2015 WCWS Game 1 “Quotes and Notes”
Florida 7, Tennessee 2
An Interview with: COACH KAREN WEEKLY, RAINEY GAFFIN, MEGAN GEER
THE MODERATOR: At this time we're joined by Tennessee head coach Karen Weekly, student-athlete Rainey Gaffin and student-athlete Megan Geer. Coach, an opening comment.
COACH K. WEEKLY: First of all, congratulations to Florida. They played an excellent game. I think you saw the benefit of their experience defending national champions only having lost two players. I think as we talked about in our locker room not a lot of experience on our side, and I think that showed a little bit today. A lot of uncharacteristic mistakes by us that Florida definitely took advantage of. I know our girls are disappointed but I think we'll come back stronger on Saturday.
THE MODERATOR: Questions?
Q. Megan, could you talk about facing a pitcher like Lauren Haeger, pretty tough day. You got the only hit. Talk about the ball you hit and also just what she's like pitching.
MEGAN GEER: Well, going against Lauren, she's obviously a great pitcher. She just got the National Pitcher of the Year. So props to her. And she came out and she always hits her spots really good. So it was really key to try and lay off the pitcher's pitches and hit my pitch. My pitch that I'm good at. That's kind of what I did. My at-bat I thought she was getting ahead a lot so my second at-bat came up, I decided if the first pitch was going to be there I was going for it.
Q. Both players, it's a long road back now to the winner's bracket to get into a championship series, what's your mindset with sort of an uphill climb? RAINEY GAFFIN: Just to take every game one game at a time, one pitch at a time, try to get back to Tennessee that we know we are and just execute and just get things done. Just road back, be ready for it.
MEGAN GEER: I think now that we have one game under our belt, I know Karen (Weekly) is talking about the experience. And I agree that it showed that Florida had a lot of experience and we didn't. I think now that we have that one win under our belt we know what to expect. I think we'll come out a lot more prepared next time.
Q. Can you talk about Haeger getting that homer in the first inning and kind of putting them on top and getting the momentum going?
RAINEY GAFFIN: She's a great hitter, two strike at-bat, two outs. She tapped a good pitch. I left it up a little too much and she attacked it. I give her props for that. She was attacking all day.
Q. Rainey and Megan, my hunch is that neither one of you feel like this was a typical Tennessee game today. Just talk about that and what that feels like now and what you do about it?
RAINEY GAFFIN: Like Megan (Geer) said, we've had one player on our team who has been in the World Series before. I think we have a lot of nerves going on the field. We didn't show up like we usually do. I think, how Megan said, that one game under our belt, now we understand what it's like being on the field, what it's like playing with that many people and just let it go and learn it's like every other game that was played this year, and just to play Tennessee softball.
MEGAN GEER: I think we just kind of need to relax and play our game as if we were playing at the home field or something like that, not to get too overwhelmed and not try to do too much. Just go up and put a good swing on a pitch instead of going up and trying to hit home runs or get the game-winner, just do what we've been taught and let the outcome take care of itself.
Q. Rainey, I know you've been playing outfield and pitcher even before college. I was watching when you went back out to right field in the middle of the game, came back, you have done that a lot this year. I'm curious what your mindset is when you have to change gears and even when Erin's pitching, are you looking at the hitters, are you thinking when I go back in I gotta remember this about this hitter, or just playing right field at that point. I'm curious how you are able to transition.
RAINEY GAFFIN: Overall, I think, yeah, I have a tendency to watch hitters, that's how I've been raised. I watch hitters no matter where I am in the field, watch them, watch what they do, see kind of how they hit, swing, the pitch calls. But going to right field I mainly focus on I still cheer for Erin (Gabriel) and focus on having her back, when we switch back and forth. But at this point I'm kind of used to it. Just trying to keep that same mindset that it's just part of the game, just keep in the zone, attacking the zone, and just going back and forth. I'm so used to it, now that it's just part of the game.
Q. Karen, can you talk about the pressure Florida put on you in the late innings with their running game?
COACH K. WEEKLY: Yeah, they certainly did. And we've been pretty good at executing the double steals and defending that. It's something we work on every day in practice. In fact, sometimes as coaches we joke that we work on it a whole lot more than it's ever run against us. So it was surprising from our perspective, and I'm sure from our player's perspective, that we didn't defend that better. But Florida has some — they're more of a speed team now. Like Tim (Walton) was saying in the press conference yesterday, that's something they've really worked on. And we didn't execute, we just didn't make the plays. With the squeeze bunt, you know, we weren't unprepared for it, because we know that's something that they might do. And we feel like when we have Rainey (Gaffin) on the mound we're in a great place to defend that. And I think that's a play that any other day we're going to make. And we just didn't make the play. Sometimes those things happen.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you.
An Interview with: COACH TIM WALTON, LAUREN HAEGER, KAYLI KVISTAD
THE MODERATOR: We're joined by University of Florida, head coach Tim Walton, student-athlete Lauren Haeger and student-athlete Kayli Kvistad. At this time we'll take opening comments from Coach and then throw it out for questions.
COACH WALTON: Thanks. Just great game. Really proud of the way our team came out and played well. Just thought we, Lauren (Haegar) hitting that home run in the first inning really set the tone, really went out there and pitched well to get that top half of the first. But overall I thought we played clean. We played very poised, very controlled. Controlled our emotions even after a two-run homer I thought we did a good job of just bouncing back and getting the moment back again. Just proud. Good to be able to come out and get that first W under your belt. And especially after the way we played against, the way we swung the bat the last time against Tennessee in the SEC Tournament we didn't really play very well. And today, just a much better tone set for our team. I thought they really did a good job of playing and controlling their emotions and playing about as normal as I think I've seen us play all year long. And tip my cap to the grounds crew. I thought they did a good job getting that field playable with the amount of rain we had overnight. Thanks to those guys for working hard.
Q. Kayli, can you talk about stepping up and hitting a homer on this stage as a freshman and just what was the excitement level for you to do that?
KAYLI KVISTAD: It was really exciting. I was looking for a pitch to hit and working on being on time and to help my team out and get to a 3-0 lead. It felt really good.
Q. Coach, with the extra preparation, did that really help this time around against Tennessee?
COACH WALTON: Yeah, I think the thing that we talked about, I felt like last time we played we had just as you go through the emotions of the SEC and the play and the travel, and being on the road a couple weeks in a row and you go in, we won the first game against South Carolina and I just felt like we kind of just showed up the next day expecting to win. And I don't expect anything different but I don't think I put the time in preparation wise to really know our opponent inside and out. And this time I felt like our team did a much better job of knowing who we were playing, knowing the pitches they're doing. We made some significant adjustments at the plate and I thought that really helped us out.
Q. Your pitcher actually outhit Tennessee two to one by herself. Does that kind of bring perspective of what she's capable of doing for this team?
COACH WALTON: I didn't even look at that part of the box score. I didn't even recognize that. I totally forgot, I think she had two hit by pitches and the hit, and that's impressive. I think as you talk about getting over the hump to get back to the College World Series as a 1 seed I think that was a pressure relief for our team just to be able to step up and do what I guess you're supposed to do. But to be the national player of the year and to jump back on this stage when everybody is ready to say, well, she's the national player of the year, blah, blah, blah, and she stepped up and hit a home run her first at-bat, pitches a great game, gives up one hit. I think she answered that call as well, just how well she's played this year and how well she's prepared to get on this stage and to have her moment. She really hasn't — she'd be the first one to tell you — she really hasn't played probably her best game at the College World Series. And for her to step up and do that today she answered the call we've talked about, she and I, and her preparation and we're proud of the way she came out and got after it.
Q. Coach, saw on Twitter earlier that Billy Donovan came and talked to your team before the game today, obviously with him being the new coach of the Thunder. What was that experience like and what did he tell your girls and what was your reaction to that?
COACH WALTON: Yeah, you know, I think that's the beauty of being at the University of Florida and the culture that Jeremy Foley has created for us as coaches. Just everybody is a part of what we do in Gator Nation and I'm really happy about what Jeremy affords us the opportunity to be around each other. We have coaches parties. We have coaches get-togethers and round tables, just things to allow us to get to know each other. And Billy is a friend of mine. He's somebody I really look up to. Really sad to see him go. But I think the Oklahoma City Thunder and the state of Oklahoma is in for a big treat. It's got one of the best human beings there is in the game of basketball. I'm glad we got a W for Coach Donovan, because I think he was, like, 0-2 in pregame pep talk. So we finally got over the hump, too, now as well for him. He spoke in my first postseason as a coach ever at Florida, and I mean he's intense. It's beautiful. One of our players — I won't tell you the quote because I think Lauren will tell you that quote a little bit better about when he's looking into her eyes. But it was awesome — very, very grateful for him to take his time and do that for us.
LAUREN HAEGER: It was a great surprise to have such an awesome coach come in and talk to us. You could tell he's coaching guys for a really long time because he came in and his volume kept going up and up and up, and he would look at you, like, when he made eye contact with you, he was speaking to your soul. Like I felt it. It was like, okay. It was really awesome. He had great things to say to us. Obviously he's a championship coach and now he's a professional coach. So we took his words and it really pumped us up a lot and we're grateful for that opportunity.
KAYLI KVISTAD: It was inspirational, if he can't pump you up I don't know who can. It was an honor for him to come in and speak to us in this type of environment. Coming in as a freshman, it made me feel at home.
Q. You guys forced their pitchers throw 155 pitches in six innings. When you keep going deep in the count, deep in the count time after time how much do you see that wear going through pitchers and doing that?
LAUREN HAEGER: As a pitcher, you want to throw the least amount of pitches you can because you've got to come back the next day and throw again. I think it's great to work the count. I like to get ahead, and I know that that's mostly what pitchers like to do. So it is a wear on you if you do keep getting deep in the count like that.
Q. Lauren, Bailey (Castro) was saying yesterday you said how much you wanted to hit a home run here. So after she hit that one last year, that was a monster. What did it feel like finally what were your thoughts on that?
LAUREN HAEGER: It felt great. I wasn't going out there — I can't ever go out there and try to hit a home run. My home runs will come with good at-bats and good swings at good pitches. I was just going up there looking for a good pitch to hit with two outs. I did a great job with battling a few off there and got a good pitch to hit and it was really exciting.
Q. You hadn't given up a run in 32 and two-thirds innings. What was your thought process after that?
LAUREN HAEGER: I just had to buckle down. I only gave up one hit. If you leave a ball up here in the College World Series you can be taken out of the yard against good teams like this. I was just trying to buckle down and get the next girl out.
Q. Coach, you spoke of the adjustments that you made at the plate between the SEC meeting and then this meeting. What were those adjustments? Was it just being more patient at the plate?
COACH WALTON: You've got two junior pitchers that will come back next year. So I'm probably not going to say too much about what our plan was. But I think overall we just swung at terrible pitches last time. With the two styles, the contrasting styles between Rainey (Gaffin) and (Erin) Gabriel, it's hard to prepare for the way they throw. So we just went in with a different approach than we did last time. And again I didn't want to overanalyze last game, but our players, every one of them complained about seeing the ball. And we did not see the ball very well at all the last time, and whether that was a tribute to their movement or at least Erin Gabriel's movement early or if we just couldn't see that day, if there was something going with the shadow at the time we played. We just didn't overanalyze that. I told the players the same thing. I walked by four different players and they said the same exact thing and at different moments. I definitely knew they weren't conspiring against me. They just couldn't see the ball.
Q. Kayli, could you talk about your jitters coming out and playing on this stage for the first time, and Tim could you talk about her stepping up the way she did as a freshman?
KAYLI KVISTAD: Well, our seniors have really done a good job and the upperclassmen keeping us calm whenever we come on the field. I've played here before, but it's definitely a different atmosphere. Just coming in, I think pressure is an option. I wasn't that nervous, but at the same time it's nice to have teammates coming in backing me up telling me it's okay.
COACH WALTON: We talked about this before, the adjustments that Kayli (Kvistad) has made here over the last week plus, totally different swings, different bat speeds. And I think she's becoming more of a sophomore now than a freshman. Starting to loosen up a little bit. Seems her swing is actually in a much better place than it was just three weeks ago when she was struggling to get hits and just wasn't generating good enough bat speed. I thought she did a good job swinging the bat this whole week in BP and for that I think she was rewarded. Chased a pitch early in the count with bases loaded in her first bat, but her second one she got an elevated pitch and got on the plane pretty well.
Q. Were you surprised that Erin Gabriel was kept on a short leash and they went back to (Rainey) Gaffin?
COACH WALTON: No, because that's their MO. They've been doing that a lot. Rainey Gaffin got them to this point. She really pitched well in the last game in the Super Regionals and held Florida State, pitched a complete game. I think their intent was they were prepared. They had, (Gretchen) Aucoin was in there, they were prepared to use at least three pitchers, at least that's what it looked like on paper. I don't think we were prepared. We were prepared for Gabriel and Gaffin and we prepared for the other two pitchers as well.
Q. Can you just talk about the mindset of this team coming into the College World Series, obviously being number one with a very loaded field SEC heavy, what are some of the things you wanted to see from your team and out of yourself?
LAUREN HAEGER: I think we did a really good job of just staying calm. A lot of us, this is our third time back and for me I went out there it felt a lot different than it had before. I felt so comfortable. Nobody felt nervous and you could definitely tell how we played. And I think us being a No. 1 seed, we just have to keep playing, doing what we're doing to win ballgames, just play clean, play good defense. That's what our MO is we play good defense. And I think we did a really good job of that today staying calm and just staying cool like we have been all season.
Q. Tim, there's fewer and fewer strikeout pitchers in college softball, more balls being put in play. Does it change how you value defense, how you scout defense?
COACH WALTON: Yeah, I think as we talked, sitting here in 2009, sitting on this stage at the end, losing to Washington, we just talked about our overall athleticism has to change. And I think the key to that was defensively the range of our infield, the range of our outfield, I think the game itself has changed. There's so many good athletes playing the game that the play that Nicole DeWitt made in left field. Easily overlooked. A left-hander hitting a slicing ball that way, just being athletic, and being able to make plays when you're supposed to. And I think it's really the key to keeping teams, can't give up extra outs at this level.
It's going to make it tough on you.
Q. Kayli, tell us what it's like to be a teammate of Lauren Haeger; she almost has 70 home runs, — 70 wins in her career to have a teammate that carries you guys as a two-way player and maybe how you've grown in that appreciation throughout the season?
KAYLI KVISTAD: Lauren Haeger is awesome. She's definitely one of my role models and I look up to her hitting-wise, but to be able to pitch and hit at the same time, she's national player of the year it's kind of exciting to play with such a great teammate.
Q. Ladies, you didn't need any extra incentive at this point but did the Tennessee five game winning streak against you all get to you at all?
LAUREN HAEGER: I had no idea. Until you said it now, I had no idea. We had a big winning streak as well. So we kept doing what we were doing.
COACH WALTON: He meant five games against us.
LAUREN HAEGER: Oh, I thought you meant a five game winning streak.
COACH WALTON: I knew about it, in case you were wondering. (Laughter).
In the first game of the 2015 Women’s College World Series, No. 1 seed Florida defeated No. 8 seed Tennessee, 7-2. Florida improved to 56-6 on the year with the victory while Tennessee fell to 47-16.
With the win, the Gators will next play on Friday at 6 p.m. CT against the winner of No. 4 seed Auburn and No. 5 seed LSU. The Lady Vols will face the Auburn-LSU loser at 11 a.m. CT on Saturday.
Making its seventh WCWS appearance (2008, ’09, ’10, ’11, ’13, ’14, ‘15), defending national champion Florida improved to 18-11 all-time in the event with its win today. Tennessee dropped to 15-13 all-time in its seventh WCWS appearance (2005, ’06, ’07, ’10, ’12, ’13, ‘15).
Florida senior pitcher Lauren Haeger opened the scoring with a solo home run to left field in the bottom of the first inning. The home run was Haeger’s 17th of the season and the first in her WCWS career. Haeger finished the game 2 for 2 at the plate.
In the circle, Haeger gave up two runs on one hit. She walked no batters and struck out four in seven innings. The 2015 USA Softball National Collegiate Player of the Year improved to 29-1 on the season with the win.
Freshman Gator Kayli Kvistad sent a two-run home run to right center field in the third inning to increase Florida’s lead to 3-0. The home run was Kvistad’s sixth of the season.
Tennessee’s only hit of the contest came from sophomore Megan Geer, who recorded a two-run home run in the fourth inning. The home run, her 14th of the season, was the 100th of the season for the Lady Vols. It also broke Haeger’s streak of 32 consecutive scoreless innings in this year’s NCAA Tournament.
Tennessee junior pitcher Rainey Gaffin fell to 17-4 on the season with the loss. She surrendered five runs in four innings of work. Gaffin gave up five hits and a walk while striking out two batters. Junior Erin Gabriel pitched two innings for the Lady Vols, giving up two hits, two runs and three walks while striking out three.
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