Game 9 Quotes and Notes: Baylor 8, Kentucky 7
THE MODERATOR: We are joined by Baylor Head Coach Glenn Moore and players Heather Stearns, Ari Hawkins and Robin Landrith. We will begin with an opening statement from Coach Moore.
COACH MOORE: Wow! I won't forget that one until I forget who I am! (Laughter.) These girls are incredible. You know, they just didn't quit believing. For five innings we weren't even in the game.
That's why you play seven, I guess. I just thought we were facing a team destined to win and there was nothing we could do about it. Three outs to go and I was thinking there is not much hope, I turned to my little boy in the dugout and I said “You aren't going to cry after this are you?” And he said “Cry? ****we're going to win!”
And I was like “Yeah! That's the kind of faith I need right now!” Just unbelievable execution and fight from these girls. At the beginning of the game we couldn't throw it anywhere in a strike zone the size of a refrigerator that they couldn't hit. It was pretty amazing. I've never seen a team free swing the way they were at everything we let go of and we were hitting it. With every pitch, we tried everything and they were hitting it.
Let me say, hats off to Kentucky. What Rachel has done there is just a phenomenal job. I think they're a lot like our program, and I just really respect the heck out of what they've done and the way they play the game. I have to give it up to the girls and let them talk about it. Amazing, amazing feat.
Q. Ari, talk about the getting it going in the sixth, like Glenn said y'all didn't have much going the first five. You had the hit to get it going.
ARI HAWKINS: Right before that our seniors pulled us together and said “Hey this is not going to be our last game!” I mean, that put the scare in me. (Laughter.) I just took that to heart and I was not going to go out losing, so I just went up there and tried my hardest. I knew I was struggling with that inside pitch. I was really upset, but, yeah.
Q. Robin, what were you thinking when you were down 70? Did you feel like you had a comeback in you?
ROBIN LANDRITH: Any team down seven runs, you're going to get frustrated, you're going to be upset. I just think that we just took it the whole 360. And like I said, we were not going to lose. We really wanted to stay and we really are competitive fighters at heart, so we just weren't going to give up.
Q. Glenn, you've been coaching softball a long time. Seven runs in the last, you know, two innings of a game. Have you ever seen anything quite like that? Speak to the power that you guys have in this lineup that you can erase a deficit like that.
COACH MOORE: I think it speaks to the offense that we have. We've seen that throughout the year. We've put up some big numbers. But to do it against a pitcher who is as dominating, not only for that length of time, to be able to stay that composed and focused, it's just a tough game. It's a tough game to score runs throughout the season, much less here in a World Series like that. So I have to credit the confidence our hitters have and the job Coach Lumley has done with our hitters this year, moving to more of a power lineup and believing in themselves and enjoying that type of game and embracing it.
Q. Coach Moore, you guys are down seven runs, most fans at that point in the sixth inning probably would have left but your fans stuck with you to the end. Talk about that.
COACH MOORE: I'm glad you asked that question because I really think that these kids would never throw in the towel. But at some point in time you know when a game is hard to come back from, I guess, and then you start living off of pride and, you know, the things you hear about your university and things like that. But the fans never gave up. Our fans were loud and they were right above our dugout and we could hear them constantly. I think that was an energy that propelled us to get a few breaks and a few hits and really start believing we could come back. Outstanding fans.
Q. Robin, can you talk about the double there? When you first hit it, did you think it was going out?
ROBIN LANDRITH: I thought it had a chance. I hit it square on the barrel and I just I mean, it had a chance and it tied up the game so I mean, that's all I can ask for. I was happy that it happened.
Q. Heather, what did you do against Kentucky hitters? They were so hot and you seemed to shut 'em down.
HEATHER STEARNS: Yeah, I mean, just like earlier, I tried to hit my spots. They were very, very aggressive. All game they were aggressive. And honestly, at that point I was going off adrenaline and hitting my spots. Clare was talking to me back there and, you know, when my team is scoring seven runs in the last two innings, you have to come out and throw the game. Because when your team is backing you like that you have to go out there and do it for them, too.
Q. Coach Moore, you guys are down 70 in the bottom of the sixth, you huddled up the team at that moment outside the dugout and really the game changed after that obviously, completely. What did you say to your team?
COACH MOORE: I just tried to be a cheerleader for them. They've given so much to the university and our program. I just wanted to not give up on 'em. At that point in time that's all you can do. You have to let 'em know you love 'em and keep cheering as hard as you can. We'd made some adjustments and it really hadn't worked out for us, so just cheering them on: “Come on, we can do it, believe in yourself.” I was trying to come up with a unique phrase every now and then to catch their attention, but basically being a cheerleader.
Q. Ari and Robin, the third time around against Kelsey you guys kind of caught up with what she was throwing? Or did something change or click for you guys all of the sudden?
ARI HAWKINS: For me, it was continually she was throwing the same pitch to me every time and she knew I was struggling with it, so I just barreled it up and swung at it.
ROBIN LANDRITH: For me, she was throwing me outside and I was definitely looking there. At that point in my atbat I was down two strikes and two outs, and I thought this could be my last at-bat of the season, so don't strike out looking. So I swung.
Q. Heather when you came back out in the eighth was there extra adrenaline? It looked like you had extra umph on the ball.
HEATHER STEARNS: Oh, yeah, I had that adrenaline going and it picked up like it was in the game this morning. Like I said, I just wanted to do it for them. For a team to come back and an offense to come back seven runs is amazing. Just as a pitcher you want to give your team that support and, you know, shut them down, since they are trying so hard.
COACH MOORE: If I can jump in here, I thought it's amazing she has not pitched in a month and she has two World Series wins in one day. I'm just very proud for her. She is outstanding. She did a great job keeping her composure that long and not letting the game get away from her and pitching the way she did in these two outings today. I think the future of Baylor softball is in pretty good hands.
Q. Ari, are you icing your back from that last play?
ARI HAWKINS: Not from that last play. I always have an achy back after running and stuff like that. It was fine. Actually the ball hit my hand.
Q. I saw the ice bag.
ARI HAWKINS: No, it's normal.
Q. Glenn, the way you win this one, do you try to, you know
COACH MOORE: Top it?
Q. Top it would be wonderful, but do you try to want them back on an even keel or ride the momentum somehow tomorrow?
COACH MOORE: I hadn't thought about that. That's a good question. We're going to ride the wave for a little while. We're going to enjoy it for a little while, and no I'm not going to bring 'em back down. That's crazy. We're going to play ball for as long as and as hard as we can.
Q. Was there any thought of how that would have been a terrible way for Whitney to end her career, going out early and all the kids been through the six years or even as you look back at it now, how extra special is it knowing the team did that for her and gave her a shot for tomorrow?
COACH MOORE: I will say that I did think about I always think about that when not just for Whitney but the seniors. It's a tough way to go out.
She is a horse that we've been riding a long time and, yeah, I thought about it. It would have been nice to be able to get her an opportunity to come off the field, off the stage; final curtain call, if you will, appropriately and you can't always script that. I've been doing it too long. I know that.
So, yeah, it entered my mind. We're playing to win, number one, and I think Holly asked me that during the game, you know, about the the pulling her and you know. But we're playing to win and she understands that. And for her whole career she's played to win, so she knows we're not going to do anything that would jeopardize a chance of winning and that's what we needed to do at the time. And having said that, Liz Paul came in and shut down a team that was really hot. I wouldn't say shut down — she gave up two runs — but she really did a great job for us and she hasn't thrown, really any more than Heather has for us over the last month.
Q. Glenn, they were free swinging early on in the game. What wasn't working for Whitney and how does that make you think about tomorrow?
COACH MOORE: You know, I was talking with Britni Newman, our pitching coach, and I said “What's going on?” And she said “Coach we're in every plane and they hit balls out that were in the eyes and hit a ball that was halfway down the ankles.” I don't remember seeing that, especially not off Whitney when she is throwing mid60s, and she was. Her velocity was up there 65, 66, and it was as if they knew where the pitch was going to be thrown. I'm sure they didn't, but they were fouling off pitches that were in the eyes constantly and I haven't seen anything like that. Like I said earlier, it was almost as if we were destined to lose that game from the beginning, but we weren't going to quit fighting, of course.
I can't tell you that she I would have to let her answer that question. I just told her when she came off the field be ready to go back in. We could re-enter her so if we were closing to a point where I thought we might have a chance to win, and got in trouble, I would have gone back to her. I tried to get her out of this thinking this is my last this is a curtain call, you know. It was too early in the game. We could have used her. We didn't have to, thank goodness.
Q. Coach, what you said with Whitney, do you think it was something mentally that was hurting her, or was it physically at all?
COACH MOORE: It's not physically. To my knowledge she was throwing she was pitching. So I credit Kentucky. You know, sometimes you're the windshield, sometimes you're the bug, and they were aggressive and going after it. That was their game plan. They weren't zeroing in on the screw ball thigh high. They were going for whatever came out of her hand, and they had some success with it. We changed speeds and fooled them a few times, but we couldn't consistently fool 'em and that's why you make a pitching change. We had a little different style and Liz did a good job of mixing it up, and Heather came in and did an outstanding job.
Q. With Nunley staying in for most of the game throwing 120 pitches, 130, I don't know, did you get a repetition and predict what she was going to throw?
COACH MOORE: I think she was fairly predictable, or we thought she was. She was making no bones about it. She was going after us and throwing hard and going right in there pretty much as we had scouted her. She is a good pitcher, very good. But really you start picking us out of the plate and wait until she comes there and that's what you hope to do. It didn't work for five innings but eventually it did.
THE MODERATOR: Thanks guys.
THE MODERATOR: With us from Kentucky, we have Head Coach Rachel Lawson, Ginny Carol, Emily Gaines, Kelsey Nunley and Krystal Smith. Comments from Coach?
COACH LAWSON: Thanks for being in here because there is a really good game going on out there. I don't know how you guys drew that short stick. Obviously this was a hard one for us. This isn't the way we wanted it to go down, especially having so many runs early. But I'm really proud of this team. I think this team has done something special. This is the first time we've won 50 games. That's something special and a real turning point in the program. I thought just getting to the World Series I think it's really hard to go to the World Series.
I think learning how to go to regionals and then learning how to host and then learning how to go to supers is all very difficult, but it's a whole other level when you have to figure out how to go to the World Series. So I feel proud for this team because they are the first team in Kentucky history that's figured out how to go to the show and I think that's very special.
I want to thank this is truly a wonderful venue. I want to thank the City of Oklahoma City and there are a ton of sponsors, and the University of Oklahoma, ESPN, USA Softball, ASA Softball. This is an awesome, awesome venue and I'm really glad I could be part of taking our team to Oklahoma City for the first time.
Q. Coach, the last inning. How do you look back on it?
COACH LAWSON: Well, I'm always a learner, so I'm already preparing for next year. You know, number one, I thought Baylor got all of the momentum in the sixth inning. I thought they did a great job. At one point I will be honest with you, I thought about putting one of our other pitchers in. The mistake with me is that I didn't prepare them to come in, so the reason I went with Kelsey is because I'm comfortable with what they were doing. They were timing her and squaring up and they had me figured out, so a change would have been great but I didn't prepare them for that situation and it was too unpredictable.
Quite honestly my bubble thought at the time was, I was really proud of Kelsey, because there should be child labor laws against what I did to her in the postseason. She threw so many pitches, but somebody has to be the first and somebody has to be the one to have us break through. She can handle it but, she was also picked to be the one that could do that. So she was the one prepared for this moment and she did an exceptional job with it. So moving forward I realize in order to win the World Series you have to make sure that you have a staff prepared and I think you're going to see that moving forward with Alabama and you're going to see it moving forward with Florida. When I watch what they did. What they did is really smart. They prepared all their pitchers for this moment but, they had to get there the first time and the first time they were in the show they pretty much rode one arm. So that's what I was thinking at the time.
Q. Coach, it seemed like last night, correct me if I'm wrong, but when you guys were rallying against Alabama you seemed to be more aggressive, attacking Jackie earlier in the count. If that's the case it carried over to today. The home runs early, you guys looked like you were looking to jump on Canion. If we discuss the defensive flops going into today and how it was so effective early.
COACH LAWSON: Canion is great. First of all, when you see someone throw 71 at night, Canion as hard as she throws and as exceptional as she is, you can square up on a few more balls just because of the speed difference. But our approach was to lay off the high pitch and she had it flatter in the zone than we were going to attack it. I thought that approach worked. I think attacking has been the approach we have had the entire postseason, so it was nice to see that game plan again and I felt like our team went out for the kill and that's why you saw all the runs early.
Q. Coach, really for any of you guys, up 70, was there a specific play or moment in the game where you just kind of all of the sudden you felt everything shifted Baylor's way or did it gradually happen over those last two innings?
COACH LAWSON: I can't speak for them, but for me there were several plays. We pretty much went through the World Series without making mistakes defensively and we made a few. There wasn't one play that hurt us per se, there were a few plays that hurt us and some of them went down as hits, but they were plays that we were making earlier. I don't think we can look to one play.
I do know that I did feel them getting the momentum in the sixth and no matter what pitch we threw they were able to square up on it. I think you guys can answer also. That's what I was thinking at the time, was the momentum and the plays, not just the plays in the last inning but we gave 'em a couple of runs earlier on plays we didn't make.
GINNY CARROLL: I felt the same way. I don't think there was ever just one swing in particular that really changed it but I think it was gradual. We never, ever gave up. I never thought they had the momentum until the very end when they tied it up. We had all the faith in the world in Kelsey and in our defense and just one thing after another, play by play — but we fought hard. I’m proud of how tough we stayed in it.
KELSEY NUNLEY: I would agree with Ginny. I don't think there was one play that made the difference, but I would say when they tied the game they took the momentum away.
EMILY GAINES: I agree with them. I thought we were going to hold them until they tied up with us and after that I could kind of feel the momentum shifting. Like Ginny said, we never gave up and we kept fightin' and that's all we could do.
KRYSTAL SMITH: Throughout the season we have been a team that could bounce back when we have had defensive miscues or offensive setbacks. So being someone who is hard on myself on defense, because I'm someone who takes pride on my defense. I had a feeling that the play in the seventh could have possibly been a pivotal moment, but I had a stronger feeling that we would be able to bounce back from that, because we are someone that has been proven to show that again and again. Unfortunately the ball didn't end up our way, the win didn’t end up our way, but we had a pretty good season.
Q. Crystal, you only saw Stearns once, but just from what your hitters had done against Stearns, and what you had done previously against Paul and Canion, what made Stearns effective?
KRYSTAL SMITH: I have to say that going into, I guess it was the eighth inning, I would have to agree there was a bit of a momentum swing. I know that it was a bit in my head because of the defensive miscue that I had. In my previous atbats what I did differently was I went up with a clear mind. After speaking with my mom this morning she said “Krystal, just go up there and clear your mind.” I think that was the difference in my first three atbats and then I guess my fourth atbat I was really trying to do too much for my team, because I felt bad for making the mistake.
Q. Kelsey, you heard your coach talk about the fact that she sort of decided you were going to be the one to carry this team and I know you've done that all year. Could you talk about how difficult it was to process that late in the game? I know you got emotional in the dugout but what it was like to battle through those tough moments toward the end.
KELSEY NUNLEY: It was probably one of the hardest things I've ever done because I knew that I was physically giving my all but just wasn't going the way I wanted to. So, you know, I just tried to stay confident and tried to keep goin' hard and whatever happened, happened.
COACH LAWSON: I'll be honest with you, if it wasn't for Kelsey, we wouldn't be where we're at. If it wasn't for Krystal, we wouldn't even be here.
So if you guys look back and if you see what Krystal did in Westwood, that was amazing. In fact, I was in shock. Really. Because she went in there and she actually outside of Kelsey, I think the two of them were the M.V.P. I would have given Krystal offensive M.V.P. and Kelsey obviously defense because defense starts in the circle.
When I look back as a coach, we have so many moments throughout this season that could have been the “what-if” play that we could have gone down. We could have lost to DePaul. We were horrible in the first game of the championship game and then we came out and hit.
When we went out to LA in supers, the first game we had some defensive miscues and the team came back and fought. The fact that we came in here and had such a good showing our first game, and against Alabama I thought it was a hardfought game. I never try to look at the mistakes, I always try to look at what it is we are doing. And quite honestly I am proud of them and I know we wouldn't actually be in this press conference in this moment without all those plays they have made over the last three weeks.
Q. For the seniors, the position players, could you talk about what it's meant to you to be a part of what this program has done in the last four years, the three supers and being the first Kentucky team to get to the College World Series?
KRYSTAL SMITH: I don't think there is enough words to express what this means to us personally and for all our seniors. It brings us comfort to know that this senior class and this 2014 softball team has made an indelible imprint on the Kentucky softball program, and I think we can go home knowing that. We can move forward.
GINNY CARROLL: I think the thing I'm most proud of about our class is coming in, we just talked in the locker room we were the biggest class that Coach Lawson ever recruited at UK, and throughout our careers, all three of us, we haven't started all four years. We don't have any AllAmericans in our class. We're not 100-percent studs, but I think the biggest thing we are is we're tough. We have been in and out of the lineup our whole careers, but at the end I think we all brought our “A” game and at the end of the day I know we're the toughest class around. Maybe I'm biased.
EMILY GAINES: Like they said, this has been an amazing experience. These past four years we've been through a lot of adversity and no one ever thought we would be here, and like they said we have been fighters and we've seen this program go through a lot of changes. We have gotten amazing new facilities and done things that no one ever thought we could.
I'm so proud of my teammates and my senior class and we're just really proud.
GINNY CARROLL: All that being said, when we beat UCLA to make it to the World Series, I was roommates with Griffin (Joiner) and we stayed up til 3 in the morning the night after we won – sorry, Coach. Our game was on ESPN and we're going to watch it, all of it. I told Griffin no matter what happened from here on out I didn't think it was possible that I could be sad. But that was before you get here and when you're still hyped and you just know it's the World Series. We didn't know when we were leaving, what happened when we got here and it's the World Series. Once you got here and practiced and played and you tasted it, then the bar is raised from making it to the World Series to winning the World Series.
Once you've tasted that, it's I mean, you just want to win it. Once you've been here you want to win it and that's why we're upset because once you taste it you know how close you are and how much you can do it. I told Skeeter (Nunley) after the game, she has two years left so I expect big things. No pressure.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you guys.
No. 13 seed Baylor defeated No. 14 seed Kentucky in dramatic fashion in eight innings in the ninth game of the 2014 Women’s College World Series. The Bears improved to 49-15 overall this year, while the loss ended the Wildcats’ season. Kentucky finished the year with a 50-19 mark.
Baylor advanced to face No. 5 seed Florida at noon CT on Sunday. In order to advance to the championship series, the Bears will have to register two wins against the Gators.
In its third WCWS appearance (2007, ’11, ’14), Baylor improved to 5-5 all-time in the event (2-1 this year). Kentucky, which made its first WCWS appearance in program history, finished 1-2 at the event.
Trailing 7-0 entering the bottom of the sixth inning, Baylor scored three runs in that frame and four in the seventh to force extra innings. In the eighth, junior Kaitlyn Thumann hit a leadoff double and scored moments later on a throwing error following freshman Ari Hawkins’ sacrifice bunt.
Baylor sophomore pitcher Heather Stearns secured the win in relief, improving to 15-4 on the season (it was her second win of the day). In 2.1 innings of work, she allowed no runs on one hit and no walks while striking out one. Senior Whitney Canion started the game and gave up three runs on three hits and one walk in 1.2 innings. Senior Liz Paul spelled Canion and pitched four innings. She gave up four runs on six hits and one walk while striking out three.
Kentucky jumped out to a 3-0 lead in the second inning, scoring three runs on three hits. Senior Emily Gaines started it off for the Wildcats, sending a home run into the right-field bleachers. The homer was the seventh of her career, all of which have come this season.
After Gaines’ second-inning at-bat, senior Krystal Smith doubled to left-center field. Two hitters later, senior Ginny Carroll added a two-out, two-run homer to add to the Wildcats’ lead. The shot was Carroll’s fourth of the season and first ever in NCAA Tournament play.
Smith put Kentucky up 6-0 with a leadoff solo home run in the sixth inning, her third of the season. She went 3 for 3 at the plate (set a career high for hits in a game) and tied her career high for runs scored in a contest (three).
Baylor got on the board in the sixth inning via three RBI-singles from sophomore Linsey Hays, junior Jordan Strickland and freshman Lindsey Cargill. The Bears recorded six hits in the inning (Kentucky pitcher Kelsey Nunley had given up seven hits in her 19.0 WCWS innings prior to that frame).
Hawkins added a home run, her fourth of the season, to lead off seventh inning for the Bears. Sophomore Sarah Smith hit an RBI-double to right field to cut the lead to 7-5. Baylor placed runners on first and second with two outs before Robin Landrith tied the game with a two-run double.
Nunley threw the complete game for Kentucky, falling to 30-11 in her sophomore campaign. She gave up 13 hits and three walks while striking out five. Only four of Baylor’s runs were earned.
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