bleedCrimson.net Weekly Coach Ward Interview :: 05/22/13

bleedCrimson.net: You had four players, Bobby Lecount, Tanner Rust, Michael Medina and Evan Mott earn All-WAC honors and all four were very deserving.
Rocky Ward: It was a little different this year because you have ten teams instead of seven and the same number of all-conference spots available. I think Rust and Lecount were clear First Teamers and I thought Medina had earned First Team in particular because of his play in league. He was in the top six or eight hitters in conference play. I'm sure he was happy with the Second Team honor. Evan Mott, when you consider that a couple years ago was the first time we'd had a pitcher earn an all-conference honor, it's good to get a guy on and he was well deserving. I think both Medina and Mott were on the borderline of being First Team. I think we were well represented, especially when you finish as the six-seed out of a ten team league you expect the guys who finished in the top two or three to get a few more guys and I think that's how it worked out.

I've always been a big proponent of honoring as many guys as you can with what they did in their career. In the old Big Eight every senior was honorable mention at the least. I think that overall the guy that I felt got left out was Kyle Phillips. I thought his numbers were good enough to be considered to a Second Team guy. His conference numbers were very good. I think in the big picture Tanner Rust and Bobby Lecount are guys who should be given serious consideration for All-American honors with their overall numbers. You pretty much have to be First Team all-conference to be considered for All-American. Those are two marquee guys who have good enough numbers to be All-American guys.

bc.net: Specifically with Evan Mott he's had a really good year. After not being a huge factor on the team last year and as a senior this year, how important was it for him to get that recognition?
RW: I think it was a big deal. He's a twin of Adam who is our number one guy and has gotten a lot of accolades in his time here and so for the twin brother to step up and have this type of year, on a personal basis between the two of them and as a coach looking at coaching twins. I have twins in my family and I don't think people really understand the emotions you deal with when you're the parent of a twin. It's not about being fair but when one has success and the other one doesn't it kind of negates itself and I kind of felt the same way about those two. So it was good to see Evan get his due and it's well earned. Part of it was a year ago both Evan and Adam were guys that were vying for starting roles and Adam won that role, not head-to-head obviously there were some other guys involved. I think the best thing we did was come into the year with Evan in a completely different role and not have him competing head-to-head with his brother. I think it allowed him to be his own person and live on his own work ethic and his own numbers. It didn't hurt Adam either. He didn't have quite good enough numbers to be considered for All-Conference honors but from a team standpoint they're both extremely important to us and what we do in particular over the next few days in the tournament.

bc.net: Looking back to the Seattle weekend one of the most important things to come out of that weekend was the outing that Chris Bradley had.
RW: Yeah it was one of those weird weekends. You have to make decisions as coaches to put your team in the best position to succeed. What is success? Does that mean you won your last game or does it mean you're more prepared to compete in the conference tournament? We chose to position this ball club that obviously is not going to be an at-large team and nobody is going to an at-large team out of the WAC. The only team that will come out of the WAC this year will be the conference tournament champion. We did not throw our one, two or three. We did throw Ryan for a couple innings but we didn't start them. Ormseth was hurt in the San Antonio series. He was going to be out no matter what. You're disappointed that you lost two out of three but you also went against a Division I team regardless of where they finished in league, with your four, five and six against their one, two and three. Even as is, I was not disappointed at all with what we got from our pitching staff. Casey didn't have a real good outing but we didn't do a real good job for him defensively either. We didn't swing the bats terribly well and we couldn't put pressure on them. You lose a game 15-2 and it doesn't look real good but when you take your top three starters out that's 15 to 20 innings of pitching that you're not going to have available to you. So we were pretty limited in what we could use in the bullpen. Then to have Bradley come in and give us a 4-0 shutout you feel really good about what he can do for you in the tournament.

One of the problems we had going in is we have our number three injured and you don't know whether he's going to be healthy enough in time. It did give you a feeling that if Michael wasn't going to be able to go that you had a guy that could pitch on Saturday or on Sunday that's had an outstanding outing coming in. You feel pretty confident about having enough quality innings in order to win the tournament.

Baseball players are like the stock market. Previous performance is not a guarantee for future success but at the same time it still feels better that he went out and gave us a really good outing.

The only thing I was really disappointed with on the weekend as a whole was the fact that we have been just okay offensively but we've been inconsistent again. We scored in bunches and then not scored for a period of time. Game three we lose 7-6, we lead the game 3-0, 3-2, 6-2 and 6-4 and then you don't score for seven innings. That's a game we've had about six or eight of those this year that's really been the difference where we either haven't pitched well enough in the later innings, the sixth and seventh, or we haven't scored in those innings and we left eight wins in the loss column because we didn't play well enough in those spots.

You look at this ball club and instead of being 28-26 we could be 34-20 and be in the top of the league. That inconsistency in the offense has been a little bit of a concern. We did the same thing in the Texas-Arlington series where Mack goes out and hits a two-run home run and then we can't stop them. We're a little out of sync but this club has been out of sync for three or four games in a row and then in sync for three or four games in a row. I guess if we're going to go by pattern then we should feel great about ourselves because every time we've gone out and had a little bad streak we've gone out and put together a good streak.

Any tournament you play in you need a good quality outing out of your starter, you need to get your hitters going. It's no different than starting the season. Everybody starts out with no ERA and no batting average. You kind of erase all of what you did up to this point when they make the all-conference selections. There's a lot of history over the years in tournaments of star players not doing real well and backup players becoming all-tourney guys. Our middle of the lineup is as good as anybody in the league. Our starting pitching is pretty close to most of the guys in the league. We're going to play in a facility that's pretty fair. A lot of it depends on the wind conditions here. It's 390 to 400 in center and fairly short down the lines. The gaps are pretty reasonable. Balls that are hit on the barrel have a chance to double and homer. It's a pretty fair ballpark overall.

bc.net: Looking at the tournament this year the format change changes a lot of things from a strategic standpoint. You know who you're going to play, you know when you're going to play them and you can kind of line up your guys according. I think for being a six seed it feels like you got a pretty favorable based on how you performed against those teams in the regular season with who you have going to the mound.
RW: Yeah. We're not much different from where we were five years ago. That was a double elimination tournament in Hawai'i and you didn't know who you were going to play but the chips fell in the right spot. I was able to go against Fresno with a pitcher that beat them. The second game was against LA Tech with a pitcher that had beat them and then the third game was against San Jose. It kind of lined up. In this case we feel like we have it lined up pretty good. We're not sure outside of tomorrow's game who we're going to go with. We'll go with Adam who beat Texas State. We beat them 12-6 and it was a good outing by him. We got to their starter early and got a lead and the six runs he gave up, he gave up two or three dead runs just making sure he didn't walk people and give up a big inning. Beck is the logical guy to go the next day agains Texas-Arlington. He threw an 11-1 victory in game two against them and was just fabulous. Bradley fits Dallas Baptist well. Their power is left-handed. That seems to be the way we'll line it up. We'll make the decisions day-to-day.

You can look at the draw any way you want. I think we match up pretty good. I think there's a clear disadvantage that we have all Texas teams in our draw and two out of the three teams are local to the area. Crowd could become a factor. It'll be a little bit like being a road game because of the number of fans from Dallas Baptist and Texas-Arlington may come out.

Overall the draws are good. When you look at the head-to-head competition Texas State beat us two out of three but you feel like you left a game on the table, one of those games that I talked about where we didn't make a play or two at the right time. Same thing with Dallas Baptist. We beat them two out of three but we felt like we should have swept that series. Texas-Arlington hammered us pretty good in game one, we hammered them in game two and game three was another one of those that we left on the table. In the stat column if you walk one less guy, hit one less guy or get a base hit in a key situation it's a different outcome.

If we look up three days from now and we're in the championship. I don't think anybody would be surprised. They shouldn't be. But I think almost every team in this tournament can say the same thing.

I like the format because whoever comes out the champion is going to go into a regional without having to kill their pitching staff to get there. That's the best thing about the tournament. There are four games, you know how many innings you have to pitch short of playing a couple extra inning games or something. The tournament format is fair and whoever comes out is going to be able to go into the regional is a good position and that's really good for the league overall.

bc.net: Going into the tournament this year what's the team's mental state or mindset? It seems like there is less pressure surrounding the team this year.
RW: I think so. Last year was so unique in that we played poorly against Fresno and Hawai'i. Before those two we had just played decent and we were an easy conference champion and then we put the conference championship in jeopardy. We play a dead game against Bakersfield in which neither team had a whole lot of motivation and we win that one 5-3 and then we go sweep San Jose at San Jose and we spent a lot of energy. I think our pitching staff was tired, I think our players were tired. The one thing I really didn't like about the six team tournament with the byes, and we did this twice, you get the bye which is great in lining up your pitching but you're playing a team that was already played and won a game and has gotten into the tournament. In a league that's got a lot of separation from top to bottom the bye in the first round makes a huge difference.

In the WAC the last three years I don't think the bye helped anybody a whole lot. Everybody was good and there was a whole lot of parity.

We purposefully rested our pitchers. Each of the guys goes to the mound with the idea that they're fresh enough to go 100-plus pitches if we need them to. They're not as tired. They've each gotten a mental break which is I think as important as the physical break. Really you hate the fact that you lost two out of three going in and five out of six but the last three were planned. Now I didn't go into lose the last three but I thought we could go in there with four, five and six and win two out of three and we could have if we'd swung the bats a little bit.

It's still going to come down to the first game. Obviously I didn't like the fact that we ended up as the six and got the day off. We didn't need it off but at least the other team is off too. We're both getting our feet wet in the tournament even though there will have been three winners and three losers to that point.

We need a quality outing out of Adam. Our hitters need to be disciplined and get into the tournament and I think if you win day one, I think all four winners will have a pretty distinct advantage, whoever they might be. I think it takes the pressure off.

The most important time in the tournament will be between 11am and noon tomorrow. The first hour of that game and how guys handle it and react and how the baseball luck is working out. We kind of feel like as a ballclub that we're due some baseball luck and for some balls to hit the hole and line drives to hit at guys. The key I think is it will be important for this club to get its first conference win in three years. There are some things we're carrying. We haven't won a tournament game since the Hawai'i tournament. I still believe that if we get in and win the first game then all bets are off. That's kind of the history we've developed. Unfortunately we've kind of been an all or nothing team. Either go two and out or we get into the tournament we're the most dangerous team there. Hopefully by four of five o'clock tomorrow we'll be the hottest team in the tournament.