bleedCrimson.net: You probably learned as much about your team as you could possibly hope for in an opening weekend. Your thoughts?
Kathy Rodolph: I agree. It was a very interesting weekend. Lots of offense. I felt like collectively there was a great group of hitters on all the teams. I felt like it was great competition right out of the box. I tip my hat to Texas Tech. That game we came out a little nervous with opening game jitters and led the majority of the game but let it slip away from us. But then I really liked how we responded against Nebraska. That was one of the craziest offensive games I’ve seen in my entire life.
bc.net: That Nebraska game was unique for a few different reasons but this was also a game that I’m not sure some of your other teams in the past would have won, particularly in an opening weekend.
KR: I totally agree. Our response, when we gave up seven runs in the top of the sixth, it was the most unbelievable display of offensive power by two teams that I’ve ever seen. We punched them, they punched us, we punched them, they punched us. It was a great game. Not a great game in the circle in the sense that both of us struggled trying to slow down the other ones’ offense but the hitters were unbelievable.
bc.net: I thought one of the real key at bats in that particular was the grand slam by Malena Padilla. They had brought in their freshman pitcher and that’s a situation where when you have a freshman pitcher who is pitching in her first game that as a great offensive team, you have to take advantage of that situation.
KR: I have to say that I really think that freshman pitcher for Nebraska has some great stuff, she has great movement and I think she’s going to turn out to be a dandy for Nebraska. It was freshman versus senior and Mo gives our team fire and courage at the plate. She always has. She’s 5’2” but she thinks she’s 6’3” and she wallops the ball. She does not get cheated when she goes up there.
bc.net: That game with all the different pitching moves you had to make, how do you think your pitchers responded? It has to be tough when you’re giving up runs and big innings to be able to come out and put up a zero when you really need to.
KR: What I learned this weekend is the combination of three kids, and I’d like to get my fourth kid into the rotation because I think Nikki [Diaz] can help us too, but what I really saw this weekend is the combination of Karysta, Dallas and Makayla is pretty tough to handle because they all bring you a different look and a different speed. Even in the Nebraska game when I was shifting them around, and we talked about it and they absolutely bought into it, it’s pretty hard for a hitter to face somebody with really good movement who throws it one speed from the right side, then face somebody from the left side that throws really hard and then to face a different righty who has a different speed. Basically it doesn’t give hitters any opportunity to get their timing down. Just when you think you’re about to get on one, then you really have to be a great hitter to adjust to seeing that many looks.
bc.net: It seems like it gives you a lot of flexibility being able to have Dallas McBride or Karysta Donisthorpe play out in right field and being able to switch between pitching and right field and not have the issues with the re-entry rule.
KR: Absolutely. Dallas is a tremendous hitter too, that’s no secret to anybody that’s seen her. She gave up a home run but she came right back and belted one. With Dallas being able to hit for herself, we DP somebody for Karysta. She’s a pretty fast slapper and she could actually hit for herself but I feel like Karysta is a little more fine boned and I’d love to see her stay healthy all year. We’re going to try to make sure that happens.
bc.net: How do you feel like Dallas faired in her first weekend of collegiate pitching?
KR: I feel like Dallas did okay. I would like to see her cut down the walks a little bit and we talked about that today and different ways to be able to do that and using the tools that she has to get hitters out without expanding the zone quite as much. In the first outing, no matter how much you try to prepare somebody for large Division I hitters, there’s just no way to really get them to feel what it’s going to be like until they’re in it. But I can tell you her response today at practice, I think you’ll see her get stronger in every outing she gets. She’s a competitor.
bc.net: What did she take away from this weekend from an experience standpoint?
KR: What we talked about today was not letting the game frustrate her. To be able to stay calm in the moment and not let the game speed up too much so she’s able to use her experience that she has to be able to get them out. I think the first time you get involved with it, it’s like being in the ocean and a wave hits you and then when you realize how to brace yourself and how to fight back, then you feel a little bit more armed and that’s what I expect to see this weekend.
bc.net: Karysta Donisthorpe had a great weekend in the circle and was named WAC Pitcher of the Week. It’s got to be a great sign for you that opening weekend you have one of your pitchers had such a strong performance to open the season.
KR: It was really nice and I think that Karysta’s calmness when she took the circle allowed the whole team to relax and play behind her. I believe the whole team looks to Karysta and Staci Rodriguez as leaders on the team and both of those lead by example and I think she’s going to do a great job of keeping everything calm in the circle. She has definitely matured. Her redshirt year in hindsight was a real blessing because she’s been able to see the game from a different level. One of the things I liked most about Alex Newman was that she never really let the game get too big in her mind. Karysta will often tell me that she wants to be able to keep the game as calm as Alex did and I really saw a lot of that this first weekend and I’m excited about it.
bc.net: One of the things that really sticks out in the statistics from the first weekend is your team was 11-of-13 stealing bases.
KR: Honestly last year we were disproportionate. We had maybe a little too much power and not enough speed and that was evident by having to move Staci Rodriguez out of the RBI 3-hole spot and into the leadoff. So we went out strategically and brought in more speed and left-handed slappers and kids that can hit away as well and those kids are doing exactly what we need them to do in the offense to allow our big hitters to come up and really be able to create a big inning. What I liked the most is we had eight different kids hit home runs. It wasn’t like there were one or two kids you could pitch around or try to avoid in the lineup, we have eight different kids you have to worry about and that shows our depth.
bc.net: The other number that really stands out is you’re slugging .739 as a team.
KR: Cat was out a lot this fall due to an injury and so we weren’t sure if we were going to have her this spring and thank goodness we were able to get her back. But I feel like what it did is the kids really had to step up and really pay attention to what she asked them to focus on. I feel like we had some of the best growth as hitters this fall because they didn’t have her every day and now that she’s back they are absolutely buying into anything she asks them to do. Cat recruits offensive positions and then finds a place for them to play on defense. She’s got her leadoff, she’s got her 2-hole, then she’s got her bombers. To me I just see the whole thing coming together. In the past if one or two of those kids went into a slump, our offense really went into a slump and I felt like for a while we needed more depth because more depth means you raise the bar that is required to play at and that’s what we’ve been able to do every week so far.
bc.net; Everybody had good numbers on the weekend, who were some players who you were really pleased with?
KR: Emma Adams at third base did it on both sides of the ball. She was solid as a rock, she communicated well on every play on defense. She went into our 2-hole and did a great job this weekend. Malena Padilla did a phenomenal job, really was clutch and came through when we needed her to. Kelsey Dodd in the Colorado State game really broke that game wide open with a monster bomb out of right field. I swear that thing cleared the trees by 30 feet. I think Rachel Rodriguez who played a lot at second base this weekend, she’s a new addition to the left side, a slapper that just did a great job of finding a way to get on and then maximizing stolen bases when she was on. Fiana Finau on the first day had some monster home run power. What I liked was just the depth of the team. Corrin Green had been out with an injury, she got a pinch home run and then another broken bat single. I just love that we got contributions from so many different people. Tatum Reedy didn’t have her best performance at the plate offensively but she managed the game behind the plate as well as any catcher I’ve ever had.
bc.net: How do you feel like your freshmen group faired in their first weekend?
KR: I thought they did really well. I think Amy Bergeson is going to be a great addition in the outfield and she’s also a slapper that’ll give us good speed. We have one freshman who has terrific power who didn’t play this weekend because she had to have a root canal. She’ll be in the lineup this weekend and I expect her to have as much power as some of the others in the middle of the lineup. Really what we’re trying to do right now is to have our older, more experienced group teach the younger ones the game so the game doesn’t overwhelm them or get too fast for them. I believe that hitting is contagious and the minute you see one or two do it, then everybody is fighting over the bat rack to get up to the plate and that’s kind of the situation we have going on right now. I feel like we’re as balanced a team as I’ve ever put together.
bc.net: We talked last week about how you want your team to communicate well on defense and that you felt like you team was playing defense with great purpose. How do you feel like your team fared this weekend?
KR: In the outfield we did a phenomenal job. We took plays that could have easily been a double and we kept them at a single. Tatum Reedy behind the plate, she threw out all but two runners and was very efficient. The corners did a good job of really covering the bunt and talking. I think the middle infielders did a solid job but they had the most opportunities. I’d really like to see us communicate on every play and make sure that our angles are equal to the hit. So basically, if it’s hard hit, we’ve got sharper better angles going. If it’s not so well hit, get on the move and come get it, if it’s a soft chopper, we’re on the move. We expect everything to be fielded.
bc.net: You have another home tournament this weekend with Kansas, Bradley and Weber State. Kansas is off to a 5-0 start, Bradley had an interesting start to their season with a blowout win in their first game but thing getting run-ruled in their next four and Weber State is opening their season this weekend. What do you expect to see from this group of teams?
KR: I think that all three are going to be a great challenge. Obviously Kansas starting of 5-0 is going to come in here with a ton of confidence. They’re a very well coached team with a ton of talent. Two of their coaches are from New Mexico. John Rittman who was at Stanford is now there as their hitting coach. He grew up in Las Cruces, played for Mayfield, played baseball and football for the Aggies. He’ll be here and then the pitching coach, Abby Sims, is from Artesia and she was an All-American for NC State. I have a feeling with two of the assistants being from New Mexico that’ll draw a huge crowd and we had big crowds all weekend.
What’s interesting with Bradley and us is my assistant, Kate Malveaux, is married to the Bradley hitting coach, they just got married in December. Chris Malveaux is the associate head coach and the hitting coach. Somebody is going to be happy on Valentine’s Day when we play. We certainly hope it’s going to be us! That’s a great way to start off the marriage. If Chris is reading, we’ll go ahead and take Valentine’s Day.
Weber State is a team that beat us at UNLV last year. Talented pitcher, brand new coaching staff last year. They ended up doing very well. I think they’re going to come in and be tough as well. I expect a great weekend of softball.
bc.net: As far as the styles of these three teams coming in, are they similar or much different than the teams you had come in last weekend?
KR: I expect Kansas to be very balanced offensively and defensively and we’re going to have to bring our ‘A’ game. I think Bradley and us, Bradley struggled a little bit at the Arizona tournament but they were a Regional team last year, went to the Mizzou Regional. I know Amy Hayes real well. They’re going to come in here and try to redeem themselves from last weekend and Weber has a pitcher who is definitely going to keep them in ballgames.