WCWS Game 1 Quotes and Notes (Florida 11, Baylor 0 — 5 Innings)
THE MODERATOR: Hello, welcome to the 2014 Women's College World Series. With us is Florida. To my right head coach Tim Walton, Hannah Rogers, Kirsti Merritt and Chelsea Herndon, and to my left is Aubree Munro.
COACH WALTON: First of all congratulations to Baylor, I thought they played a very good super regional. We were watching as we were waiting through rain. Really good team and for our team come out and to get as many runs as we were able to get early off of Whitney Canion, that was the goal — to get as many runs as we could, because we know what their offense can do and has done. I give Kirsti a huge amount of credit for getting that first hit. Obviously they made a mistake and we were able to capitalize on it, getting that twoout hit by Bailey in the gap. Hannah went out and challenged the strike zone and pitched well with all pitches. Defensively we made some really nice plays. That's what you expect. We practice hard. We changed up our routine from being here as many times as we had. I felt like our players came in confident, calm, under control and we warmed up well. And how about a freshman in her first atbat at the College World Series hitting a grand slam off one of her former teammates. I thought that was good stuff.
Q. Tim, talk about what your offense is doing lately, with five mercy-rule wins in the postseason. What has gotten this team cranking like that?
COACH WALTON: I think the Georgia loss humbled us. We had to reevaluate our offensive approach. And not just one hitter, but top to bottom. We went back and spent a couple of days evaluating where we were at and what we're capable of. We've done a better job of hitting the ball on the ground.
We have done a better job of hitting line drives. We’ve got enough bunts; not too many, but enough. We've gone to the slap a lot more; you can see our hitters going to that. I think it's been more of that. Preparation for Washington was probably as good of a job by our coaching staff as we've ever done. We spent hours upon hours, upon hours preparing for them because, to be quite honest, we thought they were maybe a little bit better than we were. They had some tools and players that were really, really good and we needed to figure out how to neutralize that. Give our kids credit for hard work and dedication to a plan.
Q. Hannah, speak to last year. The first inning was not a good first inning for you. Talk about being able to play uphill versus downhill. HANNAH ROGERS: I think the way I have been pitching lately has given me confidence to go out there and shut it down. Also, how good our offense is doing right now as well, as long as you can go out and have fun and do what you do.
Q. Aubree, what kind of stuff did she have?
AUBREE MUNRO: Ever since postseason (began) Hannah has had that look in her eye. She's been really focused and getting in really good work in the pen and so she's been bringing it every day. It was no different today.
Q. Hannah, how are you different as a pitcher and how you think about pitching from when you were here that first time as a freshman?
HANNAH ROGERS: I think my freshman year, you're here for the experience and you're just having a good time. Also it's your first time here so there are a lot of nerves there. It's my third time being here, so I'm trying to be confident and be there for my teammates and allow them to feel like they're at home here.
Q. Kirsti, what's gotten into your bat?
KIRSTI MERRITT: I think it has to do with the slapping. It's making my swing very smooth. It's changed everything.
Q. What have you done differently with it?
KIRSTI MERRITT: It changes my mechanics, I guess. I went to the slap and it makes me see the ball better and hit the ball better than when I'm standing in.
Q. Chelsea, you hit a grand slam in the World Series. Is that something you dream about?
CHELSEA HERNDON: Definitely. I went up there with a clear mind and I was calm. I wasn't going to let the nerves get a hold of me and when I saw a good pitch I took a hack at it.
Q. How many times have you faced that pitcher before?
CHELSEA HERNDON: I used to play with her in high school so I faced her a lot in practice. I wasn't going to let that get to me.
Q. Tim, can you elaborate on your adjustments from before.
COACH WALTON: We changed our routine. We've stayed at the same hotel, done a lot of different things. But this time we got off the plane on Monday night after a long day on Sunday and instead of coming here we went up and had dinner and got everybody out of the hotel room and went and hit. You know, we've kind of got our own thing going at the hotel. They have a nice breakfast station for us and it feels like we're on another SEC road trip, keeping it simple a little bit. And to comment on what Kirsti said, her slap is brand new. That's what she is saying. It's helped her smooth her hands out and feel and see the ball. It's something brand new that she has never done before. Q. Chelsea, have you known Heather a long time? Have y'all stayed in touch?
CHELSEA HERNDON: Yeah, we stay in touch, congratulate each other on going to the World Series and the successes we have had, but that's about it. I'm in Florida and she is in Waco, but we stay in touch, we communicate.
Q. What kind of a pitch was it you got?
CHELSEA HERNDON: It was down the middle, something that looked good! (Laughter.) Definitely what I was looking for.
Q. Kirsti, can you talk about the team offense and what it's been doing in the postseason? I know there were times during the regular season that you weren't as explosive as a team.
KIRSTI MERRITT: We're working together. Bailey just put down her first squeeze bunt, or maybe one of her first ever bunts. To be able to do that, have a power hitter come and do that to get our offense going, we're really just working together.
Q. Coach, I know you were a college baseball player. I was an SID for many years in college baseball. There are so many differences between the two sports, one of them being how the bracketing is set up. You come back and play tomorrow whereas in college baseball you're rewarded for winning by having a day off. I imagine the way your offense is playing right now you like the concept of coming back and playing? Talk about the differences.
COACH WALTON: Being at the College World Series as a player twice, the first time we were there and won the championship and seemed like we were there forever, enjoyed it, did a lot of cool things. Coming here you know what the expectations are. You play quick and we've done that a lot.
That's the one thing when I do my weekly interviews. Typically in softball you don't have the time to enjoy the successes of your wins. You have to get back and prepare quickly. I wish we would spread this out longer, but understand that the timing and the demographics of television and the fans themselves.
Just go with it and try to figure out how to make if it was over two weeks we would probably find something wrong with that. I think the system we have in place is as good as it can be and gives the athletes a great opportunity to see a lot of people in the stands and themselves on TV. It's our moment. It happens before baseball starts their regionals and super regionals. It's softball's moment and I think it's special.
Q. Earlier they announced the tournament is going to be here until 2035. Your reaction?
COACH WALTON: The dugout that I was in today made me excited it's here until 2035. Been here six times and never had an opportunity to go into a bathroom and change and put sun screen on and do all those things. What they have done, I know it's baby steps but it's awesome. The dugout we had is awesome and it's comfortable. The old dugout, we were all tied up together. You know, it was really tight. I love it. Congratulations for Oklahoma City until 2035.
Q. When Bailey got the double you were animated. Was that about the moment or the kid?
COACH WALTON: About getting funnel cake. Told that kid it if we got a hit we were going to give her funnel cake and she got fired up! (Laughter.)
THE MODERATOR: Thank you.
THE MODERATOR: With us we have head coach Glen Moore, Whitney Canion and Jordan Strickland. We’ll start with an opening statement from Coach.
COACH MOORE: Felt like we were sucker punched quick, and we didn't respond. It was more what we did to ourselves than what Florida did to us. I thought they played a great game and we played maybe the worst game that I've been a part of coaching, I think in four or five years. You just can't play that way at this level and have a chance to win. We made mistakes all over our lineup and offensively we had some balls knocked down early that kept us from getting anything going and any momentum going offensively. And we dug that threerun hole early on.
Whit has been phenomenal. This team knows I call it like I see it, whether they agree with it or not. We stunk it up out there. Whit, her velocity was down. She's an upper 60s pitcher and she's throwing below 65, and you have those days. Sometimes you're not going to throw as hard. She didn't have it today and our defense didn't back her up.
Had an opportunity to come out of the first inning and make a play on a clear double-play ball. We let some balls drop. You could write a book on the mistakes we made today, so that's the result whenever you play a game like we played.
Q. Whitney, it seemed like the first inning set the tone. Could you sense any tenseness? What was it like?
WHITNEY CANION: No, I thought this team was ready to play. We were focused. We came out, we warmed up good. I had a good bullpen in warmups. We hit good on the field over there. I didn't sense any tenseness or nervousness from this team. I thought we were ready to play. I thought they did a good job of swinging at strikes and didn't “fish.” I kept trying to get them to swing at rise balls and they weren't going to swing. I struggled there and getting them to swing at the pitches I wanted them to. We did hurt ourselves there but they did a great job, too. They just kept going at us. I thought that was what happened at the end.
Q. Glenn, you talked about obviously you guys didn't play well. That fact, does it give you hope for Saturday, knowing that you can play better?
COACH MOORE: Well, I certainly know this team can play better. This is a great team. I don't have a crystal ball to tell you what's going to take place on Saturday, but I have confidence in the intestinal fortitude of this team, and they'll come back and fight. That was embarrassing. Nobody wants to play well more than the kids in green out there. It's my job as a coach to point out mistakes and where we're not giving effort. I don't think this team went out there not to make plays. They went out there to play hard. But they didn't play hard.
What I have to find out as a coach is why they didn't play hard. Why we didn't get dirty for balls that Florida did and dive for balls over the line and get a little chalk on our uniform. I have to figure out what held our team back. Like Whit said, warmups, the whole week we have been bam, bam, bam; everything has been lining up. We practiced well, leading up to it. I thought this team was as prepared as any team I've brought to the World Series, with a better chance of winning than the two previous teams. But yet we played worse than any team, at least in the initial game.
We'll fight back, I have no doubt. It's a big test. We're not done. It's a double-elimination tournament. Whether you lose by 1 run or by 11, it's still a loss. One good thing about it is Whit didn't have to throw 169 pitches so she'll rest tomorrow and we will fight our way back through the losers’ bracket.
Q. Whitney, you get the day off tomorrow. Would you prefer to go back out there tomorrow or would you enjoy the day of rest?
WHITNEY CANION: We're going to practice as a team tomorrow so I will throw a little bit and work out the kinks. I had some pitches that sometimes they're swung at throughout the year. But like Coach said, I didn't throw a ton of pitches so that's going to hopefully prepare us for Saturday.
Q. Whit, how difficult is that as a pitcher when you're seeing the team struggle behind you and trying to get out of that first inning?
WHITNEY CANION: It's difficult and I don't feel like the team was freaking out about it. It wasn't like, “Oh, we're on this stage.” I don't think it had anything to do with it. I think we had a miscue and they hit a few balls hard, and one thing led to another. I wouldn't say that happened because of immaturity or anything. I think this team is experienced and knowledgeable of the game but that wasn't the result of our errors.
Q. Jordan, you guys hit some balls pretty hard early. Clare hit one to the fence, y'all had a couple that bounced off their pitcher. Was that a bit discouraging at all that those weren't hits? And can you talk about their pitcher, too? What was she doing?
JORDAN STRICKLAND: That's softball. You're going to hit the ball hard and that's their job. We're in the World Series and their job is to make defensive plays. As an offense we need to keep hitting those balls and keep hackin' at 'em. I thought we tried. They just kept making great plays. Hannah had a great game. She approached each batter with a specific plan and she nibbled around the zone. So I felt like us hitters, we didn't know what he was going to call and what we were going to swing at, but I felt like we did hit a lot of hard balls. We just have to make it happen next time.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you.
In the first game of the 2014 Women’s College World Series, No. 5 seed Florida defeated No. 13 seed Baylor 11-0 in five innings. Florida improved to 51-12 on the year with the run-rule victory while Baylor fell to 47-15.
With the win, Florida will next play on Friday at 6 p.m. CT against the winner of No. 1 seed Oregon and No. 8 seed Florida State. Baylor will face the Oregon-Florida State loser at 11 a.m. CT on Saturday.
Making its sixth WCWS appearance (2008, ’09, ’10, ’11, ’13, ’14), Florida improved to 13-11 all-time in the WCWS with its win today. Baylor dropped to 3-5 all-time in its third WCWS appearance (2007, ’11, ’14).
The Gators’ 11 runs tied for the seventh most in WCWS history and are the most since Arizona State scored 14 runs vs. Florida (6/6/11).
Florida has outscored its opponents 60-4 so far in the 2014 NCAA postseason. It has posted six shutouts in seven games.
Florida’s 11 runs were the most in an opening game in WCWS history. The 11-run margin of victory was the largest in an opening game in WCWS history.
Florida starting pitcher Hannah Rogers improved to 27-8 this season, throwing a complete-game shutout. She gave up three hits and no walks while striking out three. Rogers is the NCAA active career wins leader with 124.
Making an appearance as a pinch hitter, Florida freshman Chelsea Herndon hit a grand slam in the fifth inning off high school teammate Heather Stearns to end the game. It was the ninth grand slam in WCWS history and the first since Florida’s Brittany Schutte hit one vs. Alabama (6/5/11). The home run was Herndon’s third on the season while the four RBIs marked a career high.
Florida sophomore Kirsti Merritt went 2-for-3 with two runs and one RBI. Merritt hit a single in the first inning and a solo home run in the third inning. The homer was Merritt’s 12th of the season and the second in her NCAA Tournament career (hit one in Florida’s final Super Regional game against Washington on Sunday).
Baylor senior pitcher Whitney Canion fell to 31-11 on the season. She surrendered five runs (two earned) in 3.1 innings of work. Canion gave up four hits and two walks while striking out two.
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