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.
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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