Florida Post Game 1 Press Conference
2017 Women's College World Series
Thursday, June 1 2017
Oklahoma City, Oklahoma
Florida – 8, Texas A & M – 0
Florida interview with Tim Walton, Kelly Barnhill, Nicole DeWitt, Aleshia Ocasio, and Janell Wheaton.
TIM WALTON: Yeah, I thought obviously the way we came out and swung the bat early was the contributing factor for us to get a nice cushion. I thought Janell (Wheaton) came up and got that two-out hit, and we said it was nice. It was good to see the players step up and really kind of create a normal atmosphere at the plate, normal atmosphere on defense and a normal atmosphere in our work leading up to this. I think the key is when you have a shut-down pitcher like Kelly Barnhill or a shut-down pitcher like Delanie Gourley, get them a lead early, and it makes everybody feel a lot more comfortable and the swings can open up a little bit. Give credit to our kids. Our coaches didn't do anything different. We didn't put any added pressure on them. I think I said it the other day, it's just going to come down to players if they can handle this moment, and I thought our players came out and handled this moment very well.
Q. There's been a sense all season that offense — if there is a question mark to your team, it's the offense. What is the story of the offense this season, and how do you feel about it right now?
TIM WALTON: You know, it's good. I mean, I haven't been pleased with it. I think I've been pretty open about that. I don't think they've been pleased with it. We've been pretty open about that, as well. I think when you see the No. 1 in front of our name, it says No. 1 Florida, you expect home runs and you expect a ton of hits every game. But it just doesn't happen, and I think that it's probably a little bit more the — it's probably more the expectation than it is lack of offense. We've got a lot of players, and I went through the lineup, of our nine starters, five of those starters have not played at this level for as many at-bats as they've had this year. At least I looked up Aleshia Ocasio, her 54th hit went over the fence today, and Chelsea Herndon has 100-some at-bats. We just have kids that haven't done it before. I think that anytime you've looked at — Kayli Kvistad hit .251 as a freshman. I think the expectations were that we were going to come out and kill the ball, and we don't. But I think that overall we've had stretches where we've been really, really good offensively, and I think it's come down to just a little bit of contagious hitting, and like you saw today, we're capable of that. We do it a ton. But part of it might be that we had to face our pitchers all fall long. Probably had about 60 at-bats all fall. Maybe we went into the season with a little lack of confidence, so maybe we have to change it up and go a little machine style next year and give them a little more confidence.
Q. Janell and Nicole, just the two RBI singles, giving that lead to Kelly (Barnhill); can you speak to what he's talking about just in terms of going up there and not putting pressure on yourself and getting a nice clean at-bat?
NICOLE DeWITT: I think it's just mainly getting those runs for Kelly because, I mean, having the lead always makes a pitcher feel better, and then letting Kelly do her thing and not worry about if she has to be so pinpoint with everything, I think that's the main point for us to get the lead early and just started talking early, so I think that's a big deal.
JANELL WHEATON: I think scoring in the first inning was very crucial especially for Kelly. Her pitches were really a lot better later in the game, so I think she felt a little more comfortable, and just hitting those runs, it makes it easier for us and it makes it more fun, less pressure after that.
Q. Aleshia, it has been critical for you guys this year to produce at the plate. Talk about was there something different today or did you guys just want to come out here and make a statement like this is our offense?
ALESHIA OCASIO: I think we did want to make a statement. Hitting is contagious, and when Kayli (Kvistad) started that rally, we just kept the energy going and kept the momentum going. Like it was contagious, like we said. It helped Kelly a lot to stay calm and collected, and getting the lead just — the team in general just helps us stay calm.
Q. Your home run, what pitch did you see? What were you looking for? Take us through that at-bat.
ALESHIA OCASIO: Well, she has really good movement, Samantha Show, and she pitches a lot of rise balls, so I was just telling myself to stay on top of the ball, and before that last pitch, Coach told me to choke up, and I did, and I think that really helped me out with that hit a lot.
Q. Kelly, you probably threw more pitches than you wanted to the first day. But scoring that first run, what did change about your pitching from then on?
KELLY BARNHILL: Whenever you get a lead, it really does take a lot of pressure off a pitcher. You don't have to be pinpoint perfect like they talked about. Of course you always still try to, but having that leeway and having those runs does really affect a pitcher's mentality up there on the mound.
Q. Kelly, after you won the Player of the Year award, you said I don't know if I'm going to be able to sleep Wednesday night before we play Thursday. When did those nerves come down and you got into your groove?
KELLY BARNHILL: Probably after the first inning. After we got those runs it was really nice. I just kind of like — not like the really bad nerves but kind of like the butterflies, just kind of going in there and getting comfortable on the mound and just going after batters because I knew my teammates had my back on the field and when they were hitting.
Q. Nicole, Coach Walton said he didn't do anything differently with you guys to get you prepared for this offensively. Is that accurate, or did you do anything among yourselves? Did you talk about it? Have you been frustrated at all with what's gone on offensively?
NICOLE DeWITT: No, I don't think we're like frustrated. I know we all know what we can do up to bat. We had points of the season where we're just hitting the ball like crazy and stuff, so I think we're just sticking with what we know how to do, and I think that was the biggest point for us.
Game 1: Florida 8, Texas A&M 0 (5 innings)
- In the first game of the 2017 Women’s College World Series, No. 1 seed Florida defeated No. 9 seed Texas A&M, 8-0, in five innings. The Gators improved to 56-8, while the Aggies dropped to 47-12.
- Florida advances to face the winner of game two between No. 5 seed UCLA and No. 13 seed LSU on Friday at 6 p.m. CT. Texas A&M will face the loser of UCLA-LSU in an elimination game on Saturday at 11 a.m. CT.
- In their eighth WCWS appearance, the Gators (2008, ’09, ’10, ’11, ’13, ’14, ’15, ’17) improved to 23-12, while the Aggies fell to 21-14 in their eighth WCWS appearance (’83, ’84, ’86, ’87, ’88, ’07, ’08, ’17).
- Florida junior Janell Wheaton put the Gators on the board with a two-RBI single in the bottom of the first inning. The Gators extended their lead to 4-0 as Nicole DeWhitt’s RBI single drove in two runs.
- Freshman Sophia Reynose pushed Florida’s lead to 5-0 with a RBI single in the bottom of the third inning.
- The Gators tacked on their final three runs of the game in the bottom of the fourth with a three-run blast to right field off the bat of Aleshia Ocasio, her third home run of the year. Ocasio finished 2-for-3 at the plate.
- Florida sophomore Kelly Barnhill improved to 25-3, allowing no runs and three hits in 4.0 innings of work. Senior Delanie Gourley tossed an inning of relief, allowing just one hit.
- The Gators picked up their 39th shutout of the season, which ranks first in the nation. Florida’s 39 shutouts are tied for the most in program single-season history (39, 2009).
- Texas A&M’s Trinity Harrington took the loss in the circle, falling to 14-3. Harrington allowed four earned runs and five hits in two innings pitched.
- The mercy-run win for Florida marked the first five-inning game at the WCWS since the Gators defeated Baylor, 11-0, in 2014.
- Thursday’s game was the first meeting between the two teams at the WCWS since 2008. The Gators are 2-1 against the Aggies all-time at the WCWS.
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