bleedCrimson.net: Your thoughts on the weekend overall, you pick up a 3-1 series victory over Wake Forest and got just about everything you could have wanted out of an opening weekend in terms of game situations and outcomes.
Rocky Ward: Yeah we did. We had the opening day pitcher's duel which is very similar to what you might see against better teams in the league and you get that one won. Then you have day two where we handed away a game, the game was very well played until late and then we booted the ball around and let them extend their lead and so we lost a game we shouldn't have. Then follow up the loss with a win and then win the series. And so yeah in a single weekend we kind of did them all, we did all the things that you kind of need to do in growing up with a team. Win some close ones, win a big one, win off of a loss and play better the next game after you didn't play well. I was pleased with it all the way around, very happy with the outcome of course. A little surprised at some performances, positive and negative sides. We didn't get a very good performance on the weekend as a whole from our returning position players, they didn't play good defense, they didn't put up very good numbers.
The new players, Lecount and Phillips and Edwards had pretty a good weekend for new players. Kind of established themselves as the guys. They weren't perfect by any stretch but those are the guys you kind of pay attention to as well as obviously a bunch of new arms going to the mound in both the Mott brothers as well as Tim Torsney whose outing was outstanding.
Michael Ormseth kind of showed what he was about because his teammates didn't help him much. He was starting his first Division I, in his hometown, which is a lot more pressure than the rest of the kids that are playing their first games and guys booted the ball around on him. It ended up being a really gutty effort. I had envisioned, not necessarily a shutout, but I had envisioned he'd continue to do what he had done to our own offense in the fall and early spring and get after them. Basically he could have done that if a few plays could have been made. Earned runs and unearned runs are very fickle. There are times when an unearned run just may as well should be earned and the other way around and to a certain extent the earned runs he gave up, part of those were because he got stressed early in the game with extended innings and had to to throw a lot of pitches. He was kind of gassed when he gave up three earned in the fifth. It was a good stabilizing outing, then he gave three to get them to nine and it kind of had a lot to do with him hitting the wall. He came back in the sixth and gave us a shutout inning which was important because he gave us a chance to get to Coffman for a three inning close.
bc.net: The pitchers had maybe about as solid an opening weekend from a pitching staff as you've had in a while.
RW: Yeah, I think it's the best one we've had in a long time. I can't remember when we've played a weekend series with an ERA under 4.00. I think our ERA right now is somewhere around 3.50 or something like that and that's all considering the fact that we played on a windy day on Sunday. Our earned run average was under 3.00 before Sunday. The guys really pitched as good as I've seen a staff pitch probably in my 15 years, outside of maybe a few stints there in the conference championship teams in '02 and '03. We had some pretty mature kids that could go get after it. It's good. It's something we'd hoped they'd be able to do.
bc.net: Another spot in the pitching staff that has been important to the team in the past has been the bridge role and the team struggled a little with that last year but you really seem to have solidified that spot this year.
RW: Yeah, we used Roher twice this weekend in the bridge and he did exactly what he's supposed to do. He transitioned between our starters and closers and we didn't give up runs in those situations. Tim Torsney also actually filled that role but then stayed in the game and finished and got the save on the Saturday night game. It's one of those deals where so far so good. We got real good performances out of the guys we thought could fill those roles. We didn't get quite much of a chance to get two or three other guys to get into their roles but we'll get an opportunity to do that as the year goes on.
bc.net: In the Sunday game, you had a situation where you a good lead and then you gave it up but your offense was able to go out and get a run or two each time Wake Forest scored, just to be able to keep the momentum on your side.
RW: We gave up two in the top of the first and matched it with four in the bottom and then we gave up the three in the top of the third and give up the lead again. That's hard to come back from but we did that a lot last year, a lot more than I wanted. I was having flashbacks. The ball club is just used to it, they've been there before. We go out and pop them in the mouth with a five-spot and re-establish the game and never gave up the lead. It's a little bit of what we do. That's the little bit of the disappointment of game one of the doubleheader that we lost is that we're used to make the opponent's pitching staff work, biding our time for opportunities and then scoring middle of the game and late in the game. So as a result it's not unusual for us to trail in games. We're just used to doing that. The score early in the game is not nearly as important as how we've gotten the game set up.
The difference in the Sunday game, neither team played well obviously with the nine errors combined, neither team pitched terribly well although I think we pitched better just in the simple fact that we walked two and they walked ten. We had more opportunities to score via the walk. They had one extra base it than we did. They had 15 we had 14 and yet we win 13-9. The difference was the difference in our discipline in our hitters. Everyone wants to blame the pitcher for the walk but we've known for a long time that a lot of our walks are not the pitcher's blame, it's because we've earned it. We've fouled a pitch or two off and because of the threat of our power they can't just throw the ball down the middle three times and so we work for a lot of our walks and we did a really good job, in particular in that game.
bc.net: One of the things we talked about last week was that you wanted to see if your club could win the close game, the 2-1, 5-3, type game and you got two of them on the weekend and won both, 5-3 and 3-1.
RW: Yeah we did. We won two very close, low scoring games. Tradition is a powerful thing but it's powerful both ways. When we're scoring runs and the runs are in double-figures the tradition favors us because we're used to being there. At the same time when you have a low-scoring game and the offense isn't going real good and you've got a bunch of guys that are 1-for-4 and they're used to being 2-for-5, it's just a little bit different mental approach to it. I think that this ball club has a better chance than any I've every had to play those. I really like the 10-1 game, that's what I'd prefer. Score 10, give up one, that'll win you a national championship. Even the best in the country don't do that though. But if you can keep people in games around three or four runs, we know we're going to score five or six or seven in any given year, even if we're not at the best, like a year ago. That's a pretty consistent plan of action.
It was pleased. The first game was 5-3, the game was 5-1 but the final score was 5-3. We got Coffman hot and ready to go and then we score three in the bottom of the eighth to extend the lead you kind of have to bring him at that point. He's already been heated up where he won't be as effective the next day but when you bring a closer in in a scenario that's not a save situation, more often than not it he ends up turning it into one, even though he doesn't get credit for it. It's one of those things where guys that are used to closing games, when they come in and don't have a save looking at them, they don't have that pressure. They just relax a little bit, it changes their mental approach and that happened to Scotty a little bit and he managed to get it done any way you look at it.
The 3-1 game was a big win because it stayed close throughout. When it's a two-run game and all they have to do is get one runner on and they get the tying run to the plate.
bc.net: You mentioned three of the new guys, I was really impressed with those three guys but in particular Lecount, he seemed to have the best weekend out of all the guys.
RW: He didn't end up statistically but he did have some key base hits, he played well defensively. he did make one error. He got to be a part of the fiasco in the first game on Saturday. He made a mistake that cost us but overall, the interesting part was he was able to play both third and first very adequately. In the weekend he proved that he can handle this level of baseball. All these are things that people think the head coach is supposed to know but you don't until they do it. Until they actually go out and do it with another team out there, at this level. I'm very pleased with those guys and how well they established themselves.
The guy that I was also pleased with was Kurt Snowley. He's kind of a tweener. He wasn't a full-time starter returning he was a backup player, he played a lot this weekend and played solid baseball. He made a couple mistakes but that's part of the early year. The difference with Snow was a year ago he'd make a mistake and then he'd go make another one. This year he made an error but then he made a really plus-plus play to save a couple runs on top of it so that type of transition in a player, you'll forgive a player when he makes a mistake, they all do. But it's much easier when you know they're able to emotionally forgive themselves quickly and then emotionally motivate themselves to play at a higher level to make up for it. That's hard to do. It's a sign of maturity that I've been waiting to see out of that kid for a couple of years that I got to see this weekend and I think he made himself a significant part of this ball club.
bc.net: Tyler Mack had a little bit of an up and down season last year, perhaps a little bit more down than up but he came in to the game on Friday andn though we're kind of waiting to see how he's going to respond and what kind of consistency he's going to give us, that's our job, we're his coaches, but he seems to be at ease with what he's planning to do and really looking at each opportunity as a chance to do something special instead of something that might be a problem. Everybody looks forward to opportunities to success. His outing was solid, he's been a great teammate. He's been very great around the dugout.
Coach Evans has implemented a very different style of dugout with pitchers. He'll have four or five guys around him during the game helping him to call pitches, helping him to chart pitches, talking about how each individual guy is going to attack a hitter. It's really a different deal and they've kind f had to get used to a different kind of deal and Tyler Mack helped with the new guys as the guys that were questioning about doing something brand new. He helped get it implemented. He's done a real nice job.
bc.net: You take on Rice on Tuesday and Wednesday.
RW: It'll be interesting. Rice is ranked anywhere from fourth to eighth, it depends on what poll you look at. They're clearly a national championship contender in most people's eyes. We'll go out and travel, go get in the hotel. There's enough time for us to get dressed and stable and get over to the ballpark. It doesn't hurt guys to travel in and play right away, we don't do it very often.
Rice always has an outstanding pitching staff, they're very good athletes and very good defensive ball club. They're probably as close to our alter ego traditionally than anybody else. They're all built on defense and pitching, they score any way they can score. I don't think they've been terrible offensive teams but it's not an emphasis for them.
He's got a real deep pitching staff, always has. We expect it to be a pretty good challenge in that regard. I don't know what to expect from them as an offensive team. If you look at their scores, they win a lot of games 5-4 and 4-3, always have, even with the old bat.
bc.net: Rice carries a high RPI and is highly ranked, how do you approach the game as far as a strategy with four games against Sacred Heart on the weekend.
RW: We have enough arms. I'm going to travel 12 guys [pitchers] to Rice for the next two days and I've still got eight at home. Now are they all ready to pitch? No. But we're going at Rice, we didn't save our number one and two for them but again we don't have that much of a pecking order because for that matter Evan Mott and Tyler Mack could be one and two. When you're talking about pitching staffs and talking about ranking them, they're all pretty much the same, they can all do a lot of the same thing. We're not doing anything different, we're going out there to win those games, that's what we're going to attempt to do. I'm not going to worry about Sacred Heart until I get there. We already have a rotation of starters set up and when I get back home I've got a whole bunch of kids that are anxious to prove that they can be among the next 12 guys to go to Minnesota. We've got plenty of innings available to us and those kids are being prepped to give us one out to one and a half innings of work. They don't have to perform for a very long time. Go out and get me two left-handers out. Bob Kraft, that's what we'll ask him to do. Trey Higginbotham who hasn't been to the mound yet is traveling with me, he'll be important to the ball club. Jeff Neptune and Vancour are two right-handers who haven't been to the mound yet but those are two guys that'll have opportunities at home against Sacred Heart. I'm not holding anything back for Rice.
bc.net: After you get back from Rice you host Sacred Heart, an NCAA Regional team from last year.
RW: I really don't know much more than they finished second in the Northeastern Conference, not a big conference power by any stretch but they won their conference tournament and went to Regional and their numbers are pretty darn good and they have a lot of players returning. I expect them to be a pretty good club. I might compare them to Rhode Island, it's been five or six years ago. We beat them four times but then by the end of the year they were a step away from a Regional and then two years later they were in Regional and that year they had two pitchers that were drafted in the first ten rounds and we beat both of them.
That's kind of what I expect Sacred Heart to be. They're opening the season with us and so we'll have six games on top of them. All their players will be making their first plays and trying to get themselves establish into the season and I think that's a real big advantage to us. I think they'll be hard fought games and it wouldn't surprise me if the weekend doesn't follow the same course as Wake Forest.