Washington Post Game 11 Press Conference
2017 Women's College World Series
Sunday June 4, 2017
Oklahoma City, Oklahoma
Florida – 5, Washington – 2
Washington interview with Heather Tarr, Julia DePonte, Casey Stangel, and Ali Aguilar
HEATHER TARR: You know, I think we are on a mission to go with our best stuff, and today we decided on Taran (Alvelo). You look at it, maybe hindsight, other two pitchers, Madi Schreyer and Samantha Manti did a phenomenal job containing Florida's offense, which is getting on a little bit of a roll. But you know, hindsight is 20/20 and maybe we pitch backwards to get to Taran in this type of a game. But like I said, we were going with what got us here.
(Delanie) Gourley was tough today, as she always is. She's fresh. She hasn't thrown that much. One of the best changeups that we've ever seen that's out there, very deceptive, throws it similar to her other pitches, so makes it tough. But I think she was at her best. We were trying to compete in the box the best we can, and we came up a little bit short, but what happened in that last inning when we scored those couple runs is this team. That's what this team does. Fights. Believes. Trusts each other. Trusts the plan, and couldn't be more proud of a group. Never coached a better group.
Q. Delanie Gourley is one of two senior pitchers in this tournament; can you talk about what you've seen out of the pitching in this tournament and maybe possibly the future? You've got three young pitchers. Just talk about your thoughts on that.
HEATHER TARR: Yeah, pitching, I think, is in a good place in our game, as evidenced by this tournament. I think the strike zone was fair. It was a true strike zone. I think in the past it's been a little bit iffy, maybe not calling the corners. But good strike zone for our game, and I just think the game is at a high right now in terms of pitching, defense, athleticism, just overall. It's an exciting time to be part of college softball and this game.
Q. Coach, Taran (Alvelo) finishes with, I think, 34 or 35 wins; what does that say about her in an age where softball is not usually one pitcher, it's usually more two pitchers?
HEATHER TARR: Yeah, the girls with Taran — although this season has been tremendous, but I think a pitcher doesn't get to that point without a team, and the team had her back, and they taught her a lot of things throughout the season, and there was a lot of things that this team helped her with, and obviously in the end, you know, a pitcher like that that can learn a lot of lessons throughout the season with her team can carry her team, and that's exactly what this team did. They were like the magic carpet that took her where she needed to go, and then likewise, she took us where we needed to go.
Q. Julia, you saw your coach get a little emotional talking about those last two runs. Can you talk about from your perspective what it meant to get those?
JULIA DePONTE: Yeah, like Coach Tarr said, it wasn't about me, it was about our team and doing it together. It wasn't about me. I did it for these two right here. They showed us a tremendous way, they showed us the way, they got us here. We wouldn't be here without them. They changed this culture, and like I said, that home run, whenever that hit, it's all about us. It's all about together. But it was for them, and it was for this team.
Q. Coach, talk about playing in the Pac-12 and how that conference prepares you all for postseason play, also in scheduling non-conference games that sets you up for conference play and then you get into Oklahoma City.
HEATHER TARR: Well, first and foremost, we literally have to thank our institution for supporting us in our endeavors. As you all know, we don't really live close to many teams that you can play outside of conference, so we have one other Division I school that is in our state.
For us to be able to travel and play and compete against the teams that we need to build our schedule for, I mean, we need that support, and we couldn't do it without it. When you do go and play the teams that you sit yourself up for, you have to win, so you have to have a team that can do it.
Playing in the Pac-12 conference, no disrespect to anybody else, but I believe that the conference has the best coaches, the best athletes, and it's a grind, and sometimes I think it's — and in a way, we kind of almost undermine ourselves, and that's no excuse. We compete. We have equal opportunity to get here and compete here as evidenced by UCLA, Oregon, and Washington all playing up until yesterday.
But we compete, and it's a grind, and they're smart coaches, and we play everybody every single year and everybody faces off, and no, we don't have a tournament at the end of the year, but the Pac-12 conference, like I said, it's a grind, and you can't hide in that conference, and you'd better bring it, or you're not going to be able to get out of it.
Q. Ali and Casey, I know it's emotional right now, but if you could could just sum up your careers at Washington.
CASEY STANGEL: I mean, this is the greatest thing I've ever been a part of. It's going to be really tough to not be a part of it every single day. We're always going to be Huskies and we're always going to be a part of this. But this group this year is the greatest thing that I think I will ever be a part of, and so I'm so thankful to the University of Washington and to our coaches and to our team and to our fans. A dream come true is truly an understatement.
ALI AGUILAR: Yeah, I think for Casey and I, we've never been to the World Series, and from the beginning of this year, we — like we have put on our shirts, we wanted to leave no doubt in people's mind that we were going to get here and that we were going to make a statement, and I think that the emotions come from how hard our entire team, our coaching staff and everyone that has been there like on a daily basis for us, like how hard we have worked to get here, and just how hard we've worked to keep the team together. There's a lot of pressure situations, but just a lot of good that's came from it, and I can't think of a better coaching staff that we get to play under. It's going to be hard not being around Coach Tarr all the time, just an amazing person to be able to learn from, and the rest of the coaching staff.
But yeah, I think it's just all that hard work that we've put in, and like Coach Tarr said, there's never going to be another thing that you work together with in a team more than getting to a World Series and winning a national championship. So yeah.
Q. Heather, is there a guessing game you have to play whether it's going to be (Delanie) Gourley or (Kelly) Barnhill, and is it hard to get the team prepared for both of them not knowing which one it's going to be?
HEATHER TARR: I think just, you know, hats off to Florida for having two and three arms. I don't know for the Washington Huskies if it was hard for us to prepare. I think we were ready. I think Gourley pitched a great game. I mean, I don't think it was us. She didn't miss. Maybe one time she missed, and we took advantage of it.
But they're very good. I think we would have liked to have seen both today, but we didn't. We were ready for either one.
All super regionals we had to face three arms, not to the caliber of those two, but we're used to having the preparation to have to do it. Just tip our cap to their pitching staff and their pitching coach. Very good.
Q. I have kind of a two-parter for you. First, can you just talk about what it meant for the program to get this group of seniors here to the World Series, and then can you talk about what they've meant to you as a coach and personally?
HEATHER TARR: Yeah, just in terms of like I have been lucky to have a lot of things set up for me to be successful, and like I'm just trying to give that back to the other people that get to play in this program. It's kind of like a gift that keeps on giving. Like fortunately for us, we were able to earn our way here and continue that gift. What they did for this program this year and the environment that they created and the standards that they helped us continue to set are things that will live forever, and how cool is that that you can say that you had that influence on a program that's already pretty dang good. So I'm just really proud right now.
Q. Julia, earlier you said these two helped change a culture. Can you expand on that a little bit?
JULIA DePONTE: Yeah, so since my freshman year, we've ended our season in Alabama, and yeah, we take the charter bus home two times in a row from Alabama. We're a really good team. We have really good players. But there was just something missing. There was something missing, and I think after sophomore year, we kind of went home that — because I think we were the best team last year. I really do. I think that we had the best offense. I think we had dynamic pitching. I think that we had everything that we needed to win a national championship, but we were missing something, and these two figured it out.
They led us here by bringing us together. That was something that we really appreciated was just being together, being a family, and it started from these two, they recognized that we needed to do something about our team chemistry, and we had team meetings, we did everything that we could to stay together, if there was a problem we stomped it out right away. We kept it in our circle, and they led it. They led it, and we didn't have that before. We didn't have those leaders. We had really good players, but we didn't have any leaders.
But these two are leaders, and they're very different liters. Casey Stangel is more outspoken, Ali Aguilar leads by example, and she tried to improve on being a leader, and I'm so proud of her because I like look up to her now, and I think I look up to both of them because they're both really good leaders, and like Coach Tarr said, they paved the way for our future and they changed our culture here and they changed what it meant to be a Husky, and like Coach Tarr said, this was already a really good program, but I mean, they did it, and I couldn't be more thankful for these two right here.
Game 11: Florida 5, Washington 2
- No. 1 seed Florida topped No. 6 seed Washington 5-2 on Sunday to remain undefeated at the 2017 Women’s College World Series. The Gators improve to 58-8, while the Huskies end their season with a 50-14 mark.
- With the win, Florida advances to the WCWS Championship Series for the third time in the last four seasons. Florida will be making its fifth appearance in the WCWS Championship Series (2009, ’11, ’14, ’15, ’17). Florida won the NCAA title in 2014 and 2015. The Gators will take on Oregon or Oklahoma in the 2017 WCWS Championship Series starting Monday at 6 p.m. CT.
- Florida is 25-12 all-time in the WCWS, and Sunday’s victory marked its 13th win at the event since 2014. The Huskies, who were playing in the semifinals for the first time since 2013, dropped to 24-21 at the event.
- The Gators jumped out in front in the top of the first as Kayli Kvistad recorded her second home run at the WCWS, a solo shot to left center. After Amanda Lorenz pushed Florida’s lead to 2-0, Kvistad added two more RBIs with a single in the top of the second to tack on two more runs. The junior finished 2-for-3 with a run scored, a double and three RBIs.
- Florida catcher Alex Wheaton drove in her fifth run of the WCWS with a single up the middle in the fifth, plating Nicole DeWitt. DeWhitt added two hits, walked once and scored once for the Gators.
- Florida’s 1-2-3 hitters (Lorenz, Kvistad and DeWitt) were 5-for-11 with a home run, three runs scored and four RBIs against the Huskies.
- In her first career start at the WCWS, Florida pitcher Delaine Gourley (22-4) threw a two-hitter to earn the win. The senior struck out 10 in the complete-game performance, allowing two unearned runs by surrendering a home run to Washington’s Julia DePonte with two outs in the bottom of the seventh. The complete game was Gourley’s 17th of the season.
- Gourley has not allowed an earned run in 60.1 innings pitched dating back to April 15 at Kentucky.
- Florida’s pitching staff has yet to allow an earned run in 19 innings at the 2017 WCWS.
- Washington pitcher Taran Alvelo (35-9) lasted 1.1 innings, surrendering four runs on five hits in the loss. The sophomore finishes the year tied for third in Washington single-season history with 35 wins. Madi Schreyer threw 4.2 innings in relief, giving up a run on two hits. Samantha Manti threw the final inning in relief for the Huskies.
- Washington designated player Julia DePonte picked up her seventh home run season by drilling a two-run blast to left center in the bottom of the seventh. Taylor Van Zee provided the Huskies with their first hit in the game with a second-inning infield single.
- Florida is 34-1 when hitting at least one home run in a single game.