WCWS Game 6 Quotes and Notes: Alabama 2, Kentucky 0
THE MODERATOR: We are here with Alabama head coach Patrick Murphy, Jacqueline Traina, Leona Lafaele and Molly Fichtner. We will begin with a statement from Coach.
COACH MURPHY: Just an awesome game tonight. I thought it was a made-for-TV sporting event, the way it ended, the way it played out. Two really good teams with two really good pitchers. I couldn't be more pleased to stay in the winners’ bracket.
Q. Leona, you had an intense look on your face during that swing. Can you take us through that atbat?
LEONA LAFAELE: My approach was to get my barrel there. Nunley is great; fantastic pitcher and she's been mowing teams down. Kentucky had momentum coming into the game, but my approach was to get my barrel there and trust it and that's what we've been working on; to trust your swing and get your barrel there and the results will come.
Q. What was the emotion like, bases loaded, no outs? What were you feeling?
JACLYN TRAINA: That's why you play the game. You play the game for those pressure situations. I've gotten myself into those situations before and I felt like I knew I could get out of it. When Steph came out to the pitcher's mound, she told me a plan and we went with it. I had confidence in my teammates and my pitches.
LEONA LAFAELE: It was intense, you know, it was my first World Series and that was definitely by far the most pressure I've been under. But I had so much faith in Jackie and the defense. I knew she was going to get out of it. I had total trust in her, and when she pitched a strike I was like, “Yes, I knew you were going to do it.” Even if she pitched a ball I knew that she was going to do it. I had faith in her and the defense.
MOLLY FICHTNER: I think it starts in the circle with her. She was very calm and it has a calming effect on everyone around her. I think it started with her and her confidence that we were going to get out of it and it bled to everybody else, and we knew.
Q. Coach, no nerves?
COACH MURPHY: No.
Q. For Molly and Jacqueline, can you talk about the pitching until the nohitter was broken up? She seemed to have as much command as she has had all season.
JACLYN TRAINA: We just were mixing it up. Annie and I felt good with everything. We were mixing in offspeed, we threw the screw; throwing a lot of different things and getting in a rhythm.
Second, third time through the lineup, they're a good team, they're going to put the ball in play. We have to just make adjustments from there.
MOLLY FICHTNER: I agree with that. Jackie hit her spots. We didn't throw one or two pitches. The whole game we mixed it up a lot. They're a great team, so we had to. But she did a great job pitching different pitches.
Q. Coach, you're one win away from the WCWS finals. How do you avoid looking ahead to that?
COACH MURPHY: Hopefully we'll get to sleep in a little bit tomorrow, because we have the day off. We'll practice, do a little bit, get out of the hotel and then, you know, kind of pay attention to what happens tomorrow, because it's going to be a long day for a couple of teams. Then go over scouting reports, whoever it's going to be.
But, you know, this is the way it was in 2012 and I think the nine kids that have been here before will let the other ones know that there is no such thing as a sure thing. You’ve got to keep your eyes on the prize at all times. Q. Fifteen years ago, this was a Pac10, Pac12 dominated World Series — seven out of eight teams would be out of the West. Now we end up with two undefeated teams in this tournament from the SEC. Do you think the shift is because you see better pitching and hitting consistently in your conference than other conferences? Hate to the put you on the spot, old friend.
COACH MURPHY: No, I just think there are kids all over the country. Hannah Rogers is from Lake Wales, right? Down there where Jackie is from. The two pitchers — one is from Naples and the other from Lake Wales, Florida. I think they have grown up watching this event on television all over the country. There are good players everywhere. The game has evolved; there is great coaching all over the country now. The athletes are there, and some of them choose to play softball. We're just really lucky that we have Jackie on our side. I know the SEC. To go through a 24game schedule is very, very tough and you're prepared every weekend because if you're not you're going to get beat. But I know the Pac 12; they challenge themselves every weekend, as well. Big 12, too.
I just think there are so many good athletes now in the south that are staying home, playing softball at all the SEC schools. We can compete with anybody.
Q. Coach, I asked you two years ago about defense, and seems like so much of softball is about even seeing it this week, three onehitters yesterday, the home run ball, run-rule games and yet both games today, there were several defensive plays that were huge. The double play that ends the game tonight, who knows what would have happened. Molly throwing out the runner. If you could give us insight on how defense plays such a role and it's overlooked at times.
COACH MURPHY: Well, it's too bad, because it wins championships, for sure. The three things in postseason softball to me are, you’ve got to have a good starting pitcher and Jackie did her job. The key hit; Leona did her job. But the third thing is you’ve got to play great team defense, and Danae Hays and Kaila Hunt finished the game off. I don’t think anyone expected that. I think Hunt is just so experienced at second base. I think a lot of kids would have settled for the one out, but she caught it and got rid of it as quick as she could and we had the girl. It was the correct call.
She is very aggressive, though, you know? And it was a good shot and Leona made a good stretch. But defense is huge.
Q. Patrick and Jacqueline, what lessons did you learn two years ago on how to handle this off day and the Sunday thing that you'll apply this weekend?
COACH MURPHY: She doesn't remember.
JACLYN TRAINA: I don't remember.
COACH MURPHY: We'll definitely do something. We'll get out of the hotel. They haven't seen their families all week so they're going to get some family time. They'll probably go shopping but we will definitely go hit, take some ground balls. She is going to get in a hot tub, and a cold tub and they need to get their bodies back in normal shape.
But don't overdo it. You don't want 'em tired for Sunday. Then if they come out and watch they can't sit in the sun for six hours, because that's going to drain them more than anything. So we have to be smart on what they're going to do. I think we'll keep them under wraps a little bit, but they'll be fine.
Q. Leona, what are you thinking when you see that double play start, the ball is coming to you? What's going through that mind?
LEONA LAFAELE: Oh, gosh. Just in my head, I was just like, “Finish it. I don't care if I have to do the splits for that ball, you finish that play.” I don't care if it was in the dirt, I was going to get that ball, because a lot of Murph is right. A lot of girls wouldn't turn that play so you have to finish it. It feels great because they're just great teammates and I can't believe they turned that play. But all I could think was finish it, and it was a great way to finish that game, my first game, So much pressure. It was awesome.
Q. Jackie, in terms of your velocity in this tournament, you're high 60s. I was told the 72 you were hitting is the fastest anyone has thrown in the tournament so far. You were talking about mixing your pitches, but velocity makes a big difference from 43 feet. What's been the progress on the velocity?
JACLYN TRAINA: I think I've been pretty consistent all year with that. I do like to mix it up and, yeah, sometimes it is nice when you can just blow it by them.
Q. It definitely was lower last year?
JACLYN TRAINA: Yes, sir, definitely.
Q. Leona, on plays like that last play, are you able to tell when the runner is safe or out? Can you hear her foot hit the bag?
LEONA LAFAELE: I always think they're out no matter what. Whether Danae throws it, I’m just like, “What!” When they call them safe, I’m just like, “What?” I always think they're out no matter what, because I want the out. I gotta think they're out. Unless it's a Haylie McCleney, then I'm like, “Hmmm, she probably was safe.” Definitely, I can't get over — Hunt and Danae, great middle. Jackie, Molly — such a great defense. I'm so happy and it's an honor to be a part of that.
THE MODERATOR: Thanks, guys.
THE MODERATOR: With Kentucky we have Head Coach Rachel Lawson, Kelsey Nunley and Sylver Samuel. We will begin with an opening statement.
COACH LAWSON: First, thank you for being here so late. I thought today was a good game. You never want to be on the losing end of things but I thought that the I loved the fight that my team showed throughout the game. They were able to capitalize. They got two runs early but then the game was tight the whole time and to put ourselves in a position to win in the seventh inning. I was really proud that they did that. I thought Traina was outstanding this evening. One of the things that I was so impressed with was her pitch speed. We haven't seen anyone that's come close to touching those numbers all year and we play a very good schedule, we play a number of great teams.
I thought she was outstanding and in my opinion she proved that she is the best pitcher in college softball tonight.
Q. Coach Lawson, last night Coach Murphy from Alabama called your team a Cinderella story. Has that been the mindset with this group of girls?
COACH LAWSON: Well, we know we're the Cinderella story because every time we step on the field we're the underdog.
But I don't think that they feel I think they feel like they're prepared. I think they feel they're good. I believe that every player on our team believes that they have a shot to win every game that we're in. The thing that I love most about my team is they respect softball and everybody that they're playing against and playing with. Just because they love the game, and they love all the great athletes that they get to see day in and day out in our conference and also in the postseason. We've seen a number of great people. With that said, we know we're the underdog, but because we respect we respect everybody, but I don't believe our team fears. I think they know if they play their game they have a got shot to win.
Q. Coach, I'm curious about what you thought about the way your team changed the approach to Traina as the game went on. Looks like they went the opposite way in the seventh there. Can you build on that tomorrow?
COACH LAWSON: Without question. A couple of things happened. Traina is outstanding and under the lights she is incredible. I think it took us that long to adjust visually to it. When you see bad swings early in the game and a little bit of indecision, sometimes those are visual things going on, even though they manifest themselves differently.
I definitely think that our team felt good in the seventh inning. I think they felt that was the fight that we have had this entire postseason. They know that they have more life in them. They have at least one more game tomorrow so they know they can come out and play. We are not satisfied with losing, but I think we gained a lot of confidence in the seventh inning and we felt like our normal selves that we have had since the SEC tournament.
Q. Sylver, can you take us through your atbat when you beat out the infield roller and just the mindset of the team if you had a runner aboard, whomever was at the plate still represented the tying run.
SYLVER SAMUEL: I was just trying to get something started for the team, because we were trying to get a couple of runs on the board. I wanted to battle. I wasn't satisfied with my previous atbat, so I just wanted to get something started so we could score some runs.
Q. Kelsey, do you see any benefits to getting back out there tomorrow and playing?
KELSEY NUNLEY: Yeah, I love to play softball. I know my team loves to play softball. So yeah we're ready to play tomorrow.
Q. Can you talk about dealing with the disappointment but having to process it, put it behind you and playing again tomorrow? Such a big game?
KELSEY NUNLEY: Alabama is a great team and we know that everybody here is a great team. Hopefully we can take the momentum that we had toward the end of the game and carry it over to tomorrow.
SYLVER SAMUEL: We're a tough team. I know we'll battle back from this. It's another bump in the road, but we like to play extra games, so we'll come back from it.
Q. Kelsey, could you talk about the challenge of knowing that you're likely going to be playing two tomorrow? And have you done that throughout the season at any point? What do you do to prepare yourself physically for that?
KELSEY NUNLEY: Against UCLA we played two on Sunday, so I know we can come back from tonight and battle hard for tomorrow. For me I'm going to sleep a lot tonight and ice and ibuprofen so we can go at it tomorrow.
COACH LAWSON: One thing I wish I would have said in my opening statement — I don't know if anybody saw the video board when the game started and they had Traina next to Nunley and the stats were identical. Like identical. I thought they had made a typo. Wins, ERA, all that. It was so similar. The biggest difference being Traina is a senior and Kelsey is a sophomore. When you look at the box score and see that Jackie threw 108 pitches and Nunley threw 108 pitches. I think that says something about our team. I think it also says something about the SEC. It's a tough conference.
You have two teams left that are from the SEC and a third one, I thought we fought hard tonight and we kept the games close. I wish I had said that in my opening statement, because that's the thing that probably shocked me the most this evening.
Q. Kelsey, just from your perspective, can you review the one atbat, but just the fact that you were keeping your team in the game through the rest of the way?
KELSEY NUNLEY: Well, the girl definitely made a good swing and the pitch was a little high, so she hit it right over. You know, it happens so you just gotta flush it and move on to the next batter.
Q. What was your mentality knowing you were going to be facing a pitcher as good as Jackie is and what was it like to pitch in this game at such a high level?
KELSEY NUNLEY: I love playing games where it's a good matchup. Every team here is good so, I don't know, I think that we played well and I think we can come back tomorrow and fight.
Q. For the players and Coach, you can mention it, too, but talk about the frustration you finally break through and load the bases in the 7th. What were you feeling at that point and dealing with the fact that you couldn't push anything across?
SYLVER SAMUEL: I think the game could have went either way. We fought, we fought hard. Yeah, we came up short, but I think that we'll come out tomorrow and play strong and start strong and we can win a couple of games.
KELSEY NUNLEY: I agree with Sylver. I hope we can carry the momentum that we had at the end of the game into tomorrow.
COACH LAWSON: I think my bubble thought at the time was, it was awesome loading the bases. I think sometimes when you get into that situation I think sometimes people I thought Gaines' atbat was good. I thought she battled for a long time and then she got froze up by the changeup a little bit. I think she wasn't expecting it because, Jackie hadn't thrown a lot of those all evening and I thought that was a key out for Alabama. Still, though, with less than 2 outs I think the fact that they were able to turn the double play, I mean, that's the way it goes. We have one mispitch and they have a home run and the game ends on a double play. That's the way softball should be played. I thought it was an outstanding TV game. You always hope for the grand slam or the hit in the gap that would have cleared the bases and I wish we would have been on the winning end of it. Either way that game was going to end on a tremendous defensive play or on a tremendous offensive play so, I personally like it when games end that way. I wish we were on the winning end of it, but with that said it was a clean game, it was a clean play. We did everything the right way and it was a great game for TV.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you.
In the sixth game of the 2014 Women’s College World Series, No. 2 seed Alabama defeated No. 14 seed Kentucky, 2-0. Alabama improved to 52-11 overall this season, while Kentucky fell to 50-18.
Alabama moves on to Sunday’s semifinals and will play at 2:30 p.m. CT. Kentucky will take on the winner of Saturday’s game between Florida State and Baylor at 6 p.m. CT Saturday.
In its ninth WCWS appearance (2000, ’03, ’05, ’06, ’08, ’09, ’11, ’12, ’14), Alabama improved to 15-15 all-time with the win today. Kentucky is now 1-1 in its first WCWS appearance in program history.
Alabama starting pitcher Jaclyn Traina improved to 25-3 on the season after tossing the shutout. She didn’t allow a hit until the sixth inning, when Kentucky’s Sylver Samuel reached on a two-out infield single. Traina allowed four hits and two walks while striking out six batters.
Kentucky mounted a comeback in the bottom of the seventh inning, loading the bases with no outs. Traina responded by striking out Emily Gaines and inducing a game-ending groundout double play.
With a two-out, two-run home run in the second inning, Alabama sophomore Leona Lafaele accounted for the only runs of the game. The homer was Lafaele’s seventh of the season and fourth of the year with two outs. The Crimson Tide has hit a home run in four of its seven games in the 2014 NCAA Tournament.
With the loss, Kentucky starting pitcher Kelsey Nunley fell to 30-10 this season. In the sophomore’s nine games this postseason, Nunley has allowed two runs or less seven times. After Nunley gave up the second-inning homer, she did not allow another hit and retired 16 of the last 18 batters she faced. Nunley surrendered three hits and two walks on the night while striking out five.
Alabama sophomore Haylie McCleney doubled to center field to start the game. She is hitting .447 this year when leading off an inning.
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