Monday, June 6, 2016
Oklahoma City, Oklahoma
Oklahoma – 3, Auburn – 2
Patty Gasso, Shay Knighten, Paige Parker, Sydney Romero
THE MODERATOR: Good evening. At this time we have Oklahoma on the dais. Coach, we'll start with general comments about the game.
PATTY GASSO: Another tough battle, and we are just really riding on adrenaline right now. I think our team came out ready to play. I liked what Paige did. She was pretty efficient. I can normally ask her — how many pitches did you throw?
PAIGE PARKER: 92.
PATTY GASSO: It was 91. It's freaky how she can do that, but she can do it. I thought it was pretty efficient and effective, and I thought our defense, especially at the end of the game, the way Shay stepped up for Paige, the way Syd stepped up for Paige, I thought we hit the ball hard throughout the night, but the big one by Syd to help her pitcher stay out there and get it done was special. Really proud of the effort tonight.
Q. Sydney, can you take us through the home run in the third inning, what pitch you were looking for and what pitch you got?
SYDNEY ROMERO: I just had my game plan. I was talking with my hitting coach before, and we had a game plan and I stuck with it and executed.
Q. Patty, can you describe what's going through your head as you watch Sydney round third? You looked like you were shaking your head a little bit on the home run.
PATTY GASSO: Every time she comes around, I just say, Sydney Romero. I don't know why, except just it's Sydney Romero. I really don't even have any idea what I was doing, I just know I said, Sydney Romero. She executed a nice plan, sat back on that and hit it hard to give us a little bit of confidence.
Q. Patty and Shay, we have watched you guys score a lot of points, you can run, but you've talked about this defense all year, so again, it comes up huge in this game, and then Shay, when she answers, if you could follow with talk about the defensive play tonight and the big play in the game.
PATTY GASSO: We were in a tough position right there, and we knew their style. We know that if there's an angle down, a ball hit on the ground, the runner at third will break, and you could see that they were trying to do that with every leadoff and every pitch that was taken. They were jumping real hard, almost to a point where Lea (Wodach) was wanting to pick that way. But that's part of their game plan so we knew anything that was going to be hit hard and then knowing them and how they're coached, their execution would be to the right side of the field, which is where it should be.
Shay, that was just a testimony to her love for her team and the will to make a play, took it off the chin, gathered it up, Wodach sticking at home plate. It was tremendous, and those are plays you need to win championships and national championships.
I think earlier in the game, CC (Caleigh Clifton) made a really nice play in the three-four hole to throw the runner out at first. We felt like we kept taking momentum away, but the end of the game was something that I will treasure because these guys have to deal with me every day on defense, and I keep telling them, defense wins championships, but they don't believe me sometimes.
Q. Shay, do you believe her?
SHAY KNIGHTEN: Oh, I definitely believe her. For me it was doing it for Paige, doing whatever it took for my team. I don't know why, but I had a feeling that the ball was going to be hit to the right side and I knew how they swing it was going to be hit hard, so I just knew if I keep my body in front of it, knock it down, I'll have a play somewhere, and like Coach said, I just took it off the chin, and I saw her running so I just tried to get it as quick as I could but make an accurate throw to Lea, and she stuck it.
Q. Similar situation late against Michigan and found a way through. What is it about this young team that allows them to keep coming through in these situations?
PATTY GASSO: I wish I could bottle it up and keep it because it's pretty incredible, but it's just their spirit of competition and refusing to lose, not wanting to get beat, finding ways to make plays, finding things — finding ways to make things happen in their favor. They are a very tight-knit group and they are OK — when the ball got hit over the fence, no one panicked, and the attitude was we've got you. You could see them kind of raise each other up that way, and it's special to watch. It's a really special dynamic that I haven't seen in a team I don't think ever, and it's really special. It's something that I'll always remember as the style that this team has. It's very fun to watch.
Q. Paige, what does it mean to you to have your defense making plays like that, and what are you thinking when that ball is hit at her and she's throwing it to home at that?
PAIGE PARKER: It means the world to me. I know how hard our defense works every day at practice, and for them to come up big like that, it's just something really special, and when Shay made that play — when that ball was hit, I knew Shay was going to make that make that play because I see her make that play all the time. I just have the utmost confidence in our defense, and they came up really big tonight.
Q. Paige, was there any part of you that wished you would have let Sydney get that ball that you overthrew to first base and how did you regather yourself after that?
PAIGE PARKER: I think I just rushed it a little bit. I just went after the ball. I didn't really think about Syd in that situation. I just kind of reacted, and I think I just rushed it a little bit, and I just had to compose myself afterward and go on from there. Just not let it affect me at all.
Q. Sydney, do you remember the exact pitch and what it was in that home run, like a changeup fastball, and then for Paige, what does that do for momentum getting that early lead?
SYDNEY ROMERO: What were you asking?
Q. Do you remember the exact pitch on that home run?
SYDNEY ROMERO: Yes.
Q. What kind of pitch was it?
SYDNEY ROMERO: It was a changeup.
Q. Paige, what does that do for your momentum?
PAIGE PARKER: I think it was a really big momentum shift. Us getting two runners on and Sydney coming up, I knew she was going to do something big in that situation, and it was definitely a momentum shift for us, and it gave me a lot of confidence on the mound.
Q. Sydney, with your sister's experience I assume you've been to the World Series before. You've played in it this year. You obviously know the memories and all the things that come out of this. For you to have such a huge hit in this game, what does that mean for you knowing what this series means, and Patty, is there anything — you talked earlier in the week about sort of Romero genes. Is there anything about that that has sort of allowed her to have that kind of play in this series?
PATTY GASSO: Well, we've talked about — like you said, we talked about it before. Sierra is Syd's hero and has taught her how to play the game, or played along with her, and Syd in the early part of the year was always Sierra's little sister Syd, and we needed to establish Sydney Romero, thus every time she rounds third, I say Sydney Romero, because I want Sydney Romero to be Sydney Romero, in honor of her sister Sierra who taught her how to swing the bat probably and her dad and her family. They're a very tight-knit family and so she's doing it for her family, for her sister but this is Syd Romero who's doing it, and it's been pretty cool to see her really kind of gravitate and understand that.
Q. Syd, from your perspective?
SYDNEY ROMERO: I mean, being here at the World Series in the previous years, I felt like I've been living in my sister's experience because all I've wanted to do is be on that field, and the fact that we're here and stepping up in that game, it felt really good.
Q. Paige, through six innings you had allowed two or three hits, no runs, you had struck out nobody. I'm just wondering what kind of a game were you having. Were you particularly crafty tonight to make that happen?
PAIGE PARKER: I don't think so. I was just trying to go out there and execute the game plan to the best of my ability, and like I said, just trust my defense, and they came up big.
Q. Did you know you hadn't struck anyone out at that point?
PAIGE PARKER: Yeah, I did. (Laughter).
Q. Coach, I was just wondering if Auburn's starting Lexi Davis, a pitcher who hasn't pitched this postseason, if that caught you by surprise and how you think she performed in that situation?
PATTY GASSO: I think she did well. I know she's a senior, so in some respect, I wasn't necessarily so surprised, but we didn't know, and we were ready. We talked and looked at — we did. We had to look at all of them and just be prepared for it. So it wasn't really a major detail but more of understanding what they brought and what we needed to do. I thought we hit the ball pretty hard tonight. They made some good plays. It was just talking about it and knowing what we needed to do.
Q. Patty, what have you seen from the work JT (Gasso) has done with Sydney, and for all we talk about family with this team, what is it like watching that for you?
PATTY GASSO: Is he here?
THE MODERATOR: He's in the back.
PATTY GASSO: Oh. Prideful. I've got to stop. Prideful.
Q. Patty, I just want to ask about Shay Knighten starting in the outfield to start the season and Lea Wodach starting in the outfield to start the season, and Shay obviously has an arm so she threw her out at home, but what's it like to see those two change so much to kind of take that next step?
PATTY GASSO: When we did that, our world changed. We lost Whitney Montgomery, who was one of the best catchers in the country, and one of our mottos and something we always say, and it's no disrespect to anybody, but there's no one player bigger than our team. So with that Lea Wodach said, “It's me, I've got you guys.” So we moved her back to the plate, behind the plate. Her offense suffered a little bit, but we picked her up that way. Kady Self was playing first base. CC wasn't even in the lineup I don't think, or her and Shay were kind of moving in and out, so moving Kady back to left field where she feels most comfortable, and Shay was having a little bit of injury problems, so kept CC at second, who's got phenomenal range, and Shay Knighten is an excellent first baseman, as you saw tonight. She's tough. That changed our world. When we made those changes, everything really seemed to click very well, and it changed our world.
Q. Patty, three years ago you brought back not Keilani Ricketts to pitch in Game 2 of the national championship you won. Any chance you have a fresh Paige Parker?
PATTY GASSO: I don't know. I don't know yet. I don't know. We've got to go back and talk. Our pitching staff is just waiting. They're sitting in waiting and saying whenever you need us, we're ready. They're just waiting. It's all about tomorrow and what we feel like after a good night's rest and so forth, so we haven't even gotten that far yet.
Q. Interesting that you mentioned that Paige threw 91 pitches, not all that many relatively. How important is that as you go forward?
PATTY GASSO: Very important, but also at the same time when you get into this game, you can't feel — you cannot feel anything. You cannot feel pain. You cannot feel tired. You cannot feel sore. You can't. You've got to live off of adrenaline. That's what wins championships. So there are no excuses, anyone, no one. They're going to find a way. I mean, a lot of these guys are banged up, but you don't know it because they will not take themselves out of this game. So it is everything — you're dreaming of this day, and every one of these guys are going to beg to be on that field. I know that. And they're going to beg to get in the game somehow to help this team win a championship.
Q. Paige, what have you been doing to try to stay as fresh as possible? Is it the same routine, or have you added some things to try to keep your body fresh?
PAIGE PARKER: I have a pretty good routine with our trainer, and it's just making sure I ice afterward and just doing whatever I have to do to feel fresh for the next day.
Clint Myers, Jade Rhodes, Lexi Davis, Carlee Wallace, Emily CarosoneTHE MODERATOR: Good evening. At this time we have Auburn on the dais. Coach, general comments about the game?
CLINT MYERS: Well, I think it was a heck of a game. I mean, I'm very proud of the Auburn softball team. I'm very proud of Lexi Davis. I mean, there was some talk about why she was pitching, and I think you saw why she pitched. She gave up seven hits. Five never left the infield. If we make a play at first base, we win that ballgame. She pitched well enough to win, we just didn't support her defensively or offensively.
This is a good ballclub. You're going to see us come out fighting tomorrow. Nobody is hanging their heads. We're excited to be here. We've been in this spot against one heck of a good team called the University of Arizona. You've got to win two. You can pick the first two, you can pick the first and last; we chose to pick the last two. That's all it is. But it is just that way. We still believe, and nothing has changed. You've got to win two games, and you're going to see Auburn coming out and — I can't say enough about Corey's (Myers) plan, the pitches that he called, keeping them off balance in and out, and again, a couple little mistakes, if we don't hesitate at third, we're safe at the plate, we all might be still out there playing. You never know.
So I mean, there's just a lot of things that were really good that happened to us tonight, so we're not hanging our heads. We're ready for tomorrow night.
Q. Lexi, Sydney Romero has become increasingly difficult to get out in this World Series. Talk about the challenge of facing her.
LEXI DAVIS: Yeah, I mean, we've been watching her the whole series, and I think that obviously she's a great hitter. I made one bad pitch that she took advantage of, and that's — we unfortunately had two on base, and I think that I wish I could have made that bunt play, and if I didn't get that walk on base, then it would have been a whole different story. Just whenever I get back out there, if I get the chance, then we'll clean up those errors and we'll get it back on base.
Q. Emily, the coaching staff continually points to that super regional series against Arizona. What did you learn and what can you take away from backs against the wall, coming back and needing to win?
EMILY CAROSONE: We've been against the wall plenty of times. We know how to handle it, like Coach said. It's not over. The season is not over yet. We still have a game to play with and two more to win. We know what we need to do. They have one pitcher, and in the last inning you could see we were on her. I don't think the next two games will take as long to score some runs for our pitchers, so I think we're better off. It was a warm-up.
Q. Jade, Emily just kind of touched on it a little bit, but do you feel like you've figured out Paige Parker a little bit in that last inning?
JADE RHODES: I mean, it's all about going up there and hitting the ball. You can't really — I don't really have much to say because we still have two more games. We've been here before, so just play our game, play Auburn softball, and we're guaranteed to win.
Q. Lexi, what was the conversation today when they told you that you were going to be starting, and obviously that had to be very exciting for you because I know you've been chomping at the bit to get back out there.
LEXI DAVIS: Well, he pulled me into our meeting room around, gosh, about 9 this morning and told me that I was going to be starting, and I was ecstatic. I've been ready all season. I've been down in the bullpen throwing. I know they've had a plan. It's not exactly what my plan has been this whole season, but I've taken on a different role and just tried to do my job whenever I'm needed. So he called me in there, and confidence was the key, and that's what I tried to go out there and exude. That's all I could ask for was a second chance, and I hope I did the best I could.
Q. Carlee, seemed like a lot of pop-ups tonight. How frustrating was that at the plate and what are you planning on doing differently tomorrow?
CARLEE WALLACE: I'm not worried about it. I mean, it's just a game of inches, so I mean, I wasn't missing it by much. Pop-up is a pop-up, and I've kind of popped up quite a bit and a little bit more than I would like to, but I think last at-bat I tried to put together a really team-oriented at-bat and not be selfish with the pitches. I was getting a little bit bigger than my swing normally is, and I think that's the only thing I need to control. My pitch selection was good, but I just need to kind of shorten my swing a little bit, and I kind of got excited when I got good pitches to hit and kind of lifted up a little bit. As long as I can calm it down a little bit and shorten up my swing, I think we'll be fine. I think that's the general consensus of the team, what we need to do.
Q. Clint, could you talk about what exactly what happened on the play at the plate? You said she hesitated?
CLINT MYERS: Right, it's the same play that happened with Morgan (Podany) scoring. The freshmen know their roles, and we brought the smartest, fastest runner we had available who's really done a good job, and she made a mistake. I mean, it's — you've heard here, it's a game of inches. There was a hesitation. Hesitation cost her being out at the plate. I mean, Courtney (Shea) hit the crap out of it. I mean, they were real lucky that first baseman made a heck of a play just keeping it in front of her. Six inches or a foot either way that's down the line, we score two, Courtney is on second and we're ahead and they're going to have to come back in the seventh to beat us.
So I mean, this was a good game for us. We did everything right. We just got to do a little bit of the little things better, and that's our plan for tomorrow.
Q. Their coach said she wouldn't commit that Parker was starting tomorrow. She said they had other pitchers that were ready. Is that a possibility that you take into account?
CLINT MYERS: All I know is they're going to have somebody in the circle, and that's not going to change our mindset or what we have to do. I mean, we've got to be able to go out there and hit quality pitches and put good swings on them like Carlee was just talking about. We just missed a lot of balls. You look at Jade sitting next to me, I mean, she just missed the time before, but she didn't miss the last time. I mean, that was a hell of a swing, and she was — it was low effort, great contact, took a line drive out in center field. We have great capabilities on this team, and it's unfortunate that we were on the losing side because I thought we played pretty well. I know we pitched very well. We hit some balls — even our outs, some of them were hit quite hard.
Q. Carlee, why did you start this crazy workout program that you did in the offseason?
CARLEE WALLACE: I had done CrossFit pretty much since I was in middle school. My parents were always huge — because I'm small to be as strong as I possibly can be, and that was basically going to be my shot when I got to college to keep up with the girls that are like a foot taller than me. So I've always kind of done it.
But my dad works with the sheriff's department, so he kind of knew Chappy, my trainer, that way, and it's really close to my house, like down the street. So I don't know, I just kind of went there and talked to him, and he was really stoked about training me when I told him that I could have a shot at winning a national championship. So that's kind of how I ended up there.
Q. And what was the hardest thing that he had you do?
CARLEE WALLACE: We condition every day, so it's — I mean, there's a lot of crazy things that you do in CrossFit. Probably the hardest thing would be to carry him on my back up a hill. That's the hardest part because usually we do that after the workout, so when my legs are fatigued, that was him showing me if my heart and mind tell me I can do it, that's exactly how far I can go. He said, enjoy the numbness that you're feeling right now and just go, so it's kind of been like how I've been trying to, I guess, make my entire like softball career, like kind of center it around exactly what he told me, that feeling.
Q. Coach, how does she play bigger than she is behind the plate?
CLINT MYERS: How does she play bigger?
CARLEE WALLACE: Don't ask that question.
CLINT MYERS: Again, she's a great athlete that works very hard at her craft. Though she stands 3-2, I don't know, umpires love her because of the fact that — they're a little worried because she's given a high target and she's standing on her toes. No, she just does a great job. She's got a big heart. She competes. When we first saw her when we were at Arizona State, she was, if you can believe this, shorter than she is now. She has grown. But again, the biggest thing that you noticed about her was the fight. She is a competitor.
Q. Just want to ask, first off, you've had some good defenses in the past. What does it take or what kind of hesitation can that put on runners on the base path when you know you're going up against a defense like that?
CLINT MYERS: Well, I mean, we pride ourselves — we spend a lot of time on our defense. The double play that Emily made to take them out of the big inning, everybody was really excited, but I bet you if you look at the book, she's probably done that five, six times. I mean, we're at a point now in the season where there's a lot that goes with instinct, and when you have an infield that's really clicking together, I mean, they know where each of them are at all the time. You don't even have to look.
But again, it's — defense can kill rallies, defense can win ballgames, and we did a pretty good job with the defense today. I mean, like I said, she gave up seven hits. Five of them never left the infield. I mean, that's pretty good pitching. That's pretty good defense.
Q. Their defense, did it feel like they were putting more pressure on your runners, as well?
CLINT MYERS: I mean, somebody asked me today, and I'll answer it this way: Oklahoma and Auburn are very, very similar in the coaches' philosophies, what they teach, and how they approach the game. I mean, and offensively we're going against our defense all the time, so that gives kind of an edge. Well, offensively for them when — and I haven't ever been to an Oklahoma practice so I can't really say how much they go against their defense, but we go against our defense every single day, turning double plays, working relays and cuts, and again, it gives us that edge offensively and defensively because I think we're pretty good.
Q. Emily, talking about the Arizona super regional, was that the experience that gave you guys the confidence that you have right now that you can come back, or have you had experiences earlier this season that allowed you to do that in the super regional? If so, what were those experiences?
EMILY CAROSONE: We definitely have had more than just the Arizona, but I think since the Arizona was so close and that team was so dominant, and for us to come out on top just shows Auburn's character, just shows that it's not over — if we have an out, we're going to play with it and we're going to keep going.
But like I said, Arizona was a good team, and we pulled it out. We did great. That's what I expect for the next two games.
Championship Series Game 1: Oklahoma 3, Auburn 2
- In the first game of the best-of- three Championship Series of the 2016 Women’s College World Series, No. 3 seed Oklahoma defeated No. 4 seed Auburn, 3-2. The Sooners extended their winning streak to 31 consecutive games and improved to 56-7. The Tigers dropped to 57-11.
- Oklahoma is making its fourth appearance in the Championship Series (2000, ’12, ’13, ’16), while Auburn is appearing in the best-of- three series for the first time in school history.
- In its 10th appearance (2000, ’01, ’02, ’03, ’04, ’11, ’12, ’13, ’14, ’16), Oklahoma improved to 21-14 at the Women’s College World Series. Auburn is 5-3 in its second-ever appearance at the WCWS (2015, ’16).
- Through the first 34 WCWS, only 14 coaches have won the NCAA title. Mike Candrea (8) and Sharon Backus (7, after 1995 title was vacated) lead the way. Next is Sue Enquist with three. Auburn head coach Clint Myers and Oklahoma head coach Patty Gasso are seeking to become the fourth coach in WCWS history to win three NCAA titles. Myers won two NCAA titles during his tenure at Arizona State (2008, ’11), while Gasso has won a pair of championships with the Sooners (2000, ’13). Myers would also become the first coach in WCWS history to win national championships with multiple programs.
- The game marked the first matchup between the two teams since 2011. Oklahoma is 3-0 all-time against
- Oklahoma took the lead after Sydney Romero drilled a three-run home run to left center, scoring sophomore Kelsey Arnold and Erin Miller. The homer marked the 13th time in the last 14 WCWS games that the Sooners have hit at least one home run, dating back to 2012. Romero has hit 10 home runs this season (four during the NCAA Tournament).
- Auburn senior Jade Rhodes cut the deficit down to 3-2 with a two-run blast to center field. Rhodes has homered in back-to- back games and is hitting .417 (5-for- 12) with seven RBI at the WCWS.
- Oklahoma sophomore pitcher Paige Parker earned the win in Game 1 to move to 37-3. Parker leads the nation this season and she has won 27 straight appearances. The sophomore allowed four hits and two runs, while striking out one in a complete-game performance.
- In nine starts in the NCAA Tournament, Parker is 9-0 with nine complete games, tossing 62.0 innings. The sophomore has a 2.26 ERA and struck out 53 in OU’s nine postseason games. At the 2016 WCWS, Parker is 4-0 with 2.41 ERA and 20 strikeouts. The victory tied the OU record for wins at a single WCWS. Jennifer Stewart (2000) and Keilani Ricketts (2012, ’13) also won four games, respectively.
- Making her first start in the 2016 NCAA Tournament, Auburn senior Lexi Davis took the loss for the Tigers to fall to 6-1. Davis gave up seven hits and three runs with two walks and one strikeout.
- Oklahoma’s Shay Knighten extended her hitting streak to a career-best eight games with a single in the first inning. The freshman is hitting .533 (8-for- 15) with two home runs and seven RBI at the 2016 WCWS. Knighten finished 2-for- 3 against Auburn.
- OU’s Erin Miller collected two hits in the win while Caleigh Clifton, Fale Aviu and Kelsey Arnold all added in one hit each for the Sooners.
- In nine of the 13 games at the 2016 WCWS, the team trailing has had the tying run on base in either the sixth or seventh inning.
- Monday’s game was the third in the WCWS to finish in less than two hours. Monday’s contest lasted 1:50. The previous two were finished in 1:59 (Game 9: Florida State 1, Michigan 0) and 1:54 (Game 10: LSU 4, Georgia
- Game 2 of the WCWS Championship Series will be played at 7 p.m. CT on Tuesday. The if-necessary third game will be held at 6 p.m. CT on Wednesday.
- Attendance for Game 1 was 8,171.
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