Weekly Coach Ward Interview :: 04/29/13 Your overall thoughts on the weekend series against UT-Arlington?
Rocky Ward: Overall Arlington had put themselves in a pretty good position, a game back of Bakersfield coming in so one of the teams that had played themselves up to the top of the league. They had also predominantly played the bottom of the league where we had predominantly played the top of the league and that's kind of what it more disappointing than anything.

We had one of those games on Friday where Adam didn't throw poorly, it was one of those pure bad baseball luck days. We didn't play great but they didn't play great. We left for a week and our field got hard as a rock and we didn't do a good job of prepping it before the game and all of the sudden they get four balls that hit the hardpan in front of the plate and bounce over the infielders' heads including a key one with their four-hole to the plate with the bases loaded and one out and what would have been just a normal ground ball to the shortstop double play ended up bouncing over my shortstop's head and leads to a couple runs and runs to a three or four run inning. It was kind of a back breaker. Then again you play on the same field but it benefitted their style. We came in with 40 home runs and they came in with 12 or 13. We're more of a line-drive power type ball club and they come out and get the ball put in play and a hard fast surface benefits that type of ball club.

Their guy was pretty good. The guy was tough to deal with. Mid to upper 80's, guy had a funny arm action and really didn't have very good stuff in the first three innings, I was disappointed with what we did with him in those first three innings but then all of the sudden he started throwing a pretty dominant cutter for three or four innings and he got to pitch on the top side because we gave up some big runs. It was one of those games that you're irritated by. It was a bad luck game. We didn't play great and they beat us 9-4 in what looks like they handled us but they just seemed to get a lot more of the baseball breaks than we did.

In game two we went out and scored early and often and got a great outing out of Ryan Beck. We spent some time on Friday night and again on Saturday before the game softening the front of home play and so it played much softer the rest of the series. There weren't any choppers over the infielder's heads on Saturday and Sunday. We have to make sure we don't let it get hard again before the San Jose State series because they're a similar type of club. They have very little power kind of based on aggressive hitting and station to station type ball club.

Game two we got a great offensive day, got a lead early. The two guys they used out of the bullpen had thrown single digit innings all year. Three or four innings was all they'd pitched and they kind of conceded the game to save their bullpen. The weakness that Arlington has is they really don't have a number three starter. They've got a bunch of guys they'd tried. I've never seen a stat sheet with so many guys with starts and not just single starts. You'll see guys with one start but they have a whole bunch of guys with three or four starts. They started a left-hander against us and we have a little trouble with left-handers and we did a good job against him and put up a four-spot but then [Christopher] Bradley loses command and just lets them back in it. Can't throw strikes and we have to go to the bullpen early in the game. We felt like we had a pretty distinct advantage. You've got Ormseth available for a couple and Evan Mott available for a couple and if Bradley gives you five you've got an advantage on the mound. So it was disappointing. We had to go to the bullpen early, we let them get back to even because we went to the pen before they scored the tying run. Ormseth comes in and gives up a base hit. It was a bad pitching day. Michael maybe had his worst outing of the year, Casey didn't have very good stuff. He got lit up for three. If either of those guys does what they normally do, five or six runs on Ormseth and three runs on Collins, if either of those guys have an average day and just give up a couple, you win. We finally got to Evan but we were so far behind. Evan gave us a real solid three inning close. He gave up a run but gives you three innings of one-run baseball.

Maybe we're a lot like Arlington right now and having a hard time figuring out who is going to pitch on Sunday. Early in the year it was our salvage day. We won a couple big ones on Sunday after we didn't play real well on Friday and Saturday but we're 2-4 now in league on Sunday. There aren't enough statistics right now to say it's a problem but it kind of is. We lost a game to Dallas Baptist that we didn't pitch well on Sunday. We still had a chance to win that game. We pitched okay against Sacramento on Sunday but just couldn't get any offense going.

Overall we're still kind of the same club. We play a bad game, a good game and a game that can go either way and they keep going the other way. We just can't seem to get the traction that we need. I guess that's what happens when you're 24-21 and 9-9 in league. I said it a month ago and I said it two months ago. We play like we're a .500 team. We haven't been able to get all three facets together. We did it against Louisiana Tech but Louisiana Tech hasn't beaten anybody in league. You've gotta do it against somebody that matters. I still think we have all the puzzle pieces, they're still just not quite staying together for me. We've got to get some consistency.

We've got nine baseball games left and three are at home against San Jose. I really thought we would win two of three against Arlington and we should have. Had we just played average we would have done that. That puts us a game down and puts a little more pressure on the San Jose series. There are still scenarios where we can win the conference championship but we're going to probably have to go 9-0 or 8-1 in order to do that and probably 9-0. Arlington and Bakersfield and us are all kind of playing the same guys. Texas State has played a little bit of the bottom of the league and a little of the top of the league so now they're playing in the middle.

San Jose State should be a ball club that we handle pretty well. They're very aggressive as an offensive ball club which makes them very, very streaky. As long as you avoid the big inning against them we should be okay. They have the worst pitching numbers in the league. Does that mean they have the worst pitching? Not necessarily. They put the ball in play and play okay defense. Probably the difference with this San Jose State team is they're a little better offensively than they normally are when it comes to scoring runs even though early on they were a team that couldn't score at all in the first half of the season and all of the sudden have been putting up eye popping numbers in league. Their pitching has kind of been about the same all the way through. They've been just an average defensive club when they've always been a pretty good defensive club. They're like everybody else. If you don't play well they'll beat you. As far as the injury situation with Parker, how would you assess how the young guys have filled in in those spots?
RW: They've done all right. It's been a funny injury year. Parker's been able to play as an offensive player and the guys have done a pretty good job replacing him defensively. Umphres is out until at least the conference tournament, maybe Seattle. We just don't have very much depth. I've lost my depth and so guys are playing a lot. We're not able to make very many moves and we're not able to keep guys rested very well. It's caused us some problems. I think we've played pretty well through it. I think over the time Parker's been down it may have cost us a couple games or at least a chance to win a couple games but it hasn't been significant. All I know is I'm back to walking along the cliff ledge. If I lose one of my key guys it's going to be tough. There's not a guy that's really seasoned enough or shown that he's ready statistically in the time they've had to go fill in those spots. We lost Voight last year and Griffin played above what you expected him to play and played outstandingly at San Jose and got us to a conference championship. It didn't cost us games when we got to the conference tournament but that weakness showed up there. We didn't pitch well there but there were a couple plays that led to a couple of extended innings and made a lot more work for than what we could account for. Yesterday after the game you talked about not being real happy with what your guys did in the bottom of the ninth offensively but overall on the weekend and really the last three weeks is the offense starting to get to that point where you want them to be at?
RW: They are. For gosh sake, you shouldn't have to score 11 on Sunday to win. It was one of those games that was tough emotionally. You take a team that beats you in game one in one of those games you kind of have to wear. You come out and hammer them in game two and kind of say hey, we're somebody to be dealt with. Then you come out in game three and put up runs against them early and get it established and from their perspective they came into the weekend thinking if they could win two out of three or sweep they're going to be in the conference lead maybe. So that was the disappointing part of it. We get up and then give up the four in a really disappointing inning. They really didn't do anything to earn those runs. It's not because of errors. We just put too many people on base. Put ourselves into the position to make them swing the bats to get base hits. Then we get the home run from Phillips to get back to the top side 5-4 and the we go out and give up seven runs.

The offense is coming along okay. But we've got to be able to pitch a little more competitively and play defense a little more competitively. It's not a pitcher problem. There are plays you expect the defense to make that aren't being made and that hurts more than the error. We keep not making some key plays and we keep not making some key pitches. We don't have to get a ton better, we've just got to get five percent better in that area. Then my offense as it is right now can become dominant.

When you have to be perfect as an offensive ball club because we're not perfect in those other areas, it really gets tough to do. You'd like to be able to just go to the plate every once in a while as a hitter and look for a fastball down the middle and swing as hard as you can but we can't do that because we're constantly trying to build innings and give ourselves opportunities because it's not one we need to score it's three or four and you've gotta do that through discipline and you've gotta get the right pitches and you've gotta draw some walks.

We're close. I think that the Sunday game bothered me because we made the same mistakes again. If we'd won the Sunday game we'd have won two out of three, we'd have been sitting at 10-8 and a couple games out of first place. We'd have been a game behind Arlington but felt like you had a schedule advantage because of who they have left to play. It's funny the way the swing of one game can change the perspective of it.

To keep us in contention for a conference title and at the very least the goal that we have every year is to finish in the top half of the league we have to win at least two out of three at home this weekend. If you finish in the top half of the league, even if you're not the number one seed, you feel like you have the tools you need where you can go into the conference tournament and if you play well you can win. It's hard to feel that way if you're in the bottom of the league. Each of the past three or four seasons your teams have had a stretch where you've won eight, nine or ten games in a row or had a similar type of streak like that. Do you think that this weekend could be a weekend that starts that type of run?
RW: I hope so. We kind of had a mini-stretch like that when La Salle and Alabama A&M were in town but you're right, every time we have a run we give it back. You could look at it like we're due for that and tradition is strong so why not?

Past performance is not a promise of future performance. Just because we've had streaks in the past doesn't mean we're going to again but from a coaching standpoint, yeah I'd like to win the next game and do that for the next nine games. I'm all for that scenario.