bleedCrimson.net: Your thoughts on opening weekend and how you thought your team did?
Kathy Rodolph: I feel like we finished much stronger than we started. We came out with opening game jitters and played a very talented Florida State team and didn’t really handle the pressure very well. I guess I’m not overly surprised because we’re so young and we’re so new in a lot of key positions but I definitely like that we got better and played with more composure throughout the weekend and I feel like each day we got a little better.
bc.net: In the final game of the weekend, the game against UTEP, you give up six runs in the top of the sixth to give up the lead but then come back and score five runs in the bottom of the inning to retake the lead and eventually win. You’ve got to be pleased with your team’s ability to overcome the adversity and come right back and score those five runs.
KR: Absolutely. I’ve gotta tip my had to UTEP because they have a brand new coaching staff and we played them in the fall and then we played them this weekend and they are much improved. Tobin Echo-Hawk is doing a great job with them and I think they’re going to get much better and fare much better in Conference USA. With that said, I was excited that we were able, with our back against the wall, to bear down and get on, create pressure and take advantage of being the home team and having the last at bat.
bc.net: What do you feel like your team learned from those two games against the ranked opponents Nebraska and Florida State?
KR: Honestly, to keep the game in perspective. We have to learn to welcome the pressure instead of shy away from it because that’s the nature of the game. It’s a very fast-paced game, high intensity, lots of ups and downs. We’re learning to stay in the moment and have a short memory on mistakes and to communicate better. Defensively we had as many miscues in the opening weekend as we might have had all of last year, at least it felt like it. We have a very talented team, we just need to really learn to stay calm in the moment, when the pressure is really on and that’s at the plate, in the circle, defensively and in all areas.
bc.net: Pitching staff wise you got everybody some time in the circle. What are your thoughts on the weekend as far as pitching goes?
KR: Karysta came out and after being out last year with a broken foot she came out really nervous in the first game and uncharacteristically we walked nine batters and threw something like 70 extra pitches. Their one through four in the lineup got two or three additional at bats versus our team. She knew it was not her best outing but she got a lot better and pitched well against Saint Mary’s. Celisha Walker came out as a senior and was composed all weekend long and threw an awful lot of innings this last weekend but she showed me as well as the team that she’s going to be calm, she’s going to be able to hit her spots and let the team defend behind her. Makayla McAdams did a great job too of just coming out and staying composed. In the UTEP game she started to struggle just a little bit in the fifth inning finding the handle. She knew that and she knew that she kind of got off track a little bit and is going to work really hard to eliminate those. You can have a bad at bat with somebody but you can’t really afford an out of control inning. I was pleased with her ability to throw hard and vary the speed and hit her spots. Nikii Diaz came out very, very nervous in her first inning and had a little bit of trouble finding the strike zone against Florida State but then got much better in her second outing. I definitely think all four of them are going to be a valuable asset and get a ton of time this year.
bc.net: You’ve talked about all four of your pitchers giving you different looks from each of them. What are some of the strong points that you’ve seen from them on opening weekend and what have they brought to this pitching staff?
KR: Karysta really has great late movement and occasionally when she gets on fast forward she’ll overthrow her break. She’s got a great rise ball, great drop, she’s really improved on her changeup and she’s really solid east-west on her screws, curves and back doors. Celisha Walker has one of the best change ups that I’ve ever coached and she’s learned to throw on multiple planes and that’s really going to help her this year. Her rise is much improved, her drop is solid as well as curves and screws. Makayla really throws hard, 65-plus and has really, really improved on change of speed so she’s able to throw hard inside as well as away with a great speed variation. I definitely like the addition of speed variance this year. Nikki works real quick off the rubber and throws hard, middle 60’s and has a nice changeup too. I feel like when she gets a little game experience to go with her ability to have good late movement, she’s going to help a lot too.
bc.net: Offensively, Lacey Rother earned WAC Hitter of the Week. What impressed you about her weekend?
KR: Kat has always felt like she was going to be a significant part of the offense and that’s one of the reasons we recruited her and picked her up as a transfer. The thing I really liked about Lacey is we didn’t see her have a bad at-bat all weekend. Regardless of the outcome she was in every at-bat. Swinging at strikes, under emotional control. Her timing was pretty much on which at the beginning of the year it’s a little bit more challenging for the hitters to have their timing down as they go into the next couple of weekends and see more live pitching, basically the hitters’ timing all seems to get a lot more in sync. She had a great weekend for us.
bc.net: You were able to get quite a few players some early playing time. What’s your overall assessment of the team and did see what you kind of expected to see from them on opening weekend?
KR: Unfortunately yes as far as defense goes because I knew that was an area we were really going to have to work on to adjust to the speed of the game. I felt like Emma Adams played very solid for us at third all weekend and that’s going to be key. I thought Haley Nakamura came in and did a great job for us at shortstop. Brenna Nakamura did a good job for the most part, an adequate job at second but I think she’s got more in her. I’ll tip my hat to her because she didn’t take it to the plate. She absolutely had some key at-bats and had some key hits to be able to be scored and get us an RBI. Kelsey Dodd did a good job at one and three catchers played behind the plate in Tatum Reedy, Alyssa Ruiz and Lacey Rother and all three of them did a great job of managing the game, controlling the pitchers, making sure everyone was on the same page. Malena Padilla, Staci Rodriguez and Chelsea Dohrwardt did a great job in the outfield as well as freshman Misty Hoohuli who came in in the outfield and did a great job. She’s a kid who’s 5’8”, very athletic, great range, great arm, she was able to come through for us offensively as well. Fiana Finau had a nice home run. Because of just transferring in at Christmas we’re going to have to work on her infield defense so the game doesn’t speed up on her.
bc.net: Your team had two days where you had back-to-back games. Your team lost in the first game on both days but came back and was able to win the second game which often times is tough coming off that quick turnaround.
KR: I’m very proud of us being very resilient. We talked after both of the losses and said we can evaluate this when we’re done with the day but we’ve got to let it go right now because we don’t have any control over that right now. We’ve got to recenter and refocus on the next task at hand. I feel like they believe in that and we don’t dwell on the mistakes and we just want to continue to work on getting better. I really like the resiliency of this team.
bc.net: This weekend’s tournament you take on Texas A&M-Corpus Christi and Iowa State on Friday, Northern Colorado and Iowa State on Saturday and then finish up with Texas Tech on Sunday. Another good solid slate of teams coming in for this weekend. What do you want to see in terms of improvement from weekend one to weekend two?
KR: I want to see us more aggressive at the plate and to be able to make adjustments sooner. I seems like it took us just a little bit this weekend to do that. Timing, it’s hard at the beginning of the year because they haven’t seen enough live at-bats yet to really have their timing but I think we have enough core juniors that they should be able to adjust quicker. Defensively I definitely want to clean up the errors and it’s errors that are maybe speed of the game issues. Basically we’re getting to the ball, we just have to stay calm in the moment. Communication was pretty good. I’d like to see the pitchers shut down any momentum rallies. It was challenging because Nebraska and Florida State are Top 25 teams and I would say that Nebraska’s top five in their lineup are as good as any that we’ve ever faced. They did a great job of putting pressure on us. Florida State from top to bottom is very athletic and very sound. They just do not make mistakes. They’re going to play very solid and make you beat yourself. I feel like with a young team we learned a lot from playing those games. The first game against Florida State we lost 11-0 and the game against Nebraska we lost 11-0 but those two games were very different games. We actually played with Nebraska. In the fifth inning we kind of had defensive meltdowns that led to them scoring quite a few runs. What I’d like to see this weekend is shutting down any big rallies and not getting rattled. I think that’s the next challenge for our team.
bc.net: You played Saint Mary’s twice on the weekend. How do you think your team did as far as making adjustments the second time facing a team which is obviously a big thing since that’s how conference play works?
KR: I felt like the Saint Mary’s game, the first time, we were more assertive. The second time we hopped out to an early lead and I don’t know what happened exactly but I don’t think the intensity was there every time because we left a ton of runners in scoring position. I think that just goes back to getting comfortable in the lineup and being able to come through with runners on because some kids have different pressure on them. As far as facing a pitcher twice they definitely adjusted to that.
bc.net: This is your last weekend at home for a good while. How do you prepare for that and what do you want to see in terms of your team starting to prepare for that long stretch away from home?
KR: We talked about it even this weekend that we don’t have that many games in our yard and so we’ve got to really enjoy it and stay in the moment when we do and when you have the advantage of being the home team you have to take advantage of that. It’ll be another challenge for us this weekend. The challenge is to play error free, communicate, adjust to the speed of the game and do it on your home field in a comfortable environment and hopefully if we can tackle that this weekend then the next challenge will be to be able to do that on the road at UTEP next weekend. UTEP is a unique situation because their outfield is all turf now so the ball really bounces a lot different on that than it does on natural grass. Everywhere that we’re going to go we’re going to have to adjust to different environments and hopefully by the time we get to conference it won’t be that big a deal to us.