bleedCrimson.net: Congratulations on the victory over Arizona on Wednesday.
Kathy Rodolph: It was really really nice to go in and just play and be ourselves and play with noting to lose and not be overwhelmed and when you play like that good things can happen.
bc.net: After Arizona had gone up 5-1, your team responded well and showed some of that resolve that last year's team showed.
KR: Val Swedberg had a great game with two home runs and I feel like we've got freshmen in Keley Dodd an Ana Tovio-Asato and Maleena Padilla and those guys that are playing with nothing to lose. They're all talented athletes and the best thing about our freshmen is that they're not really intimidated by people and we really set the preseason schedule to really face some tough challenges in Cal and Oregon and Arizona and Arizona State and really just wanted to teach the freshmen that that's what the bar is and that's who you play and that's the level that you play in hopes that it would pay off and I think that it did.
bc.net: Obviously Valerie Swedberg had the two home runs in her final two at bats but you got some outstanding pitching after they put up their five runs and that was just as important in keeping you in the game as those two home runs were.
KR: Absolutely. Anybody that know the University of Arizona softball, they're definitely going tone able to swing it and I was extremely proud of Alex in regaining her composure and really spotting the ball well and putting it in a good place. They hit a ton of towering fly balls but they were foul. Alex just kind of dug in and put the ball in a good spot and that's what she does. She's not a big strikeout pitcher, she's going to put the ball in play and let her defense work behind her.
bc.net: You hit a little bit of a rough stretch starting with the Cathedral City Classic, you lost eight of 11 but you're on an upswing now having won five of eight. What did your kids learn from that experience that you can take with you into conference play?
KR: I think that when you go out and you play some of the top teams in the country you face outstanding pitching. When you're young you're a little bit fragile and so you probably get in and start looking at pitches trying to decide instead of a "yes, yes, no" mind process you get in looking at pitches, you get behind and then you start to swing defensively. I feel like Coach Heifner did a fantastic job of re-centering the kids and getting us to play like we play and that's aggressive, we want to attack strikes, we don't want to look at pitches, we want to think "yes, yes, no", and swing like we haven't missed pitches. I feel like once we got back home, part of what was also going on is we had so many midweek games and so we just didn't practice and we just played a ton of games back-to-back-to-back. You can learn a ton from playing tough competition but then you have to be able to go back and practice and really work on the things that you've learned and identified. I think there was a stretch there where we only had two days of practice in 12 games.
bc.net: Karysta Donisthorpe had a bit of a rough start to her Aggie career but she has really started to settle in for you.
KR: I've said all along that I think Karysta is the real deal. It takes a special person to win five state championships, one as an eighth grader. You don't just luck into that. That's hard work, that's perseverance, that's people coming after you with your back against the wall and coming out fighting. Karysta's got up, down, in and out and the more she learns and the more experience she gets in Division I facing those top quality level hitters, the better she gets. I think the downfall with Karysta is that there is no substitute for experience.
bc.net: It seemed like the light bulb came on for her in the game at UTEP when you brought her in in the seventh inning to try to close out the game where she had to get outs to give you guys the win.
KR: Absolutely and she was facing Troupe and Carrera who have historically over their four years at UTEP have punished us. They are two fantastic hitters that are very, very difficult outs. I felt like at that moment it was do or die and let her go after them with her best stuff and it definitely showed everybody that she's got some great stuff.
bc.net: Who are some of the freshmen that have had an impact in the non-conference?
KR: Kelsey Dodd out of Fresno was the Fresno player of the year out of high school two years ago and she's got a great eye at the plate. She's been a mainstay for Cat at the DP in the lineup. Malena Padilla has been hitting around .350, she's kind of a dynamite that comes in a small package, she's about 5'4", has a small strike zone and is a very tough out at the plate. Ana, a freshman out of Hawai'i is kind of a utility kid for us, catching for us, playing third, she just gets in there and is a good hitter and stays after it. If you get her once, she's not going to lick her wounds, she's going to get back in there and fight harder next time. Those are the ones that stand out in my mind.
The one that has been a spark plug for us is Amber Olive who has taken over for Kylie Randall in the leadoff spot and most of the season she's been setting the table for us.
bc.net: You had to replace the whole left side of the infield at the start of the season and you've been shuffling players in and out of the infield trying to find that magic formula and yesterday you were playing Celisha in the infield as well.
KR: Last week Tehani Kaaihue who has been our starting second baseman got her cleat stuck in the infield and we'll find out on Monday if she's out for the season with a torn ACL. Kristi Covarrubia has been fantastic for us at short, chased down a ball in foul territory last night [at Arizona] and we'll find out next week if she blew her ACL and so we've definitely got some challenges, we're going to have to move some kids around. Celisha's a fantastic defender and we'll probably have her as a mainstay now in the infield between short, second and first. It's one of those things that in the season you never know what's going to happen and we're just going to have to battle through it and see what we have. Every time we're faced with a challenge we come together and somebody picks up the slack and just do a little bit better.
bc.net: One of the things you've been able to do at New Mexico State is you've been able to get players who are interchangeable and you play a lot of people at difference positions early in the season to see what they can do. How much does that help in a situation like this?
KR: I firmly believe in team chemistry and putting the company first and wherever the company needs that somebody give a little bit more then I expect somebody to step up and we go through and we really build team chemistry as well as move people around. I feel like even in last night's game when Kristi went down, somebody was willing to take the job and step up and they know it might not be their primary position but if the team needs, they're going to give us everything they have. The thing I want is for my kids to play with is no regrets and play without a safety net and give us everything you have and we'll win together and we'll lose together.
bc.net: You open conference play against BYU. What do you know about the Cougars who are a new addition to the WAC this season and are only going to be in the WAC one season?
KR: BYU has historically done very well and led the Mountain West Conference. They're a very talented team, I got to see them out in Palm Springs. I compare them a lot to Arizona. They're going to have a good short game, they're going to have some kids in the middle of the lineup that can swing it, they're going to have a pitcher that can throw really hard. We're going to have to make sure we have a good eye at the plate and that we're swinging at strikes and we're going to have to be able to defend in the infield against their short game. I think it'll be a challenge. Playing here in Provo for the first time, it's a beautiful facility but it's a big field. Ours is 190 at the corners and 220 at center and I believe BYU's is 210 at the corners and 220 in center. It's a rather large field and the outfielders are really going to have to range. The good news is that a ball in the air is an opportunity to be caught. It is a little higher altitude but it's a really big field and I think it's going to play big.
bc.net: Any time you can beat Arizona it's a great win, what kind of confidence and momentum does it give your team going into conference play?
KR: We saw UNM out in Palm Springs just tearing people up and playing with nothing to lose and just playing with great energy, very, very positive energy. They beat Oregon, they beat Oregon State, they run-ruled Texas A&M, just really swinging. I really think that when they came into Las Cruces and we were able to hold them and really pressure them I think that's when some of the confidence really started to grow. Going into Arizona we had not really played well at all ever in Arizona and even in Regionals we got runners on a lot but just could not get the hit to score the run and so last night we just tried to capitalize on anything we got and just play hard. When they jumped out to an early lead I think in the past we might have panicked and we just decided it was seven innings and we were going to play it. If I can keep us focused like that, pitch-by-pitch and inning-by-inning then I think we're going to have a good conference run.
bc.net: Even after Arizona got the 6-3 lead last night in the bottom of the sixth, you went into the seventh and got the tying run to the plate three times instead of just going down in order. Even though you didn't get the win, you still kind of kept that momentum going.
KR: Absolutely. I feel like the kids never got on their heels. When you're playing Arizona you expect them to score. They're a fantastic offensive team and they've got some stellar hitters. We knew they were going to score. I equate it to a boxing match, you can either stand in the corner and get pummeled or you can get out there and start boxing. We just decided that we were going to battle and I saw an awful lot of positive things in our at bats last night. We were forcing their pitchers to throw strikes, we weren't swinging at stuff out of the zone. When they brought us something we could handle.we hit it and we hit it hard.
bc.net: What are your keys to this weekend's series?
KR: Really we're going to have to pitch well, we're going to have to put the ball in a good spot, stay under mental control, not walk a bunch of people and give our defense a chance to really play behind us and I think offensively we're going to have to stay within ourselves and really make them throw strikes. Just give them our best game and I think their best game versus our best game, talent for talent, they've got a ton of talent, I believe we've got a ton of talent and I think it's going to be a great series.