WCWS Game 3 Quotes and Notes: Kentucky vs. ULL
THE MODERATOR: With Louisiana Lafayette, to my right, head coach Michael Lotief, Christina Hamilton, Samantha Walsh and Lexie Elkins. We will start with comments from Coach.
COACH LOTIEF: All right. I'm proud of my kids. I always will be. They're on a big stage obviously and you want to play your best softball and that's not what happened tonight. In athletics, whether it's softball or any athletics, you see it happen all the time. My memory was with the Denver Broncos and Peyton Manning. You know that big stage, you're prepared, you're ready, you worked hard, you want to do your best. We talked about it in the locker room. You're excited, the venue is good, everything is rolling and you don't play your best. Why? I don't know the answer to that right now. I told my kids, we just had a little discussion about it. First thing you have to do is be thankful for the opportunity that you just were given and then the next thing, just have to have a shortterm memory.
You can't be labeled by one performance. Now it's about fighting and surviving and that's what we plan on doing. I'm proud of our fans. I think our fans were loud and they kept trying to motivate us and get us into it. We just never found our rhythm. That's the game. It's a tough game, and tonight just wasn't our night.
Q. Christina, talk about your performance. Seemed like they got on you early and some early runs, some errors and defense didn't make plays. Talk about how it felt out there.
CHRISTINA HAMILTON: I felt like I didn't do a good job of hitting my spots and making my pitches the way I was supposed to. I felt like they were inconsistent. We had some good atbats but for the most part, inconsistent pitching. That's pretty much how that happened.
Q. Lexie and Samantha, talk about what Nunley was doing in the circle that kept you off balance and what was working for her?
LEXIE ELKINS: We talked about it and it wasn't that we didn't prepare or make adjustments. It just wasn't our game. I mean, I trust if we faced her again we would be able to do our jobs.
She was throwing us in and out, she threw that rise ball sometimes, and threw her changeup.
SAMANTHA WALSH: I think we didn't do as good of a job as we needed to sitting on one pitch. We were trying to guess. At least that was my problem. I'm not going to speak for all the hitters because I'm not sure. Instead of sitting on that one pitch, I was guessing when she was going to try to throw offspeed and she had me off balance.
Q. Sam, you talked about the pitcher and not hitting your spots, but she was aggressive. Can you compare her to another pitcher you saw over the season and what was the difference between her throwing hard and pitching today compared to what you've seen through the postseason?
SAMANTHA WALSH: I don't think we've seen anybody like her, and that may have been a little bit of the problem. Like she said, if we could see her again, it wouldn't be the same game. Today just wasn't our day.
Q. Samantha and Lexie, defensive errors tonight lead to 2 runs. Kentucky said they didn't feel any sense of nerves. Did y'all feel nerves out there? Was it anything they were doing in terms of pressure? What do you contribute to the slipups defensively?
SAMANTHA WALSH: I feel like nobody is going to play perfect. There is always going to be an error here and there. I don't think we were nervous. I think we were in a good place when we went into the game, it's just it happened.
LEXIE ELKINS: Like she said, they're just going to happen. We came in knowing that we were going to be playing the other seven best teams in the country. So errors are going to happen. I don't think nerves got to us, it just, again, was not our day.
Q. Coach, if you could talk about the lack of timely hitting. Part of the game tonight? Runners on in five innings and just not able to get 'em around.
COACH LOTIEF: Well, offensively we have been hitting well for the last month and a half. This team has not had a bad game, kinda been in a rhythm. I watch a lot of baseball and I watch a lot of softball and at some point it's just not going to happen.
There is no reason to go soul searching. These kids know how to hit. They're competitors. They wanted to hit tonight. They were prepared. We knew what the other pitcher was going to do. We were prepared for it. We had a plan. These kids know how to hit and they're going to bounce back. I'm not going to sit up here and make excuses, but I'm also not going to sit up here and scratch my head, either. I love these kids. I love who they are, I love how they compete. I love what they've done. I'll come back on this stage every year and not have our best performance, it's just part of it. Nothing to be ashamed of. I'm proud of 'em. I want them to be proud of themselves. I want them to learn and grow from their experience and keep lovin' each other and keep fightin' and keep learnin' and keep growin'.
Q. Coach, obviously like you said, errors happen and obviously they happen, but when you don't hit they manifest themselves. What do you try to do to get the team to say to understand if you commit errors, things like this could happen. Try to get them to calm down and be more defensive oriented?
COACH LOTIEF: That's how we played all year. We're not a great defensive team, we're not a bad defensive team, but we're not going to play perfect softball. The expectations when we came here were not to play perfect softball. If you start breaking down the box score, you start looking at what happened, this kid is sittin' here saying she didn't throw her best game, she threw a fivehitter. She missed some spots but she gave them a pretty good offensive game, keeping them off balance. We didn't play great defense, but that's who we are.
You watched us all year, the opening round of regionals we dropped a little fly ball, but that doesn't discourage us. When we make an error or don't do something perfect, that's not our plan. We're not trying to be perfect. Just trying to play the game with a lot of energy and just keep believing in each other and I'm proud of these kids. Proud of these kids. I'm proud of how they play and proud of how hard they fight. I'm proud of who they are. I'm going to keep sayin' it. I love these kids. I love how they fight. They're good kids, and they wanted to do good on this day. You got to write something bad, say it was the Coach.
Q. You know I wouldn't do that.
COACH LOTIEF: Well it's okay.
Q. Obviously the next game you're going to face arguably one of the top teams in the country or the defending national champions. What are you going to do to get your team ready?
COACH LOTIEF: We played Oklahoma already at our place and obviously we've been preparing for Alabama in either situation, so there are no gimmes at this point. Right now it's all about us, how we recover, where our mindset is and are we going to show some fight! I'm ready to keep playin'. I want to be here Tuesday night. I don't care what history says, I don't care about none of them. I want to come to the ballpark and fight and let's just play. Play it out and see what happens. We've got our reservations until Wednesday night so might as well stay and play! (Laughter.)
Q. Christina what happened on that play on the bunt and the throw to first where it got into right field? Was it miscommunication, a little bit of an issue with the throw over to first?
CHRISTINA HAMILTON: I made a bad throw. I spun my shoulders and I don't really know. I guess the game was faster than I was expecting it to, but I spun my shoulders and made a bad throw. Tried to throw it too hard.
Q. Is it good to have a day off tomorrow or is it the kind of team that wants to get back out and play and get a bad taste out of your mouth? Sorry that's cliche but what's the approach, do you prefer having a day off?
LEXIE ELKINS: Of course we want to play, but I think we need to keep in mind it's a quick turnaround. Whether it would be next weekend or we would have played 30 minutes from that last game.
We just need to get our mindset right, put that behind us and win.
SAMANTHA WALSH: She said it all. Right now we're going to focus on the next game and put this one behind us and just go after it every pitch.
CHRISTINA HAMILTON: I don't think we have a preference for playing tomorrow or being off tomorrow. It doesn't matter to us. I feel like we're going to put it behind us and come out there and play. We're not going to sit here and figure out what we did wrong. Like Coach said, we're going to do better and play better and then we're going to go after this pitch. We're going to keep grinding it out. We're not going to give up. We're here to play, we're here to fight and we're here to win, and we're going to keep goin' at it.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you.
THE MODERATOR: Here with Kentucky, to my right we have head coach, Rachel Lawson, Kelsey Nunley and Lauren Cumbess. We will start with an opening statement by Coach.
COACH LAWSON: First, thank you guys for being here. This is a cool event. You hear about the World Series all the time and you know it's special but to see how it's pulled off firsthand is incredible. The city, everybody who is behind it, the workers, the University of Oklahoma, the staff — I mean, it's just an incredible venue. I can't say enough about the last two days. I think it's been really special.
Moving forward to the game, I didn't know what to expect because in the middle of the third inning Stokes goes, “Wow, look at all the people.” She was on deck and I'm like, “Wow, look at the ball,” and she said don't worry, I got that Coach! (Laughter.)
I didn't know what to expect. We came out and fought from the first inning. Obviously our offense did a great job and I thought Nunley was great on the mound and our defense made all the plays they needed to make. Good day for Kentucky softball.
Q. We've heard a lot today from some of the other teams who had players not having been here before talking about nerves. You guys seemed to play like poised veterans. Was that the case?
COACH LAWSON: Well, you'll have to answer that.
LAUREN CUMBESS: There definitely are nerves but it's more excitement. I think in the SEC we play on a big stage all the time. Being out there is really cool for us and with a big crowd and being on TV, I think we played better.
KELSEY NUNLEY: I think that the nerves we had were good nerves and they just kept us calm and ready to play.
COACH LAWSON: The thing I would say is when my staff and I went out recruiting and we handpicked this team, our number one criteria was that they were winners. The only way you can know that is if they pitch in championship games, play in them — whether it's state high school championships or travel ball. So that was the major criteria, because we wanted to turn this program into a championship program. So I know they were a little bit nervous and ESPN helped lighten the load with all the media stuff. I think that helped and didn't distract them. So I actually think that's what happened.
Q. Lauren, I wanted to ask you, almost as a followup to a first question about nerves, can you talk about the team being opportunistic when they gave you daylight with 2 outs in the first inning?
LAUREN CUMBESS: Um, yeah, we don't really ever think about outs as an inning is over. With two outs we put our heads down and try to make something happen with two outs. We always try to get a runner on. We scored so many times this season with two outs whether it's by a walk or hit. We don't give up with two outs. I think they play better under pressure when an inning is about to be over. I think we like to make things happen.
Q. Lauren when you signed with this program it had barely been to a tournament let alone a World Series. Why did you believe you could win at Kentucky?
LAUREN CUMBESS: I loved the coaches and their philosophy about softball. Obviously going on your visits you want to meet the players. I loved all of them. I really wanted to go somewhere where I thought I could make a difference and help build a program, and I felt like at Kentucky I could do that. I knew they were out recruiting and getting other players that wanted to do the same thing.
Q. Kelsey, this is one of the best offenses the Ragin' Cajuns' have throughout the country and they've come back many times this season. What kept you comfortable out there and being able to keep them at bay?
KELSEY NUNLEY: Stay calm, stay confident, and keep throwing hard and go at 'em.
COACH LAWSON: From somebody who has watched every pitch she has thrown this year, she threw hard today. She threw very hard. Her pitches had a lot of bite to them. It was spinning tight and I don't think they were ready for that tight spin. I think overall it was just her legs and her pitch speed was really high. I think that's what helped push her over the edge today.
Q. Lauren, what was your mentality going to your first atbat? Obviously this is a moment you've worked hard for and the senior class in general to produce after working so long, can you talk about that?
LAUREN CUMBESS: Absolutely. We just love being here. We talked about it amongst ourselves and we want to enjoy every moment.
No one plays well under pressure, so we're not playing with any pressure on ourselves. We're going out there and trusting what we worked on in practice. We think we're prepared to face anybody, just like all the other teams here. They have been preparing for this day, the World Series.
We're just trusting ourselves and what happens, happens. We're just goin' for it.
Q. Lauren, aside from you all not showing any nerves, do y'all put pressure on them throughout the night, making their short game do work and stuff like that. What was the approach to stress the defense?
LAUREN CUMBESS: I think whenever you get runs on the board, you're able to do more stuff anyway, so I think that helped. Without the runs that we had, it might have been different, maybe not. But Coach Himes, our third base coach, we like to mix things up sometimes and she was just making some good calls.
Q. Kelsey, home run in the first inning, then you seemed to settle down after that. What were you telling yourself? What was your perspective then from after the first inning?
KELSEY NUNLEY: Well, I kind of expected at least, them to hit at least one good ball. I knew that they were a good hitting team and I know that home runs happen all the time. I just tried to stay calm and relax and kept throwing.
Q. Rachel, you had a good number one pitcher in Shana Bell before Kelsey got here but what did she bring to you guys?
COACH LAWSON: Well, there are a few things that have changed. I think our offense from top to bottom is a lot better now and I do think it's easier to pitch when you have more runs.
This team broke a school record in home runs and doubles and free passes, so there are a couple of contributing things. But I think the thing that makes Kelsey special is she puts the ball exactly where she wants to, and she is able to command all four of the zones. She can go up, down, in and out, and I think because of that she is able to game plan against specific batters. She doesn't have to give the same look every single day. Anytime a pitcher can mix it up like that in all the zones and go off speed they're tough to hit because it's hard for a hitter to sit on a pitch. I think that's why you're seeing Kelsey do such a good job in the postseason because she is able to adapt to the hitter's game plan and then she actually goes on the attack.
Q. Lauren, you mentioned when you guys got a couple of runs on the board you changed the focus there. Was it after you guys got 2, 3? When did you change the emphasis and when did you feel like you need to turn up the pressure?
LAUREN CUMBESS: I don't know if there was a specific moment. Maybe in coach Hime's mind, maybe there was a moment for her, but our goal is to keep scoring every inning.
Q. Coach mentioned how when they were assembling the team they were going after winners. What was it about the coaching staff and the program that you guys had the confidence and the trust to join it? What in particular made you envision a day like today?
KELSEY NUNLEY: Just watching Kentucky, I saw 'em get better every year and I wanted to come and make an impact any way that I could. So Kentucky seemed like the perfect school to go to.
LAUREN CUMBESS: Going with that, same as her. I knew the program was on its way up. When you're being recruited you get to talk about hitting philosophy and defense and their goals as a coach, so I agreed with all that.
Q. Rachel, as well as the Cajuns hit, can you live with five walks by Kelsey?
COACH LAWSON: Yeah because we weren't going to pitch to their catcher again. We only (gave up) one hit and it was a home run, so had we not challenged her that first time who knows what would have happened. So a couple of them were intentional-unintentional and she was going to fish. That's fine. But she obviously is incredible so we didn't want to challenge her.
Then I think they do a really good job. I think they're not just a powerhitting team, they've done a good job with free passes, they do a great job of working the pitcher. So I expected that there would be some walks. I actually felt good. When we played against UCLA in game 1, the leadoff batter was on every single inning. So after that, nothing seems insurmountable because that was tough.
We were able to come through that, so I can live with the five walks, and I'm glad we only gave up one home run. They're pretty good. Right?
KELSEY NUNLEY: Right.
COACH LAWSON: When they hit it, it goes far.
Q. Rachel, you were here in '92 with UMass, right?
COACH LAWSON: Yeah, kind of old!
Q. How different was it then?
COACH LAWSON: I don't talk about that with my team. It was such a cool experience. At that time, just to show you how much this venue has changed, we had the press box in the stands but there were no grand stands in the outfield and on the sides there weren't bleachers. People sat on the grass.
So first of all, the number of people that are here is just phenomenal, and obviously the video board and the fence — we had the white fence where you could knock it over and catch the ball and that sorta stuff. And to watch it grow and to see this fan base, to watch ESPN come out every game and film, only the championship and semi finals game was on at that time. And the grass wasn’t green. They came out and spray painted the grass. And we thought that was the coolest thing ever, by the way. So to see how far with the attendance and everything that the city of Oklahoma and ASA has done for it is absolutely incredible.
I remember a couple years ago I was recruiting at a tournament here and I was in the gift shop over there and I saw an Oklahoma shirt and Alabama shirt and Arizona and on and on. And I remember telling myself that is so cool and one day Kentucky is going to be in there. The merchandise, the TV, the hoopla is so different and I for one am so glad that happens for the sport of softball. This is the absolute greatest venue in college athletics.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you.
No. 14 seed Kentucky defeated No. 6 seed Louisiana-Lafayette by a score of 4-1 in the third game of the 2014 Women’s College World Series. Kentucky improved to 50-17 on the year, while Louisiana-Lafayette fell to 49-9-1.
Kentucky advances to play on Friday at 8:30 p.m. CT against the winner of Thursday night’s contest between No. 2 seed Alabama and No. 7 seed Oklahoma. Louisiana-Lafayette will face the loser of the Alabama-Oklahoma game at 1:30 p.m. CT on Saturday.
This marks Kentucky’s first appearance in the WCWS, while Louisiana-Lafayette dropped to 6-11 all-time in its sixth WCWS appearance (1993, ’95, ’96, 2003, ’08, ’14).
Kentucky starting pitcher Kelsey Nunley improved to 30-9 in her sophomore campaign, allowing just one hit and five walks while striking out seven.
Kentucky senior Lauren Cumbess drove in the first run of the contest with a two-out RBI double in the top of the first inning. Cumbess added a home run, her 10th of the year and fourth in her NCAA Tournament career, to open the fourth inning and increase the Wildcats’ lead to 3-1. She finished the game 3 for 3 with two RBIs.
Sophomore Lexie Elkins tied the game for the Ragin’ Cajuns with a solo shot to left-center field with two outs in the bottom of the first inning, which proved to be ULL’s only hit of the contest. The home run was her 23rd of the season, moving her into sole position of third place nationally. All five of Elkins’ hits in the 2014 NCAA tournament have been solo home runs.
Senior Krystal Smith sent a full-count double off the left-field wall to start the second inning for Kentucky. Smith had just 15 hits on the year entering postseason play, but the double was her sixth in the 2014 NCAA Tournament.
Louisiana-Lafayette junior pitcher Christina Hamilton fell to 29-2 on the season. She gave up five hits and three walks while striking out two batters in pitching a complete game. Two of Kentucky’s four runs against Hamilton were earned.
With a steal of second base in the fifth inning, sophomore Sylver Samuel became Kentucky’s all-time leader in NCAA Tournament stolen bases with a total of five.
Louisiana-Lafayette’s one hit was its fewest since since being no-hit on May 9, 2013, against South Alabama in 1-0 loss.
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