Softball Media Day Quotes

Feb. 8, 2012

ATLANTA

Softball Media Day Quotes
Head Coach Sharon Perkins

Perkins on the strength of the team
Typically I tailor the lineup according to our strength as a team. I like to base it off of strength and speed and power, those types of things. But based on overall experience, are we prepared to play a schedule like we are; I think that we are, so that is the boat that we are in now.

On the strength of schedule
It is really difficult and I am excited. I feel like our team is ready for it. Looking at our line up 1-9 and bringing people off the bench I feel like we are really strong offensively. We have a combination of speed and power which is nice. I think we have a strong pitching staff, Hope [Rush] has looked really good, so I am excited to get out there.

RPI is a big part of scheduling as well as trying to put the team into a better position for the postseason and how we will seed after conference play. That was the ultimate thing. I think we have a team that can handle it now and playing these good teams in the first few weekends is the best time to play them. If we play them early on, in postseason play we will be prepared and that is the ultimate goal.

On newcomers that can make an impact
One of our freshmen that could step up is a pitcher that we have on staff named Kylie Kleinschmidt. You never know from game to game if someone has to throw a lot of innings, or there is an injury, there has to be a quick change. You never know who is going to have to fill in. Kylie is someone that could fill a role. Our second baseman has proven to be Chelsie Thomas, She has a ton of speed, really fast on the bases, a great slapper, and covers a lot of ground defensively. With [Jessica] Sinclair being injured and us still trying to fight back from that, we have Katie Johnsky in right field and she has done a great job for us.

On where to put the slapper in the line-up
It kind of depends, almost like putting pieces together in a puzzle. It depends on who else in the line-up, who is pitching, if Hope [Rush] is pitching or if she is just hitting. It goes back to is Kate [Kuzma] going to catch or play outfield and is [Alysha] Rudnik going to catch or play first. There is a lot of factors that go into a line-up.

On whether this year’s team is one of the strongest
I really think it is. I feel like it is the strongest team we have had in a while. You can go back to a few years ago when we had Jen Yee hitting, and Hope Rush pitching who had a phenomenal freshmen year. I feel like one through nine, our line-up is much stronger this year. We have a new strength and conditioning coach, so we are trying to get bigger, faster, and stronger. I also think our mental toughness is a lot better.

On who is going to be relied upon this year for the power hitting
Anybody can step up. I am amazed in practice with Kate [Kuzma] and the girls says she is an average hitter, but she can step up and hit a bomb with the best of them. We still have Hope [Rush], we have [Alysha] Rudnik, we have Danielle Dike, so there is a number of people that can step up even some freshmen. Karly Fullem has hit it out in practice and some game play, while having a really good fall for us. You never know, because it could be based on the style of pitchers we face.

On Hayley Downs replacing Christy Jones
I’m excited about Hayley Downs in centerfield. She has done a phenomenal job for us. It is tough to lose Christy Jones. Overall she was just a great team player and a great leader on and off the field. For Hayley to step into those shoes, I think she has done a great job.

On Hope Rush’s progression from her freshmen year until now
She is definitely mentally tougher then she has ever been, and that just comes with maturity. You can look back at any player at any position. You look at a pitcher that was all-everything in high school and travel ball, and then you step into a big college setting and having an amazing freshmen year. Being an All-American and then to have an injury right out of the gate, we were fortunate enough to have another pitcher that was just on fire and had a great season. I think Hope is willing to take back the role as number one pitcher, and is really looking forward to it. She has made a lot of strides with better pitch selection, and is a lot more patient of a hitter.

On the preference to playing home or away in the tournament
It is nice to be at home, but I don’t think you always need to be at home. Like last year, I thought it was good we ended up getting sent to another site. I think our team chemistry is better, and this year it would not really matter if we were home or away. That is something you see throughout the season, with some teams doing better at home and others away. We just don’t know that yet with the team we have now. But with overall seeing, not whether we are hosting or not hosting, just putting ourselves in better position to have different competition.

On the assistant coaches responsibilities and contributions
I am definitely fortunate. With two children of my own, I try to make it to all of their events, and with two great assistants I am really lucky. Shaina Ervin has come onto the staff and really taken over the pitching staff, which takes a huge load off of me. It allows me to work more with the hitters and different defenses. Aileen Morales is unreal. You put her with the infield and she comes up with new drills almost every day. She keeps it new, fresh, and exciting. That is what the players like versus going through monotonous drills over and over. Also her working with the hitters has been great.

On the issues for softball in conference realignment
The number one thing for us has been how we want to do the scheduling. That has been really the main issue. Syracuse has a strong pitcher, but I guess she will be graduated by the time we play them. We have seen Pittsburgh in the past. With two more teams added, it would be nice to play everybody regular season, so that is the thing we have been trying to go for. That being said, I am not really for adding more Northern teams since we are an outdoor sport, but it is what it is and you deal with the elements.

On this year’s senior class
I really see a difference in the team chemistry. Caroline [Hilton] is definitely a strong personality, which is nice to have at least one of those. I feel like she preaches the same type of things our staff preaches which is nice to have. I feel like there is someone in the senior class everyone can relate to. Sometimes you have quiet seniors that are better in a one on one setting, and sometimes you have an in-your-face type of senior. I feel like we have all those things covered.

Senior Catcher/Left Fielder Kate Kuzma

On playing two very different positions
I came in as a catcher and was kind of told that I would have to play another position. I have been working really hard in the outfield; it just depends on my shoulder injury. I love playing both. Being a catcher you get to work with the pitchers and infielders but in the outfield you can definitely view the game a lot differently.

On the strength of schedule
I am very excited about the schedule. My sophomore year we played a lot of big teams and last year it didn’t really seem like we played any until the end of the year and I think there was kind of a shock factor. We talked about it as a team and we are really excited that we get to play the best of the best at the beginning so we aren’t surprised at the end of the season. We will definitely see some good pitching, we will see a lot of speed and that overall reputation of West Coast teams, we will at least be used to it, and will be able to compete and win.

On the new strength and conditioning program
I am definitely happy with what our strength coaches do, because we have gotten bigger. Mentally tough as well, we have been doing a lot of 6 am workouts where we have been waking up at around 5:15 in the morning. Last year, we did not really run out in the cold. This year, even when it has been below freezing we were out there running.

On this year’s senior class
I really enjoy this group of seniors. There is Caroline Hilton who is a role model by example, and also Kelsi Weseman who is a stellar athlete. You also have a lot of other seniors on the team like Shannon Bear and Danielle Dike who are just all-around players. They are willing to switch positions, like Shannon is going from second base at times to the outfield and Danielle is going from third to first. There is a lot of team unity amongst the senior leaders, but also a lot easier because we can incorporate the underclassmen players.

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