bleedCrimson.net will be conducting weekly interviews with Aggie women's softball head coach Kathy Rodolph throughout the 2008 season as the Aggies take aim at the WAC title. In this week's interview Coach Rodolph recaps the season opening tournament in California and previews the matchups in this weekend's Hotel Encanto Invitational.
bleedCrimson.net: Can you talk about your overall thoughts from the weekend and then we'll get into each game individually.
Kathy Rodolph: I never aspire to be 1-4 but all in all I'm pretty happy with the way that we played on the weekend even though the outcome wasn't exactly what we wanted. I thought we were able to play with some really strong teams and with only two seniors on the field and five freshmen at any given time, I think the future looks pretty bright.
bc.net: Let's talk about the Texas A&M game. I thought that your team came out the aggressor in this game, you were getting a lot of contact on their pitches early on. You were able to get 7 hits and force 3 walks out of an All-American pitcher Meghan Gibson.
KR: I feel like we did a great job of getting on and I feel like we got a little bit nervous in executing and coming through. We had bases loaded with one out and we struck out and popped out with our 3 and 4 hole hitter up. I feel like we have very talented kids they're just getting used to playing at that level. We weren't able to travel in the fall so it was the first time my freshman had actually played against any Division I team. All in all I feel like we had every opportunity to win that game and I think if we were able to play it this weekend after having the experience of last weekend, I think the outcome might be different.
bc.net: Can you talk about the Oregon State game later that evening?
KR: Not to make excuses but I think that after we had played so close and had such an intense game with Texas A&M, it took a lot out of us mentally and emotionally in that game and Oregon State came back in the nightcap and kind of hopped on us in a hurry. What I liked about that game is we never quit. We were scoring runs up until the final out. We even had an opportunity to win that one late, we just got behind early.
bc.net: On Saturday your team pulled off a win against a very good Cal team, can you talk about that game?
KR: That was exciting. Kim Watson pitched a great game and I felt like our hitters faced some of the toughest some of the toughest pitching we've seen in Marissa Drewery and she kind of handled us, I don't know how many strike outs she had but it was close to ten or eleven [NOTE: Drury had 13 strikeouts against the Aggies]. I was just excited that Kim was able to stay confident and hit her spots and keep us in that game.
bc.net: In the evening you played Portland State, can you talk about that game?
KR: I think that we were a lot more evenly matched with Portland than the score indicated. I was kind of disappointed a little bit. I felt like that was absolutely a game that we could have won. Emotionally we were kind of celebrating the victory of the Cal game because that was a huge win for us. I'd like to see us be a little bit more resilient in a tournament setting to be able to control our emotions until both of the games are over and then enjoy it later.
bc.net: On Sunday you took on Cal-Poly game, can you talk a little bit about that game?
KR: Cal-Poly is an outstanding team and they won their conference last year. I felt like they kind of hopped on us early and then we fought our way back and had an opportunity to win it. Hopefully as we continue to progress in February in those close games we'll get that clutch hit and be able to score those runs. We left a ton of runners on in scoring position and that's kind of disappointing but it's early in the season and I know it's early for our hitters. What I like is we don't pout about it, we just get back in there and fight harder next time to get on and come through. I feel like we definitely are looking forward to playing again this weekend and being at home.
bc.net: How well do you think your new kids adjusted to the Division I level of play?
KR: I feel like defensively we can hold our own with anybody. We absolutely pride ourselves in defense. We have a good mixture of speed and power offensively it's just early and not clicking yet. Basically in the infield at any given time we have two or three new infielders, we have two new young ladies behind the plate and then we have a couple of new young ladies in the outfield. Most of the time we're playing five freshmen. So as we continue to grow, we will be able to start to win those close games.
bc.net: You used three pitchers, Samantha Dillard, Kim Watson and Vanessa Fitzgerald. From their performances what were you pleased with and what do you feel they need to work on heading into this second weekend?
KR: I feel like all three of them gave me a good outing. We're going to continue to work on the second outing and making sure that stays as sharp. We've been really working hard on being in tip top shape and being able to recover and handle the demands and come back strong on day two. That's what I've challenged them to do this weekend. I got great performances out of all three of them, I just want to see day two as strong as day one.
bc.net: One of the things we've talked with Coach Ward of the baseball team about is playing doubleheaders and he talked about the psychological aspect of that on the baseball team. What kind of effect does it have on the softball team playing doubleheaders like you did this weekend even though they weren't true doubleheaders in the respect that you weren't playing the same team back to back?
KR: Really the biggest difference, my returners are used to it and they're used to tournament play and we're really going to rely on them a lot. As far as the freshmen go, they're used to playing travel ball and basically they have an hour and twenty minute time limit to their games and so a lot of the games don't go to completion because you couldn't complete it in an hour and twenty minutes. So we're working with them on that and getting them to be able to withstand mentally, focusing for that two hour or two and a half hour game and then turning around and doing again for another two or two and a half hour game is definitely an adjustment for them but I think that by the time we get through February they'll have that well in hand.
bc.net: This weekend you're back at home and you have another five game tournament, first up you have North Dakota State who comes in 4-1 and they have the Player and Pitcher of the week in the Summit League. Melissa Chmielewski was 8-of-13 (.615 batting average) with two home runs, eight RBI and five walks, and also boasted a 1.154 slugging percentage and a .722 on-base percentage. what can you tell us about them and what do you guys need to do?
KR: North Dakota State has an outstanding team and I know a couple of the young ladies in their program. To be honest with you, it's our first time ever playing them so it's going to be kind of new for both of us. Then I think when you add in the element of the possible weather that we're expecting and the 40% chance of rain and snow, it's going to be interesting but I feel like the advantage might tip back our way because of being at home and knowing how our field plays whether there's rain or no rain. And usually the only weather we get here is wind and we're used to that as well. I expect that we should come out strong just opening up at home and being excited to be here.
bc.net: Then on Saturday you'll take on Colorado State who was also there at the Cathedral City Kickoff and went 4-1 and defeated Portland State 4-0 and Oregon 3-2. What can you tell us about them?
KR: Colorado State has got an outstanding program, they're well coached and they upset Oregon while they were over there. I definitely feel like they're very talented and very athletic and in order for us to come out on top we're going to have to really play.
bc.net: After Colorado State you'll take on Illinois-Chicago comes in 2-2 and you'll actually face them here and at the U of A tournament in a couple of weeks. What can you tell us about them and does that effect on the type of game you'll play knowing that you'll face them again in a couple weeks?
KR: Illinois-Chicago is a good program and they've got a good pitching staff. I feel like the advantage might be towards the teams in the south because I would venture a guess that they haven't been out on the field much [due to weather]. So, hopefully we're going to be able to put some pressure on their defense to try to get an edge there. I know that we'll see them again in a week or two in Tucson and I would venture a guess that it would be a closely matched game both times.
bc.net: You'll also face UT-San Antonio who comes in at 1-2 and opened their season with a three game series against UT and beat them 3-2, what can you tell us about the Roadrunners?
KR: If we're going to come out on top of UT-San Antonio then my pitchers better have their 'A' game because UT-San Antonio is well know for hitting bombs. They're in the top 50 programs, at one time they were in the top 10 for hitting home runs. They definitely like to swing it and they rely heavily on their bats to win games for them so hopefully my pitchers will be able to mix it up and keep them off balance.
bc.net: Then you'll wrap up the weekend against UT-Arlington who is 1-4 heading in but like your team faced some pretty good competition in a tournament down in Miami, what can you tell us about UT-Arlington?
KR: UT-Arlington finished at the top of their conference last year and they're always athletic. I'm hoping once again that maybe we've had a little better weather in Las Cruces and been out on the field a few more times than they have in Dallas because Dallas always gets that crazy weather. They're gonna be very talented, they're gonna have some speed, they're gonna have a mixture of power and speed and hopefully us being at home it will shift the edge back to us.
bc.net: Coming back home this weekend after having faced a few marquee big name teams, how do you expect your freshmen and younger players to handle that adjustment of playing, maybe not a talent level drop, but just the name on the front of the jerseys not being as big time as the opponents you just faced?
KR: You know the thing that I'll tell you about all of my girls, not just the freshmen but all of my girls, they LOVE to play. They like each other, they get along well. Every opportunity they get to put on a uniform and get out there and play. I've never seen anybody happier to do that. I don't that it matters really who we put in the other dugout, it just matters that they get an opportunity to play.