Monday press conference: Karen Gallagher

UW softball coach discussed her team's recent play and its upcoming games, including a showdown with No. 1 ranked Michigan

"I just would like to focus on this weekend since I think it's more indicative of how our team is capable of playing. I was very pleased with the approach this week and that our team took going into Big Ten conference play. They came out aggressively. We scored a lot of runs, supported our pitching staff well, just felt like they were very confident. And to me that's more what our team character is all about.

"I think past games, I haven't been happy up to this point with how we've played, and we had some surprise performances. We've had freshmen step up. We've had seniors step up. So we have a great mix of young talent and veteran talent, and I'm hoping that takes us through the rest of the season.

"We have a big week coming up this week against UIC, always a very competitive team for us, and then going into this weekend against probably the two best Big Ten teams. So very pleased how we approached our game plan. We stayed within our game plan. We are, we've always, historically not been strong offensively, and we've worked really hard to do a better job of that this year, and I feel like our kids are really, really coming into their own in regard to being confident at the plate and scoring runs for our pitching staff this year. So from there, I'll be happy to take any questions."

Coach, when we had talked to you last week, you had mentioned you wanted to get at least three of the four games, and obviously mission accomplished. Do you feel like the mentality of the players, kind of what you were talking about earlier, has changed now, knowing that this is really more of an indication of what your team can do?

"I definitely agree with that. I think we played very confidently, and I think just with the three wins. And how we won the game, we came back to win three of the, obviously the four games. And, you know, to have that type of potential, I think it keeps the pressure on the opponent. But, yeah, huge confidence builder. I think our kids felt really good how they played.

"You know, still our complete games aren't there. We still have to, I think, work harder on playing better defense behind our pitching staff, and, you know, we have some work to do on the mound as well. But overall, I thought we came out aggressively. And they just, they had the mindset that they're capable of doing it and I really was pleased that they came out in a very aggressive, attacking type of mode.

And really not at a better time. I mean, you had talked about it also that it was the crux of the Big Ten season and what a time to come out and be able to do that against these Big Ten teams.

"Yeah, it's do or die. I mean, this is the point of the year where, you know, you make or break yourself as a team, and I think the kids set a nice tone for themselves this weekend."

Karen, you said that historically you haven't been quite as strong offensively, but you've already tied your program record for homeruns. How do you explain the power surge?

"Well, I think a couple reasons. I think we've added some really talented young players to our roster. Our freshmen, Ricci Robben, Joey Daniels, and Katie Hnatyk has added some offense punch to our lineup, as well as I think Kris Zacher and Boo Gillette have really stepped up offensively, as well as Ana Miller.

"I think when, you know, our first six hitters potentially can drive in a lot of runs for us. I think it's just that we've taken a more aggressive approach at the plate. I think the kids have worked really hard this year to improve their offensive skills, and I think, like anything else, it's a different attitude."

While you're waiting for the pitching and fielding to come around, can an offense carry a team in the Big Ten?

"I think when you're consistent, yes, I can. I think that historically Big Ten is always very strong. It's not the strongest conference in regard to pitching, so I think that, yeah, if you're scoring three, four, five runs for your pitching staff, and you can have some consistent defense behind them, that you can do well in the Big Ten."

With the power surge and the talk of steroids in baseball, any word that you're going to be checking on your players?

"No, no. I think we're pretty safe to say that our kids don't need to go there."

On a more serious note, do you ever see steroids as being a part of the women's game as it's taken hold in [major league baseball]?

"Absolutely not. Absolutely not. I think it's just the game. The athletes are better. The training's better. The coaching's better. The game has evolved. And the kids are being trained at a much younger age where they're prepared."

You mentioned some surprises, surprise performances. Who are you alluding to?

"Ricci Robben is a freshman from California who's really, really just come through in some really clutch situations for us, and it's been nice to have that type of hitting. You know, we are a team that can get them on base, and we move them, and we get them in a scoring position, but we haven't had the bat that can drive in the run at a key time in a ballgame for us. And she's stepped up at least three or four times this year and has done that, as well as Kris Zacher. She's really stepped up her game. She was hurt early on in the year. She's now 100 percent, and that has just added so much more to our game, as well as Boo Gillette.

What's been the key to just, you've come behind three out of four games with this team. What's been the key to having those players stay with it and not give up?

"That's just the character that these kids are made of. I think we have very motivated seniors that want to win, want to end their career here at UW on a very high note, and this is kind of the last hurrah. We have about 28 games left, and they want to do something with these 28 games. They want to get back to postseason. They want to get back to the NCAA tournament. So I think that's a real motivational factor, as well as we're capable of doing that.

"There's just something about this team. A lot of our wins are come-from-behind victories, and I think the kids just have a lot of confidence in their selves and in their teammates that, you know, if we're down two runs going into the seventh inning, that we have a good shot at coming back and winning the ballgame or at least, you know, giving it our best shot."

You've got Michigan and Northwestern Big Ten-wise this weekend. You mentioned do or die and you wanted to win three of four last weekend. Same type of thing this weekend?

"You know, you go into this weekend with trying to put your best game out on the field, obviously. I mean, Michigan's No. 1 in the country as of now. They're always historically the best in the Big Ten and you want to compete well. However, we're going to have to bring our complete game. We're going to have to have the pitching defense and the hitting to beat Michigan. Northwestern, they're having a great year. Again, both teams are offensively very strong, very complete teams. And we're just going to have to play our best ball, and we're capable of doing that."

So where is your pitching staff right now as far as--

"Hopefully they're studying somewhere. I don't know. Right now I just think that, I was a little disappointed that we gave up, I thought, way too many hits this past weekend, and I think we just have to do a better job of hitting our spots and maybe being a little more prepared with the hitters, our opponents' hitters.

"But all in all, I think, like I said, when you're making a few errors here and there, there were a couple situations where we should have had outs. The innings should have been over, but, you know, you make an error and it kind of opens up and it gives a team momentum. And we're hoping that we do a better job of that this weekend."

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