bleedCrimson.net: Your thoughts on the series with Sacramento State?
Rocky Ward: When you look at it, we really played poorly, as bad as I've had a team play a home series in years. Sacramento really played well but every time that they needed us to make a mistake, we did. That was probably the biggest part of the weekend. We played so sloppy in so many different areas, all kind of set up by the fact that in game we go score six and re-establish our offensive dominance and then in the second inning we had one of those wheels fall off innings where we walk the leadoff guy, we don't cover first on an infield ground ball, we throw the ball away, all of the sudden you look up and they'd stabilized the game by scoring five and the end result of that game is you have to win it in the bottom of the ninth with a double off the wall by Parker [Hipp]. We had a game completely in hand and let it get out of control and still won it.
We didn't play a good solid baseball game all weekend and yet we won a couple of them. That's what we're going to have to hang our hat on is that maybe this was the weekend where everything went wrong and you still won two. That's really the only way to look at it. The statistics were ridiculous. When you go into the series, Sacramento had scored 150 runs all year and they scored 50. A quarter of their entire run total on the year came from our series. This is a team that came in hitting .228 and they hit over .400 on the weekend.
We had all kinds of trouble in the Sunday game, we lost three balls in the high sky, not necessarily into the sun, but just lost it in the sky. They lost one in the sky, the right fielder lost the ball but the center fielder came over and saved him and made the catch. Every time we lost one we didn't have anyone in range.
It was a crazy weekend all the way around and about as poorly played baseball as could possibly be played. Defense, pitching, even the offense side. We were pretty good at times but that's what's expected. If you have a marked advantage over an opponent, if you're a lot better in a specific area then doing what you're supposed to do doesn't count as anything special. Our batting average at home all year has been well over .400 so we actually underperformed our batting average.
bc.net: One good thing coming out of the game on Sunday was that despite going into the bottom of the ninth inning down 19-8, your offense was able to get moving a little bit and generate a little positive momentum heading into this week against Fresno State after scoring three runs on a pair of home runs.
RW: And it's not just that, it was the right guys. Tanner Rust went out and drove in a key run earlier in the game in probably the most important at bat that I had given him. It was a first and third with one out and he drove in the go-ahead run. Now he got beat on a change and he hit it off the end of the bat and he got thrown out at first but he basically advanced the runners from first and third so it wasn't exactly the way he had planned or how he would have liked it to play out but it was still an important at bat. The guy made a good pitch and he handled it okay and the second at bat he hit the furthest home run that's been hit since Billy Becher. That ball is a ball he hit out to right that was three-quarters the way up the light tower and I didn't think with this new bat that type of home run was possibly anymore but that ball was absolutely crushed and he just keep showing up with more and more and more power.
Andy Lyon, Ryan Clark, Tyler Owen and Tanner Rust, combined between the three of them had 10 or 12 at bats this weekend and out of those at bats, two or three home runs, two or three doubles and several hits. They were probably 8-for-10 as pinch hitters. In particular with Ryan Clark, he had struggled up to this point in his roles. He had had one good game and he and Lyon both went 2-for-2 in the seven inning game. They both got a couple at bat, they both went out and hit the ball hard and re-established themselves. So from a bench player perspective those things bode well because as we get into Fresno and Hawai'i you feel like those guys are in a little stronger positions when you're going to use them to go hit or if they get a start somewhere.
The biggest problem we have coming out of the weekend and part of the issue in the Sunday game was both Bryan Karraker and Parker Hipp were late scratches. Both Hipp and Karraker were going to play in that game, Karraker would have gone in and played in the eighth or ninth inning for me as a defender and Hipp was going to be in a position where he would have pinch hit if we needed a cushion run, we just never got to it [after Sacramento State scored the nine runs].
bc.net: Your thoughts on the series with Fresno State this week? You've had success there with a 5-4 record the last two seasons you've played in Fresno.
RW: Going into the year I was kind of happy that we were on the rotation where Fresno wasn't here. I think we're 0-8 against them here. We've been terrible at home against Fresno but on the road we've been okay. The year we went 3-2 there was the year they won the national title and then we split with them the next year.
The thing about Fresno that I like is that it's a good crowd. They're just really good baseball fans. They're not dumb, they at least know their stuff. They're a very unique group of people that believe enough in the game and in their team that when an opponent makes a plus play, they'll actually cheer for them. That's what I like about them. They're good people. I really enjoy the time that I spend there, we've had success, Mike Batesole is a good baseball coach. I think they now look at us a little bit as their litmus test. We're kind of their thorn. I think the last time they were here, last year when they swept us four, I think that's what he [Mike Batesole] did. He did a great job of getting them prepared to play us and getting them to understand that we're not the New Mexico State of old, we're a good baseball team. He did a great job of convincing his kids to come in here and play with all guns blaring and they did it and I think we were caught off guard a little bit having been at home that they played so hard.
I'm looking forward to it. It's a good pitching staff, they've struggled a little bit of late, they've given up a few more runs. It's not a great defensive team, they've booted the ball around a little bit more than what they'd like. They lead the league in home runs, they've got some power but some of their other numbers are just okay.
The bad thing about last weekend's games was that it looks like [Jordan] Ribera's woken up. He was kind of struggling throughout the year, he looks like he's starting to come back a little bit and if Ribera's swinging the bat good, he makes that offensive lineup a lot better because [Danny] Muno's a quality player that's mature, he's one of those kids along with Ribera that was on that national championship team, that last group of those guys that kind of carry that bounce in their step. [Dusty] Robinson is really a quality right-handed hitter, he's a strong kid that's a tough out. They've got probably one of the more scary offensive lineups in the league, outside of ours. I think that theirs is more potent when you look at their numbers. They might not have the batting averages that we do but their doubles and home runs for their hitters up and down the lineup are pretty impressive. It'll be a pretty good challenge for our pitching staff.