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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