Florida Post Game 11 Press Conference
2017 Women's College World Series
Sunday June 4, 2017
Oklahoma City, Oklahoma
Florida – 5, Washington – 2
Florida interview with Heather Tarr, Julia DePonte, Casey Stangel, and Ali Aguilar
TIM WALTON: First of all, I think everybody needs to get a little fired up in here. We're winning a national championship. It's a little bit quiet in here for a team going to the national championship.
Really proud of our team, just the way we came out the first inning obviously with Kayli Kvistad setting the tone. But again, we hit the ball well. We're a pitching and defense type team, and I thought Delanie Gourley's stuff was as good as I've ever seen her stuff, and it was clear today that she had her A game, which was her first-ever College World Series start, by the way. Big-time stuff for a big-time kid and big-time player. So really proud of our team and really proud of the effort that they gave today and just their work over the last few days to get it right and to do things right.
Congratulations to Washington. Obviously a great team, and we've battled them many a times here and many a times in general. For us to be able to come out of this one game, really proud of just the overall effort of the whole Gator softball program. So thanks, and just give it to Delanie; what a great job today.
Q. Delanie, just to finally get the chance on the big stage to start a game and to finish a game, what did it mean to you, and what were you thinking about heading into the game?
DELANIE GOURLEY: I was really excited. I felt like I kind of did it backwards. My first few appearances were in tight situations in Championship Series, and so today to come out and just start a game with my team on my back, I was really excited. We were all really pumped before the game, and we just came out firing and it was really good, so it was a lot of fun.
Q. Delanie, how much confidence did you have going into this game? You faced Washington, I believe, two seasons ago. How much confidence did you have going into this game?
DELANIE GOURLEY: I have a ton. They are a really great program, so we knew it was not going to be easy at all. But we were feeling really good all week. Our vibe, our defense, our offense, our pitching, we were feeling really good, so just to have a team like this behind my back to go in for my first start, I couldn't have been any more confident today than I was.
Q. Delanie, you're one of the few pitchers here who has experience pitching in the Women's College World Series; how does that experience help you, whether it's starting or out of the bullpen?
DELANIE GOURLEY: It helps a ton. You know, especially for women's sports where you don't really get to play in front of this type of crowd, so that alone can maybe shake a few players up, get them a little nervous. But just to have done it before and to have that experience under my belt, I can share it with my team and just say, hey, you know, we're not going to lie, this is a big deal, but we have to play our game, we have to pitch our pitches, just do what we do, and so just to know that and believe it and trust in it and buy in, I think that's why we're here right now.
Q. Your team has rolled through three games here; you've also played three games that could have ended your season. Where was the sense of where this team was when it got to Oklahoma City?
TIM WALTON: Yeah, I think the key for me was just how we came out early in the game against Texas A & M scoring runs early. But I was pretty clear when I did the postgame press conference on Saturday when we beat Alabama, I just said, now it's up to the players, and I think that's what you get when you go to the College World Series. It's up to the players. Our coaching staff does a really good job of preparing and putting together a plan, but the players have to execute it. They have to buy into it, and they have to be able to control their heartbeat on this stage.
I've always said it, that this is a big deal playing on this stage, and the team that plays the most normal has got a chance to win, and I think we've been able to do that. I think our players have been able to just buy into themselves and be confident, and again, some people peak in the beginning of the season, some people peak in the middle of the season, and some teams never peak, and if your team can peak at the right time and get some confidence towards the end, you've got a chance, and now we've got our team in position to have a chance.
Q. Coach, your impressions of Oregon and of Oklahoma?
TIM WALTON: I'm not even there yet. I won't lie. I'm going to sit here for a couple more minutes and try not to worry who we play. We've got two good teams getting ready to play. But I have no idea — I couldn't even tell you five players on each team yet, so it wouldn't be fair for me to make any assumptions yet.
Q. Delanie, talk about coming from the bullpen to start and on this stage.
DELANIE GOURLEY: I think it just goes back to knowing who I have behind me. You know, I think almost every person on my team today came up to me, and they're like, hey, I'm so pumped for you, let's go. I don't know how you can't go into a game feeling good when you have that constantly in your ear and an offense like that with Kayli (Kvistad) coming out and starting the game the way she did. I was warming up before, and I saw it go out from the bullpen, and I was fired up out there. And then to have Janell (Wheaton) back there doing what she does, she helps me get a lot of strikes, and so there's no way you can really go into a game feeling bad with this kind of team.
Q. Kayli, you hit another home run today. This is not a power-hitting team or wasn't through the regular season. What has led to this power surge in the World Series? Are you more comfortable hitting over those fences?
KAYLI KVISTAD: I think that we just come in here and were really were trying to fight each at-bat and really just try to get the momentum coming our way. My first at-bats today, I went to the first couple pitches, so just really trying to compete and fight for our team and trying to get on base, and each person is just trying to turn over to the next at-bat, and then we've just turned into a power hitting team lately.
Q. Chelsea and Janell, I remember talking to Coach Walton after the SEC tournament, and Florida's pitching has been great all year but the offense has been spotty at times for your standard —
TIM WALTON: I just want to give you a heads-up. Look at our games against top-25 opponents. Before you spotty it up, we've played against more top-25 teams than anybody in the league, so to be able to do that, that's why it's spotty; we played the best schedule in the country.
Q. Right. I think you were looking for more consistency at that time. Obviously you found it. Can you talk about how this team's offense has found itself and also kind of competing against yourselves? This would be — you've had two other World Series championship teams. How do you put that in perspective with what you're doing now?
CHELSEA HERNDON: I think we're just buying into the process. This is the last week and a half of the season, so why not. I think we're just buying into the preparation, and like Kayli (Kvistad) said, we're turning it over to the next person, making sure everyone does their job to produce the rest that we need.
JANELL WHEATON: I agree. This sport is hard. You're going to fail more than you're ever going to succeed in this sport, and especially in the SEC, you have to have a short memory and forget if we were ever in a slump or something like that. You just go into the World Series, hey, this is like a once-in-a-lifetime thing, so just go up there and have your at-bats. There's something magical about postseason. Everyone just comes alive. I think everyone up on this stage can say that.
But you just go up there and you have your at-bats, and I think we're all just buying in together at the right time, and it's really working out for us.
Q. Amanda, what does it mean to give Delanie (Gourley) a 3-0 lead, a 4-0 lead? What kind of confidence does that bring to the dugout?
AMANDA LORENZ: I mean, it means everything. I always have in my mind if we give them a one- or two-run lead it's always double in their mind, just because they're so good at what they do. They've just been working so hard and they've carried us here. It's no secret that they've carried us here. I think just to finally give our pitching staff some cushion and some breathing room really means a lot to our offense because we were trying really hard for them but they had our back all through the season, so I think it's the best feeling in the world to be able to give them some cushion because they have just worked their butt off for us all year, so being able to give them this cushion on the biggest stage means everything.
Q. Tim, you used the words “your heartbeat has to be ready for this,” I believe, you have to control your heartbeat. Is this stage meant for Delanie Gourley? What has this stage meant for someone like her?
TIM WALTON: You know, right after we won the championship in 2014 and she came in in a crucial situation, we won that game, we obviously scored runs, and Hannah (Rogers) closed it out, but Delanie pitched just a phenomenal game for us when we needed it. Jeremy Foley, our athletic director at the time, came up to me and told me it was kind of a gutsy move to put a freshman in that situation, and I told Jeremy that this isn't the last time we're going to come back here, and I've got to get that kid in there so she can have an opportunity to feel what it's like to be in this moment.
She's had this her whole entire life. I've watched her pitch for probably as long as anybody, whether it be in high school, whether it be in travel, whether it be in a quote-unquote showcase or elimination game, Delanie Gourley is a championship-level pitcher, and we're lucky to have her. We're happy to have her. But I think she definitely does bring a different level of confidence.
Even if she doesn't have her best stuff you'll never know it because her confidence is there and her presence is still there, and Team USA has seen that just in a short period of time against Japan that she's been able to go out and do some special things against some special left-handed hitters.
Q. Coach, we've talked a lot about the pitching staff, but how important has Janell Wheaton been to this battery?
TIM WALTON: Well, her statistics overall in the season and in league don't match up to some of the all-SEC, all-region, all-American caliber statistics, but I nominated Janell Wheaton for defensive catcher in our league. She didn't get it, but to me in my mind there's nobody more valuable. Obviously our pitching staff put them on their own little spot, but Janell Wheaton has been the most valuable player on this team, hands down, in the bullpen, in the game, between games. She's just done a phenomenal job of being not only a great backstop, a great friend, a great leader, and then her offense — she's been clutch. We've had her bat behind Kayli Kvistad almost the whole year, and they walked Kayli 60-some times to pitch to Janell, and she's really stepped up for us. I'm proud of her. I think that again, a left-handed catcher is not the most traditional thing to look at. She gets strikes at times, too, because she does such a great job with her glove.
Q. Amanda, how did you guys stay loose but still win the way you did, three games to get here and be playing tomorrow night for a championship?
AMANDA LORENZ: I think that's the best thing. I felt like it was going to be so different, and then once we stepped on the field, all of us just felt so normal. It felt so comfortable for all of us, and I think it just — like Janell has been saying, our preparation just prepared us for this moment. All of the hard work that we've done prior to this.
This is the easy part, playing the games is the easy part, and we just were so comfortable, and I think it really showed.
Q. Coach, you mentioned earlier about left-handed catching. How much is that an adjustment first when you're scouting and then you make a decision to bring a kid in with the pitching staff that you have and then making it all work? What process doing go through?
TIM WALTON: Well, Janell (Wheaton) has been with us now for three years, so she's caught behind two of the best catchers that we've had in Aubree Munro and Taylor Fuller. She learned a lot from those guys, and she caught a lot of games last year and the year before in preseason. Once we got to SEC play, we went with Aubree Munro a lot, but Janell has done a good job, and I think as good a job as Janell has done, Doug Mirabelli did a really good job with her last year in teaching her some little tricks and some things. Aubree Munro has done a great job of being able to keep the maintenance on her. Katie Davis, who's our trainer, and Tiffani Ray, who's our massage therapist, and Wes Ulm, they've done a great job of being able to keep this kid healthy, keep her on the field for us. She's been really good.
But the adjustment process, I've been in the game now 19 years, and I've seen some really quality left-handed catchers, so it hasn't been as big of an adjustment period for me, being in softball. Baseball obviously you never see it, but I've been in this game 19 years, and I've seen some really good left-handed catchers, and she's one of them.
Q. Janell, Coach just mentioned his philosophy on just making the adjustment from high school to college and then stepping up.
JANELL WHEATON: Well, during the recruitment process, I made sure that it wasn't a problem, an issue, because a lot of coaches say, no, that's not normal. So it was never a problem with Coach Walton, so we just worked with it, and here we are.
Game 11: Florida 5, Washington 2
- No. 1 seed Florida topped No. 6 seed Washington 5-2 on Sunday to remain undefeated at the 2017 Women’s College World Series. The Gators improve to 58-8, while the Huskies end their season with a 50-14 mark.
- With the win, Florida advances to the WCWS Championship Series for the third time in the last four seasons. Florida will be making its fifth appearance in the WCWS Championship Series (2009, ’11, ’14, ’15, ’17). Florida won the NCAA title in 2014 and 2015. The Gators will take on Oregon or Oklahoma in the 2017 WCWS Championship Series starting Monday at 6 p.m. CT.
- Florida is 25-12 all-time in the WCWS, and Sunday’s victory marked its 13th win at the event since 2014. The Huskies, who were playing in the semifinals for the first time since 2013, dropped to 24-21 at the event.
- The Gators jumped out in front in the top of the first as Kayli Kvistad recorded her second home run at the WCWS, a solo shot to left center. After Amanda Lorenz pushed Florida’s lead to 2-0, Kvistad added two more RBIs with a single in the top of the second to tack on two more runs. The junior finished 2-for-3 with a run scored, a double and three RBIs.
- Florida catcher Alex Wheaton drove in her fifth run of the WCWS with a single up the middle in the fifth, plating Nicole DeWitt. DeWhitt added two hits, walked once and scored once for the Gators.
- Florida’s 1-2-3 hitters (Lorenz, Kvistad and DeWitt) were 5-for-11 with a home run, three runs scored and four RBIs against the Huskies.
- In her first career start at the WCWS, Florida pitcher Delaine Gourley (22-4) threw a two-hitter to earn the win. The senior struck out 10 in the complete-game performance, allowing two unearned runs by surrendering a home run to Washington’s Julia DePonte with two outs in the bottom of the seventh. The complete game was Gourley’s 17th of the season.
- Gourley has not allowed an earned run in 60.1 innings pitched dating back to April 15 at Kentucky.
- Florida’s pitching staff has yet to allow an earned run in 19 innings at the 2017 WCWS.
- Washington pitcher Taran Alvelo (35-9) lasted 1.1 innings, surrendering four runs on five hits in the loss. The sophomore finishes the year tied for third in Washington single-season history with 35 wins. Madi Schreyer threw 4.2 innings in relief, giving up a run on two hits. Samantha Manti threw the final inning in relief for the Huskies.
- Washington designated player Julia DePonte picked up her seventh home run season by drilling a two-run blast to left center in the bottom of the seventh. Taylor Van Zee provided the Huskies with their first hit in the game with a second-inning infield single.
- Florida is 34-1 when hitting at least one home run in a single game.