get on top and Starkes lines out to the shortstop to end the inning. It was a 3-2 game at that point and then they went on in the bottom of the eighth and strung together a couple hits and ended up scoring four to kind of put it out of reach and make it a 7-2 final.
Trey Ross pitched well. We made a defensive mistake. We gave unearned runs in tight games in most every single game. That kind of got them going. We didn't handle a couple bunt plays and threw a couple balls away and made some defensive errors. We battled back but we just didn't get hard hit balls to fall for us.
Then you turn around in the Oregon State game and you're facing a guy on the mound that had already put up 21.1 consecutive scoreless innings to start the season. So you've got a few guys who are licking their wounds a little bit from being shut down in game one and I was looking forward to facing him. He was just really really good. It was a good game early but we made defensive mistakes to give up six runs in the second and they have great team speed. The combination of not making a couple plays and having the wrong players for them on base where we couldn't keep them from stealing and a couple bunt basehits in the inning and all of the sudden you look up and you're down six and you're facing a guy who hadn't given up a run.
The best thing that happened in that particular game was Ryan Beck came back to perform because his outing in Texas was bad against Lamar. He pitched outstandingly from the third through the sixth or seventh and that was a good sign. We just couldn't get anything going offensively. The guy had good stuff, threw strikes and we just really struggled and they ended up shutting us out 7-0.
So you lose 7-2 and 7-0 and you kind of look at the day going, it was just one of those baseball days. So you try to get them to regroup and you come back the next day against VMI and they have another kid on the mound that has good numbers. In that game for the very first time we kind of got away from our game and we got no production out of the middle of the lineup. Tanner Waite had a good weekend but he was really the only one that did. I think Parker Hipp went hitless and Starkes went hitless. Voight had one or two hits, Karraker went hitless. It was crazy. I think I've been shut out two days in a row just once in my career.
For a New Mexico State team to get shut out two days in a row, you've got to look at it as an anomaly. So that's kind of the way we're looking at it.
Overall it was a pretty short weekend. It's one of those weekends that you might look back to as a turning point. We'd had things going pretty well our own way up until there. We had a little bump in the road in Texas with those two losses but in baseball you're not going to go undefeated. There are going to be days that you don't play well and you're going to get beat. But you're 11-2 going there and we're still 11-5 and respectable but it was the first challenge against really good competition.
Oregon State moved into the Top 25 in at least one of the polls. They're a Top 20 team, there's not any question. Their pitching is solid, they really run well, they have a very balanced lineup up and down with a little bit of power. They play very good defensive baseball. They're very impressive as a physical team. I think you're going to look at this Oregon State team when the dust settles as a premier team around the country.
VMI, I gained a lot of respect. Their coach is really a neat guy, good personality, and he had a bunch of good kids. They're going to have a little trouble because they don't have any power in their lineup but they put the ball in play, they run pretty well, they play really good defense and their pitching is really good. As long as they stay healthy I think you're going to see VMI go back to the east and do pretty well.
I think we played against two top-notch type ballclubs and didn't win but it may have served the purpose of waking our guys up a little bit and making them work harder.
I told them, "Guys, I really don't want to go back home. I wish we were on the road again next week." They all looked at me like I'm crazy but you've got to understand, one of the biggest successes we've had in the last few years is we've been a very good road time and right now we're on the verge of just being an average one. We need to get established. The concern you have now is that you have three weekends at home and the next time we go on the road is when we open at Louisiana Tech. So you're going to go into Louisiana Tech not having established yourself as a very good road team. Now those are all things that may or may not matter. They're only things that matter in hindsight. But at this stage you can be upset with the kids and they can be downtrodden and all that but it might have been a lesson that we needed to learn and we need to be able to regroup on Friday with IPFW coming in and Bobby Pierce is a former player of mine. He's the first former player of mine that's come back to Cruces to coach. I think that's a neat thing.
bc.net: Overall on the weekend you got really good pitching from your starters.
RW: Yeah we did and Beck's start was really important to him personally and of course it was important to us as a team because we need him to be good and he was good. He would have been great had we not put him in trouble by not handling the baseball and not making some plays.
Tyler Mack came in the next day and was good as well. Both kids pitched well and they needed it personally and we needed it as a team.
When you look at series and you look at games, you can look at the negatives or you can look at the positives and the positives are we pitched well and guys kind of stabilized themselves. So now you feel like you can trust them again and they can trust themselves and that's a pretty important thing when you go through the season because you have a good feeling of the level of performance that you're going to get from a guy.
There will be a little bit of quiet celebration when we get half of this ballclub off their slumps. When you look at the numbers there are a whole bunch of guys that haven't had a hit in 10 days. So that'll be the thing to come back and play baseball, two or three solid but not over the top practices the next few days. Stay positive with them, work on some swings a little bit and get them feeling better about their mechanics and then get after the four game series this weekend.
It's like any streak negative or positive, we'll be looking for that first run, kind of get that albatross from around our necks and we'll be okay.
bc.net: Taking a look at IPFW, what type of team do they have in terms of hitters and pitchers?
RW: They haven't played very much. I think they're 2-6. They're a northern team and they've had some weather problems. Bobby is now in his second year there so he's kind of in the infancy of his program. I don't expect them to be overpowering by any stretch and that's not just because of the record. I expect them to be a disciplined offensive club and I expect them to play hard. That's what I expect Bobby to bring to the table. I'm looking forward to the challenge to the weekend. We have some bad feelings to purge in the first day, first hits and first runs scored and first win of the series becomes more important than it was before this weekend. I expect that they'll compete with us pretty good.
I think we're starting to see a little bit of the impact of the new bats. The game scorers are down a little bit even thought you had that first weekend was insane with a couple 30 run games. You start looking at the scores the consistency of the scores are all lower. That keeps the margins lower and keeps teams in games longer. It's harder to get that 8-2 lead than it used to be. I think that it'll be a solid baseball team that will give us a good challenge.
We're going to work our tails off to put pressure on the top line pitching to get into the bullpen. That's where most of these teams don't have much depth, once they get into their middle relievers and 3rd and 4th starters. Those are guys that usually are types of players that we handle pretty well.
I think it'll be pretty competitive especially on the first day. At the same time if we go out and score a couple runs, we feel like we've got a few runs sitting in the bank for us, even things out a little bit. It won't surprise me at the same time if the floodgates open a little bit. And it won't surprise me if struggle in the first five or six innings of the game.
I assume Reid will get back to the front side and we might go with the two lefties on Saturday. We'll see how he wants to line them up. We bypassed Tyler Mack and gave Riley Bevill a start on Saturday and his start was solid. That was another good one. He's another guy that you feel like if there's an injury down the line or a pitcher that's sore or rain or something that changes your planned rotation, Riley is another guy you can go to as a starter and feel good about your chances to get a win with.
bc.net: With Saturday being a doubleheader day, who are some guys that might get some starts in that second game.
RW: We started Tyler Forney at short in the game against VMI. We're looking at trying to make sure we keep Parker Hipp and Ryan Aguayo rested. You might see Kurt Snowley play a little bit more at third base, same reason with Zach Voight. Snowley has played most of his time at first. He's been in and out in different roles. If I need to move Andy Lyon it would right now he would be the starting first baseman but Andy is an outfielder as well.
The guys that we're using, I'm not quite as concerned now as I am in the first few weeks as to who's getting starts.
You figure that Forney will get a start on the weekend. We're still struggling a little bit in the DH spot. Ryan Laing is starting to come on a little bit. His numbers still aren't very good but he's had a couple of pretty good pinch hit at bats where he's hit the ball hard. He had a sacrifice fly in a game down in Texas as a pinch hit that he really hit hard into 25 mph wind blowing in that on any other day would have been out or at least been a double. He had a hard hit ball that the shortstop made a great play to end the game against Oregon State. He's upgraded his status as a guy that might get some time at DH. At this point my DH has been Fisher when he's not catching and when he has been catching it's been Laing or Clark.
The interchangeability of the ballclub I'm pretty pleased with overall. I feel like guys as far as playing time and being able to add to the weekend series is a positive thing. We feel good about the guys we've been traveling with. There are a couple kids that haven't traveled in Argenis Paz and Brock Neill, those kids have continued to work and practice around the travel stuff. They'll be available to me this weekend. They're unlikely to get starts but they may get some playing time and be able to work themselves up to the travel roster. As well as Tanner Rust. Tanner was right on the edge. A couple of these guys that are going to be with us the next two or three weeks will have an opportunity to make a run at a travel squad when we get into Louisiana Tech.