bleedCrimson.net: A nice big week for your team coming out of the weekend off with a win over UTEP and a sweep of Seattle.
Kathy Rodolph: We definitely came out and played well and it was something I knew they could do all year and I was excited to open conference play like that.
bc.net: We talked about it last week but it seems like the weekend off was really what your team needed. The offense got back to being what you expect the offense to be and to get four wins where there wasn’t a whole lot of drama must have been really nice.
KR: It was. It gave Cat a chance to get her hitters swinging without there being a consequence to every swing. I feel like when you get to have live BP and you get to just get back into your swing, it helps them get back in sync. The time in practice really helped give us the extra defensive effort and this weekend out defense was really clean and I was really pleased with that.
bc.net: You had two players sweep the weekly WAC awards in Alyssa Ruiz and Karyista Donisthorpe. Sweeping the weekly awards hadn’t happened before this season and now it’s happened twice.
KR: It was a special one too because it was Alyssa Ruiz, our senior catcher’s first award and she just had a breakout week. I was very happy for her. Karysta has been building back her confidence off the injury last year and getting better every week and for her to finish the final game of the Seattle series with a one-hitter was really nice too. Very promising.
bc.net: After having the weekend off did you see a little bit fresher team not just physically but mentally?
KR: Absolutely. When you’re traveling you’re not sleeping in your own bed, not only were we home with the weekend off but it was also spring break so we were able to catch up with schoolwork and all those stresses that add to traveling as much as we did early, I think it just all came together at the right time and now we’re actually looking forward to Kansas City and it’ll be all of our first time going there. I like going there with a clear mind and ready to tackle another road series.
bc.net: Winning a conference is always a good thing but to be able to start off conference play against the team who was picked to finish second and to be able to kind of make a statement also had to be really good for your team.
KR: Seattle was pretty beat up. By the time they left here I think they ended up losing five players. That happened to us a couple of years ago, we lost both middle infielders to ACL injuries and then we had eight or nine kids get mono. He came in two or three kids down and then one starter came back from the first day on crutches and then his leadoff who had really given us a tough time, got hurt on Saturday. I would say that we were able to dominate but it also needed to be said that Seattle is pretty banged up.
bc.net: Every team has to deal with that kind of thing but for your team even with those factors for Seattle, how important was it for your team to go out there and for lack of a better term, not take any pity on the opponent?
KR: We teach our kids to play as hard as they can every single time they step between the lines. Sometimes that is going to come out in our favor and sometimes it’s not. I don’t think girls truly understand… they only understand the message that you give them so if you give them mixed messages, “Well, let’s go hard but not that hard,” I think that can get yourself in trouble. Although I felt really bad for Dan and I definitely understand because I’ve been in that position before, I really respected how hard our kids played and how many kids really contributed. When we were talking about who we were going to put up for hitter of the week, we had three or four candidates and we really had to not only look at the Seattle series but also see what somebody had done against UTEP and that’s a great spot to be in.
bc.net: You talked abut Alyssa Ruiz and she’s one of those players that doesn’t get talked about a lot. All of your players are an important part of your team but your catchers are an integral part especially on defense but they haven’t always been known for generating a lot of offense.
KR: What I like about Alyssa is she came in early every single day during spring break to be able to make sure she was able to keep up her part when she was called upon. It doesn’t always happen that you get great outcomes but you give yourself a better chance. I was very proud of her for spending the extra time because as a senior, your body is telling you to stay home and get some sleep and she got up, she got in there, she put in the extra work and it paid off.
bc.net: This week you head back out on the road, a common theme for you this season, this time out to Kansas City. You’ve played them in the past in non-conference so you know a little bit about the style of play that they have. Is there anything different about them this year than in season’s past?
KR: No, I think that they’ve got some quality wins and they have a pitcher that we’re going to have to work really hard to stay disciplined and get her to throw strikes. In the circle we’re going to have to minimize their momentum and I think that’s extremely critical on the road. Also, for us it’s 80 degrees here and when we go to Kansas City I think it’s going to be a high in the middle to upper 50’s with 70 to 75 percent humidity so it’s going to be different than what we’ve experienced. I hope with the road trips that no matter what happens with mother nature, we’re ready.
bc.net: Playing in cold weather is not necessarily a foreign thing to you, you’ve had conference series at Utah State and it seems like every time you played in Logan there was some bad or cold weather. How do you, especially with the younger kids who haven’t necessarily played in the colder weather, how do you prepare them for that environment?
KR: I think they’re going to look to the older kids for the leadership and if it doesn’t bother the older kids then none of the younger kids would ever show that it bothered them. When we went to Texas Tech, I think Friday over there it was 80 degree and then it was 40 the next day so we’ve already kind of experienced that. We worked all preseason when it was really cold and in two-a-days to never let mother nature dictate how hard we’re going to play a game. I don’t think it’ll bother us a lot, it’ll just be something we’ll have to adapt to.
bc.net: From an environmental standpoint, what does the colder weather do to affect the style of play, how does it affect the way the softball flies and things like that?
KR: Well the humidity, when the air is more dense then the ball doesn’t travel as far and UMKC has a big field. They play in a city park and rec field but it’s a big field. We’re going to have to work on live drives and barreling the ball. Last year when we went to the conference tournament at LA Tech and ended up losing to San Jose in the championship game, I can’t tell you how many balls they caught at the fence because all the balls that would normally go out here would get to the fence there. At least I know our returners know exactly what we’re talking about so they’re trying to find the back of the ball and trying to drive the ball instead of really trying to tilt as much on the ball. I think the cold also makes you react a little slower on defense and so we’re going to really have to focus on getting our feet moving so we can read the ball at the crack of the bat.
bc.net: One of the things we talked about at the very beginning of the year was the communication on defense. You’ve had an opportunity to play a bunch of different players now, where is the communication level of the team defensively compared to where you’d like it to be?
KR: I can tell you that we’re night and day and for me to say that means we’ve come a long way this year. Before with brand new middle infielders, we’d see the ball go up and they’d kind of turn their head and look and now they understand that that ball is theirs until they’re called off and they have to drop and sprint. One of the best things I liked from this past weekend and reviewing game film was that every ball that went up in the air had four of us around it to field it. There were a couple of good infield plays that went to our shortstop and she released our third baseman to go cover third and it was just a smoother transition. This is the time of year that you hope all the defensive work you’ve done comes together at game speed and I believe that’s happening now.