Quotes and Notes Game 3:
Oklahoma 3, Alabama 0

2016 Women's College World Series

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2016 WCWS Quotes Game 3 Oklahoma 3, Alabama 0Friday, June 3, 2016
Oklahoma City, Oklahoma
Oklahoma – 3, Alabama – 0

Oklahoma

Patty Gasso, Shay Knighten, Paige Parker

THE MODERATOR: Good afternoon. Coach, let's get some general comments about the game from you.

PATTY GASSO: Wow, it's just a tough, tough game, a tough way to get started in the College World Series, two teams that are very good and fighting against each other. (Alexis) Osorio is a phenomenal pitcher. We all know that. We've been working very hard to prepare for her, and we still struck out 10 times. But I think what our team knows is that you've just got to fight through these counts, and good things can happen. I thought Paige (Parker) was phenomenal, got out of some big innings, which were big for us. I liked how Kelsey Arnold found her way on. Erin Miller hit the ball hard, which opened up an opportunity with an error to get us in scoring position, which started to feel like we were going to get a little bit of confidence from that, and then CC (Caleigh Clifton) finding her way on and then Shay (Knighten) delivering the big blow was — it's pretty special for a freshman to do that at the College World Series, but I never even call her a freshman because of her style of swing. It's powerful. It can be a game changer. It did before when we've played Alabama.

Really proud of this team, the way they came out with their approach. They never got down. They just fought until the end, and that's what it's about when you're here. You've just got to leave everything you have on the field whenever you're out there.

Q. Shay, walk us through the at-bat and the home run at the end.

SHAY KNIGHTEN: I was just going up there trying to do it for my team, sticking to my game plan, just trying to hit something hard. I knew if I could get the ball on the ground, I just wanted to move my runner, so just going up there, trying to be aggressive but smart, and I guess it paid off.

Q. Shay, you described the first home run that you hit against Alabama as this amazing moment where you were able to lift up your team. How would you describe this one, and was that weighing on your mind when you got up there to the plate?

SHAY KNIGHTEN: I didn't even remember that game. That was the farthest thing from my mind. It was just be in the moment, do it for my team. My mindset was just hit the ball hard. I didn't try to do too much, just tried to do it for my team, like I said. There's no other way to explain it.

Q. Paige, how many times have you hugged Shay since the end of the game? And second, talk about just the pressure of going against Alabama's offense but also knowing that Osorio is so dominant this postseason, just the pressure of that.

PAIGE PARKER: Well, I can't count how many times I've hugged Shay. What she did was absolutely incredible, and what a way to make your Women's College World Series appearance. To come in as a freshman and do this is just amazing. I'm so proud of her.

For the second question, you know, I really wasn't thinking about the pressure. I was just trying to stay in the moment. Alabama is a very, very good team, and I knew it was going to be a really tough-fought battle. Alexis Osorio is a phenomenal pitcher and I knew it was going to be a dogfight. I was just thinking about helping my team stay in the game. That was the only thing I was thinking about the whole time.

Q. Shay, it seemed like you guys were getting better at-bats as the game went on. Did you feel that was the case, and how much did that help you at the end to get a good swing there?

SHAY KNIGHTEN: I think we were just trying to stick to our game plan, not trying to do too much, not trying to be the big hero because we knew Alabama has bats. We knew that they're going to come out swinging, too. So I just think as the game went on, we just kind of got together and were like, we're going to do this for each other, just kind of pass the torch, stick to the game plan and do anything we have to do to get this win.

Q. Paige, can you talk about just the mindset of throwing two innings last night and then having to come back, sleep, think all day, come back and throw? There were also some times you had runners in scoring position.

PAIGE PARKER: I wasn't thinking too much about playing two innings last night and then continuing on today. I was just sticking with the game plan and not changing my mindset at all, and you know, they had some situations where they had some runners on, and I was just determined to not let them score, to keep my team in the game and just fight.

Q. Patty, first of all, what did you think on the play where Haylie McCleney got the ball at the wall, and what is it about Shay's swing that seems to match Osorio so far?

PATTY GASSO: As soon as the ball went to center field, I went, ugh, anywhere but center field because she can probably jump over the fence and still make a play in the stands. That's how athletic she is. I wasn't surprised, just kind of wishing it to go over a little bit higher, further. Shay is just a good hitter that can cover the zone pretty well, so I think a lot of it was a pitch that was up, and with a rise ball pitcher, you're going to — I think this one knows, as well, sometimes when it's up there, it may not be the greatest looking swing, but with power and determination a ball can get out that way.

I think it was a tough pitch. It was up in the zone and probably out of the zone, but Shay just had a mindset of finding a way to get something hit hard. I mean, it's hard to get in scoring position off of her, and when you get somebody at second, I think that we felt like this is — we can't waste these opportunities anymore. I think Shay is just — it was just her will to get it done.

Q. Patty, you said yesterday that you felt like the games at Alabama last year were really seminal for Paige to become the pitcher she is now. Were there moments tonight that you felt like were products of just that evolution she's had in the last year?

PATTY GASSO: Absolutely I would say yes to that.
She was in very similar situations for anybody who was watching last year. It looked a lot like what you just saw. I think Paige would come off a little shaky physically, like her body would be a little nervous, her eyes would be — she was in a tough setting. I think she's definitely matured into a veteran as a sophomore, and like I said, sometimes you've got to go through some tough times to get the end product. It was hard to let that go and not get to the World Series, but what it did for our team, especially Paige, is the reason why we're continuing on as we are.

Q. Coach, I wanted to ask, when you get to this point and it's towards the end, the seventh, eighth inning, as good as Osorio was pitching, how much of it was keep trying to make her pitch instead of swinging at stuff and trying to make a play?

PATTY GASSO: I can't even tell you how hard it is to hit off of her, and so you can watch it on TV or even — and go, why are you swinging at that? That is ridiculous. Why would you swing at something out of the zone? I think it was Syd Romero in the first inning that swung at something that high, but it's hard to see what a ball is doing. They will tell you that. You can look at it on video and you can think that it's easy. It is not, thus her strikeouts against some very good hitting teams. You've got to go in knowing that you're going to strike out 10-plus times and not let that bother you. You just have to wait until it's the right time.

We tried to stay aggressive because if you stand there and you watch, she'll get you, and she kept working early counts, like we were down 1-2, 0-2, 2-2s, as the game went on you could see us starting to feel a little more comfortable, so the more we can see her throw the better we can start to make our judgments, and I thought middle, late part of the game you could see us start to make those adjustments and see the ball a little bit better, but it's difficult. She is that good. She is that good.

Q. When you missed the first-and-third situation with one out and you didn't get a run that inning, your team huddled and things like that. Then they came back the next at-bats and continued to battle. Talk about that moment, though, and what you said to your team at that point.

PATTY GASSO: Quite honestly, I take a lot of that on myself. I didn't like how I didn't take a more aggressive approach from a coach's standpoint, and so I was just kind of rattling them to pick me up, I guess.

We've been in these situations where we haven't gotten things done, but that's why we play seven innings. That's why we stay in the game. I mean, what's important here at the World Series is that you leave everything on the field, every game you play, that you have nothing left mentally, physically, emotionally. It's all on the field. That's all you can do. That's what this team was doing, through the highs, through the lows. That's what we were trying to do.

Q. Patty, though Shay hits the home run and the error they committed ends up not mattering, I still wonder can you comment on just how much every play does matter, because it could have been a 1-0 game and getting that base could have been all that matters, and you guys had to respond and make plays, just everything seemed so heightened.

PATTY GASSO: Uh-huh. It didn't matter but it did matter because it created momentum into our dugout, so we got a runner on second, when it's Kelsey Arnold in your mind, you're thinking, we're going to score, we're going to score, because she's our runner, and she knows it, she knew it, we talked about it, so I intentionally called a timeout to get our group together to talk about how big she's going to jump on this, work a ball up the middle, anywhere they put it we're going to try to score because they have to throw to home plate. If they cut it, that doesn't make sense. Throw it to home plate. If you throw us out we're going to get another runner in scoring position, but we had to try to score. That was the whole idea. Wherever you hit it, if it goes through, we're going. Even if it goes to center field, we're going to try to go.

So it was that — that error really created — this game is all about momentum. It's momentum, and even though it didn't matter, it did matter. I think it created a lot of momentum for our dugout, as well.

Q. Paige, Patty was talking about before the 2015 Super Regional at Tuscaloosa. What did you take away from that?

PAIGE PARKER: You know, it was a big learning experience for me. It was a tough environment to go into and to play in, and just taking — even though it wasn't the outcome that we wanted, just taking a lot of lessons from that, from those games, and just using them to get better this year and to just kind of — thinking about that wasn't going to define me, and I was going to break through from that and just learn a lot of lessons and just go on and push forward from that.

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Alabama

Patrick Murphy, Alexis Osorio, Reagan Dykes, Haylie McCleney

THE MODERATOR: Coach, general comments about the game?

PATRICK MURPHY: Well, I thought it was a great game. I know everybody got their money's worth, and you guys got your money's worth. In postseason softball there's three things, starting pitching, team defense, and timely hitting, and they got three for three and we were two out of three. So sometimes that's the way it goes.

But just a really, really good game.

Q. Reagan and Haylie, can you talk about the opportunities you felt like you let get away in this game and even I think your last time up was one, two, three and didn't put any pressure on them in that situation?

HAYLIE MCCLENEY: Yeah, I think we did a nice job of getting people on base. I think we put pressure on them. Like Murph said, we just didn't get the timely hit, and that's going to happen sometimes, especially with a great pitcher like Paige Parker. We just needed one key hit. Lex threw a shutout for seven innings. That's really all we can ask her to do, and it's frustrating as an offense to not have your pitcher's back, but we'll take it, we'll learn from it, and we were going to play one game a day anyway, so might as well do it now.

REAGAN DYKES: Yeah, I completely agree with what Haylie said. Lex pitched her butt off, and I thought she did an awesome job. We did get runners on base but didn't have that timely hitting that Coach Murphy talked about. That's key.

Q. Coach, just the mentality now of backs against the wall, no more margin for error as you play tomorrow.

PATRICK MURPHY: Yeah, you know, I just told them in the locker room, when you get here the margin for error is like this big, and it's either a mis-hit or a home run, and we had a couple that we just missed that we fouled straight back that we didn't get on the field, and they did. So the margin of error at the World Series is as tiny as they get. It's just like the Super Bowl or the Final Four.

I think our new kids, there's a couple of them that got opportunities, and that's going to help them tomorrow, and I think the best thing about it is we don't get a day off. I think that's the best thing because we go back to the hotel, eat, change clothes, go to bed, and then come back out here, and I'd rather have that than taking a day off.

Q. What was the reasoning behind having Caroline Hardy pinch-hit for Andrea Hawkins in the fifth inning?

PATRICK MURPHY: Righty versus lefty.

Q. Alexis, can you talk about what was working for you up until that point? Looked like you had the ball on a string a lot. They were swinging at some stuff, I guess the kind of things you like them to swing at, and Haylie, can you discuss the catch at the wall?

ALEXIS OSORIO: I think overall everything was working pretty well for me. They just got that timely hit that they needed with runners in scoring position.

HAYLIE MCCLENEY: Yeah, and as far as the catch goes, you know, (Sydney) Romero had been hitting her pretty hard all night. She does a really nice job of keeping her hands high, and off Alexis's rise ball, not many people were touching it. Romero was one of the ones that was making contact a lot, and I just got a good read on it, went back as hard as I could and ended up running into the wall, but it was a great pitch. I really don't know how she hit it. But yeah, it's just knowing the field. Been here before. Go back, catch it, run as hard as you can.

Q. Patrick, when you have a game start and then you have to have a long delay and then you have to come back and finish it the next day, I know it wasn't very much played yesterday, but did that have any impact, and how did you sort of handle all of that?

PATRICK MURPHY: I don't think so. I think they're a pretty loose group, and during the delay yesterday they played charades and danced and did whatever they do, and I don't think anybody was uptight at all.

And then today, we just considered it game day two, had the same schedule, went to eat lunch at the same time, got them out of the hotel, you know, instead of sitting around, and I don't think it was any delay at all, and then when we started, it was like immediately. There was no national anthem, there was no lineups, and I think that was kind of cool, too, to just, boom, get out there and go. I don't know if they have anything different, but I don't think it affected anything.

HAYLIE MCCLENEY: Yeah, I don't think it affected us much at all. It just kind of felt like déjà-vu, getting out here at the same time and warming up the same way. If anything I liked it better because we didn't have the national anthem, the intros, all that leading up to the game, it was like, we're both here, let's finish what we started, and it being no score in the second inning, it didn't really affect us much.

ALEXIS OSORIO: Yeah, I honestly don't think that the rain delay really affected us because we just came back the next day and it's a 0-0 ballgame going into the second inning, so I don't think it really did much for us.

REAGAN DYKES: Well, for me just a freshman and your first time here, of course you're going to have nerves your first time on the field, so it didn't affect me that much, but just being out here and having two innings under my belt, it was just like another game here.

Q. Alexis, when it gets late in the game and it's a scoreless game like that and you and Paige are both dealing, does it affect anything with the way you pitch and do you feel that extra pressure in the circle?

ALEXIS OSORIO: No, not at all. I don't feel any pressure. I just know that I've just got to keep the ball moving and just having the mis-hit, and then I knew that somehow my team would find a way, but it just didn't work out in our favor.

Q. Alexis, what makes Shay (Knighten) such a good hitter and what was your approach on that final at-bat?

ALEXIS OSORIO: She's just an all-around great hitter. She has such a great bat, and as a freshman that's pretty impressive. My approach with her was just trying to get ahead in the count, and she just won the battle on that one.

Q. Haylie, what do you do going into tomorrow, rallying these guys, as we said before, knowing backs are against the wall?

HAYLIE MCCLENEY: Yeah, we talked about it in the locker room a little bit, but we've been the comeback kids all year. You can go back and look at our schedule. We scored eight runs in one inning against Georgia, we came back against Arizona twice to win. We never feel like we're out of a game. We bend, but we don't break. We bent a little bit tonight, but we're going to get over it. We're going to put our big girl pants on. We were going to play one game a day anyway like I said earlier, and you just got to take that approach. It's win or go home, we know that, and we're going to be ready. There's no doubt in my mind, we've had this experience on the field, we're a veteran group, we have great starting pitching, like we showed tonight. Our offense just needs to get it going, and we can do that. We've been doing it all year, and we will get it done here.

Q. Patrick, you mentioned the team sort of dancing around and stuff during the delay last night. Kind of reminded me of four years ago during the delay against Oklahoma. Is that looseness just the result of — is that something you encourage from your team, and if so, has that always been your approach?

PATRICK MURPHY: I think it's just more personalities of the kids that we have. They have like a childlike love for the game, and you don't want to ruin that, and I know you've seen coaches that do ruin that. I'm not going to do that. They all love the game. Anything competition, they're doing it. They had competitions as to who could do the best — I don't know what it was. They're a loose group, and I've learned the hard way, too, here being the opposite, that too tight does not equal success. I've learned.

Q. Patrick, there was kind of three situations in this game, one of them going back to yesterday and how things can turn in this close a game, Haylie's catch, Reagan throwing out the runner when they may have stolen more if that worked, and then of course leaving the runner on third in that key situation. Can you discuss those three and how they affected the flow of this?

PATRICK MURPHY: Well, I've told the team this year in softball, baseball, any game really, there's usually like three or four plays that decide the entire decision. Obviously the last one was a big one. With Caroline Hardy with a runner at third, I was hoping for a sac fly because she's the best at it. You can ask anybody up here, she gets it out of the infield better than anybody, and she had a good shot at it and she fouled it straight back, and then a good pitcher, I don't know if she realizes she threw one right there and then the next pitch is a great change-up, and strike three. We need to take advantage of those opportunities, and for us, we didn't have that big-time moment. We went eight innings with not one. And I think they're capable, and I know they're capable. They know it, and we've got to come back tomorrow.

Q. Haylie, a year ago you guys got to Parker in Tuscaloosa in that super regional. They really talked about how important that was for her growth. Did you see her different tonight? I know you faced her earlier this year. Has she changed since a year ago at this time?

HAYLIE MCCLENEY: I think every pitcher grows, especially coming from an offseason, which I'm sure she worked extremely hard at after what for them was probably a bitter end to their season last year. But yeah, I mean, she had great command. She was keeping us off balance with the changeup, but she consistently threw strikes and kept us guessing. But I think with any pitcher you're going to see growth season to season.

Q. Alexis, when Shay came up for that last at-bat, were you even thinking about what happened earlier this year with her at the end of the earlier game this season?

ALEXIS OSORIO: No, not at all. I wasn't even thinking about back in California. But I mean, she just got that timely hit, which kudos to her.

POSTGAME NOTES

Game 3: Oklahoma 3, Alabama 0 (8 innings)

No. 3 seed Oklahoma won the third game of the 2016 Women’s College World Series against No. 6 seed Alabama in eight innings, 3-0. With two runners on and one out, Oklahoma freshman Shay Knighten belted a three-run home run to right field in the bottom of the eighth inning to give OU the walk-off victory over the Crimson Tide.

The Sooners are 53-7 this season and have won 28 straight games dating back to April 2. The Crimson Tide fell to 51-13 this year.

With the victory, Oklahoma advances to play the winner of game four between No. 2 seed Michigan and No. 10 seed LSU on Saturday at 8:30 p.m. CT. Alabama will take on the loser of Michigan-LSU in an elimination game Saturday at 1:30 p.m. CT.

In its 10th appearance (2000, ’01, ’02, ’03, ’04, ’11, ’12, ’13, ’14, ’16), Oklahoma improved to 18-14 at the Women’s College World Series. Alabama drops to 17-20 all-time in 11 appearances (2000, ’03, ’05, ’06, ’08, ’09, ’11, ’12, ’14, ’15, ’16) at the WCWS.

The game between the Sooners and Crimson Tide was the first WCWS game to head into extra innings scoreless since 2013. The last time it occurred Oklahoma defeated Tennessee, 5-3, in 13 innings in the 2013 WCWS Championship Series (Game 1).

Friday’s match between Alabama and Oklahoma was the sixth meeting between the two teams at the Women’s College World Series (fifth matchup since 2012).

Oklahoma improved to 2-1 in extra innings this season while Alabama dropped to 1-1.

Oklahoma sophomore pitcher Paige Parker tied a career high with eight innings pitched and improved to 34-3 this season. Parker allowed no runs on four hits, while striking out seven versus Alabama. She has won 24 straight appearances for the Sooners. The shutout marked Parker’s 14th of the season.

Knighten finished 2-for-4 with three RBIs in her first WCWS game, while OU left fielder Kady Self added in a hit for the Sooners to finish 1-for-3. Knighten also tallied the walk-off home run when the Sooners and Crimson Tide met in the regular season (March 19), doing so in the bottom of the seventh to give OU a 2-0 win.

Alabama sophomore Alexis Osorio took the loss, allowing three runs on three hits and five walks. Osorio finished with 10 strikeouts against the Sooners. She has registered at least 10 strikeouts in three of our starts during NCAA postseason play this year.

The Crimson Tide’s Haylie McCleney, Reagan Dykes and Andrea Hawkins recorded one hit apiece for Alabama.

The game was originally scheduled to take place on Thursday night, but the contest was postponed at 6:26 p.m. Thursday due to inclement weather. The game resumed in the bottom of the second inning Friday at 6:04 p.m.

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