Oklahoma Championship Series Game 1 Press Conference

2017 Women's College World Series

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Oklahoma Championship Series Game 1 Press Conference

2017 Women's College World Series

Monday June 5, 2017
Oklahoma City, Oklahoma
Oklahoma – 7, Florida – 5

Oklahoma interview with Patty Gasso, Paige Lowary, Paige Parker, Fale Aviu, Shay Knighten, and Nicole Mendes.

PATTY GASSO: Epic, epic battle. I don't know what else — that was it. This is one of the greatest games I think in College World Series history, I would guess. It was like two heavyweight fighters throwing punch after punch. Florida just kept answering everything that we put out there, and we tried to answer back, and it was a game of will, a game of team, a game of character. We were running out of gas a little bit, but they just kept fighting. I could not tell you — I will never forget the pitching duo here and how they tag-teamed. It was an emotional, emotional roller coaster of a game and one that I will never, ever, ever, ever forget.

Q. Patty, as that game continued, can you give us an idea what you were telling your team through that, especially if you would throw a hey maker and they would counter punch?

PATTY GASSO: I think all of us coaches were just like, ‘hang in there, keep fighting, keep fighting,' and that's been what got us here. And almost — although our backs aren't against the wall for our season to be over, it started to feel like that, like we just — just survive, survive, survive, just keep surviving. It was crazy. They just kept going, both teams. Both teams, not just ours. Both teams just kept going, kept playing hard.

Q. Patty, the fact that this game went 17 but the quality of this game, I mean, there wasn't — that sort of thing wasn't out there. How do you put that into context with all the softball at that you've seen over the years and the stakes on the field tonight and the manner with which these two teams played?

PATTY GASSO: Like I said, I think it was just an epic battle, two teams that know the importance of winning this first game and putting everything out there. That's it in a nutshell. No one wanted to walk off that field losing, and that's what it felt like for 17 innings. It never stopped.

Q. Paige Lowary, you guys talked about being little girls and dreaming of being in this situation. What did that feel like for you with the crowd on their feet cheering you on?

PAIGE LOWARY: As crazy as it sounds, I try to keep the same mindset every time I go out on the field because if I make it too big, it just gets out of control, so I just tried to focus on the pitch that I was throwing.

Q. Shay and Nicole, twice in extra innings you guys took the lead and twice they came back. How were you guys able to stay poised after they came back and tied up with you guys?

SHAY KNIGHTEN: I think we just kind of stuck together. We knew that they were going to punch, and it was up to us to kind of punch back and want to fight back and not want to back down. And an extra innings game like that is crazy, and in the World Series it's even crazier and insane, but we just kind of stuck together and knew that we weren't going to be denied and we were going to leave it all out there.

NICOLE MENDES: We just kind of came up there with a mindset that we weren't going to be denied, that we were going to have the will to win, that there was no way that we were going to walk off that field with any ounce of regret, and we just kind of left blood, sweat and tears out there on the field.

Q. Shay, just as a batter, how do you stay focused when it's inning after inning and it's those two pitchers, going back and forth between them? How do you stay focused and sane out there?

SHAY KNIGHTEN: I just kind of think to myself, you can do this, just stick to your mechanics, stay within yourself, do it for your teammates and not try to be too big, not try to be the hero. And I was just thinking one pitch at a time, just focus one pitch at a time and something will happen.

Q. Coach, talk about the chess match of pitcher to pitcher being in the circle and making the right move at the right time, going back and forth with Lowary and Parker.

PATTY GASSO: Well, I think it was probably a surprise to some that we started Paige Lowary, but it was a team decision. It was a pitching staff, coaching staff decision. These two were right with us when we talked about it, and then we presented it to the team and they were all for it.

I loved what she did, and I loved what Paige (Parker) did, and I loved what Paige Lowary did to come back in, and you saw Florida doing the same exact thing. We were almost mirroring each other in what our strategies were. It was an emotional roller coaster for both of them. They came in and I felt like, I could have shut that down. It was highs and lows, and for Paige Lowary especially to finish on the note that she did, it was to me the highlight of our season.

Q. Paige Lowary, two thoughts as you were walking back onto the field from the bullpen, the bases loaded and the big situation there, and then the last strikeout, will you take me through your mind in those two situations?

PAIGE LOWARY: When I first came back in, I was just thinking that I'm kind of coming back in like a closing role, Paige Parker has pitched seven innings, so it's kind of like I'm closing another game, so I just tried to have a closing mindset with that, and then the last strikeout I just wanted to hit my spot and I visualized her swinging over it, and it went where it needed to go.

Q. Parker, just talk about being in the moment, going from one emotion to the other in the game, out of the game, watching from the dugout and then being out in the circle.

PAIGE PARKER: I think it's just staying locked in no matter where you are in the game, if you're in the circle or if you're in the dugout. It's just staying locked in constantly. I wanted to stay with Paige (Lowary) every single pitch. Whenever I was in the dugout, and I could feel her with me every single pitch whenever I was on the mound.

I think just trying to be level-headed and stay locked in constantly is the key whenever you have those kinds of situations.

Q. How did you handle dealing with the pitching matchups knowing that you've got potentially maybe even two more games after this one and you've got Mariah Lopez who's fresh and you've got Nicole Mendes who's fresh?

PATTY GASSO: I can't even answer that right now because I've got to check in on these guys —

Q. I meant during the game.

PATTY GASSO: During the game?

Q. How do you manage the two pitchers knowing that you've got to pitch two more games —

PATTY GASSO: I've gotcha. I was just going with what was hot and what we thought would be effective. So to put two freshmen out there right now in this heated battle just didn't seem fair to them at that moment, so I just stuck with these two and their experience.

Q. Nicole and Fale, what was it like being a part of a game like this, just knowing the stage that you ladies are on and what you're trying to accomplish? What was it like being a part of tonight that will go down as one of the greatest games ever played?

FALE AVIU: It was a fun game overall. It was a dogfight back and forth. Our team was not going to be denied, and we felt the power of three with our fans out there, with their hands up, and that was a good feeling to see everybody had each other's backs, everybody was going to be a leader and no one was going to give up.

NICOLE MENDES: I just will never forget this game as long as I live. I don't think I'll ever play in a game like this ever again. It was an honor to be a part of, and I think I speak for the whole team whenever I say that it was with the power of three and it was with the will to win and determination, and I think that Florida is a great team, and I think that it was a great battle.

Q. Paige, you've said that you enjoy the closer role and you've adapted to that. How do you change your mindset starting this game, and Paige Parker, you kind of reversed roles. How do you handle that?

PAIGE LOWARY: I mean, we talked about it as a pitching staff and a coaching staff this morning, and we came to the decision that I was going to start this morning and I just tried to keep the same mindset, I guess, just take it one pitch at a time and stay in the moment, and I don't know, just fight. I wanted to do it for everyone.

PAIGE PARKER: I would agree with Paige. It's just kind of keeping the same mindset of just trying to win every pitch, and I think earlier in the season we had some situations where Paige started and I came in to close, and I think that that was like a good thing to go back to of how that felt, and just trying to channel those experiences helped us today, I think.

Q. Patty, when you said you guys came to a determination this morning, what was it that you guys decided to start Paige (Lowary), what were kind of the factors in that?

PATTY GASSO: The history of how we've used Paige Parker was just starting every game, so I thought, what the heck, let's try — we felt like (Kelly) Barnhill was going to come out, so it was two flame throwers going at it. It was good old fashioned softball, so that's kind of what we — it was good to see them go against each other. That's kind of what we felt might happen. I think they may have been really planning for Paige Parker, so it was just throwing a wrench in there.

Q. Shay, this is for you. They battled back after Nicole's (Mendes) home run and then Fale's (Aviu) home run they battled back. Your home run gave you the biggest lead of the night. Did you kind of get a sense that maybe that was a back breaker, kind of the third-time-is-a-charm type deal, and also can you talk about the pitch? Was it something you were looking for? What were you thinking as you left the yard?

SHAY KNIGHTEN: Well, you can never think anything is a back breaker or anything with a team like Florida. Like they did all game, they came back. We were going to fight for whatever we could, and in my at-bat, I was just looking to find a pitch in the zone that I could hit hard. I wasn't looking for really a particular pitch. It was just something — I knew she was throwing hard, so it's just get there, just get there, and if it was in the zone, I was going to swing.

POSTGAME NOTES
Championship Series Game 1: Oklahoma 7, Florida 5

  • No. 10 Oklahoma outlasted No. 1 Florida 7-5 in the first game of the 2017 WCWS Championship Series on Monday night in 17 innings. OU first baseman Shay Knighten’s three-run blast in the top of the 17th gave the Sooners the lead for good.
  • The 17-inning contest is the longest game in WCWS Championship Series history. The previous record was 12 innings when Oklahoma defeated Tennessee, 5-3, in game two of the 2013 WCWS Championship Series. Monday’s game was the sixth extra inning game in WCWS Championship Series history. Thirteen innings was the longest game to take place between two teams playing for the NCAA Championship (1984, Texas A&M vs. UCLA, pre-WCWS Championship Series era).
  • Oklahoma improves to 26-16 at the Women’s College World Series, while Florida falls to 25-13. With the win, the Sooners move into sole possession of third place in all-time WCWS wins. Oklahoma and Florida entered the night tied with 25 wins apiece. The Sooners have won five straight and 11 out of their 12 games at the WCWS dating back to 2016.
  • Every WCWS Championship Series since 2011 has featured either Florida (2011, ’14, 15, ’17) or Oklahoma (2012, ’13, ’16, ’17). The Gators won the NCAA title in 2014 and 2015, while OU captured the crown in the 2013 and 2016.
  • Florida third baseman Alesha Ocasio put the Gators in the front 1-0 in the bottom of the fourth, plating Nicole DeWhitt who doubled with to the right-field gap.
  • The Sooners quickly responded in the top of the fifth as Sydney Romero’s RBI single scored Nicole Pendley to tie the game at 1-1. Pendley doubled to right center with one out for OU’s first hit of the game.
  • Nicole Mendes gave OU the lead with a solo shot to right field in the top of the sixth, her sixth homer of the season. Mendes is the third freshman for OU to hit a home run in the WCWS Championship Series, joining Lauren Chamberlain (2012) and Sydney Romero (2016).
  • Down to its last out, Florida tied the game at 2-2 as Sophia Reynoso doubled to score Aleshia Ocasio in the bottom of the seventh. It was Reynoso’s sixth double of the season and her 26th RBI.
  • OU’s Fale Aviu sent a two-run shot, her first homerun of the postseason, over the right-field fence in the top of the 12th inning to put the Sooners up 4-2, but Florida’s Amber Lorenz responded with a double lined to left in the bottom of the inning to score two and knot the game at 4-4.
  • In the top of the 17th, Knighten homered to left field, also scoring Mendes and Caleigh Clifton, to give Oklahoma a 7-4 advantage. Lorenz struck again with a sac fly to left field to plate Lily Mann. 
  • Florida starting pitcher Kelly Barnhill (26-4) took the loss, tossing 9.0 innings and allowing a season-high five runs on six hits, while striking out 10. Barnhill allowed her first home run since May 7 (North Texas) when Mendes hit her solo blast in the sixth. Barnhill re-entered the game and pitching the final two innings for the Gators, giving up the home run to Knighten.
  • Monday’s game marked just the second time this season that Barnhill allowed three or more earned runs in a contest (3, at Florida State, May 3).
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Effective Visualization

Written By Renee Ferguson

Fastpitch Radio Network Fastpitch Softball Website

Effective Visualization

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Visualization- what is it and how does it help you be a better athlete?

Visualization is one of those elusive tools often used by coaches to try and get their players to imagine on the field successes. When executed properly, visualization can help catapult your players to the next level while helping them overcome challenges on the field. Many coaches explain visualization as closing your eyes and seeing yourself execute the task at hand perfectly. For example, seeing yourself take the perfect swing at the plate and driving in the game-winning run. While this explanation is correct, it is very difficult for athletes to do. Below I will expand on the idea of visualization and teach you how to effectively put it to use.

I was first introduced to the idea of visualization around the age of 12 by my pitching instructor. He would often try and get me to slow down and visualize myself throwing the perfect pitch. I, like any other 12 year old, listened to my instructor and closed my eyes and tried to see myself throwing the pitch. (When I say tried, I mean I closed my eyes just long enough for him to think I had seen myself throw the perfect pitch.) There were times I put effort into it, but most of the time I brushed it off as being unimportant in the grand scheme of things. Now as a pitching coach I realize just how mistaken I was.

Visualization should not be limited by just your eyes; it should use all 5 senses. In order for it to work its best you must be able to see it, feel it, smell it, taste it and hear it. Since I was a pitcher I am going to focus on that aspect of the game, however, the items below can be easily converted to any other aspect of the game or in other areas of life.

So let's start with the basics- visualization is a tool that is used to help pitchers/players overcome challenges and/or speed up the learning process by involving not only their body- but also their mind. True visualization takes time and should be handled over multiple sessions with your player. You cannot expect to throw your players into the details of visualization head first if you want them to succeed. You should not emphasize their speed of learning as much as you should emphasize and encourage them to have a mastery mindset when approaching visualization.

The first session should take place during a one on one (or group at the college age) session. Explain to them exactly what you want them to do. Example: “I want you to physically stand on the pitching rubber, close your eyes and visualize yourself (watch yourself) going through your pitching motion and throwing the most perfect pitch you have ever thrown.” Give them some time and then ask, “Were you actually able to see yourself do this?” Most girls will tell you yes, but don't take their word for it at first. (Chances are they are having a hard time but do not want to disappoint you.) Ask them to describe in detail what they saw. What color shirt was her catcher wearing? Was there a chalk circle around the mound? What did the pitch do? What pitch did you throw? You will be able to tell pretty quickly how clearly they were able to see things during their initial attempt at visualization. During the first session you want to expand on the details of what you are expecting as much as possible- this is their first impression of the skill after all.

In the next phase of this session you want to introduce the concept of “feeling” the pitch. You can do this by saying the following: “I want you to physically stand on the pitching rubber, close your eyes and visualize going through your pitching motion as we did last time. But this time I want you to imagine, that you can actually feel yourself going through the motion of the pitch. Feel your hands come together, feel your muscles tighten as you explode off the mound, feel the resistance you create as you land and feel your arm whip through to your target.” Have them try this a few times but if the whole motion seems too daunting for them, have them work on one or two things at a time- like feeling themselves take their place on the mound and having their hands come together. If you check in with them and they say they still cannot do it, have them physically complete the two steps focusing on how it feels and then have them step behind the mound and ask them to repeat that step in their mind with their eyes closed. Now that they have something to refer to, feeling their visualization should be a little bit easier. Continue going through this until they are able to feel the whole pitching motion with their mind. For ease and time, you can break this down into multiple sessions if the student is having a big problem feeling the visualization. You do NOT want to frustrate them; you want to allow them to take baby steps to complete the task if that is what is needed by them. Remember everyone works at their own pace and what might be simple for some is often difficult for many.

The goal of the second session is to introduce the idea of feeling other aspects of the pitching scenario. For example, add the game element into it because it will force so many more uncontrollable things into their mind. Perhaps they now feel their heart pounding, the sweat on their forehead, or the heat from the sun on their skin. You want them to incorporate as many touch items as possible here. You can guide them if necessary but they should try and pick things that they feel on a regular basis while on the mound. That way the things they are trying to recall are familiar items. Basically you want them to become hypersensitive to what their experience on the mound is really like.

By the third session they should seem pretty comfortable recalling the feel of their pitching motion and how the external items feel when they step on the mound. It's at this time you want to introduce the concept of seeing what is going on around them. We often teach pitchers to have tunnel vision when on the mound, but for visualization purposes we want them to recognize the background scene. (Side note- once they are able to recognize things around them they can take steps to ensure it affects them less during games by practicing blocking certain things out through visualization.) As they visualize the background they see while they are in the pitching circle, have them explain it to you in as much detail as possible. So instead of accepting “I see the umpire”, have them focus on what the umpire is doing, is he setting up behind the catcher or is he getting a drink of water. If they see fans (parents) ask what color shirts they are wearing and if they have sunglasses on. Make them work to recall as many details as possible; there are no wrong answers you just want to exercise their mind the way you do their bodies in practice. This process may be difficult for them at first and will probably make them uncomfortable, but this is normal. If they are really struggling, they can open their eyes while you talk to them and probe them for information. The answers don't have to reflect actual instances that occurred recently, but you want them to find something they can recall with ease to insert into their visualization practices. Seeing their catcher give them a sign should be an easy one to recall because the mind has seen it so many times it becomes ingrained.

The fourth session will start with you walking them through the visualization steps you have already introduced and then talking to them about the sounds they hear from the fans around the field. You want them to tell you the cheer that is coming out of the opposing dugout as well as their own.

They need to be able to focus on each sound individually. The ultimate goal will be to use visualization to teach them only to focus on the sounds they WANT or NEED to hear thereby creating their ideal on the field scenario for success.

During the fifth session, you want to begin to talk to them about the smells they smell and the tastes they taste while on the mound. Perhaps it's the smell of ballpark hot dogs, rain in the air, or the dirt getting kicked up. They may also recall the taste of the sunflower seeds they eat during the game or the flavor of the bubble gum they chew. Since they are used to the amount of detail you want from each sense this should be easier than the last session, and they should begin to elaborate the smells and tastes to you with little prompting. I know it may seem weird to ask the pitcher to visualize the smells and tastes they experience when on the pitching mound, but I want to stress its importance, visualization works because the student should be able to imagine game situations as close to a real live game as possible so they can teach themselves to visualize the desired outcome of any given game situation before it happens.

Now, it's time to help the student to put it all together. The first time you review everything together you want them to stand on the pitching rubber and verbally tell you what they see, smell, taste, feel and hear during the visualization process and then have them open their eyes and pitch. Next, you want them to close their eyes and only visualize what they see, smell, taste, feel and hear. After they visualize you want them to pitch the ball trying to recreate exactly what they just created in their mind. You always want to reiterate to them that they want to visualize the best pitch they have ever thrown or the ideal scenario they would like to create. An example of this would be to have them visualize a pressure situation with a perfect outcome: bases loaded, bottom of 7th, tying run at 3rd, full count on the batter, and they have to throw the best rise ball they have ever thrown to strike the batter out at the plate. The goal is to get them to be able to visualize and perform the desired outcome every single time they are faced with it during a game. It teaches them to anticipate success especially in those critical high stress, high performance situations.

The more your players practice visualizing, and the more seriously it is taken, the bigger the impact visualization will have on their level of play. It is also important to mention that visualization is an important life skill for everyone to have. It's like having your own personal life coach because you can and will change the outcomes in every aspect of a player's life. Perhaps the student you are working with is a poor test taker. If they can apply visualization to enhance their athletic abilities they can surely use it to increase the probability of becoming a better test taker because they will have the skills to imagine taking the test and succeeding before they actually sit down to take it. Visualization requires a lot of hard work in the beginning but once it is learned it becomes second nature.

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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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Oregon Post Game 12 Press Conference

2017 Women's College World Series

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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.

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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Personal sacrifices are really the beginning of the end of everything because you don't win because you do one thing or two things right. You win because you do one thousand little things right throughout the year.

Quote From Susan Butcher

One Thing I Can’t Stand To See On the Field

Written By Stacie Mahoe

Dallas / Fort Worth Coaches Group

One Thing I Can't Stand To See On The Field

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As a softball coach, softball parent, and former softball player, I have a pet peeve. Well, actually, I have more than one, but I won't bore you all with them. This one in particular I've seen too often recently and it REALLY drives me crazy!

Pet peeve: When the only thing a coach teaches their athletes is to “do as they're told” vs empowering them with the knowledge and tools they need to make smart decisions about their own training and performance.

This upsets me. It really does. I believe we, as coaches, should be building players up, not dumbing them down.

Don't be that coach. Empower your players!

How will players ever own, or take responsibility for, their training and performance if all they know how to do is what someone else tells them? When they've been trained to simple be a pack of followers instead of emerging leaders?

These same coaches rarely demonstrate, or pass on an understanding of, WHY players are doing what they do. I'm not sure these coaches know

WHY they run the drills they do or teach the methods and concepts they teach. All they seem to know is WHAT their team is “supposed to” do and how it should look.

These coaches typically do things because…

They think they're “supposed to”
Because it's what other teams are doing
Because they read it in a book somewhere
Because they saw it on a video
Because they heard about it at a seminar or convention
Because they saw it on tv
Because it's what everyone else is talking about
Etc, etc, etc

But they don't have any further understanding of the WHY behind it. They don't bother to dig past the WHAT. They think you can just throw a piece of a program into your team environment and it'll work just like magic. They don't understand that those pieces are part of a bigger picture and often don't quite work under different circumstances or without the other pieces of the larger whole.

These coaches can't tell their players what there is to gain from the methods or concepts they teach or when and how it should be applied. They mistakenly teach concepts as the ONLY way, usable in ALL situations.

Don't be that coach. Seek a deeper understanding of what you implement with your team. Know HOW you want it to work, WHAT you want it to accomplish, WHAT you want your team to get out of it, WHY you want to use it, and HOW it will help your players.

Any time you show your team something, or ask them to do or try something, you should be able to explain it well enough that they understand WHY they are doing it and how it can help them. They should understand the purpose of drills they do, otherwise they're just going through the motions and never get the most out of it. Heck, they may even miss the point entirely!

Do you have to explain every single detail of every single drill to every single player?

No.

But you should be able to explain if they, or anyone else, ask.

It IS your job to understand the details so you can help any player get the most from their training. You should be able to identify when something isn't working and why. You should have ideas on how you can help them improve and make adjustments necessary for maximum results in training and performance.

Don't ever leave your athletes thinking, “This is stupid. Why are we doing this? It doesn't make sense. ”

This does not help you. This does not help them. It's a sure fire way to waste precious time and energy and undermines your players' confidence in your ability to successfully train and lead them.

Don't be that coach. Dive deep into your craft. Care about what you do. Don't just stop at WHAT to do, understand WHY you're doing it and HOW it works so you can give your players reasons to WANT to do/try it. Plus, it's the only way you can make timely, effective corrections and adjustments to keep your team moving in the right direction. Without this understanding, when things don't go well, you'll be left wondering why, with no clue what to do or how to fix it.

Don't be that coach!

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