bleedCrimson.net: We talked last week, your hope going into the weekend was that with the opportunity to win the regular season title at home that your team wouldn't try go out and win it all at once and they seemed to do a very good job of staying in the moment the entire weekend.
Kathy Rodolph: In the first game I feel like we were a little bit tight and we had too many errors on defense and we were trying to play careful and cautious and that's just not the way we play and we understand that teams are going to put the ball in play and that we have to play defense behind our pitchers. Luckily our offense came through big-time with Ashley up and hitting a walk-off was huge. I think we had 15 hits and scored 11 runs so we weren't going to do much better offensively.
bc.net: You talked a little about the errors in game one, how much were the errors by both teams a product of nerves given the situation?
KR: I just think that a lot was on the line and it was a pretty intense game and some of the errors were probably created by intensity. I just feel like when we're playing our best we are pretty calm under pressure and just expect to make plays. I think there was one inning where we had three errors in a row and that's not like us.
bc.net: After you secure the win on Friday night, going into Saturday, it was tight early tied 3-3 and then your offense just explodes and you go on to win 16-3.
KR: It was a very tight game at the beginning, I think Tiare broke it open. It was something that we were able to come through on Friday night, I think the girls came out very determined on Saturday that we were going to try to take care of business at home. I think Boise State is a very good team and they're a strong hitting team. because of the way the game on Friday night took place, we knew we were going to have to score runs to beat them. The first game on Saturday was more of a product that they had come back several times. They came back at the conference tournament [last year], we had gotten them down twice in the previous game and had come back again so we were just trying to score as many runs as we could anticipating them to come back.
bc.net: One play in particular in the first game of the doubleheader, freshman catcher Alyssa Ruiz goes up to bat and battles in an at bat and sees nine pitches eventually getting a 2 RBI double out of it. How big was that play and for a freshman to come through in a situation like that?
KR: Alyssa and Val and Celisha have been huge for us. We only have three freshmen but I believe that because of the senior-heavy team, the expectations of those three kids is that if you're going to play, you need to contribute and so Alyssa has been doing a good job of getting stronger and being a tough out at the plate every time she comes up. I feel like she battled really well and definitely it was a momentum changing at-bat.
bc.net: In between the first and second game on Saturday after you've won the first game and secured at least share of the regular season title and the top seed in the tournament, how do you reset for game two knowing that there's still a lot to play for?
KR: I don't think our team has ever been overconfident this year and that's the outstanding character of this team. They're very humble, they want to play every game as hard as they can. We were excited to win but it was also senior weekend with the regular season conference title up for grabs and one of our goals at the beginning of the year was to try to win conference. Our second goal was to try to win the tournament and our third goal was to try to make it to postseason for the first time. We're just trying to stay game by game to attack those goals we set way back in August.
bc.net: The second game of the doubleheader, the fourth inning, there was a sequence that I really thought showed the softball IQ of your ballclub. Valerie Swedberg leads off with a single, Alyssa Ruiz bunts her over to second and then a really heady play by both Tehani Kaaihue and Valerie Swedberg, Tehani ends up striking out but the catcher dropped the ball right in front of the plate and Tehani ran to first base which in turn allowed Valerie to advance to third. It was a play that if Tehani hadn't been full invested in the play, could have just walked back to the dugout but instead Valerie moves to third and scores on a wild pitch in the next at bat cutting Boise State's lead to 5-4.
KR: Every single time that Tehani Kaaihue is on the field, you're going to see an athlete with pure all-out intensity. I don't care what sport she's playing, she was the MVP of all of the islands for volleyball and just chose to play softball and what I love about that young lady is her competitive spirit. If there's a chance to make something happen she is definitely going to do it.
bc.net: We've talked about Vanessa Valles a lot throughout the second half of the season but she came up huge both offensively and defensively in the game.
KR: I can't even express the amount of respect that I have for Vanessa Valles. Sometimes she's in the lineup, sometimes she's not. She never complains. Any time her name is called she's always ready for the challenge. She's going to give you everything she has offensive and defensively. Defensively she's going to push herself to make plays and offensively she is a tough, tough out.
bc.net: What was your feeling when she secured the ground ball on the very last out and threw it over to first base?
KR: Vanessa makes plays look easier than they are and that was a shot and she just sprinted over, got it, secured it and took care of it. That's what we have to do. I think my pitchers are doing a good job for the most part of cutting down walks and keeping us in ballgames and giving us a chance but we know that we have to play defense behind them and the middle infield is huge for us.
bc.net: Overall on the weekend, the seniors had a fantastic weekend.
KR: I think that they were very excited, all the families were in to be recognized with their senior athletes. We have fantastic team chemistry and are pretty unselfish as to where everybody is going to try to do their part. What's really helped us most this season is if somebody's struggled they know that somebody else is going to pick them up. I feel like in the past I think we had to rely too heavily on a couple key players and maybe it cratered them because if they didn't get a hit, we were going to lose the game. Now that pressure is shared throughout the lineup and I think it's really allowed each of them to play at their best instead of worrying and fretting about what happens if they don't come through. When you get to go up to the plate and just battle the pitches and not have to worry about the outcome you have a lot great chance of being successful than if all of the pressure rides on if you don't do this and you're going to let everybody down.
bc.net: We talked early in the season about your team's pitching and one of the things you talked about talking with the whole team about was continuing to play and that the pitching would come along and you look at the final WAC statistics and you end up with the third best ERA in conference play.
KR: What I like most about my kids in the circle now is whatever gameplan I give them going into the game they trust it, follow it and stick to it. They don't try to do too much. We have a pretty good indication going into each game of what the strengths of each team are and what our best opportunity to get them out is. I think if you can stay calm under pressure and stick to the gameplan the chances of you being successful is being higher. One of the things that killed us in the past ways way too many walks and we definitely made a concerted effort to cut those down. You see us make a few more errors, you see us walk more people and get tentative with what we're doing. Collectively as a team we've got to be able to stick to the gameplan and know that we're going to be able to play defense behind them.
bc.net: Looking at the kind of numbers that were put up by Valerie Swedberg, she has to be the frontrunner for the WAC Freshman of the Year honors.
KR: I think Val has had a fantastic year as a freshman but Devon Bridges from Boise has also had an outstanding year and if you look at them they're almost identical. I feel like she's really a standout freshman too. The thing about Val, she is very athletic. In high school she was a catcher, her senior year she had to pitch a little bit, she's also played short, she's played third, she's very athletic. She's really given us the depth in the bottom part of the lineup with her, Tehani, Vanessa and Teresa Conrad and they've really given us depth in the lineup that we haven't had in the past.
bc.net: This week is obviously the WAC tournament and one of your stated goals is to win the WAC tournament. What will your strategy be going in, it's a different position for you not playing on the first day after earning the bye.
KR: I think as you get late in the season, the bigger advantage is being the home team, being the higher seed and getting to be the home team because that's huge. The teams in the conference, there are a lot of us that are really evenly matched and it really comes down to that final at bat. We're definitely going to welcome the opportunity to scout Utah State and Hawai'i again. Statistically on paper it leans toward Hawai'i but Utah State has several kids that can flat out hit and they're scrappy. I think they're going to battle very hard.
Obviously we played Hawai'i very close there but just fell short. A lot of that I feel was that we were pretty evenly matched but they were the home team. I'm hoping that we'll come out and just be ourselves and attack and be aggressive and stay within the gameplan and not try to do too much but have that benefit of being the home team.