bleedCrimson.net: Your thoughts on the weekend in Seattle, you won the series 3-1 and a nice bounce back from the sweep at Nevada.
Rocky Ward: That was kind of part of coming off a tough weekend. After you lose four or actually after you lose one, the bounce back and the emotion, it's a little more difficult to play. You're a little more gun-shy and not quite as loose but we got it done. It made the rest of the series a little bit better. Even though we weren't able to complete the sweep but to be able to win three out of four against anybody is a pretty tough task. We're pretty pleased with the weekend.
bc.net: You had some very good performances from your guys on the weekend, one in particular was Scott Coffman on Thursday night picking up a five pitch inning for a save.
RW: Scotty's been so good and it's not just about confidence but he's just really got good stuff. The unique thing about Seattle was the dugouts were relatively close. You wouldn't think that 15 or 20 feet would make that much difference but it really does. You're pretty close. It's a city park, more of a high school configuration, the size of the park was college size but the dugouts were pretty close and you get to see the stuff and you get to see how the hitters are reacting to him. They just don't see the ball on him very well. Hitters are always trying to feel for the timing and hitters are always having a hard time getting in time with him and so he just continues to be impressive.
It's great to have him and have him available. It's part of the feel that if you lead late and Scotty's available, you're going to win. That leads sometimes to a more relaxed approach at the plate and you end up scoring a couple more runs and taking a save opportunity away from him but that's what you're trying to do as a team. You're trying to go into the eighth and ninth with a four-plus run lead with nobody on base.
We had a chance on the Saturday game to go with a three inning close with Coffman, he was fresh and he was ready to do it but Riley Bevill pitched really well in the sixth and seventh so I said I'm going to bring him even though it's not a close situation and put him in the pen and he went out and pretty much took care of them without much issue outside of a rare error by Parker Hipp, I think the only guy that got on in those two innings. I'd like to see him have a chance this year to go on and break the career record for saves, I think he's a couple away.
bc.net: Your starting pitching was good this weekend, Dan Reid was good after having a couple shaky starts the past two weekends, you had another solid outing from Ryan Beck and Trey Ross had a pretty good outing after struggling the last couple outings as well.
RW: The pitching on the weekend was really important. I think it was really important to our team because we had struggled. Beck had really been the only one that had been consistent in the last several weeks. Dan had some issues with line drives getting hit back at him and a couple of injuries so he had to get over that. I thought he was decent. They were a pretty decent offensive club. They didn't have great guys at the bottom of the lineup, they had a little speed at the top of the lineup and the three guys they had hitting in the middle were pretty good offensive players. They could hurt you and they did a couple times. They had a left-hand hitter that played third base that hit late in the lineup early in the series and then moved up towards the top that had a great series with the bat. He's hitting .190 or something coming in and didn't have a whole lot of at bats. Maybe he was a kid that was injured and had just kind of come back healthy or maybe he just figured it out but he really caused us some problems and made them a pretty significant lineup to deal with. They hit a lot of balls hard and that was a big ballpark. We pitched into some luck a little bit. There were a couple balls that were crushed that our guys ran down. Waite ran down a ball in the deep gap right around the 402 sign that off the ball you're saying, "Wow was that ball really hit," and it's gonna stay in the ballpark. The funny thing is the park played really inconsistent. When the sun was out, which wasn't very often, but it was enough, probably 25 percent of the time, when the sun was out the ball carried, when it wasn't it didn't. Maybe humidity levels changed that much or maybe it just happened to be the wind conditions.
Beck's outing, he wasn't as good as he had been. He threw a lot of pitches, a lot more than I really wanted him to. Part of the reason for that to be honest is that Chase Tidwell had to leave and he's the one who usually keeps the pitch count.
The one thing that we did this weekend is we had 12 2/3 innings of scoreless relief out of the bullpen. We hadn't been able to do that except in a couple spots, 12 2/3 scoreless out of the bullpen will win you a lot of series. I thought Riley Bevill was really good. The young kid Tim Torsney came in, in a game that was in control, but he came in and gave me an inning without any drama. Came in, threw strikes and got guys out. Outside of the three runs that Trey Ross gave up where he walks a guy, hits a guy and a guy hits a ball out of the yard on him, outside of that he was pretty good. It was really important for him to get a stabilized outing. You look up and you're going, as bad as the kid has been in the last couple of outings, he's 5-2. His records and numbers are okay.
Justin Cooper's a guy that we've been waiting to make a move. He's been important to us. We put him in a starting role last year because we kind of had to. He didn't have a whole lot of success but he generally kept us in games. At the end of last year he wanted to go back to the setup and close role and then he had the arm surgery and just hasn't been the same. He's been all over the place. He's thrown 25 innings, walked 25 guys and struck out 25 guys. Just not any consistency. He gave up a five run inning, which he helped to cause, he walked the first two guys. Then we throw away a bunt. Then the backup guy throws the ball practically out of the ballpark and everybody scores on a silly play where all they were doing is moving runners up. It should have been one out, second and third and maybe you give up a run or two and you cut your losses. Instead we kind of blow up defensively, make some dumb decisions and end up giving up five in the inning and then we can't get going. But again, after those five runs, we shut them out for five innings. It was another one of those games where we could muster one run. We really have a difficult time getting that first run on the board but once we do, we kind of get moving. Out of our 14 losses, it very well could have been another shutout. Their kid did a nice job and we just couldn't' get anything going. But overall on the weekend I was pleased.
bc.net: Bryan Karraker was named the WAC Hitter of the Week, the seventh time an Aggie has earned the WAC Hitter of the Week in the 10 weeks this season.
RW: Yeah, somebody keeps popping the top and putting up good numbers. It was a great weekend for BK because he had struggled. I sat him down the last couple of weeks because he was basically giving me nothing. He's still my best defensive outfielder by far but the series in Nevada he was useless as a hitter and that had really been coming for two or three weeks. His batting average had dropped nearly 70 to 75 points. He made some adjustments in his swing and he was starting to feel comfortable with them. His BPs were starting to get better and I started Andy Lyon in right in the first game trying to get him going again. He's the kid that kind of got shuffled out of the way when we moved Aguyao to first. We still think he's an important player for us. Andy was our starting first baseman early in the year, then Aguayo goes in, Andy also plays outfield and came to us as an outfielder. Bryan Karraker, Tanner Waite and Wes Starkes have solidified themselves as important guys so he really didn't have a place to go. It gave me an opportunity to give him a start. Andy is from that area and it's a good time to give him an opportunity when their family is there to watch him play. He didn't have a very good day so you put BK out there and he only played three games but he lights it up, 7-for-11 and a bunch of RBIs and is a player of the week so you feel like you've got him back.
Starkes has been good. Tanner Waite didn't have a very good weekend but it wasn't a horrible one. He kind of hit into so bad luck and he's been carrying us for about a month and he's still third or fourth in the country in batting average. It was good to see Voight get back. He'd had a little bit of an arm issue but he played pretty good baseball.
I thought overall on the weekend we got a lot of guys in. We had a chance to re-energize some people. The pitching staff had a good weekend. I feel comfortable with their performance. We had a couple mistakes and we didn't play the series completely clean and it's part of the reason we didn't sweep the series. But at the same time, that's kind of who we are.
Overall guys' attitudes were good. I just enjoyed the weekend with my guys. It was unique for me because dad had to stay back in Las Cruces so I didn't have my hitting coach. Chase gets a call Thursday night and his wife was going into labor so he had to leave and come back to Las Cruces and so it was just me and Tom Rosati on Friday and Saturday but I really really enjoyed it. I let my guys do their jobs. I let dad work with the hitters, I let JT work with the defenders, I let Chase work with the pitching staff and I kind of mold it all together and run the game but on the individual stuff, face-to-face, sometimes I don't get enough of that. The couple days though, I kind of liked it. I ran the pitching staff, I made the moves, I don't think I've gone to the mound for a visit in seven or eight years. I just felt like I was closer to my players than I've been in a long time. It was important to me, I hope it was important to my players and I hope that it transitions into this weekend.
bc.net: One of the things we talked about last week, but you've re-established yourselves as a decent road team with the 3-1 series victory.
RW: We played pretty good. I couldn't really tell you why we struggled up to that point on the road other than the fact that the weather conditions were pretty brutal pretty much everywhere that we went and we are from a good weather area. Maybe it was just the fact that we don't handle bad weather as well as other teams might. I said all along that it's not about kid being dumb on the road. I trust my kids. They do what they're supposed to do. They are where they're supposed to be. I haven't had a single suspension for a guy being late for curfew. Guys are in when they're supposed to be in. That's not the reason. So yeah, it was good. It does stabilize things. Weather may have been a factor but that's not going to be a factor when we get to Mesa, Ariz. It's not going to be 40 degrees. I think we can handle 90 degrees and this late in Fresno it's going to be pretty nice.
bc.net: This weekend you get back into WAC play hosting Sacramento State.
RW: This has turned into a pretty important weekend for us. They're 2-10 in the league but they've played everybody close. Half their losses are probably by less than two or three runs. They're pretty dangerous and we've got to play clean defense. We can't give up situations. We've got to make them earn everything they get. We've gotta throw strikes and make plays. Their pitching staff has pretty good numbers, they're pretty solid but I never really worry a whole bunch about pitching staffs when they come to Las Cruces because not very many of them do a very good job here. I think consistently over the years, if you take a team's ERA before they come to Las Cruces, when they leave they will have given up double of what their normal earned run average is. That's what happened with San Jose State this season and it happens pretty consistently.
Our pitching staff pitches about the same at home and on the road. We pitch better than the opponent at home and the one thing we're trying to be able to get done is to try to pitch up when we're on the road when we get to ballparks that are tough scoring ballparks. When you look at our road and home ERA is about the same but when you look at our road and home hitting, our road hitting is ridiculous. We're hitting over .400 at home but probably under .250 on the road. There's a big difference in what our offense has done on the road but our pitching has been pretty consistent.
Hopefully what we gained this weekend and at least the feel that I had that we came together a little bit as a ballclub and hopefully it'll lead us through the next couple of weekends.
This weekend is important to us. It's going to tell us whether or not we're going to be under duress or whether or not we're going to have the leaders in our crosshairs. We've got Sacramento, we're 5-7 in the league. We need to win three out of four and go to 8-8. That's what you need to do. What you want to do is go to 9-7 and sweep the series. You can survive at a split at 7-9 but if you split the weekend then you've probably taken any chance at a regular season championship off the board. If you win three out of four there's still hope but you're going to have to play lights out. You're going to have to beat Fresno three out of four on the road and might have to sweep Hawai'i at home to win the regular season. If you sweep then it kind of puts you in the position that if you finish 6-2, it might get you the championship because everybody else beats the heck out of each other.
bc.net: The weekend in the WAC this past weekend was probably about as good as you could have hoped for with you wining three out of four out of conference and nobody in the league really running away from the rest of the league. You're four games back in the loss column from Hawai'i, three games from Fresno State with both of those teams left on the schedule. You've at least put yourselves in a position to control your own destiny for a top two seed in the conference tournament.
RW: Yeah we do. Realistically, winning the regular season would have a lot of value. That's something you can hang your hat on, it's worth doing. But really, realistically the one or two seed is what gets you the advantage in the tournament. The only thing we know that can guarantee you an NCAA Regional bid is winning the tournament.