Weekly Q&A With Diane Ninemire

March 10, 2010

BERKELEY - The No. 13 California softball team posted a perfect 5-0 record at last weekend's Eller Media Stadium Classic, outscoring their opponents, 39-3. The Golden Bears will try and improve their 16-4 overall record at this weekend's California Tournament at Levine-Fricke Field. Cal begins its weekend with a 3 p.m. Friday game against East Carolina and will play Fullerton on Saturday before closing with a doubleheader versus Davis on Sunday. CalBears.com recently caught up with head coach Diane Ninemire to discuss the past five games and this weekend's four.

CalBears.com: What worked well for the team last weekend in Las Vegas?
Diane Ninemire:
I thought our pitching went really well last weekend. We limited our walks and stayed ahead in the count. Our pitchers kept the hitters off balance so we're hoping that we build upon that this weekend and keep doing what we were doing last weekend.

CalBears.com: Last weekend, the Bears outscored their opponents, 39-3, how did the team accomplish that?
I would say that offensively, we were doing a really good job at hitting the ball, and did a much better job of scoring with runners in scoring position. But we still would like to be more consistent and successful because we have left a lot of runners on base. Leaving runners on is in some way good, in the fact that we're getting runners on base, which means we're getting hits or walks. But now we have to try to get a better percentage of them around to score and not letting the opponent into the game.

CalBears.com: Can you speak to team stealing a perfect 21 of its attempted 21 stolen bases?
Base stealing and base running last weekend was superb. We had a number of stolen bases. We also had delayed steals and just overall really heads-up base running. All of it gave us great opportunities to score.

CalBears.com: What does this week look like in preparation for the California Tournament?
This week we're going work really heavy on our defense. With the exception of the UNLV game when we didn't have any errors, we had almost one error per game last weekend. This is an area where we're going to try and work on this week. We didn't get out on the field at all last week because of the rain, so we're really looking forward to getting out on the dirt again. Most of our defensive errors are really throwing errors so we're going to try and inhibit our throwing errors. We really want to be at about 98 percent on our fielding percentage, which is our goal. I feel like if we play tough defense then that's really a mark of a really good team. If we can just clean up a few little things going into this weekend then we'll be more prepared to play these teams as well as the others that we're going to facing for the rest of the year.

CalBears.com: The Cal pitching staff had a combined ERA of 0.45 last weekend. What an accomplishment!
Well Valerie Arioto did an exception job this past weekend. She had high strikeout numbers - 10 in one game and 13 in the other. She's really kept the batters off-balance and her change-up was awesome. She was able to fool them on that, and it set up all her other pitches. Her drop ball was falling off the table, and it just becomes a tough pitch for hitters to get solid contact on. Jolene Henderson, I thought, really stepped up to her capability this past weekend. She didn't have any walks and had just a few hits against her. The thing also is that all the pitching staffs pretty much kept the ball in the ballpark. When you do that, with our team and our speed, we're going to be able to defend that. Marissa Drewrey is still coming back from her injury, but hopefully the treatment she's receiving will be such that she can get back on the path and be able to perform up to her abilities.

CalBears.com: In Vegas last weekend, the team scored an average of 7.8 runs per game, was that what you want to see every weekend?
Absolutely, that's the kind of run production you always want to see. But we probably could have had 10-12 more runs. Somewhere down the line, those extra runs are going to make the difference in the real tight ball games. I just don't want our team to be satisfied. Even though by many standards, many coaches would be happy with their batting average, many coaches would be happy with their stolen bases, and even their fielding percentage. But when you start playing the best teams in the country, you need to be operating on full cylinders. Those are the games that you might have a one-run lead, and it's about if can you hold it. Can you have the pitching performances when you need them, can you have good defense when you need it, can you get the timely hits with people in scoring position? So those are the things that we're really trying to preach to them and we don't want anybody going backwards, we want everybody going forwards. We just keep on challenging them to get better and better. We're going to drive, and we're going to push them, and hopefully they'll answer well and we'll have a great weekend.

CalBears.com: You open with East Carolina, what do you expect from the Pirates?
Well they're just a real scrappy team. They've been kind of struggling with their record. But we played them a couple years ago and they were very scrappy. They hit the ball well, they've play good defense and they've got good pitching. They're a team you have to go out there and play your best against because they're going to come with their best. We're in for a real scrappy team there.

CalBears.com: Saturday features a game against Fullerton, which has had success in the Big West Conference.
They've also been having their struggles. But again, we've played them before and it always seems that no matter what the team record of our opponent is, they always are up to play us because they respect our program.

CalBears.com: The Bears close with a doubleheader against UC Davis on Sunday, what to you think will come of that game?
UC Davis, again, they're another scrappy team. You cannot take any of these teams lightly, because again, they will come and play their best against you. I tell my players, I don't care what name is on the chest of the uniform, you go out and you play how Cal plays, and let them chase you. I feel that all these three teams will be fired up to play us and we cannot be caught sleeping. We need to come out and give it our all.

CalBears.com: What does it mean to be playing at home, where the team practices each week and in front of their home fans?
I think it's great for us to be home. It's always nice to be able to play in front of our fans, I'm real excited for our home fans to see what kind of softball Cal has this season. You can't always get that watching GameTracker online. I think that a lot of them will be presently surprised at the balance that the team has between power and speed and heads-up base running and how we're always putting a lot of pressure on the defense to come through on plays. They should also be impressed with the hitting that we have, especially with the number of left-handed hitters versus right-handed hitters. We really have a complete team and a good pitching staff. We just have a lot of gifted players, and when they put it all together on the field, they can play against anybody in the country. So we've got to keep pushing them to do more, to come out every day and put their best on the field.

To see all game times and for more information about this weekend's California Tournament, please consult the tournament Web page by clicking here.

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