bleedCrimson.net: Your thoughts on the series against Sacramento State? It was kind of that deal we've talked about all season long about four game series where you can win the first two games and be really feeling good about yourself and then lose the last two and it kind of changes the way you feel about the series.
Rocky Ward: We played really, really, really good in the doubleheader. It was a fabulous offensive game against a pretty good pitcher. They have one guy but the other guys are pretty solid. There aren't any blowup guys. They all had good arms and they all had three pitches and they all challenged you and they play perfect defense. I don't think they made an error the whole weekend and if they did make one, I don't think it made much of a difference. We played great in game one, a 16-4 win. Beck pitched well. He had one inning where he struggled a bit but that happens in blowout-type games, it's hard to keep focus. Then game two, Adam Mott was fabulous and that kind of led to games three and four. I was on their tails because the kid they brought in was a guy who only had a few innings pitched and not a very good ERA and we got no-hit or six innings in a game that we won 6-1 because we scored six in the first and then didn't score again, we didn't get a hit in the fourth through the ninth. We had an opportunity in the seventh to score, they walked a couple guys and then we bunt the ball right into the coverage. First and second you bunt the ball to third base and we bunted the ball right at the first baseman who threw us out at third and the inning just disappeared. I had the feeling that whole game that we were going to need to score again but Mott was good and relief was good.
So you win a doubleheader, really feel great, played good baseball and that continued on into game three where we led the game 5-0 and Ormseth was pretty good and he needed to have a good outing because his last two or three had been kind of average. He was good, he made a mistake, a two out, two strike mistake to a guy and he hits it out of the yard on us and it goes to 5-2. Then we just couldn't stop them. We couldn't score and we couldn't stop them. For the first time in a long time this season we haven't been able to control the opponent's momentum. We've been able to stop those rallies and we just didn't do it. We sent out Tim Torsney in the sixth and he goes out and gives up two ground ball base hits and you're thinking, "Oh great." They've got a little momentum and they got a little baseball luck. But then we bring in [Trey] Ross and we make a defensive mistake. I'm still not sure, he threw the ball a little high to Robert [Lecount] at third and I thought Robert should have made the play but they errored Ross on the play. He did throw the ball a little hard, kind of handcuffed him a little bit, it's kind of what you expect from a reliever especially this time of year. They don't get a lot of PFP or pitcher's fielding practice. He threw the ball a little firm but Robert didn't react to it and it goes into the bullpen and it goes to second and third and nobody out and the go ahead run is at the plate. It turned the game on its head. We get out of the inning but we don't get out before they get the lead.
At that point they bring in their number one guy who was sick the first two days with strep throat. So you're looking at it and thinking, we're in trouble here, they've got their number one pitcher on day three on the mound and he seems to be healthy. I thought he might be limited in the number of pitches that he threw because of his sickness. Strep throat can be bad but it just depends. Some people it saps their energy and they get really sick and that was kind of the way it was described. But he was good. He was 93-94 mph, he threw a cutter that really gave us all kind of trouble. From the third base box we're going, "How are we missing that pitch? It looks like it's knee high over the plate." I talked to a couple hitters and they said, "Coach, it's a pretty good cutter. It looks like a strike and then it kind of disappears." So they stole one from us. We had a game in control and a series in control and we let it get out of control and couldn't stop it and they had the right guys on the mound and so you kind of have to tip your hat to the opponent for how well they played and move on.
We come back the next game and establish the game against, score five in the first four innings and then they make a run at us and we can't stop them. So it was disappointing yes but when you look back at it we won two out of three on the road and anytime you do that in this league, regardless of who you're playing, that's a successful weekend. The Monday game was meaningless, we did take a little bit of a hit in RPI on it but not much. We dropped from 18 to 24 in those two losses and then yesterday our opponents played very well and brought us back up to 23. So we're okay. We're still within a range of where we want to be.
Sacramento has been a .500 team and they played exactly like they've played all year. They play a couple games where they just didn't compete and then play a couple games where they're very good. They did the same thing the next day. They played Cal-Davis the next day and were down 5-3 in the sixth and came back and won that game. They've got three come-from-behind victories in a row and they've got it going. That's what happens in baseball. I sent a text to Reggie Christiansen their young coach and said, "Nice job this weekend, you really out coached me the last couple days." I just thought it was a nice thing to do not just to be sportsmanlike but I did, I really felt like he out coached me. He got his one guy in the position he needed to be in to win the game and his ball club motivated and used the momentum to keep it going. They could have rolled over and accepted that they beat the number 25 ranked team one game but they didn't they finished it up with another one.
A little learning thing for our guys. We've been playing pretty good baseball. I didn't think we played very good against Nevada but found a way to win a couple. Maybe the two losses will kind of slap us in the back of the head a little bit and remind us we've got to respect the game and play it from start to finish and refocus us a little bit.
bc.net: That kind of leads into the next question, do you feel like every once in a while you need a little reset.
RW: Yeah, I'm hopeful. You won't know that until we play LA Tech and LA Tech's back is against the wall. They're 1-5, they're playing what people consider to be the best team in the league this weekend and they don't have much to lose and a lot to gain. If they're able to win two out of three at our place, that stabilizes them and puts them back in the middle of the hunt and if they lose three then they may be out of it completely. At 1-8 they may be looking and think, "Geez, we have to play great baseball just to make the tournament."
So one of two things happens and my team before the game tomorrow [Thursday] will get this speech. When a team's back is agains the wall you rarely get the middle ground. You either get a team that rolls over and is an easy opponent or you get a team that plays lights out. They need to understand that they better expect a team that plays light out. Sometimes when teams are having an average year and the whole league's had an average year, everyone was going into league around .500 except for us and you're worried about those teams. You hear speeches from those coaches, "You've had an okay year, now it's a new season, you have a new record, you do well in conference." I'm sure Sam Piraro at San Jose had that speech before his team went and swept Fresno in three and all of the sudden you look up and Sam's club who's had a year that wasn't as good as they'd hoped, now they've gotta feel great about themselves. They got a three game sweep to open up league so now they have momentum. San Jose follows it up on the road with a win against a ranked Stanford team. That's a good win for the league. When you look at our opponents, they had a winning percentage of .800 yesterday, they won eight out of ten and if they keep doing that, it'll keep our RPI high.
I don't want to get to a position where we're you're rooting for somebody else. You've got to take care of your own game.
The weekend, it raises the stakes a little bit. Do we have to beat LA Tech three? No, we don't to win a conference title but you feel like you gave away a game in the process and it's a game you've gotta pick up somewhere what that means you've gotta sweep a series at home or you've gotta win two out of three on the road somewhere to pick up that game.
We'll see. I think game one is pretty important to us. We've gotta get reestablished, it's the same deal as any other time you're playing off a loss. It's always easier to play the next game when you've won your last one. It's never any different, it's been that way in all sports. We have to stay on the goals we have ahead of us and we have to go play good baseball and a whole bunch of people will expect us to handle LA Tech without any problems. That won't be the case, not with the way this league has played out over the years. We'll have to play good baseball and game one will be pretty important to us. Again, we don't have to sweep the series but if we're going to win the league we're going to have to win two out of three. It's too early to start talking about must-win games but if we're going to win the league we're going to have to win the series otherwise we're going to need somebody else's help. This club has earned the right to feel like they're the frontrunner in the league and it needs to continue to earn that title and the way you do that is you win the series.
bc.net: The team has had a couple weeks here now being ranked in the Top 30 and Top 25 of several national polls. Early in the season the ball club was kind of the hunter and after the solid non-conference showing they've transitioned into the team that is the hunted. It's a bit of an awkward transition to make because there aren't a lot of teams that have to go through that. How do you feel like the team has handled it?
RW: I think we've handled it well. We've been there before over the last four of five years but we've been there from a totally different perspective. When we were ranked a year ago I thought it was kind of silly because we really didn't play a very good schedule and I didn't think we deserved the ranking. I was concerned about it because I was concerned that our guys weren't going to handle it very well and they didn't. This club has handled it pretty well. The fact that we won two out of three at Sacramento and the polls didn't hammer us over one loss, I think that in itself tells you what the rest of the country thinks about our body of work. The wins on the road at Arizona and Texas Tech and just overall our winning streak in the middle of the season and the fact that we're leading the nation in scoring by one and a half runs, a margin that is bigger than it's ever been. I think it's those types of things that we're starting to get some real attention.
I'm fortunate enough, they asked me to become the regional rep for the selection committee from the WAC. There's a coach out of each of the five western conferences that meet with an NCAA rep to discuss our teams in our region and rank them for at-large selections. I had my first meeting a couple days ago and it was a position that Mike Batesole held for the past several years. It takes a little bit of time and you have to do your due diligence. It's easy for me because I'm paying attention to what everyone else is doing the all of the time anyway. To know who the best teams are, who has power rating, who's playing well, who's not, I'm comfortable in that setting.
When I did my assessment of the teams in the west, there's lots of different criteria, you rank the teams, you don't have any votes but we help the committee member rank the teams in the west so that when they have their final meeting there's a bunch of different people that have had input into who we think are the most important teams to be at-large teams in the west. We were ranked at the third best team in the west. I didn't know that it would come out that way but record, RPI, the other rankings, I knew we were one of the top ten teams but to be in the range with UCLA who is the only team we have in the west that's power rated in the single digits and some of the other guys, the traditional guys in Fullerton and the Pac 12 is having an outstanding year, they have eight people who they think are at-large possibilities.
So overall I think we're starting to become more comfortable with the status. I understood when I played at Oklahoma State. We were the guy and we were always going to be the guy. We'd been to the national championships, we'd been to Omaha seven years in a row. The players that came before us had laid down the baseline of what the expectations were. We have much higher expectations than before we took the job and I'm proud of that. This is the first time we've gotten into a ranked situation and handled it and dealt with it and believed that we've belong. That's really important. There's a different pressure when you're the favorite and when you're the underdog. If you're the underdog you're going to have a certain number of people pat you on the back and say, "Great job you made a run at it." If you're the favorite you're going to have a bunch of people saying you choked. That's the difference. One's a lot harder to deal with than the other. I've been on both sides of it.
We've kind of established higher expectations as the base from where we're going to operate from. It's another opportunity, it's an opportunity to carry a national ranking, a very good season and carry it on your back. There's a little bit more pressure, it hurts more when you lose. The opponents don't have as much to lose as you do. You kind of have to get all of that out of the way and focus on the next pitch, the next play and the next game. That's what we're trying to do with this ballclub. Be proud of the fact that we're getting some national attention there's nothing wrong with that but don't think that you can sit back and people are going to roll over for you just because you're the mighty Aggies coming into town leading the country in five or six different offensive categories, ranked in the Top 25, that's not how it works.
I've got to get back with these guys a little bit and remind them that we have a pretty tough road to hoe. We've got six home games left, that's it. We've got 11 left on the road. We're misbalanced on the road and home games and we're going to have to go on the road and play well in order to close this year out the way we want to close it out. But again, it starts with doing what we're supposed to do at home this weekend.