bleedCrimson.net: Your thoughts on the Baylor weekend?
Rocky Ward: We played well in the game, they got the break and then they got on the board first and their guy no-hit us through eight. Their guy was really good and so was our guy but we were up under a little more pressure. It was one of those games where it's harder to win on the road because you're under more pressure than the home team all the time. I was disappointed in the fact that we were just scrambling to break up a no-hitter. We couldn't get anything going, we couldn't get him out of the game, about six of my hitters gave up a six-pitch and eight-pitch inning in the fifth and sixth which was a killer because it guaranteed that the guy was going to make it into the eighth. He stayed until they broke up the no-hitter. We gave them a chance for him to get deep into the game because we gave up a couple cheap, bad innings. The kid was tough to deal with because he threw strikes. He just didn't walk anybody. We had some people on base even though he had a no-hitter, he hit a couple guys, walked a couple guys but they weren't together. You've gotta have a hit in the middle of that. But it was a good game.
The Saturday game, we led that game 4-2 through four. Once the dadgum Feed The Beaver stuff started we couldn't stop it. That stuff was insane. They've got a home field advantage going better than anybody I've played in a while. They're not a bunch of people out there ragging you, they're just a bunch of people out there having fun. Every time they get a hit, they play the song and everybody's yelling, "Feed The Beaver." It gets to you after a little bit. The point I'm making is they've got it right. It's a real positive, motivating thing for their team. It's not negative towards the other team but you get irritated with the Feed The Beaver stuff and once they got moving, we weren't terrible. That's happened to us a couple times this year. It's a weakness with this club. Our middle relief guys have been inconsistent. There have been times that they've been lights out and torn it up but we've had four or five middle of the game blowups, we had two in a row at Sacramento, same type of feel. That's the one thing we're really working hard at getting fixed, when we get into a little bit of trouble in the middle of games, we've get to stop it and we haven't stopped it a couple times and it's led to losses including that one.
There are certain people out there looking at the final score saying, "Oh, they got annihilated, they can't play with them." Well that's not true. That doesn't have anything to do with that. Baseball is one of those games where those things can happen.
Beck pitched really well, their guy was outstanding, we hit some balls hard late. We hit four or five balls hard but they were right at people. We just couldn't get the breakthrough. He dominated us a little bit early in the game but we made some adjustments, put some balls in play but just couldn't get that breakthrough
Game two, that guy had better numbers. He had 67 innings pitched and had only given up 47 hits and we put up 10 hits against him in four innings but the same deal. We were only able to score four times in those innings and then once we lost momentum and lost the lead we couldn't stem it. Again, that was kind of where the home field advantage came in. Once they got to the top, this place was a party for an hour. It's one of those things that you get a little bit jealous about what they've got going on.
The real world of it all was that I still feel like it was a good experience for our kids. It gives them more understanding about what it's going to be like at a Super Regional or Regional format because you're going to have a host team like that that's had a great year and in order to win the tournament you're going to have to beat the host team. Whether it's a four team Regional or a Super Regional if you make it there. Having had that type of experience and having gone to Arizona and won a couple and having gone to Rice early in the year where we weren't really ready at that time to challenge them. I think if we were to play Rice tomorrow it'd be a different story, ball clubs kind of have to grow. But I still think it's a good experience, I'm just disappointed that some of the baseball experts out there penalized us for going on the road and playing the number one team in the country and not winning. RPI didn't. For all intents and purposes it statistically stayed the same. The losses will help to solidify our RPI over the final 12 games we play, three out of conference and nine in conference.
I still think that one of the things that's important in the development of a team is that you have to lose occasionally so that you can find out whether or not you can play off of a loss. How well you play off a loss is maybe more important than anything because in tournament play, in baseball your'e not guaranteed when you're playing against the top 64 teams in the country you're never guaranteed to walk through without a loss. You have to be prepared to lose a game and come through the loser's bracket and win the must-win game.
bc.net: In the early part of game two it felt like you were just one or two hits away from doing to them what they did to you in scoring the big inning.
RW: Exactly. We were. We were a blast away. Any of the two or three innings there could have been a five run inning like they did to us. I think the runs we gave up, I felt like we should have been leading that game 4-1. We made a couple mistakes on pitches and defensively it wasn't real clean but yeah, we had the game in control and we were the ones who were keeping the pressure on and that's what we're good at. We're good at just staying after people and challenging for the big inning every inning.
I wasn't displeased with what we did. I thought we got beat by an outstanding pitching performance in game one and I thought we played well in game two and once they got momentum we just couldn't stop it. That's what the bullpen's job is and they've got to get their act together because they've gotta go out and get done what they're supposed to get done. We were okay after the five runs, we were still in the game. We went out and Kraft hit the first guy then they get to base hits on two bunts in a row where the first play was a tough play for Bob as a left-hander because it's going up the first base line, you've gotta try to backhand it and try to get to the feed. I thought he made the play and the guy was out but he was safe. Then they bunted again and it was a perfect bunt right in between the pitcher and catcher and so all of the sudden you've got bases loaded and nobody out and they tried to give you a couple outs with the bunt, they were just trying to extend the score. Once that happened the middle of the lineup was coming and they squared up some balls. Once they got the momentum we just couldn't stop it. They did to us what we were trying to do to them.
We need to play well tomorrow, we've got a couple guys who aren't moving real well. Kyle Phillips has been pretty average, he hasn't been like he was for a period of time. Lecount's starting to come back and do okay. Waite and Karraker have been good but they've had their stretches. They've both been very important guys during the last couple weeks but they haven't been hitting for their averages. They've kind of been that've come through when we've needed it but they haven't been, outside of Waite, he's still getting on base and his on base percentage is still outstanding but outside of Waite we've got a couple guys who aren't going real well. When Bryan hit his home run to beat Louisiana Tech I think that was his first hit of the series. We're just not quite clicking. We've dropped about 10 points in our batting average over the last four of five games and we just need to get our offensive step back a little bit. I think it kind of happened to us a little bit at Sacramento. I'd just like to see just a little bit more consistency. I don't think we're in any trouble, just kinda small stuff. We're leaving a few too many people on base but I think it's kind of the ebb and flow of the season. You're going to have times where everything you hit is in the hole and you'll have times where everything you hit is at somebody. I think we're kind of in one of those phases.
bc.net: Tomorrow you take on Texas Tech but then you've got a big series out in Hawai'i. You got about the perfect scenario of help from the teams that were playing conference games this past weekend that you could ask for.
RW: Yeah. Hawai'i losing, you didn't necessarily want Hawai'i to go into LA Tech and keep it going and keep LA Tech where they were. I was kind of rooting for LA Tech to beat them one time to keep them [Hawai'i] from getting hot. For Sacramento to win two out of three, they felt like they blew the game three, they felt like they should have won game three. The league kind of split itself up and kept us at the top. When you look at conference schedules at this point, you look at who you've played and where you are and who you've already played against and done well against is at the top of the league then you feel pretty good about your chances. When you look at the fact that we're at the top and Sacramento and Nevada are two and three and we already have series wins against those guys, we have the tie break against those guys.
The Texas Tech game is important because it's a game played off of a loss and it'll help us get a little momentum and a little bounce in our step going into Hawai'i. I think it's important in that regard and Hawai'i is a very difficult team to play on the road. It's a big series. If we can go into Hawai'i and win two out of three you feel like we've solidified ourselves at the top of the league and there's not a whole lot of people that can catch us if we just play good baseball. Realistically if we just win the next three series, if you just go 6-3, we'll probably be league champions. But as a baseball coach you also have to prepare your ball club that you lost that you didn't expect to. That's just the way baseball is. It's important that we go into Hawai'i and play quality baseball.
The uniqueness of what we're about to face is that Hawai'i, Fresno State and San Jose each have outstanding but all three of them have really struggled scoring. I think the performance of our pitching staff and keeping their numbers and scoring percentages where they are is going to be pretty important. We need to pitch well because we're going to take ERAs and add a couple runs to them no matter how good the pitching staffs are. That's just what we're good at doing. It's a matter of our pitching being able to keep those teams at where they've been performing to this point. Fresno's record is where it is because they struggle scoring. San Jose is the same way. Hawai'i is probably the best offensive ball club but they don't have any middle of the lineup power.
I think the series is important to us. If we're able to go into Hawai'i and win two out of three as a base, it puts us in a real good position down the stretch.