The St. Mary’s University Rattlers enter the 2009 regular season with some uncertainty. The Rattlers won the Heartland Conference Tournament Championship and qualified for the NCAA South Central Region Tournament for the eighth straight year last season. However, the Rattlers lost several key starters from that team, including All-American pitcher Malissa Magee. Recently head coach Donna Fields sat down to talk about the recently completed fall season and the upcoming spring season.
Wainwright: How did the newcomers adjust to playing in college this fall?
Fields: I think some of them are still learning. There is a group of the newcomers working hard for their opportunity. We have a couple of freshmen that seemed to have become real close and meshed real well with the team; a few of the others are still trying to find their niche.
Wainwright: Overall, how do you feel the team performed throughout the fall season?
Fields: We wanted the fall to be challenging because of the players that we lost. We want the newcomers to grow as a team, build up confidence as a team, and I feel with the tournaments placed before us we were able to do that. I wish we would have ended on a different note – it was almost like we played at a high level for those first two weeks and then the last weekend our intensity level wasn’t quite the same as it needed to be those first two weeks.
Wainwright: Are there any games from this past fall that stand out in your mind?
Fields: I think that the scrimmage that we had against Louisiana Lafayette – I had no idea what to expect and the team responded well to the situations we were put into. I was concerned about the experience of (pitchers) Taryn (Munoz) and Arlynda (Flores) facing that caliber of a team. I had to ask myself, ‘What could happen?’ I mean we could have seen a lot of home runs going over the fence, but it didn’t end up being that way. I think that helped. When we played Texas Tech, going down 5-0 pretty easily, I was very pleased with the poise and the composure the team maintained, coming back and putting a few runs on the board and eventually outscoring them.
Wainwright: Going into the fall season with a new squad what were some of the expectations you held for them as a coach and some of the expectations they held for themselves?
Fields: (laughing) I’m not sure what expectations they had (for themselves), but if history repeats itself, when you lose seniors like we did, they probably went into this season not knowing (what to expect). And I think that the biggest question I have had all year is: ‘Could you have recruited another pitcher’. We went into this season, and I was very confident and comfortable with it, that we would do well. We are going to work and provide the resources we need to make the current team, the returning players, reach the potential they are capable of reaching. I think this fall gave the team that sense of confidence of, ‘Okay let’s work hard and let’s strive for goals’.
Wainwright: Losing several starters, and especially losing your number one and number two pitchers, how would you say your current pitchers have stepped up?
Fields: Taryn understands she is not filling in Malissa Magee’s shoes, in my opinion. Taryn is filling in a St. Mary’s tradition, a tradition that had been around for the past twenty-five years. Our success has come with the success of the pitcher on the mound. We’ve had Letty, then Monique, Kym, and Malissa, who have been here in the past, and I think Taryn understands that and she’s working hard (to live up to the tradition). She comes from a high school where she was very successful and had opportunities her freshman and sophomore years here, and now I think she is hungry for this opportunity. Taryn’s got some work to do, she knows she does. Arlynda, coming from Uvalde and being the heart-and-soul of that program, is now finally getting that opportunity to be on the mound again and that has got to be fun for her. For the most part Arlynda had a very good fall and so it gives us a sense of comfort going into this spring. We have things that we can work on and things that we know we are capable of doing. We can’t overlook Michelle Soto and what she has done and really Liz Stiers has come in, just wanting an opportunity, and has done pretty well on the mound for us as well.
Wainwright: Coming into the fall there were certain aspects which you wanted to improve on. Now that the fall season is completed, what aspects do you feel need improvements for the spring?
Fields: The same. I think in those areas you can only get better. I think with Sade being at shortstop all of the time this year, this fall and staying healthy can only help improve her confidence. With Jenna coming back from injuries, we are not where we need to be as a middle infield, but hopefully we will have some consistency. It hurt us last year; Sade didn’t have that confidence probably because she was working with three different second basemen. If we can keep Jenna healthy and the two of them working together, I think they will be a great duo.
Wainwright: Who do you feel will be your biggest competition this spring?
Fields: Well, who is it always (laughing). You can never overlook Angelo State; our target is still on our back with them and they always gear up for us. But conference-wise, you can’t overlook St. Edward’s. They have a great team coming back and they recruited two great pitchers.