Florida Championship Series Game 2 Press Conference

2017 Women's College World Series

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Florida Championship Series Game 2 Press Conference

2017 Women's College World Series

Tuesday June 6, 2017
Oklahoma City, Oklahoma
Oklahoma – 5, Florida – 4

Florida interview with Tim Walton, Chelsea Herndon, Aleshia Ocasio, and Amanda Lorenz.

TIM WALTON: First, congratulations to Oklahoma on a national championship, just a hard fought two games. Wish we could have pushed it to a third, and give us a chance. But I thought overall our players, really proud of our team. I thought they came out again, really good, really well. I thought we came in this morning, and I thought we really did everything we needed to do to prepare to get ready for tonight's game, and I thought we took care of ourselves and took care of each other. But overall just proud of our effort. Congratulations to Coach (Patty) Gasso on another national championship and to the University of Oklahoma. Just thanks to the NCAA, ESPN, OKC All-Sports, University of Oklahoma hosting this tournament. It's a great event. Just an awesome event when you get that many people in there cheering, and then the crowd, I thought the crowd was great and I give a lot of credit to the OU fans for being very respectful. They were cheering and chanting and doing their cheers and nothing was ever any negative tone toward us. They were just cheering the heck out of their team and I give them a lot of respect for competing the right way with a lot of class, so congratulations.

Q. Tim, your team fights so hard, and they're never out of a game. Even in the last at-bat they've got a chance. As they're throwing all that pitching at you, what are you thinking?

TIM WALTON: Yeah, I had an in-game interview and I mentioned to Holly (Rowe), we've got to find a way to get another run up there before we can get Paige Lowary coming in at the end and we knew what she was going to be able to do. Overall I thought we were prepared. We tried to do everything we could to get that run, runner at second base, I think, with one out in the sixth. We had a chance.

But I'm proud. I can't tell you — again, I know our players — we questioned their toughness breaking camp for the fall, and they all took notice and they worked hard and they put in the extra effort. They did all the things that they needed to do. We had a lot of kids that have really put in above and beyond what we ask of them because they all have high expectations for being great.

Our coaching staff works really hard, but again, I think to get to this point, it takes a special group of players that really has a drive for their own — not perfection, but greatness. So I give not only these three but the rest of our team, the other 15 women, just a tip of my cap for how hard they work and just how much they really appreciate each other.

Q. Kind of a two-parter, I don't think you guys lost a game when you scored three runs or more playing in the best conference, historically, ever. What changed at the World Series, and can you explain why you went with the pitchers? You know their arms and their strengths better than us.

TIM WALTON: Yeah, I told (Jennifer) Rocha I was hoping we could get through one time with the lineup, just to change the look from what they're getting before we brought in Delanie (Gourley) and then before we came back with Kelly (Barnhill). It was more about matchups. You know, they get the home run early, get a couple nice infield hits to go along with that late, but I just felt like it was a good opportunity for us to try to piece together this game and stretch it out as long as we could. Other than really two bad pitches, I thought we pitched pretty well, played good defense, hit the ball well.

But you know, it just wasn't our tournament. You look at the statistics, it's eerie how close the games were statistically. So I think that you've got two even matched teams. One just found a way to hit the ball over the fence more than we did, and give them a lot of credit.

Q. I know that this has been a great site for the game, but when the games are this close, can the crowd make a difference, the momentum, the noise?

TIM WALTON: Yeah, I mean, I would assume that the crowd had a little bit to do with it, especially the last three at-bats maybe, the crowd was in it. But it's hard for me to make an excuse that Oklahoma had more fans than we had and that's why they won. That would be taking a lot away from what they really did and accomplished.

But I think there's a little bit to that. But I thought our players really stepped up and rose to the challenge. So I'm not going to make that excuse today. I give them credit for finding a way to get more base runners on base and get the hits when they needed it.

Q. What made you question that toughness coming out of camp in the fall and what did you need to see from them?

TIM WALTON: Yeah, I think the main thing is really we lean heavily on our strength and conditioning staff and we've got times, we've got certain things that we want them to be able to measure up and hit on, and it's just being able to withstand the pressure that we put on them in the mornings, sometimes before 6 in the morning just to — it's not a toughness thing, it's just about mind over what you have to do.

I think a lot of our players dreaded the workouts more than they actually dreaded them when they were working out, and so that's a mental toughness thing. You're going to have to be able to be at your best when your body is dying, and that'll never change, conditioning our athletes. You want them to be mentally tough. To be mentally tough they're going to have to push their bodies a little bit harder. So that was it. Again, that's not personal, that's just about — that's just what it takes to be a national champion, that's what it takes to be a College World Series participant. That's what it takes to be a Florida Gator. You're going to have to push yourself really hard, and then the push comes from your teammates. You're going to have to push your teammates hard and use constructive criticism at 6 in the morning and learn how to get over those hard runs.

I thought, again, we questioned it breaking camp, they came back in good shape from Christmas break and really pushed and pushed other than a couple early injuries in January. I thought they really answered, they really understood that it was going to take a little bit more, and I think that came down from our upperclassmen. It came down from our leaders. I thought the leadership was very positive, and you see kids out there doing more. I think that was the differences that we've had players that are really good and what they were doing wasn't good enough to get them to this point, and they all bought in, and like I said, I would have questioned it later on. They really fought hard.

Q. For the players, your coach says any season that ends in Oklahoma City is a tremendous success. You guys made it to the Championship Series. Can you take solace in that right now?

AMANDA LORENZ: Yeah, definitely. It feels better to end our season here instead of Gainesville like last year. Just really proud of the fight that we've shown and the growth that we've shown. Like Coach (Tim Walton) was saying, I didn't really know what our identity was coming in in the fall, and we just grew every single day. And every single day someone stepped up, and this team was so special because everybody contributed at any time, and everybody had the mindset that if they were put into the game they were going to get something done for their teammates. Just excited about the growth that we had, and proud that we ended our season here for sure. Wish we came out on top. But it happens.

ALESHIA OCASIO: I completely agree with Amanda. It's an honor to be here and blessed to have been here to battle with other girls on my team. You know, we came up shorthanded. They played a great game. We had a hard fight both games, and we just didn't come out on top. We're going to come back next year with a hard fight, as well.

CHELSEA HERNDON: I agree with that, too. Any time you end your season in OKC it's a great season. It's an honor to be one of the last two teams playing in the nation. You are the softball game to watch, and it's pretty awesome. Yeah, this team was amazing.

Q. Aleshia, coming into the game, you hadn't started a game since April 30th. How were you lined up for that mentally?

ALESHIA OCASIO: Well, first off, you know, coming in and pitching, you always want to give your team a chance no matter the situation. Delanie (Gourley) and Kelly (Barnhill) have been amazing all season with the stuff they have. It's really incredible. But Coach (Tim Walton) pitched the idea to me that I might possibly be pitching, and I was just trying to mentally prepare myself for today's game and just give my team a chance and trying to keep runs off the board. They got one early, but that didn't faze us at all. We still fought. But they came out on top, like I said before.

Q. Coach, the pitching has been so phenomenal and overwhelming all season; is there just that much film? Does this environment change things? I heard the commentators speculating that the air was heavier in Gainesville. What do we make of all the runs, going from a 0.66 to the explosion we saw from both teams?

TIM WALTON: I don't really know how to answer that. I don't listen to commentators or anybody else because they're not with our team to know what's going on, you know? We struck out 26 batters last night. Pretty heavy air, I guess.

POSTGAME NOTES
Championship Series Game 2: Oklahoma 5, Florida 4

  • No. 10 seed Oklahoma won its third NCAA title in the last five years, defeating No. 1 seed Florida, 5-4, on Tuesday. The Sooners are the first No. 10 seed to win the Women’s College World Series.
  • Oklahoma improves to 27-16 at the Women’s College World Series, while Florida falls to 25-14. OU ranks fourth in WCWS history with 27 wins at the event. The Sooners have won six straight and 12 out of their 13 games at the WCWS dating back to 2016.
  • Every WCWS Championship Series since 2011 has featured either Florida (2011, ’14, 15, ’17) or Oklahoma (2012, ’13, ’16, ’17). The Gators won the NCAA title in 2014 and 2015, while OU captured the crown in the 2013, 2016 and 2017.
  • Nicole Mendes’ leadoff home run in the bottom of the first put the Sooners ahead 1-0. It was the second home run for Mendes in WCWS Championship Series and her second career leadoff home run. The freshman also threw 1.0 inning of relief, giving up just one hit in her first appearance in the circle at the WCWS.
  • Florida shortstop Alexis Reynoso belted her third home run of the year, a solo blast to left field, to tie the game at 1-1 in the top of the second. It was the first homer for Reynoso since March 19 at South Carolina.
  • The Gators tacked on two more runs in the second as Aleshia Ocasio’s single to right plated Justine McClean. Florida added its third run of the frame as OU reliever Mariah Lopez hit the Gators’ Kayli Kvistad with the bases loaded, scoring Amanda Lorenz.
  • With the bases loaded, OU’s Caleigh Clifton walked to trim Florida’s lead down to 3-2. After Clifton reached, Shay Knighten cleared the bases with a double to the right center gap to put OU up 5-3. In 11 games at the WCWS, Knighten has recorded 16 RBIs and is hitting .389 with three home runs.
  • Clifton finished 2-for-2 with one run scored and a RBI to lead the Sooners. It was the junior’s 17th multi-hit game of the season.
  • Florida cut the OU lead down to 5-4 as Alex Herndon recorded her fifth home run of the season with a solo homer to center field. Herndon finished with 1-for-3 with a run scored and a RBI.
  • Oklahoma freshman Mariah Lopez (18-1) earned the win in relief, tossing 2.1 innings and allowing just one run on one hit.
  • Paige Lowary earned her third save at the WCWS, pitching the final 2.0 innings and retiring all six batters she faced in order. Lowary’s three saves are the most in WCWS history. The junior recorded 11 saves during 2017, which is tied for the most by a pitcher in NCAA single-season history.
  • Lowary made four relief appearance at the 2017 WCWS, which is tied for the most in series history with Auburn’s Rachel Walters (2015) and Alabama’s Jackie Traina (2011). The junior’s 0.88 ERA is tied for the second-lowest ERA in WCWS history (minimum 10 appearances). Lowary finished four games at the WCWS, the most by a pitcher in series history.
  • Ocasio (8-2) took the loss, giving up four runs on four hits in 1.1 innings pitched. Delanie Gourley pitched the final 4.2 innings, allowing one run on four hits, while striking out five.
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Oklahoma Championship Series Game 2 Press Conference

2017 Women's College World Series

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Oklahoma Championship Series Game 2 Press Conference

2017 Women's College World Series

Tuesday June 6, 2017
Oklahoma City, Oklahoma
Oklahoma – 5, Florida – 4

Oklahoma interview with Patty Gasso, Paige Parker, Paige Lowary, Kelsey Arnold, Shay Knighten, and Nicole Mendes.

PATTY GASSO: Well, first and foremost, whether we win or lose, we give the glory to God. Had the power of three throughout this entire postseason, and it was powerful for this group. Proud of them.

I also want to thank everybody who worked this tournament. It was so well-run, better than we've ever seen it, and I congratulate Florida. What a great, great team, well-coached. They're tough.

The battle that we had last night was unbelievable, and I think we still feel a little adrenaline from last night, as well. But it was a challenge.

Words cannot express — I still cannot believe that this happened, with where we started and where we finished. There's so many stories. The journey was unbelievable. I think if you looked at us in February and March, even parts of April, you would never imagine us sitting here right now with trophies in front of us.

So proud of this group, their effort. It was team. We had 17 players on our roster, 17 players. Everybody had to contribute in some way or the other, and they did, and they bought in, and they just went for it. They weren't afraid. They didn't panic. They were fearless. I'm still speechless. It was incredible. It was incredible.

Q. Patty, one of your greatest assets is your ability to decipher a game and go with your gut off a game plan what you've got. Tell us about this pitching rotation you went with today because it won you a national title today.

PATTY GASSO: Well, we started with Paige (Parker), and she wanted the ball. I think Paige probably could tell you she didn't have her best stuff, but she is the reason why we're sitting here right now, and she knows that. I know she knows that.

To be able to give Mariah (Lopez) the ball, a freshman who's been waiting patiently, and for her to step up and do what we asked her to do in that setting was another reason why we're sitting here with a trophy. It's another reason why we're here, period.

Then we bring in Nicole Mendes, thinking this would be a good matchup. She can keep the ball down. She can mix her pitches. We can keep them off balance. So everybody had a game plan and needed to execute it, even if it was for one inning. Nicole Mendes did exactly what we asked her to do to set it up for Paige Lowary, and Paige Lowary came in, and she was hot. She was ready. She was really — you could see her — I don't know how hard she was throwing, but it looked like 100 miles an hour. The adrenaline was there and she was hitting her spots just so confident.

To see four pitchers pull this off is a dream come true for a coach because every one of them had a piece of this.

Q. Patty, you guys lost your first regional game to North Dakota State and were three outs away from elimination against Tulsa. How much did that change the course of your postseason, that comeback in those situations?

PATTY GASSO: It was everything. I want to send them a thank you card for waking us up, and they did. And that scare is almost what we needed to step forward and say we're not going home, not on our field. We're not going home.

We've had some magical moments in this postseason, and what Syd (Sydney Romero) and CC (Caleigh Clifton) and those guys coming with home runs and keeping us alive, that magic that happened at our field with our fans is something we grabbed on to and we just kept going.

Q. Paige Parker, last night you said that you were with Paige Lowary on every pitch. Today there were a couple of others. Just curious on if you feel the same connection with the other two.

PAIGE PARKER: Absolutely. I think the bond that our whole pitching staff has is something that is very, very special. I wanted to be with them every single pitch, and I wanted them to know that no matter what happened, I had your back. I'm just so proud of this pitching staff. We've come a long way this year, and we worked so, so hard, and huge credit to Coach Lombardi because she's the best pitching coach in the country, and she works harder than anyone I've ever seen, and I'm just so blessed to have her as my pitching coach.

Q. Kelsey, you were the captain on this team this year. You kind of led by example all year, and the other day Patty said you're kind of like the unsung hero of the team. Is that kind of how you led all year, just kind of leading by example?

KELSEY ARNOLD: I mean, it's a blessing. It's an indescribable feeling to win another national championship. I just want to let you all know that my teammates are leaders along with me. It's not just me by myself, and I believe that when we all came together, power of three, that's what you saw.

Q. Patty, you talked at times this year about you not having fun, that this team wasn't having fun playing together and that it was difficult at times. What made it fun out there? What changed to make it fun?

PATTY GASSO: I think once we figured out how to connect with each other — there was some disconnect within the team. We were feeling like we needed to repeat. That word was used a lot. We felt the pressure of being better, and that's not fun. That wasn't fun.

We finally got to a point where we said, enough is enough. We need to stop this right now because we're really not even close to being as good as we can. These guys figured it out about the end of March, early April, right when we were starting Big 12 play, and it just kept growing. Our win streak was moving. It was starting to move, and you could see we had lost to Baylor, and that loss made us better, and that's what I love about this team is they take losses and they learn and they make themselves better from it.

Q. Patty, is it safe to say this is your deepest staff in 23 seasons, and can you take us back to the day you found out Paige Lowary was headed your way?

PATTY GASSO: Well, it's the first time I heard about Uber; I remember that. I didn't know what Uber was. She was working at the Hall of Fame Stadium with the U.S. team, and we had set up a visit, and she took an Uber. She was broken. She was broken. And hearing her story, I'm going to tell you guys, you want to listen to this story because it is unbelievable that this kid right here is on the bottom of this dog pile. She was broken and didn't love softball, didn't want to pitch, and wanted a change. To see her growth as a pitcher and as a person has been so rewarding, and I'm telling you, to see her on the bottom of that dog pile and then — this pitching staff is so tight, the battery, (Lea) Wodach, Hannah (Sparks), they work very hard together. I'm glad we got her, and I'm glad she's loving pitching again. I don't know how much sweeter it could be than it is right now.

Q. Deepest staff ever?

PATTY GASSO: Deepest staff ever, yeah.

Q. Shay, you were nodding your head when Coach was talking about the team needed to wake up? Talk about why that needed to happen?

SHAY KNIGHTEN: I think at that point we kind of were settling, and we thought, OK, well, regionals, we can just roll through our regionals, roll through supers and get to the World Series. We thought it was that easy, and losing to North Dakota State was huge for us because we all had the wide eyes at that point. We were like, what just happened? And the fact that we all put our heads together, coaching staff, support staff, everyone, we knew that something had to change, and we figured it out, and we just went from there.

Q. Coach, just your thoughts on the offense being able to break through against what statistically was the nation's best pitching staff.

PATTY GASSO: If you could watch the connection that JT (Gasso) had with our hitters, they had plans. It was fun to watch all of it come together.

What I like about this team and our staff is we work as one. The pitching staff is right in the middle of the game plan. The hitters are right in the middle of the game plan. There's certain hitters that talk more than others, but they all are learning. This group right here will be great coaches because they're learning and they're contributing, and they had this plan, and they executed it. I'm proud of JT as well. My coaching staff is phenomenal. They work, and they connect. His plan and the execution of these hitters is another reason why we pulled this off.

Q. What you've done tonight, what you did tonight and what you did the last five years might make you — give you a right to say that Oklahoma is sort of now the center of the softball universe, at least the University of Oklahoma in college softball can be called that. Can you reflect on that or do you buy into that after the run that you're on?

PATTY GASSO: All I try to do is be the best coach I can for these players. When they commit to OU, I commit back to them. Our goal is to make them as great as I can. I don't buy into — we just want to win. If we're winning each year, that's great, and if we're not, we're going to try to win the next year. But we don't stake claim in being an elite program. We just play hard and we want to win. We won't own it. I know you want us to, but we won't own it. We're just going to keep working.

Q. Back-to-back nights with the game changing hit. Can you talk about being in that moment, and also is there a routine? How do you deliver in the clutch on back-to-back nights on the biggest stage?

SHAY KNIGHTEN: Being in those moments, I've just got to keep myself calm, just stay relaxed and just kind of not think about what if, just kind of go for it. And it paid off, but I just wanted to do everything for my team, and to finish this way is really cool.

Q. Paige Lowary, Coach Gasso says this time last year you were a broken pitcher. Can you even sum up all of the emotions that you're probably feeling right now compared to where you were a year ago?

PAIGE LOWARY: I can't believe it. I'm still very speechless, and it hasn't really set in yet, but I'm just forever grateful that I got the opportunity to come here, and I can't believe how close and tight this team is. I'm just so blessed and humbled and thankful and grateful. I don't have enough words to describe how I feel.

Q. Nicole, you jump started the game with your first at-bat. Talk about that and what you hit. Also, when you came in to pitch, you pitched well this year, but did you have an idea after last night that you might be out there today in the circle?

NICOLE MENDES: During my first at-bat, I just knew that I really wanted to get the momentum going, and whatever way it was, with a bunt, with a slap, with a hit, it didn't matter, but I just wanted to show my team that I was there for them and that I knew that they had my back. It just so happened to go over. And with pitching, it wasn't really, oh, I'm going to pitch this game, it was just kind of I'm going to warm up however I can and if they call me in, I'm going to do my best to fill that role.

Q. What was it about Oklahoma that you said, okay, I want to visit there?

PAIGE LOWARY: Everything seemed very real. What I saw was what I got. I trusted what they were saying, and I believed that they could change me, and I saw before my eyes. I just really can't believe it. I'm just so happy that they gave me a shot.

Q. Coach, you talked about it a little bit, but you guys started the regional losing to North Dakota State and you won four straight elimination games, then swept Auburn, then fight your way back to the national title game and played maybe the greatest game ever and then swept Florida. Is this the greatest postseason run you've ever been a part of?

PATTY GASSO: You know my phone will blow up from Lauren Chamberlain if I say. (Laughter).

I think it was probably the most unlikely from how we got started and what we were dealing with, and some tough things going on throughout. I make mention to the Nalepa family, Nicole Myers was a former player of mine who lost her child in a car accident, so you see our stickers since April just lifting up that family, and we really bought into that. That little Kelsey was our angel through this.

Through all of this, what we're doing is not focusing so much on trying to win games as much as just trying to lift others up, and when you're doing things like that, you're just not nervous. You just feel like you have a duty to do it. So we take on a lot of this platform to change lives, and I know that sounds cliché, but it's true. I think any one of these guys would tell you that this platform they're using to change lives, and softball just happens to be how we get to do it.

Q. Coach, you have had a lot of dominant left-handed pitchers. What is it about the left-handed pitcher that helps make Oklahoma so dominant?

PATTY GASSO: Any program in the country wants lefties on their staff. We've started it way back with Jill Most when I first got here, and it just kept growing and growing, and we became kind of like Lefty University. I think that is what attracted Paige and this Paige and Nicole and so forth and so forth. It's a lot to do with Coach Lombardi calling a great game and knowing how to manipulate or work the lefties in the strike zone, and she called a great game. Not that she can't deal with the righties because she can, but there's something about her magic with lefty pitchers that has won us championships.

Q. You talked a lot about kind of the ups and downs of the season, and I'm trying to understand, was it ever a matter of a lack of effort that you were saying? Was it a matter of a lack of focus? What were the actual challenges they were trying to overcome?

PATTY GASSO: At times there was a little lack of effort and we would fix that immediately. I think more than anything, it was just kind of an identity problem, like who are we, where are we going. We weren't real connected, and that's where Kelsey Arnold, even Paige Parker, Lea Wodach, Nicole Pendley, these guys stepped forward and said, let's figure this out. Let's really get this team on the same page. So we started doing more things together, but specifically Kelsey Arnold from what I know went out of her way to have dinner with everybody on the team, and she understood to be a good leader you have to have good relationships with those that you're leading. Kelsey Arnold wants to go to practice, go eat at Red Lobster and then go home and go to bed. That's her life.

And so for her to step away from that and spend time with teammates and make dinner for them and so forth, she is the glue. She was a big part of the glue that brought this team together.

Q. Coach, you talked about pressure this year, but you've got one senior in your lineup and you've got all your pitching back —

PATTY GASSO: Are you going to do that right now? Can I just tell you how much we hated that, and you're going to do that? We're not — we learned a lesson. We are good at learning lessons. We're not going to let this get in our way.

Q. You mentioned your lone senior. Can you talk about the significance of Macey to the team, her leadership, and then also you gave it a great effort to avoid the Gatorade bath tonight. Who was it that finally caught you?

PATTY GASSO: Well, let's go to the first part. Macey, I could tell you that as a coach you always want your seniors to go out the way that they want to go out. How else can you go out? She really elevated her game. She committed more to staying in the lineup, and she worked. To see her get in the lineup is something she's been waiting for for four years, so to see her crack it and get in there and help us — she made some great defensive plays. I think people just kind of take it for granted, but she's really saved our rear ends at times, and I'm really happy for her.

I don't know who got me. I started to see them surround me, so I just surrendered and took it, but it feels good. Feels great. It feels great.

POSTGAME NOTES
Championship Series Game 2: Oklahoma 5, Florida 4

  • No. 10 seed Oklahoma won its third NCAA title in the last five years, defeating No. 1 seed Florida, 5-4, on Tuesday. The Sooners are the first No. 10 seed to win the Women’s College World Series.
  • Oklahoma improves to 27-16 at the Women’s College World Series, while Florida falls to 25-14. OU ranks fourth in WCWS history with 27 wins at the event. The Sooners have won six straight and 12 out of their 13 games at the WCWS dating back to 2016.
  • Every WCWS Championship Series since 2011 has featured either Florida (2011, ’14, 15, ’17) or Oklahoma (2012, ’13, ’16, ’17). The Gators won the NCAA title in 2014 and 2015, while OU captured the crown in the 2013, 2016 and 2017.
  • Nicole Mendes’ leadoff home run in the bottom of the first put the Sooners ahead 1-0. It was the second home run for Mendes in WCWS Championship Series and her second career leadoff home run. The freshman also threw 1.0 inning of relief, giving up just one hit in her first appearance in the circle at the WCWS.
  • Florida shortstop Alexis Reynoso belted her third home run of the year, a solo blast to left field, to tie the game at 1-1 in the top of the second. It was the first homer for Reynoso since March 19 at South Carolina.
  • The Gators tacked on two more runs in the second as Aleshia Ocasio’s single to right plated Justine McClean. Florida added its third run of the frame as OU reliever Mariah Lopez hit the Gators’ Kayli Kvistad with the bases loaded, scoring Amanda Lorenz.
  • With the bases loaded, OU’s Caleigh Clifton walked to trim Florida’s lead down to 3-2. After Clifton reached, Shay Knighten cleared the bases with a double to the right center gap to put OU up 5-3. In 11 games at the WCWS, Knighten has recorded 16 RBIs and is hitting .389 with three home runs.
  • Clifton finished 2-for-2 with one run scored and a RBI to lead the Sooners. It was the junior’s 17th multi-hit game of the season.
  • Florida cut the OU lead down to 5-4 as Alex Herndon recorded her fifth home run of the season with a solo homer to center field. Herndon finished with 1-for-3 with a run scored and a RBI.
  • Oklahoma freshman Mariah Lopez (18-1) earned the win in relief, tossing 2.1 innings and allowing just one run on one hit.
  • Paige Lowary earned her third save at the WCWS, pitching the final 2.0 innings and retiring all six batters she faced in order. Lowary’s three saves are the most in WCWS history. The junior recorded 11 saves during 2017, which is tied for the most by a pitcher in NCAA single-season history.
  • Lowary made four relief appearance at the 2017 WCWS, which is tied for the most in series history with Auburn’s Rachel Walters (2015) and Alabama’s Jackie Traina (2011). The junior’s 0.88 ERA is tied for the second-lowest ERA in WCWS history (minimum 10 appearances). Lowary finished four games at the WCWS, the most by a pitcher in series history.
  • Ocasio (8-2) took the loss, giving up four runs on four hits in 1.1 innings pitched. Delanie Gourley pitched the final 4.2 innings, allowing one run on four hits, while striking out five.
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Florida Championship Series Game 1 Press Conference

2017 Women's College World Series

Monday June 5, 2017
Oklahoma City, Oklahoma
Oklahoma – 7, Florida – 5

Florida interview with Tim Walton, Delanie Gourley, Kelly Barnhill, Sophia Reynoso, and Amanda Lorenz.

TIM WALTON: Good game. Obviously we're not very happy to be up here right now as the other side of that, but we had a very good game. Two good teams, obviously fought very hard tonight. Just obviously the clutch hitting, they got a couple more than we did. But told my team in about the — I don't know if it was the eighth or the 21st, whatever inning it was, I told them great job, proud of you guys. Two outs, two strikes, boom, came back. Two outs, two strikes, and whatever the next inning was, came back. So just really proud of our team, really proud of the effort, really proud of the energy. Had some kids step up and do some things they haven't been asked to do before, and this is the first time I've seen the box score so that's why it took me so long, but 26 strikeouts, it's crazy to lose. Just tells you just what a crazy game this is.

Yeah, again, proud of my team. Congratulations to Oklahoma. They played a great game, as well. Made a lot of nice plays. The crowd stayed with it. Apologize to them we're not signing autographs tonight. Obviously I had to send the bus back, get some rest and get ready for tomorrow. But like I said, proud of our team, proud of our effort, not happy with the result, but here we are.

Q. Obviously like you all, they have several pitchers on their staff that they're comfortable with, but the decision to start (Paige) Lowary, how did that affect things at all for you guys? Was it just a surprise and get over it and get going? How did that affect things?

TIM WALTON: I don't think it was — we've hit the ball hard, so I don't think there was any surprise at all.

Q. Coach, I asked Coach (Patty) Gasso earlier about the chess match of your pitching staff tonight, which one to start, which one to — how far to go, and then to make the changes late in the game, especially once it got to extra innings and be satisfied with that to finish out.

TIM WALTON: What was the question?

Q. As far as pitching in the circle.

TIM WALTON: I don't want to be rude. I don't understand what you're asking me to answer.

Q. The chess match of who to start the game, then you make a change late in the game, and once it gets to extra innings, to make another change and stay with that and finish.

TIM WALTON: OK, yeah. I mean, I just thought Delanie (Gourley) had given us all she had and it was time to make a change. I thought Kelly (Barnhill) gave us good seven and time to change looks, as well. But what we did tonight was really no different than we did in the past. Kelly goes on Friday night, Delanie goes on Saturday. Kelly pitched tonight on whatever night it is, Friday night, and Delanie came in on Saturday. We did the same thing. It really wasn't any different. I thought both coaches did exactly what they should have done, pulled the trigger at the right time, and she came in and put the fire out, and Delanie did the same. I thought the moves were great. I don't really — offense, need to find a way to get a little hit here or there, but the pitching was great.

Q. Amanda, talk a little bit about just kind of the will to keep fighting back whenever they get ahead of you guys and ultimately when it was up by three you didn't come all the way back, but when it becomes a power of wills, talk about your mindset and what did you do to make sure you kept coming back?

AMANDA LORENZ: Yeah, I'm really proud of our team tonight. Obviously we're not really happy with the result, but to keep fighting back against a team like Oklahoma, you can't really ask more from our offense, one more run. But yeah, just being comfortable in the moment, taking a deep breath, not letting it get too big, just really, really, really proud of our fight tonight.

Q. Kelly and Delanie, you guys, any fatigue factor at all?

DELANIE GOURLEY: I mean, not — that didn't even cross my mind. Every time I went out there, all I wanted to do was get the quickest three outs so we could come in and try to score. That was probably due to a little bit of adrenaline, but any game I pitch, I never really feel any fatigue, and so I just wanted to keep focused.

KELLY BARNHILL: Yeah, I agree with what Delanie is saying. In the moment when you're out there, there's so much adrenaline you really don't feel it. Sometimes your pitching may be a result of it; sometimes you may miss a location and they'll make you pay for that. But you really just go out there and you give 100 percent of whatever is in the tank.

Q. Kelly and Delanie, are you guys communicating throughout the game, especially with you starting and throwing seven and then you throwing eight and then coming back in?

KELLY BARNHILL: No, not really. We have different styles of pitching, and so we just kind of — pretty much we're just there for each other. We're there supporting each other, high fives, OK, good, you got out of that, or that's OK, we'll come back, that kind of thing. Not too much communicating about batters or things like that.

DELANIE GOURLEY: Yeah, I think just because we're both there, like we're watching and seeing the same things, but like she said, we have two completely different weapons. But right when I came out and she came in, I was like, Kelly, no one beats you, and she was like, no nobody beats us, so I think like I've been saying this whole week, that's a bond that not many people have, so really proud of us tonight. We did give it our all and so did the rest of our team. Yeah, just going to come out tomorrow and do the same thing.

Q. Sophia and Amanda, Oklahoma players were talking about their crowd. This is a championship game; did it feel hostile? Could you feel the home crowd that Oklahoma had tonight?

SOPHIA REYNOSO: I mean, they were loud, but I know that the one thing I tried to pay attention to was when our crowd came up and tried to one-up them. I think that kept us going in the game, that we tried not to let the loudness and the rowdiness of the other crowd get to us, and I think we did a good job of that and did a good job of communicating staying within our team.

AMANDA LORENZ: Yeah, I think that obviously their fans were great, big home-field advantage for them for sure. But when we're down by two runs or down by one run, two strikes, two outs and we come up clutch and tie up the game, obviously the crowd is not getting to us that much. Just really, really proud of the way that we had our little section up there, Gator Nation cheering us on, and that's all we needed tonight, and we're just really excited for tomorrow. Obviously it didn't get to us that much if we have that much fight left in our tank, so just proud.

Q. Amanda, with a game that goes this long, how much of a sense of time do you keep as it goes along? Do you know the ninth from the 11th from the 13th or your fourth at-bat from your fifth at-bat?

AMANDA LORENZ: It's all a blur right now. All I know is we lost. That's what I know, and I'm really excited for tomorrow. I'm really proud of our fight. Excited to go to sleep and wake up. Tomorrow is a new day, and we're still in the national championship. We have two more games left, and I'm really proud to see what we have tomorrow because obviously we showed the softball world a really good game tonight, and we're not done yet. Just really proud.

Q. Coach, once again, it's always about the circle, whether it's baseball or softball. Tonight's game, there was only seven walks thrown between the two teams. Are we witnessing greatness this weekend in the circle?

TIM WALTON: Yeah. I mean, I watched a little bit of TV just seeing the matchups, and they kind of flashed up the batting averages and the wins over the last 10 years and the wins over the last four years in championships, and obviously you saw two even matched teams tonight. But I think there's great pitching. They've got another kid that they can throw tomorrow. We've got another kid or two we can throw tomorrow, so I think you're witnessing a lot of great pitching. The scores have been — this tournament has been one of the best tournaments that I've been at. A lot of competitive games. We've had 3-1 games, 2-1 games, 1-0 games. I think you've got a lot of good pitching out there.

POSTGAME NOTES
Championship Series Game 1: Oklahoma 7, Florida 5

  • No. 10 Oklahoma outlasted No. 1 Florida 7-5 in the first game of the 2017 WCWS Championship Series on Monday night in 17 innings. OU first baseman Shay Knighten’s three-run blast in the top of the 17th gave the Sooners the lead for good.
  • The 17-inning contest is the longest game in WCWS Championship Series history. The previous record was 12 innings when Oklahoma defeated Tennessee, 5-3, in game two of the 2013 WCWS Championship Series. Monday’s game was the sixth extra inning game in WCWS Championship Series history. Thirteen innings was the longest game to take place between two teams playing for the NCAA Championship (1984, Texas A&M vs. UCLA, pre-WCWS Championship Series era).
  • Oklahoma improves to 26-16 at the Women’s College World Series, while Florida falls to 25-13. With the win, the Sooners move into sole possession of third place in all-time WCWS wins. Oklahoma and Florida entered the night tied with 25 wins apiece. The Sooners have won five straight and 11 out of their 12 games at the WCWS dating back to 2016.
  • Every WCWS Championship Series since 2011 has featured either Florida (2011, ’14, 15, ’17) or Oklahoma (2012, ’13, ’16, ’17). The Gators won the NCAA title in 2014 and 2015, while OU captured the crown in the 2013 and 2016.
  • Florida third baseman Alesha Ocasio put the Gators in the front 1-0 in the bottom of the fourth, plating Nicole DeWhitt who doubled with to the right-field gap.
  • The Sooners quickly responded in the top of the fifth as Sydney Romero’s RBI single scored Nicole Pendley to tie the game at 1-1. Pendley doubled to right center with one out for OU’s first hit of the game.
  • Nicole Mendes gave OU the lead with a solo shot to right field in the top of the sixth, her sixth homer of the season. Mendes is the third freshman for OU to hit a home run in the WCWS Championship Series, joining Lauren Chamberlain (2012) and Sydney Romero (2016).
  • Down to its last out, Florida tied the game at 2-2 as Sophia Reynoso doubled to score Aleshia Ocasio in the bottom of the seventh. It was Reynoso’s sixth double of the season and her 26th RBI.
  • OU’s Fale Aviu sent a two-run shot, her first homerun of the postseason, over the right-field fence in the top of the 12th inning to put the Sooners up 4-2, but Florida’s Amber Lorenz responded with a double lined to left in the bottom of the inning to score two and knot the game at 4-4.
  • In the top of the 17th, Knighten homered to left field, also scoring Mendes and Caleigh Clifton, to give Oklahoma a 7-4 advantage. Lorenz struck again with a sac fly to left field to plate Lily Mann. 
  • Florida starting pitcher Kelly Barnhill (26-4) took the loss, tossing 9.0 innings and allowing a season-high five runs on six hits, while striking out 10. Barnhill allowed her first home run since May 7 (North Texas) when Mendes hit her solo blast in the sixth. Barnhill re-entered the game and pitching the final two innings for the Gators, giving up the home run to Knighten.
  • Monday’s game marked just the second time this season that Barnhill allowed three or more earned runs in a contest (3, at Florida State, May 3).
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Oklahoma Championship Series Game 1 Press Conference

2017 Women's College World Series

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Oklahoma Championship Series Game 1 Press Conference

2017 Women's College World Series

Monday June 5, 2017
Oklahoma City, Oklahoma
Oklahoma – 7, Florida – 5

Oklahoma interview with Patty Gasso, Paige Lowary, Paige Parker, Fale Aviu, Shay Knighten, and Nicole Mendes.

PATTY GASSO: Epic, epic battle. I don't know what else — that was it. This is one of the greatest games I think in College World Series history, I would guess. It was like two heavyweight fighters throwing punch after punch. Florida just kept answering everything that we put out there, and we tried to answer back, and it was a game of will, a game of team, a game of character. We were running out of gas a little bit, but they just kept fighting. I could not tell you — I will never forget the pitching duo here and how they tag-teamed. It was an emotional, emotional roller coaster of a game and one that I will never, ever, ever, ever forget.

Q. Patty, as that game continued, can you give us an idea what you were telling your team through that, especially if you would throw a hey maker and they would counter punch?

PATTY GASSO: I think all of us coaches were just like, ‘hang in there, keep fighting, keep fighting,' and that's been what got us here. And almost — although our backs aren't against the wall for our season to be over, it started to feel like that, like we just — just survive, survive, survive, just keep surviving. It was crazy. They just kept going, both teams. Both teams, not just ours. Both teams just kept going, kept playing hard.

Q. Patty, the fact that this game went 17 but the quality of this game, I mean, there wasn't — that sort of thing wasn't out there. How do you put that into context with all the softball at that you've seen over the years and the stakes on the field tonight and the manner with which these two teams played?

PATTY GASSO: Like I said, I think it was just an epic battle, two teams that know the importance of winning this first game and putting everything out there. That's it in a nutshell. No one wanted to walk off that field losing, and that's what it felt like for 17 innings. It never stopped.

Q. Paige Lowary, you guys talked about being little girls and dreaming of being in this situation. What did that feel like for you with the crowd on their feet cheering you on?

PAIGE LOWARY: As crazy as it sounds, I try to keep the same mindset every time I go out on the field because if I make it too big, it just gets out of control, so I just tried to focus on the pitch that I was throwing.

Q. Shay and Nicole, twice in extra innings you guys took the lead and twice they came back. How were you guys able to stay poised after they came back and tied up with you guys?

SHAY KNIGHTEN: I think we just kind of stuck together. We knew that they were going to punch, and it was up to us to kind of punch back and want to fight back and not want to back down. And an extra innings game like that is crazy, and in the World Series it's even crazier and insane, but we just kind of stuck together and knew that we weren't going to be denied and we were going to leave it all out there.

NICOLE MENDES: We just kind of came up there with a mindset that we weren't going to be denied, that we were going to have the will to win, that there was no way that we were going to walk off that field with any ounce of regret, and we just kind of left blood, sweat and tears out there on the field.

Q. Shay, just as a batter, how do you stay focused when it's inning after inning and it's those two pitchers, going back and forth between them? How do you stay focused and sane out there?

SHAY KNIGHTEN: I just kind of think to myself, you can do this, just stick to your mechanics, stay within yourself, do it for your teammates and not try to be too big, not try to be the hero. And I was just thinking one pitch at a time, just focus one pitch at a time and something will happen.

Q. Coach, talk about the chess match of pitcher to pitcher being in the circle and making the right move at the right time, going back and forth with Lowary and Parker.

PATTY GASSO: Well, I think it was probably a surprise to some that we started Paige Lowary, but it was a team decision. It was a pitching staff, coaching staff decision. These two were right with us when we talked about it, and then we presented it to the team and they were all for it.

I loved what she did, and I loved what Paige (Parker) did, and I loved what Paige Lowary did to come back in, and you saw Florida doing the same exact thing. We were almost mirroring each other in what our strategies were. It was an emotional roller coaster for both of them. They came in and I felt like, I could have shut that down. It was highs and lows, and for Paige Lowary especially to finish on the note that she did, it was to me the highlight of our season.

Q. Paige Lowary, two thoughts as you were walking back onto the field from the bullpen, the bases loaded and the big situation there, and then the last strikeout, will you take me through your mind in those two situations?

PAIGE LOWARY: When I first came back in, I was just thinking that I'm kind of coming back in like a closing role, Paige Parker has pitched seven innings, so it's kind of like I'm closing another game, so I just tried to have a closing mindset with that, and then the last strikeout I just wanted to hit my spot and I visualized her swinging over it, and it went where it needed to go.

Q. Parker, just talk about being in the moment, going from one emotion to the other in the game, out of the game, watching from the dugout and then being out in the circle.

PAIGE PARKER: I think it's just staying locked in no matter where you are in the game, if you're in the circle or if you're in the dugout. It's just staying locked in constantly. I wanted to stay with Paige (Lowary) every single pitch. Whenever I was in the dugout, and I could feel her with me every single pitch whenever I was on the mound.

I think just trying to be level-headed and stay locked in constantly is the key whenever you have those kinds of situations.

Q. How did you handle dealing with the pitching matchups knowing that you've got potentially maybe even two more games after this one and you've got Mariah Lopez who's fresh and you've got Nicole Mendes who's fresh?

PATTY GASSO: I can't even answer that right now because I've got to check in on these guys —

Q. I meant during the game.

PATTY GASSO: During the game?

Q. How do you manage the two pitchers knowing that you've got to pitch two more games —

PATTY GASSO: I've gotcha. I was just going with what was hot and what we thought would be effective. So to put two freshmen out there right now in this heated battle just didn't seem fair to them at that moment, so I just stuck with these two and their experience.

Q. Nicole and Fale, what was it like being a part of a game like this, just knowing the stage that you ladies are on and what you're trying to accomplish? What was it like being a part of tonight that will go down as one of the greatest games ever played?

FALE AVIU: It was a fun game overall. It was a dogfight back and forth. Our team was not going to be denied, and we felt the power of three with our fans out there, with their hands up, and that was a good feeling to see everybody had each other's backs, everybody was going to be a leader and no one was going to give up.

NICOLE MENDES: I just will never forget this game as long as I live. I don't think I'll ever play in a game like this ever again. It was an honor to be a part of, and I think I speak for the whole team whenever I say that it was with the power of three and it was with the will to win and determination, and I think that Florida is a great team, and I think that it was a great battle.

Q. Paige, you've said that you enjoy the closer role and you've adapted to that. How do you change your mindset starting this game, and Paige Parker, you kind of reversed roles. How do you handle that?

PAIGE LOWARY: I mean, we talked about it as a pitching staff and a coaching staff this morning, and we came to the decision that I was going to start this morning and I just tried to keep the same mindset, I guess, just take it one pitch at a time and stay in the moment, and I don't know, just fight. I wanted to do it for everyone.

PAIGE PARKER: I would agree with Paige. It's just kind of keeping the same mindset of just trying to win every pitch, and I think earlier in the season we had some situations where Paige started and I came in to close, and I think that that was like a good thing to go back to of how that felt, and just trying to channel those experiences helped us today, I think.

Q. Patty, when you said you guys came to a determination this morning, what was it that you guys decided to start Paige (Lowary), what were kind of the factors in that?

PATTY GASSO: The history of how we've used Paige Parker was just starting every game, so I thought, what the heck, let's try — we felt like (Kelly) Barnhill was going to come out, so it was two flame throwers going at it. It was good old fashioned softball, so that's kind of what we — it was good to see them go against each other. That's kind of what we felt might happen. I think they may have been really planning for Paige Parker, so it was just throwing a wrench in there.

Q. Shay, this is for you. They battled back after Nicole's (Mendes) home run and then Fale's (Aviu) home run they battled back. Your home run gave you the biggest lead of the night. Did you kind of get a sense that maybe that was a back breaker, kind of the third-time-is-a-charm type deal, and also can you talk about the pitch? Was it something you were looking for? What were you thinking as you left the yard?

SHAY KNIGHTEN: Well, you can never think anything is a back breaker or anything with a team like Florida. Like they did all game, they came back. We were going to fight for whatever we could, and in my at-bat, I was just looking to find a pitch in the zone that I could hit hard. I wasn't looking for really a particular pitch. It was just something — I knew she was throwing hard, so it's just get there, just get there, and if it was in the zone, I was going to swing.

POSTGAME NOTES
Championship Series Game 1: Oklahoma 7, Florida 5

  • No. 10 Oklahoma outlasted No. 1 Florida 7-5 in the first game of the 2017 WCWS Championship Series on Monday night in 17 innings. OU first baseman Shay Knighten’s three-run blast in the top of the 17th gave the Sooners the lead for good.
  • The 17-inning contest is the longest game in WCWS Championship Series history. The previous record was 12 innings when Oklahoma defeated Tennessee, 5-3, in game two of the 2013 WCWS Championship Series. Monday’s game was the sixth extra inning game in WCWS Championship Series history. Thirteen innings was the longest game to take place between two teams playing for the NCAA Championship (1984, Texas A&M vs. UCLA, pre-WCWS Championship Series era).
  • Oklahoma improves to 26-16 at the Women’s College World Series, while Florida falls to 25-13. With the win, the Sooners move into sole possession of third place in all-time WCWS wins. Oklahoma and Florida entered the night tied with 25 wins apiece. The Sooners have won five straight and 11 out of their 12 games at the WCWS dating back to 2016.
  • Every WCWS Championship Series since 2011 has featured either Florida (2011, ’14, 15, ’17) or Oklahoma (2012, ’13, ’16, ’17). The Gators won the NCAA title in 2014 and 2015, while OU captured the crown in the 2013 and 2016.
  • Florida third baseman Alesha Ocasio put the Gators in the front 1-0 in the bottom of the fourth, plating Nicole DeWhitt who doubled with to the right-field gap.
  • The Sooners quickly responded in the top of the fifth as Sydney Romero’s RBI single scored Nicole Pendley to tie the game at 1-1. Pendley doubled to right center with one out for OU’s first hit of the game.
  • Nicole Mendes gave OU the lead with a solo shot to right field in the top of the sixth, her sixth homer of the season. Mendes is the third freshman for OU to hit a home run in the WCWS Championship Series, joining Lauren Chamberlain (2012) and Sydney Romero (2016).
  • Down to its last out, Florida tied the game at 2-2 as Sophia Reynoso doubled to score Aleshia Ocasio in the bottom of the seventh. It was Reynoso’s sixth double of the season and her 26th RBI.
  • OU’s Fale Aviu sent a two-run shot, her first homerun of the postseason, over the right-field fence in the top of the 12th inning to put the Sooners up 4-2, but Florida’s Amber Lorenz responded with a double lined to left in the bottom of the inning to score two and knot the game at 4-4.
  • In the top of the 17th, Knighten homered to left field, also scoring Mendes and Caleigh Clifton, to give Oklahoma a 7-4 advantage. Lorenz struck again with a sac fly to left field to plate Lily Mann. 
  • Florida starting pitcher Kelly Barnhill (26-4) took the loss, tossing 9.0 innings and allowing a season-high five runs on six hits, while striking out 10. Barnhill allowed her first home run since May 7 (North Texas) when Mendes hit her solo blast in the sixth. Barnhill re-entered the game and pitching the final two innings for the Gators, giving up the home run to Knighten.
  • Monday’s game marked just the second time this season that Barnhill allowed three or more earned runs in a contest (3, at Florida State, May 3).
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Oklahoma Post Game 12 Press Conference

2017 Women's College World Series

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Oklahoma Post Game 12 Press Conference

2017 Women's College World Series

Sunday June 4, 2017
Oklahoma City, Oklahoma
Oklahoma – 4, Oregon – 2

Oklahoma interview with Patty Gasso, Nicole Pendley, Lea Wodach, Shay Knighten, Paige Lowary, and Paige Parker.

PATTY GASSO: Proud of this group. That was a tough game. When we look at Oregon on video, we look at their numbers. We're very, very similar. So at times it felt like we were playing ourselves. Their pitcher did a great job. We had some opportunities early, but to see these guys come in clutch late in the game when we were down shows that this is a setting that they love. They're not intimidated by it. They're not playing afraid to lose. They're playing to win. And that's really been our difference for probably the last two months. Thrilled to be back in the championship game. Proud of this group, and hats off to Oregon because, again, they're a team that made us better and they made us have to prepare very hard to get ready for them in a short turnaround, and I think they're a fantastic team.

Q. Shay, on the single that scored two, you kind of dropped it in there to right field. Is that kind of what you were trying to do on that?

SHAY KNIGHTEN: Not really, but I mean, I'll take it. It worked. All I wanted to do was just put the ball in play, come into the right side, and just give my team a chance to score.

Q. Patty, take us through the sequence where Raegan Rogers beat the throw home. Talk about the aggressive play.

PATTY GASSO: It's a play we've been doing all year long, and if we get a ground ball, we are extremely aggressive to go forward. I know that Oregon does the same thing. In big settings like this, you have to be perfect, and the throw has to be on, and Reagan has speed and can create a little bit of havoc. For us it was — we had — I said from the start, you've just got to go for it. You've got to go for it when you're here, and that's our game plan going in.

Q. Patty, what is it about your team that's so relentless? They scored the two runs and you immediately come back with the four right after that.

PATTY GASSO: That's probably a good question for these guys up here. They really are getting into their groove. We've wasted about eight weeks of trying to figure this out, and I think we're making up for lost time, and they are relaxed, they're playing their best softball, they're having a blast. They don't want it to end.

Q. Lea, on that bunt, it appeared, at least from our angle, that the umpire might have signaled foul ball at first and yet you kept running, the play went on and you ended up at second base. What went through your mind as all that was going on?

LEA WODACH: I was just trying to get some momentum for my team. I knew I had a pretty not great at-bat my first at-bat, and I wanted to make something happen, started out the inning strong and just rolled it right up over, got the bat into it. I was just trying to do something for my team, kind of got to go for it as Coach said, you've got to go for it here, so just doing whatever I can, and then if anyone hit the ball by first base I'm going for two.

Q. Paige and Shay, you guys faced four elimination games in the regionals and you never trailed against Auburn in the super regionals. This is the first time you've trailed since then. Does it make you appreciate the journey of just how hard it is to get back to this point?

PAIGE PARKER: I definitely think it does. You know, I think our regional taught us a lot, and I think it was good for us to be put in the position we were because with our backs against the wall, I think we play our best softball. I think just having that regional, it really does make you appreciate the experience of the World Series, and just to cherish every moment that we're here, and we just don't want it to end.

SHAY KNIGHTEN: Just having our backs against the wall, I feel lake that's when we just kind of look to each other to kind of step up. Being behind 2-0 going into the fifth was something that we were like, okay, like it's time to step up, they're here to play. What we were doing before we knew wasn't working, so we tried to figure out any way that we could just to get back and score, get runners on base, and going back to our regional, I think that did help us because we realized that any game could be our last game, so just go for it.

Q. First, was that a call between you and Patty, the bunt with two strikes, and then did you think it was foul off the bat because it seemed like you didn't get it down where you wanted it get it done.
Lea Wodach: Yeah, it was supposed to be a little more out, but at that point with two strikes, I'm trying to, I don't know, do what I can, I guess. You're not really thinking about it because it doesn't really matter. If it goes foul, I'm out, so I'm running down the line as hard as I can, and no, Coach (Gasso) did not call that.

PATTY GASSO: Yes, you were safe. I did call it. If you're out, I don't.

Q. For both of the Paiges, I just want to know about playing in this stadium, your experience level. Did you guys get to play in this stadium before college and how much of an advantage is it to have a home crowd here in Oklahoma City?

PAIGE LOWARY: I've played in it with no people in it really, like 100 people tops really, so there's a lot more people in there. I just tried to have the same mindset going affect me, just stay focused on the pitch I'm throwing.

PAIGE PARKER: I also played here whenever I was younger, but again, not like this crowd, and kind of the same thing as Paige (Lowary), it's just focusing in on every pitch, and it is great that we have so much fan support because it really helps us get momentum and really fires us up.

Q. Nicole, you're hitting everything so hard right now. Does that ball look as big as a group fruit or basketball or something?

NICOLE PENDLEY: I think a lot of it is just preparation that we do before games, watching film, creating a plan that we stick to, so we go in the box really confident with ourselves, I think, so I think preparation is the biggest thing right now.

Q. Coach, just your thoughts on playing Florida, two programs won the last four national championships and you have an opportunity to maybe go ahead in the count here. Just your thoughts on their program and this opportunity.

PATTY GASSO: We're very familiar with them. Jen Rocha played — she's an OU alum, so is Tim, played baseball there. There's roots between both programs. They're good, well-coached, very complete team. Again, we're going to have to play really, really well, give all we've got, and we're looking forward to it.

Q. Does that make that kind of matchup more fun for you because there are such close ties and you know Walton so well?

PATTY GASSO: No, it does not make it fun. You know, we're competitors, and so I think we both kind of know each other's style some, although we haven't played them since he's been at Florida. It's intriguing that we're facing each other in this setting for a national championship. I'm looking forward to it. They're well-coached pitching staff. They're all just — they're a very complete team. But at the same time, I think we are, too. We just do it in different ways. I think it'll be a great matchup and great for television and great for the fans.

Q. They said on the broadcast that you showed your ladies the documentary of the UConn women's basketball team last night. Why did you feel the need to do that last night, and just what was the reason behind that?

PATTY GASSO: I didn't show it last night. No, I did not. What ladies are saying that? We watched it throughout the season, because I think they — I was, I guess, trying to find the right way to lead this team. UConn women's basketball has won it so many times in a row, and we were still in that place where we weren't getting our championship mindset bracelets. We were still wearing black cleats instead of our white cleats, and I thought to see another female sport play at the highest level, what is it that makes them so good and afraid of nothing. You know, everyone is talking about their streak and so forth, so we wanted to learn, I wanted to learn — and actually Sherri Cole really helped me out with actually getting a personal shoutout from Coach Auriemma to this team, and it meant a lot to them because we felt connected as we watched that team go through their journey, and we learned a lot. We learned a lot about competition.

So wherever we can learn it, whether it's from a female sport, a male sport, pro, whatever, kids, it doesn't matter, we're always trying to learn lessons and get better. We learned it from North Dakota State right on our own field. We learn it all over the place. I think that's the beauty of this journey is watching the learning and hills and valleys, but now we're on top of that hill right now, and it's been amazing to watch.

Q. Paige Lowary, one of your pitches was clocked at 75 miles per hour. Have you ever thrown that fast? And do you feel like you had an extra pep in your pitches today?

PAIGE LOWARY: I think I know one other time in Palm Springs this year. But I think adrenaline just kicks in and just trying to hit my spot. I wasn't really concerned with speed, but happened to be that fast, I guess.

Q. Coach, you guys are the defending national champs and playing in your backyard, yet Florida is No. 1. Do you go into this with the mindset as a favorite or an underdog? I know you said you're playing to win and not to lose.

PATTY GASSO: We're a 10 seed playing a 1 seed, so I think that kind of tells it all, and that's exactly where we like to be. We're the David of this battle, and we're going to give everything we have.

Q. Paige Lowary, I think you're the only one up here that's played Florida before but you were a different pitcher then. What are your thoughts now? Do you feel like you're a secret weapon at this point?

PAIGE LOWARY: I don't know about secret weapon, but I'm not really nervous. Like you said, I'm completely different and I'm in a different role. I just really trust everyone around me, so if I get the shot to pitch against them, I know I have confidence. I'm just a different person.

Q. Coach, for the last two consecutive games, you've moved (Sydney) Romero from 4 to 6, Fale (Aviu) from 5 to 4 and Nicole (Pendley) from 5 to 6. It seems at least to me a little bit almost counterproductive to put Pendley in the middle when you have Romero and Fale who can both get on base. How do you think it's working?
PATTY GASSO: I'm sitting in front of you right now, so I think it's working okay. Sometimes you've got to go with what's hot. I don't know. I mean, it's worked. I like — when I see them come up, I feel confident. I like where they're at. You look at what they've been doing the last seven, eight, nine games, and you know, sometimes a good mix-up works. We're talking about the middle of the lineup, but an unsung hero is Kelsey Arnold. She just does her thing and makes things happen. I like what she's doing down in the 9 right now, so I might move her, too.

Q. We talked all year about the staff, but it's pretty cool that you have a legitimate closer that has — when we think of a closer, she's it, throws hard, throws strikes. It's that kind of thing. But you have a dominant starting staff, too, and a starting All-Star pitcher. As the game goes on, I'm curious what you're thinking; how closely are you watching just so you can — you have a real good feel when you bring Paige Lowary in.

PATTY GASSO: I don't know, just looking at how Paige Parker is doing, do we need a momentum swing, Paige Lowary is just such a different pitcher, just throwing hard like it's a good differential between the two. But if you could see what I'm watching in the dugout between these two, it is awesome to watch because Paige Parker is making the call right along with us, and when Paige Lowary comes into the dugout ready to take the ball, ready to go out on the field, they are right in each other's face. It's like a cool little sisterhood that's going on here, a great tag team, and it works.

So I think they kind of know before we even tell them. We've done it enough that they kind of have it figured out.

Q. Coach Gasso, I know you haven't played Florida, but just your thoughts on what (Kelly) Barnhill has been able to accomplish over the course of the season.

PATTY GASSO: Tremendous pitcher, throws hard, moves the ball around, mixes well. You've just got to be extremely disciplined. You're going to have to be short with your swings. She throws the ball hard. She's done a fantastic job and very worthy of the Player of the Year award. She led her team, although they have a great pitching staff. She's led her team here. We're going to have to be really good and very disciplined when we face her.

Q. Paige Lowary, this team won this last year but you weren't here. Now you guys go into this Championship Series again. How do you prepare for this since you weren't in this position before?

PAIGE LOWARY: I'm just very grateful for the opportunity. In the past I've come up short with the team I was on, so I'm just very grateful to be in this position. I'm really excited.

POSTGAME NOTES
Game 12: Oklahoma 4, Oregon 2

  • No. 10 seed Oklahoma topped No. 3 Oregon 4-2 on Sunday afternoon in the semifinals to earn its second consecutive berth in the WCWS Championship Series and fourth in program history. The Sooners will face No. 1 Florida, with the first contest set to begin Monday at 6 p.m. CT.
  • With the win, the Sooners move to 59-9 on the season and 25-15 all-time at the WCWS. Oregon ends the season with a 54-8 record, tied for the second-most wins in program history, and falls to 4-9 at the event.
  • Right fielder Danica Mercado gave Oregon a 2-0 lead with a two-out home run down the right field line in the top of the fifth inning. It was Mercado’s first hit in 15 at-bats at the 2017 WCWS. Mercado finished 1-for-3 with two RBIs, while Alexis Mack added a base hit and finished 7-for-13 (.538) in four games at the WCWS.
  • OU’s Nicole Mendes’ RBI fielder’s choice put the Sooners on the board, scoring pinch runner Raegan Rogers.
  • Shay Knighten extended her hitting streak to 10 games with a single to left in the first inning. Knighten flared a single to right field to give the Sooners a 3-2 lead in the bottom of the fifth, marking the first lead change in any game at the 2017 WCWS. The junior finished 2-for-3 with two RBIs and one run scored.
  • Nicole Pendley lined a two-out double to plate Knighten in the fifth to extend OU’s lead to 4-2. Pendley has recorded 15 of her 23 career postseason RBIs during the 2017 NCAA Tournament.
  • Paige Parker won her eighth straight game at the WCWS and her 16th consecutive postseason contest. The junior threw 5.0 innings, allowing two runs on five hits, while striking out four. Parker is the first pitcher in WCWS history to with eight consecutive decisions to begin her career at the event.
  • Parker also became just the second pitcher in history to win eight consecutive starts at the Women’s College World Series, joining UCLA’s Keira Goerl (2003-04). Parker is the 10th pitcher to win at least eight career games at the WCWS and the first since former Sooner Kelani Rickets accomplished the feat in 2013.
  • Paige Lowary set the OU career record for saves (10) by recording the final six outs. The junior transfer has registered all 10 of the Sooners’ saves this season.
  • OU’s Kelsey Arnold went 2-3 at the plate to record her 10th multi-hit game of the season.
  • Oregon’s Megan Kleist (21-4) took the loss, allowing six hits and four runs (two earned) in 4.2 innings. The sophomore recorded two strikeouts and one walk.
  • The Sooners tacked on two stolen bases in the contest to put the team’s season total at 110, tied for second most in a single season in program history.
  • The win marked OU’s third comeback victory of the postseason. The Sooners also rallied against Arkansas (May 20) and Tulsa (May 21).
  • Attendance for Session 6 was 9,419, which is a session record and the sixth-largest attendance in WCWS history.
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Oregon Post Game 12 Press Conference

2017 Women's College World Series

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Strike Zone Mat hitting and pitching training aid

Oregon Post Game 12 Press Conference

2017 Women's College World Series

Sunday June 4, 2017
Oklahoma City, Oklahoma
Oklahoma – 4, Oregon – 2

Oregon interview with Mike White, Danica Mercado, Megan Kleist, Nikki Udria, and Gwen Svekis.

MIKE WHITE: Well, obviously this is always the toughest conference to hold is the one after you're eliminated. There's only going to be one team that's going to be happy at the end, of course, and that's going to be a great matchup between those two clubs, Oklahoma and Florida. Oklahoma has got a great team. They played well today. I'd like to thank the NCAA, USA softball, all the grounds crews. I thought the field was immaculate. Did a great job with that, and the setup. As I said, this tournament keeps getting better and better.

Obviously one thing I'd like to see going forward, and I think this tournament has really illustrated it, is the need for an instant replay, a need for the ability to make a challenge.

There's been so many games decided by some calls that could have gone — I think were incorrect calls to be quite frank, and that made a big difference. This game is played at a high speed. Umpires are human. You should have the ability to challenge a call. I think the two losses we've had, they were both questionable calls that were made that led to those two losses.

Obviously we were — we didn't help ourselves, don't get me wrong, but I think the need for a challenge is sorely needed, and hopefully we will look at that, and we have the ability now with a lot of games to be able to do that.

I want to thank my team. They left everything out on the field. Obviously yesterday was a big day for us, was hard to come back again today, but we got ourselves in that position. We know that. We had a two-run lead. It was fun. It didn't last too long. But you know, hopefully being back here, we've learnt a lot of things about our club, about our players. I know that I'm so proud of these players for how hard they've fought. I'm very sad to see the three seniors leave. They've been a huge part of this club and the building of the club.

But you know, it goes on. Hopefully the experience that our underclassmen learnt from this tournament will help us become a better team in the future. I want to thank Lisa Peterson, Rob Mellons, and all our support staff. There's so many people I just can't continue to name them all off. But student managers, equipment managers, everybody, incredible, and we're so humbled and pleased to be back at this tournament and competing against some excellent teams. I think you can see that the field was great this year as far as 1 to 16 and some outside the 16 as I've said before, and the growth of softball is going to continue to get better as we go forward. Thank you.

Q. Coach, could you elaborate more on the play — I assume you're talking about the bunt that looked like it had gone foul, what you saw, what you were told by the umpires?

MIKE WHITE: Well, you tell me. Was it foul? There you go, you answered your own question. I don't need to tell you anything.

Q. What explanation were you given by the umpires?

MIKE WHITE: They said it was fair.

Q. Just talk about — two questions: First on your three seniors, how much they were a part of moving the program where it was before and getting them to this point. And my second question was about how the growth of pitchers on this level have grown in the last several years, what's been the development process of getting to that point.

MIKE WHITE: Yeah, well, obviously Nikki Udria, she came in as a shortstop and played four years of shortstop. Was a four-time Pac-12 champion — a three-time Pac-12 champion, sorry, and three times World Series. It all goes so quick. It all blends together. But with Danica (Mercado), as well, actually a four-time Pac-12 champion. She was a red shirt. Obviously they've had a big part in our success. What happens is that as you bring young underclassmen in, they help to build, they help to coach, they help to reinforce what we say as a team to those players, and you know, I'm proud of what they're doing.

I'm sure right now they wish they could probably have another couple years, but it doesn't happen that way. But I'm so proud of them.

As far as our pitching goes, obviously we have three very good pitchers, Meghan Kleist, Maggie Balint and Miranda Elish and hopefully they'll continue to lead us as we go forward.

I just want to know from a coach what the pitching rules are going to be going forward. And I won't say any more on that because there's a big controversy on that, as well, why are some players allowed to cheat and why some aren't, and what am I supposed to teach my players and what am I supposed to teach other people. So we need to get that sorted out.

Q. Danica and Nikki, can you talk about how tough this was to get up? You looked like you had a chance to take it to a ninth game and then you see things fall apart a little bit there.

DANICA MERCADO: I think that obviously any loss is tough at this point in the season. But we knew that from the game in this tournament we put ourselves in a little bit of a hole offensively having played with our backs against the wall, so I think that my team came out there and they fought as hard as they can every pitch, and it came to a point where we did make a couple mistakes, and we weren't able to back it up with our bats. I think there's only so many times that you can put yourself in the bottom of the seventh, but I'm so proud of my team because we very well easily could have rolled over after losing the first game and we fought every inning until the very last one.

NIKKI UDRIA: Yeah, I have to agree with Danica. We never gave up even until that last out, and as tough as it is to swallow, I wouldn't change anything because everything happens for a reason. If it took us losing this game to build the program to learn something, for our teammates to learn to go forward, then that's what it took.

Q. Gwen, just to follow up, what was running through your mind on that play? Were you trying to make a play at first or were you trying to let it go foul? What went into that play?

GWEN SVEKIS: Obviously I was trying to make the play at first. I've made that play a thousand times in my life, and I'll probably make it a thousand more. But just wasn't meant to be today, and that's okay. I need to get better. I need to make that play next time. I know I can make that play. Fair or foul, I can make that play.

Yeah, I was trying to make the play. I didn't want to play umpire because I've hit a ball this year that was three feet foul and it was called fair. He had the best view of it. We both saw the same ball. I'm not going to comment on it because I tried making the play and I threw the ball away. That's all on me. But yeah, obviously I was trying to make the play, and it just didn't happen.

Q. Coach White, how much of an advantage is it, if any, for Oklahoma to play in the Women's College World Series here in Oklahoma City? And two, you mentioned off the top that the series will be a competitive one between Florida and Oklahoma. What will be the keys to a series like that between those two teams?

MIKE WHITE: Yeah, good question. Both have got very good pitching staffs. With Barnhill out there and Gourley, those two are very tough. They complement each other so well. So it's really going to be a low-scoring affair, so it's probably going to come down to whoever makes some mistakes, you know, like most good games, more lost than they are won, and I feel that's what happened to us a little bit today. We lost the game. Oklahoma put the pressure on us, you we lost it, and that's what's going to happen in that final, I think. It's going to be who's going to make the mistake and who's going to capitalize on it.

Q. Is it a big advantage for Oklahoma to play in Oklahoma City?

MIKE WHITE: Well, obviously it's an advantage because their fan base is here and they're close to this area, but the game is still played between the lines. It's 60 feet, turn left, 12-inch softball, all the stuff I tell our team. We go on the road and we play in some pretty competitive environments. Obviously it's not 10,000 people, 8,000 people, but it's still the same. It's still a lot of pressure when you've got to play a series at UCLA or go play at Arizona. I don't think that's a factor. As a coach I don't play that up. Yes, it's an advantage, but should it decide the game? I don't think so.

Q. Out of this whole tournament, only two pitchers are seniors. What do you think about the pitching overall? There's potential we see a lot of these girls back here again next year.

MIKE WHITE: Well, it's funny because I think two years ago we were all saying how hitting is dominating everything, and now it's time to see the pitchers dominate a little bit. I know in our conference we changed softballs. We changed from the Wilson ball to the Worth ball. It's not quite as lively, so the pitchers' numbers were dropped a little bit. The ERAs were under two. Last year they were over two. That had probably something to do with it. So now we're matching up more with the SEC. Everyone said the SEC's numbers were better. Well, they're using a different ball. Trust me, when we hit the Wilson ball, it's a lot livelier than the Worth ball. That's kind of evened it out a little bit and one of the reasons why as a conference we changed to the Worth softball.

But going back to your point about the pitching, I think it's getting better. You know, obviously there's three in our club that are pretty exciting to watch, and there's a number throughout the country. So hopefully that continues to move forward because those games are very exciting.

Q. Megan, you guys have so much coming back. Just a sense for how valuable this experience is going to be and what you hope your teammates take from this week.

MEGAN KLEIST: I think that this was a really big learning experience for the underclassmen coming back. We can use this and kind of let it fire us to be better next year and just kind of know that we tasted the chance to actually get to the end. You know, just coming back next year stronger and working on our weaknesses that were shown in this last game, shown in this whole tournament, and just be better than we were this year.

POSTGAME NOTES
Game 12: Oklahoma 4, Oregon 2

  • No. 10 seed Oklahoma topped No. 3 Oregon 4-2 on Sunday afternoon in the semifinals to earn its second consecutive berth in the WCWS Championship Series and fourth in program history. The Sooners will face No. 1 Florida, with the first contest set to begin Monday at 6 p.m. CT.
  • With the win, the Sooners move to 59-9 on the season and 25-15 all-time at the WCWS. Oregon ends the season with a 54-8 record, tied for the second-most wins in program history, and falls to 4-9 at the event.
  • Right fielder Danica Mercado gave Oregon a 2-0 lead with a two-out home run down the right field line in the top of the fifth inning. It was Mercado’s first hit in 15 at-bats at the 2017 WCWS. Mercado finished 1-for-3 with two RBIs, while Alexis Mack added a base hit and finished 7-for-13 (.538) in four games at the WCWS.
  • OU’s Nicole Mendes’ RBI fielder’s choice put the Sooners on the board, scoring pinch runner Raegan Rogers.
  • Shay Knighten extended her hitting streak to 10 games with a single to left in the first inning. Knighten flared a single to right field to give the Sooners a 3-2 lead in the bottom of the fifth, marking the first lead change in any game at the 2017 WCWS. The junior finished 2-for-3 with two RBIs and one run scored.
  • Nicole Pendley lined a two-out double to plate Knighten in the fifth to extend OU’s lead to 4-2. Pendley has recorded 15 of her 23 career postseason RBIs during the 2017 NCAA Tournament.
  • Paige Parker won her eighth straight game at the WCWS and her 16th consecutive postseason contest. The junior threw 5.0 innings, allowing two runs on five hits, while striking out four. Parker is the first pitcher in WCWS history to with eight consecutive decisions to begin her career at the event.
  • Parker also became just the second pitcher in history to win eight consecutive starts at the Women’s College World Series, joining UCLA’s Keira Goerl (2003-04). Parker is the 10th pitcher to win at least eight career games at the WCWS and the first since former Sooner Kelani Rickets accomplished the feat in 2013.
  • Paige Lowary set the OU career record for saves (10) by recording the final six outs. The junior transfer has registered all 10 of the Sooners’ saves this season.
  • OU’s Kelsey Arnold went 2-3 at the plate to record her 10th multi-hit game of the season.
  • Oregon’s Megan Kleist (21-4) took the loss, allowing six hits and four runs (two earned) in 4.2 innings. The sophomore recorded two strikeouts and one walk.
  • The Sooners tacked on two stolen bases in the contest to put the team’s season total at 110, tied for second most in a single season in program history.
  • The win marked OU’s third comeback victory of the postseason. The Sooners also rallied against Arkansas (May 20) and Tulsa (May 21).
  • Attendance for Session 6 was 9,419, which is a session record and the sixth-largest attendance in WCWS history.
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