bleedCrimson.net: Your thoughts on the weekend against BYU? You had two hard fought games and one tough inning in that middle game.
Kathy Rodolph: Yeah, I feel like we went into Arizona and played really well and upset them and then in game two we ended up losing Kristi Covarrubia our shortstop this year to a blown ACL, she was chasing a foul ball down in foul territory, she started to cut and her knee just went. So when we went into BYU, about two days before we were supposed leave to go Arizona we lost Tehani Kaaihue our starting second baseman, blew her ACL and meniscus and so when we lost Kristi we lost both middle infielders going into the BYU series. On the fly we were trying to make lineup adjustments and defensive adjustments. We rose to the challenge but we just came up short.
bc.net: One of the other issues you've had to deal with is a spate of mono that has taken its toll on the team as well.
KR: Out of 22 girls we have eight with mono. Tiare Jennings had it the worst, swollen spleen and ended up missing five games at Arizona State's tournament and is still trying to get her stamina back up. Alex Newman had it, Karysta Donisthorpe has it. It's been a crazy, crazy spring.
bc.net: Despite all that you go into Provo and face a team that's really hot and riding a 22-game home winning at the time and push them to the edge in two of the three games.
KR: You know we really ask the kids to step up and whatever challenge we're faced with, that's life. You never know what's going to come at you and sometimes you're going to get knocked down and you just have to get up and dust yourself off. I was really pleased with our response. I feel like we had a lot of kids trying to chip in and give a little bit extra. It was just really hard to recover on the fly. When you lose both middle infielders and you have a staff that really relies on their defense a lot it was just a challenge. Since we're returned we've had a lot of kids come in extra and really willing to step up and hopefully that'll make the difference in the Hawai'i series.
bc.net: You guys hit into a lot of bad luck in the series and BYU's third baseman also played some outstanding defense.
KR: I'll tip my had to their third baseman from BYU. She made a play on Amber Olive that I don't know I've seen anybody make this year. She fielded a bunt within two steps of home and threw Amber out at first. We've just gotta tip our hats to her because that was one heck of a play. I was extremely impressed.
bc.net: Amber Olive has done a really good job stepping in and filling that role that Kylie Randall had last year but she had kind of a rough weekend offensively going 0-for-9 on the weekend in the leadoff spot.
KR: Nobody realized more than Amber that she was disappointed that she wasn't on in the BYU series but I can tell you that kid will not be outworked. She was in every day looking at video tape and working with Coach Heifner on different approaches going into this weekend. That young lady, I can't say enough about her.
At New Mexico State the athletic department asks the kids to give 15 hours of community service and Amber Olive has won the top community service award for all athletes for three years running and she is right at 63 hours this year. She goes in and takes notes for disability students, she does all of the little things that maybe somebody else wouldn't want to do.
I know Amber was off a little bit but there's no doubt in my mind that she'll be back for this series against Hawai'i.
bc.net: Even though you lost the three games in the series against BYU, your team played well and did some good things. What were some of the positives that you were able to take away from the weekend?
KR: Alex Newman had been a little bit down with mono and had been sick with upper respiratory stuff going on and was pretty sick this past weekend. One of the highlights to me was Karysta just continues to get better and better and I feel like the only thing holding Karysta back is just getting the experience that she needs. Every time she goes out she gets better and takes what the game gives her and just adds a new tool to the chest.
I was also pleased with Brittany Clifton, she caught all three games for us and I felt like she did a really good job leading behind the plate and working with the pitching staff.
Tiare was willing to step up and play short, play second, anywhere we needed her to play.
Shaleese Javillo had not seen ground balls in four years, since high school. I went to her and asked her about playing second and she said, "Anything to help the team." I thought she did a great job at second.
Teresa Conrad moving back to short and getting back in there. I thought she did a good job and I'm expecting her to continue to do good things.
bc.net: You talked about Karysta's continued development and she faced an outstanding hitter at BYU in Delaney Willard. How much will that experience from this past weekend help her this weekend when she goes up against another outstanding hitter in Kelly Majam from Hawai'i?
KR: I feel like both are outstanding players and I think what Karysta has learned is when you're facing one of the top players on the other team you've gotta make sure you put the ball in a good spot otherwise they're going to hurt you. I think she knows that and understands that. It's different at the D1 level than what anybody's experienced until they done it because one through nine can beat you. It's not like in high school where you just have worry about the top three or top four. Most Division I players were somebody's four-hole hitter.
bc.net: You've talked about her being that strikeout pitcher that you've been looking for and she had 10 strikeouts in the two games against BYU that she pitched. What is she starting to see against hitters that's allowing her to get those strikeouts?
KR: I think that probably the biggest asset that Karysta brings to the staff is that she has great late break. That's something that you hope all your pitchers will have because that late great movement is the biggest factor in deception of really good hitters. I feel like as she continues to get stronger, she started off the season with a partially torn quad, she came back from that and then got mono and then she's come back from that. I can't say enough about how tough she is because nothing seems to keep her down for long. I feel like the stronger she gets and the more experience she gets the better we're going to do.
bc.net: This weekend you host Hawai'i in a big conference series and the first game will be televised on ESPNU. What kind of opportunity is it for this program especially considering where it was when you took over?
KR: We are very excited to have the opportunity to play in front of a national audience with ESPNU coming in. Hawai'i is coming in and going to be an extremely tough opponent. Their pitchers have some of the lowest ERAs in the country as well as a potent offense. It's going to take all hands on deck for us to be able to go toe to toe with them. The one thing I know about our team is we're going to give it everything we have and are determined that no matter what adversity we're faced with we're going to find a way to get better every game.
The opportunity for an ESPN game, your'e right, nine years ago when I got here I didn't know if that would ever occur but I feel like because of the kids we're attracting and because of the level of ball that we're able to play at, it makes it a good opportunity for us and for ESPN.
bc.net: You mentioned Hawai'i having two outstanding pitchers and having some of the lowest ERAs. This won't be the first time that some of the kids on your team have faced the pitchers. What are some of the things that they will be able to take away from the previous battles with Hawai'i that might help them in the matchups this weekend?
KR: We all know that Stephanie Ricketts, she's been the pitcher of the year for three years, she's just a warrior and she wills herself to be mentally tough under pressure and she also has the ability to throw really hard. The biggest challenge that we're going to have is that some of our young kids, because of some of the injuries and stuff, we're going to be really new and it'll be some of the first times that they've seen her. Coach has been working with the hitters all week and getting them prepared and hopefully it'll pay off.
Kaia Parnaby does a great job of spinning the ball and moving it and being left-handed she's going to give you a different look from the other side of the rubber.
They definitely complement each other well.
bc.net: Who are a couple of pitchers you've faced this year in your tough non-conference schedule that might be similar to Ricketts and Parnaby?
KR: Arizona has two kids that throw really hard in Kenzie Fowler and Shelby Babcock. Speed-wise they're going to be very similar to Steph Ricketts. We also faced some really tough pitching out in Palm Springs when we played Cal, Stanford and Oregon. What you learn against those guys is that you don't want to have to go deep into a count and have to defend against their best stuff. I think it takes courage to get in there and attack early in the count. Hopefully we're going to put ourselves in a position where we battle at the beginning of the count instead of defend at the end.
bc.net: Dealing with the two injuries that you have with Kristi and Tehani, they were two of the faster players that you have. How has that changed your offensive strategy?
KR: I think the challenge that Coach Heifner is faced with is that she can put a set of young ladies on the field that provide us with the best defensive set but maybe a different set of kids might provide us the best offensive set so we're trying to figure out which way we're going to go. It's more rearranging the lineup because Kristi and Amber [Olive] really worked well together as a dynamic duo and so somebody else has to fill in in the two-hole and Coach is having to work to figure out who is going to be the best for her strategy offensively but then we also have to put together the best defense we can to field behind our pitchers.
bc.net: What are some things you want to see out of your team this weekend in the Hawai'i series?
KR: We want to know and understand that we're going to be playing a very talented team and that they're going to be aggressive and we're going to have to basically go toe-to-toe and they're going to create some momentum and we're going to have to try get it back and try to create some momentum our way. We've got to be able to put the ball in a good spot in the circle, we've got to be able to field behind our pitchers and we've got to be able to stay within the offensive strategy that Coach Heifner gives the kids.
bc.net: In last year's series against Hawai'i being the home team was a big deciding factor in the series. How important is it that you're at home this weekend?
KR: I think when you're home you know you get the last at-bat and so that has a chance to be significant in a close game. I think in our conference where your'e either home three series or on the road three series, this year we're at home three series and on the road four series and what we've tried to do is convince the kids that whether we're at home or on the road we want to bring our best game and just be us. We feel like in order for us to play our game, we need to be aggressive. We want to establish tempo. Luckily so far we haven't been intimidated. We've played a really tough schedule so that our young kids understand the bar that we want to play at and in doing that the kids have had some adversity but the kids know that's part of what this is and they step up and give us more and I'm hoping that's what's going to happen this weekend.