bleedCrimson.net: Your thoughts on reaching the 400 win milestone?
Rocky Ward: For some reason with my milestones we seem to struggle. Maybe it's me, maybe it's just the way it is. I know it took us a long time to get 200, I think 300 I kind of flew past. It's a significant number for me. To be honest when I started 16 years ago I thought I'd be there sooner but I was 32 years old and a young coach and thought I knew everything, you know? I'm pleased that I got to it and more than anything it's starting to get close to that 500 number and that's kind of a magic number in coaching. Dad won 1,000 but there's only been a few guys to do that. So I'm a long ways away from that mark but I think 500 is a significant mark as well. It's kind of a personal thing. You're saying, "Okay, I'm in range of getting to a number that when I started this career would be important to me when I got to it." It's a step along the road.
bc.net: How significant is it that the 400th win came against a schedule like this year's?
RW: It's marred a little bit during this last stretch but yeah, to have wins against Arizona and Texas Tech and people like that and Wake Forest as part of the wins that led to 400, it is important. It's a mark of the quality of program that's still being built. We still have a ways to go, there's still a lot of things to be done within our program and a lot of things that haven't been done yet. I'm really disappointed, it would have been great to have win number 400 come in an 11th inning win against New Mexico but you can't always get things your way. To be honest, I thought I'd get it at Hawai'i and the end result, it never really matters, it's a personal deal and it's just a mark along the way. The most important number today really is 32. We put a win in the win column which is what we needed to do going into San Jose and it's important that we play well against them. We have struggled coming into the tournament for a couple of years and we're kind of doing the same thing now but it would be good to go into the tournament with a four game winning streak and a one or two seed. It would be something that would make the last two weeks and the way we felt about it go away a little bit.
bc.net: Your team showed a lot of resilience tonight, particularly considering the heartbreaking loss against UNM and then having to get up very early to travel and then play a game the same day.
RW: Considering you lose an absolute heartbreaker last night. I had a real hard time describing it in the postgame radio show but to me there was a lot lost in that game. On a personal basis it could have been my 400th, on a team basis it could have started the streak we're hoping to get on, on a University basis it could have tied the Rio Grande cup which I think would have been a real neat thing to have that honor. I was pretty frustrated but at the same time the kids played good baseball. We didn't hand away a game. It was a very, very good game. So to come off that disappointment and come here and just play and play a good baseball game. We got challenged late and made a couple mistakes and there have been a few times over the last couple of weeks where the dreaded 5-0 lead, don't think I didn't look at that. We go up 5-0 and we don't score in the fifth and we don't score in the sixth and I'm going, "Come on guys, get it off that 5-0." And so it's 5-0, we struggle, give up an error hit a couple guys and all of the sudden the game's in jeopardy. Bob Kraft comes in and gets us out of it and Adam Mott comes in and closes it. It had maybe as close to a regular feel, the way games are supposed to be done, than we've had in a while where there wasn't any panic in the dugout and I think we handled the situation better than we have the last couple times people have scored on us late and challenged us. I think the last couple of days, even thought we would have really loved to have been 2-0 and we would have really felt like it gave the team a whole bunch of momentum, I still believe that we accomplished a lot. Kyle Phillips hit the ball hard a couple times, he had a double today. Bryan Karraker has swung the bat very well, Rust has swung the bat really well and those three when you go back over the last 12 or 14 games were all hitting under .200 and were in major slumps and all three of those guys have contributed really well in the last couple games. So you start looking at how each individual guy is feeling about themselves and producing and I think there's some good things. There's some good things that are slowing going our way.
bc.net: Bryce Griffin hit an RBI double in tonight's win, how important was that for his confidence?
RW: It was important because he was 1-for-19. He had a hit in the New Mexico game that kind of got him off the snide and he had an RBI double today and he hit the ball hard in every at bat. So he made good contact and I think he was 1-for-4 today but he hit the ball hard each time. He had the error that put the game in jeopardy so that's a little bit concerning but it was kind of one of those slow balls that he had to rush a little bit and just didn't make the glove play. I was very, very pleased with what Bryce did with the bat. He moved the ball, he didn't get dominated by anybody and I think as far as Bryce goes he's very confident in himself as a defender, he needed a little boost with the bat and I think we got it. I'm pleased with what he's done and more than anything I'm pleased with his courage. He's not afraid of it. He's taking advantage of his opportunity. He's always been a good kid and a good teammate but sometimes you have a tendency to lose that competitive edge when you're not playing very much and all of the sudden when it's thrown in your face it raises your heartbeat and it makes it kind of difficult to kind of get to a good competitive mindset and he's done a good job with that.
bc.net: One of the biggest issues during this last three week stretch has been the lack of offense but in the last three games you've scored 22 runs and gotten 40 base hits. It appears that the offense is rounding back into form.
RW: Yeah and that's good. I think that's the key to this weekend. If we can perform pretty well with the bats that's how you control San Jose because they're not a great offensive club. They've got this unique thing they've got going, they lost on Tuesday to UC-Davis, they were down 12-2 and scored six in the ninth. There have been six or eight games where they've been down by five or six runs and scored eight after not being able to score the whole game. We've talked over the years about being able to do different things and they have that. I'm sure they'd prefer to score them earlier in the game where they can control it but I think that it's important that we perform real well with the bats, keep some pressure off our pitching staff, let them be who they are and control the series. We need to do that and it's more effective against San Jose. If you're in the middle of the game and you're up by four or five runs, they're not a real good come-from-behind team. It's what we needed to do against Fresno. Fresno is an outstanding front running team, they're great o the top side of the scoreboard but they're terrible when they're behind. We just couldn't get ahead. We didn't lead any of those three games until Voight hit the home run. We can't have that type of offensive performance in the early part of the game against San Jose. We need to go stay at them and keep pressure on them.
I've talked to the kids over the last couple days about what we were able to do against Arizona, New Mexico, Texas Tech run during the winning streak. The one thing that was so impressive is we just didn't back off. In the Arizona game we trailed then we had the lead, trailed, got it back and so I think it'll be important. It's probably the most important thing that's happened the last couple of days is we've gotten some guys moving with the bats. Today was the day we didn't get anything out of Fisher but we got another real quality day out of Parker Hipp and Tanner Waite and the other guys at the top of the lineup. Tanner Rust has swung the bat really well. I'm pleased with where we are. I think it's as good as what we could hope for, it's kind of what we've been looking for. Guys are acting the right way, they're not overreacting to things that are going bad. They're forgiving themselves a little bit better when they're not having good at bats and I'm pushing them every single day to give me good quality at-bats. I know that's a real broad term for most people. A quality at-bat for me is an at-bat that's a challenge to the pitcher. if you go take the first pitch strike and then swing at two breaking balls in the dirt, that's no challenge, pitcher didn't have to do anything. We really have to go to war with the pitcher in every at bat and make him work. If it means we have to foul off three or four pitcher before we strike out then that's a quality at-bat because you've continued to make him throw pitches. We can't go out and make first pitch ground balls and pop ups and things like that and I think the guys are starting to get back to that. That's what we did so well early in the season. We were difficult outs up and down the lineup. It wasn't just in the hits, the outs were hard to get. That's what we've got to get back to and I think we've shown a little light at the end of the tunnel to get back to that feel.