6-1-2011 WCWS Press Conference

WCWS press conferences
June 1, 2011

NFCA/Louisville Slugger All Americans are posted on www.spysoftball.org.

By tradition, the eight coaches whose teams advanced through Super Regionals to the Women’s College World Series, hold joint press conferences, in two groups of four, before the games begin (tomorrow).

By tradition, the head coach, accompanied by a singe player, makes opening remarks, then they take questions.

By tradition, the coaches seldom make news at these gatherings.

By tradition, much of the repartee consists of saying how glad they are to have their teams here, that this may be one of the most competitive Series in recent memory (which this year may be much more than just a platitude), and that they anticipate this Series will set new attendance records (probable given two teams from Oklahoma).

But some nuggets of information do emerge.

Oklahoma coach Patty Gasso said star slugger Jessica Shults is still recovering from illness and will not play.  Oklahoma plays Arizona State on Thursday.  Sooner ace Keilani Ricketts, who said she did not have her “best stuff” again Arizona, will start, and ASU coach Clint Myers said he will start freshman phenom Dallas Escobedo.

Florida coach Tim Walton said his ace senior pitcher, Stephanie Brombacher, is ready to play, Brombacher later confirmed to Spy that she has a torn bicep; she can pitch, she said, she is just not sure how hard.  (Spy remembers the 2001 Series in which winning pitcher Jennie Finch of Arizona and UCLA’s Amanda Freed turned in stellar pitching, despite having severe arm problems.)

Each of the coaches commented on the Big 12 having four teams –the most ever.  OU’s Patty Gasso and Baylor’s Glenn Moore said there has been a definite uptick in the quality of Big 12 competition, Gasso adding her belief that the strong competition within the conference – citing Texas, Texas A&M, Texas Tech and Nebraska as quality teams – helped each team improve.

The coaches observed that the Pac 10 and SEC had 2 teams each, the Big 10 none.

SIDEBARS

TIME MARCHES ON.  Oklahoma’s Gasso revealed that sophomore outfielder Brianna Turang is the daughter of a player Gasso once coached at La Mirada HS in CA. Like Gasso, the mother went on to play at Long Beach State. I remember a few seasons ago when this blonde waif showed up at Shamrock tryouts and informed Tommy Orndorff that she was the daughter of a former Shamrock.  Told Tommy, when you coach a team for 30 years, it was about to happen.  I was teaching a class at CIA when this impertinent kid came up to me, said his father had known a Rayburn Hesse back in his day, and could that have been my father. He washed out.

ESPN.  For the most part, imho as I expressed it today to Beth Mowin, I thought the various teams did a solid,workmanlike job.  A few goofs:  Knowledgable softball people know the Stanford team is The Cardinal – no plural.  Praising the Pac 10 before several  ran aground, one commentator (she and I know which one) said all Pac 10 teams except UCLA had made the Super Regional – duh, what about Oregon State?  One commentator, long known for identify a particular word and working it to death, described several pitches as being “right in the wheelhouse.”  SPY also made a goof, referring to Kentucky as KU rather than UK.  Really liked live streaming on ESPN3.  I thought Amanda Freed, Jenny Ritter, and Garland Cooper handled their assignments well and should be given more exposure.

RESILIENCE.  Brittney Sneed, the Baylor pitching coach, praised the resilience of the Bears after getting pounded by Georgia.  Coach Glenn Moore also told Spy he thought the Bulldogs were one of the hardest hitting teams he had seen.

IS THERE A FAVORITE?  Not in the opinion of  Arizona State coach Clint Myers.  In a sidebar to Spy, Clint said every team there is capable of beating every other team – and he pointed to the end of the table and Keilani Ricketts.

WCWS versus Other Title Competition.  Enjoyed chatting with Jolene Henderson, whom I knew when she and Ally Carda pitched the Lady Magic to the 14U and 16U titles.  Any comparison in terms of the satisfaction of winning?  No, the WCWS is jusr an awesome experience.

Wednesday Press Conference Quotes

(Session 1)

 

ARIZONA STATE HEAD COACH CLINT MYERS

Opening comment:
“We’re excited to have the opportunity to play here in Oklahoma City. The field here this year is outstanding. It’s going to be great softball.  Having two Oklahoma teams in the mix is going to increase attendance, so I’m guessing attendance records will be broken. You’re going to see great softball from eight great teams. We’re excited to be here.”

On the Big 12 comprising half of the field:
“I’m guessing people are going to feel sorry for us because we are so thinly populated here. I figure we’ll get the sympathy vote and get a few fans.”

On if only two Pac-10 teams making the WCWS is an aberration or if other leagues are catching up:

“I think the easiest way is to (answer that) is ‘yes.’ The Pac-10 actually, in our opinion, was a lot tougher because this year everyone knocked each other off. We had seven teams at regionals; six made it to super regionals. Then, unfortunately, when you are facing someone like (Oklahoma’s Keilani) Ricketts, she gave Arizona everything they could handle at Arizona. There are great young pitchers out there right now and you have to go out and play your A-game or you don’t get the chance to come to the big dance. The Pac-10 is still a tough conference, still going to be a great conference. With us and Cal in the mix, we hope to represent our conference just as well as it has been in the past.”

ARIZONA STATE SENIOR CATCHER KAYLYN CASTILLO

On the difficulty of Arizona State’s half of the bracket:

“There are no easy games when you get here, so you may have a tough side of the bracket but it’s not to say those games aren’t going to be just as difficult on the other side.”

On ASU freshman pitcher Dallas Escobedo:

“I’ve grown pretty close with her, working as well as we have together this season. I feel like from the beginning of the year she is a completely different pitcher than she is right now. It’s been really exciting to watch her develop her pitches and get that confidence, especially going into the Pac-10 and doing as well as she did. By winning the Pac-10, that gave her a whole bunch of confidence, so I feel like that just puts her a head above of a lot of people.”

 

FLORIDA HEAD COACH TIM WALTON

Opening comment:
“I would like to congratulate the other seven teams that made it back to Oklahoma City. For (Missouri coach) Ehren (Earleywine) and I both being here the most over the last consecutive years is humbling. (Arizona State) head coach Clint (Myers) has been here a bunch. Having Oklahoma and Oklahoma State in this field makes for a special place. Being here so many times and knowing how much fun it’s going to be and how great of an atmosphere it’s going to be – it’s going to be a really nice thing. And thanks to ESPN for giving coverage to our sport, putting this thing on the map and making this possible for all the student-athletes.” 
 

On Florida’s struggles during the year and its path to the WCWS:
“I think for every program, every four years it’s good to have some adversity. You hope it doesn’t happen every year but it’s good to pay attention to the process in which you go about your business and see the end result. We lost a lot of ball games; lost six in a row, more than we had in two previous seasons. It helped us teach, learn and go about our business. There are a lot of things in life that aren’t always going to go your way. The ball isn’t always going to bounce your way. You really have to pay attention to how you’re going about your business and that really helped us learn who we are as opposed to just wins and losses.” 

On what’s different about facing Missouri at this year’s WCWS as opposed to last year’s:

“They have nine seniors and we have five, so (both teams) have a lot of veterans who experienced that same feeling of an elimination game. So I think we’re a little bit better in some regards because we’re more experienced, have a little bit better athletes (than last year). On the downside, the kid (Missouri pitcher Chelsea Thomas) calling the pitches on the bucket last year (has) a 0.83 ERA (this year) and (is) striking out a million kids. I think she comes into the game and really changes the complexion in what you have to prepare for.”

FLORIDA SENIOR OUTFIELDER KELSEY BRUDER

On Florida’s struggles during the year and its path to the WCWS:
“We did hit a little bit of a lull. We lost the series to Georgia, got swept by Kentucky, as well. It was hard. A couple of us lost faith for a couple of weeks and we didn’t know what was going on because for so many years – my freshman year we lost five games, my sophomore year we lost five games. So it was a bit of a shock for us. But we had a team meeting as soon as we got back from Kentucky and just completely turned it around – played a new ball game, played with confidence, played for us, and it worked.”

 On Florida’s pitching staff:

“I think that our pitching staff has done a tremendous job in the way that Hannah (Rogers) complements Stephanie (Brombacher) and Stephanie complements Hannah. It has been phenomenal for us these past couple weeks. They are pitching with confidence, they’re hitting their spots. If this offense can hit their spots, I feel very good about our chances.”

MISSOURI HEAD COACH EHREN EARLEYWINE

Opening comment:

“I would like to echo everyone’s congratulatory remarks for just getting here. Two years ago we kind of snuck into this thing. We didn’t expect to beat UCLA (in the super regional), and neither did anybody else. And last year we snuck in again. We lost our ace pitcher and thought all hope was lost, but we found a way here. This year we actually kind of expected to be here. We had everybody healthy, including (pitcher) Chelsea (Thomas), and had some players returning from last season who we felt could give us a good chance. I say that just to say that we feel a little more comfortable this year, and hopefully we can get the monkey off our back and win some ball games.”

On any changes for his team since the regular season:

“Mostly just trying to overcome nerves, trying to minimize the situation so that everybody can play loose and free and relaxed. The last couple of years, the lights have been a little too bright for us, and we lacked in courage. Whether we win or lose this week, we just want to play like we are capable of playing. If we lose we lose, but the last couple of years that has been our frustration because we have felt that we haven’t played like we are capable of playing.”

On how this team has changed since seeing Florida at last year’s WCWS:

“We have Chelsea Thomas. That is a good start. And most of the kids that played in the World Series last year for us are returning. There is no better teacher than experience. You say ‘why didn’t you do that from year one to year two?’ but those were completely different lineups. This is the only time we have been back here with some experience. Chelsea Thomas and experience equals success.”

MISSOURI SOPHOMORE PITCHER CHELSEA THOMAS

On four Big 12 teams making the field and if she will cheer for Oklahoma:
“I was rooting for all the Big 12 schools this year. There were eight out of 10 of us in a regional. I thought that was really cool that the majority of our conference got to go to a regional.  It’s kind of cool that we kind of have a half Big 12 tournament, half World Series going on, since our Big 12 tournament got canceled.”

 

On how she feels this year compared to last year’s WCWS:
“Well, last year I was here I had to sit on a bucket and help call pitches. This year I am so excited to be out in the circle. It’s been a great year. I love our team chemistry and how far we have come. It’s been great to get from where we were to where we are now, and I am just really excited to get started. We are just more comfortable being here. The last couple of years we have been here saying, ‘Oh my gosh, it’s the World Series and we are just happy being here.’ But there is a different challenge ahead.”

 

OKLAHOMA HEAD COACH PATTY GASSO

Opening comment:

“It’s good to be back. I will say that, and feel now like I am a rookie with all these coaches and programs that have been here recently. Our program is thrilled, our players are excited. I am excited about the Big 12 and with all the teams being brought in from the Midwest to this venue. I am just excited and ready to get started.”

 

On if her team will make any changes for the WCWS:

“We are going to approach things the way we have been approaching them, but obviously it’s playing in front of such a large crowd and knowing how to handle that. We need to have that calmness because we are a young team. We are going to have to show some maturity out there; knowing how to use the crowd and keep our emotions in check. We are going to approach things the same as far as a game plan because that has been working.”

On getting back to the World Series:

“We have had some tough go in the way of getting to super regionals and having some tough draws and bad luck, but that’s the way it goes. You have to learn to work through that. I cannot say enough about this team, which was probably not predicted to get here. They have worked through some adversity. I could not be more pleased with their performance and earning a right to be here. It’s great for our program, and I know there is a lot of excitement in the air.”

OKLAHOMA SOPHOMORE PITCHER KEILANI RICKETTS

On four Big 12 teams making the field and if she will cheer for Missouri:
“It’s exciting that half of the teams here are from the Big 12. It just makes us feel better about having to struggle through the Big 12 this year.  We want the Big 12 to show up. We will be wanting them to do well.”

On helping bring OU back to World Series:

“It means a lot to bring the program back here. We know that they have been waiting a while to get back here; we have been hearing about it a lot from the fans and coaches every day. It’s good to be the team to finally break the drought.”

Wednesday Press Conference Quotes

(Session 2)

 

ALABAMA HEAD COACH PATRICK MURPHY

Opening comment:
“I just want to say thanks to everyone who has put a lot of work into this great event. It’s just become bigger and better every single year. We were here for the first time in 2000 and it’s the mecca of softball right now. The new locker rooms were a tremendous addition. This year we played Georgia on ESPN in March and I felt like at that time this season was bigger, better; something about it. And last night at the banquet you got a feel for the eight teams that are here that it’s going to be special time this College World Series. We’re really looking forward to it.”

On what it would mean to the SEC for Alabama or Florida to win the league’s first WCWS title this year:
“I think (Florida coach) Tim (Walton) was quoted on it early in Palm Springs – it might have been another SEC coach – that once it happens I think it’s going to be a lot easier. Like everything else, the first time is the hardest. The first time getting here was very difficult. Now we’ve been back several times and the very first time (to win the title) is going to be the most difficult. (Former Tennessee pitcher) Monica Abbott could probably sit up here and say the same thing or (former Florida pitcher) Stacey Nelson, but I think once it happens then it will happen frequently. It’s that first time that has proven to be difficult.”

ALABAMA SOPHOMORE OUTFIELDER KAYLA BRAUD

On how playing in front of big SEC crowds will benefit Alabama in the WCWS:
“We’re lucky in the SEC to have the best fans. Everywhere you go, anytime you play away – we played at LSU, Georgia, Florida this year and those always bring in record crowds every time we play there. Granted, I have never played at the World Series but I think it’s helpful to be in a hostile environment with a lot of people and I think that is something we can use here. Like I said, I have never played here. I’m very excited about it. We’ll see how the crowds are this weekend. I hear they’re going to be incredible.”

 

BAYLOR HEAD COACH GLENN MOORE

Opening comment:
“We are pretty excited, as well. I thought the Big 12 this year was very strong, and it looked like it could go any direction. (We) went through Georgia to get here. One of the toughest environments I have ever played in as a coach, and I am certain that Whitney (Canion) has ever pitched in. As Pat (Patrick Murphy) said, (the WCWS has) grown every year. We were here four years ago, and it is much bigger than it was than it was four years ago. We are grateful for the effort and the commitment to our sport, and excited to have the opportunity to represent Baylor and the Big 12 on softball’s largest scene.”

On Baylor’s respect toward Oklahoma State after two head-to-head games in the regular season:
“We have tremendous respect for Oklahoma State. They took two from us, so hopefully that will motivate us to play a little bit harder. They have an outstanding ball club. They have some of the best hitters we have faced all year in that lineup, and they are very difficult to pitch to. We feel like we are playing a home game for them, and we can use that to hopefully motivate us. It’s a great atmosphere, and we know they will bring their best game and hopefully we will bring our best game.”

On what he said to his team after its 14-2 Game 2 super regional loss at Georgia:

“We’ve been riding the arm of Whitney Canion. Once we got to the point where we had to pull her out, we just needed our bullpen to finish up the game and wait for the next one. That may sound like a poor way of looking at it, as if we were throwing in the towel, but Georgia’s offense was incredibly strong, at least on that weekend. We just needed to rest her. I told the kids after the first game that it didn’t matter if they got beat by one run or 51 runs, but now the series was even and whoever won the next game was going to the World Series. Our kids really didn’t let that have an effect on them. They just regrouped and came out and won by almost as much as we lost by.”

– MORE –

CALIFORNIA HEAD COACH DIANE NINEMIRE

Opening comment:
“California is very honored to be here in this environment. This will be our 11th trip here and it’s certainly grown over the time period that I’ve been coaching at the University of California. All the nice additions that this arena here has are tremendous. We’re very happy and proud to be here to represent the Pac-10.”

On pitcher Jolene Henderson’s sudden emergence this season:
“It didn’t surprise me that it came out. It did come out a little early. With the loss of (pitcher) Valerie Arioto, who had a broken leg, it became very clear that before the season even began that the workload would rest on her shoulders. She has answered big-time to every situation we have been in this year and she is the heart and soul of this team. We have ridden on her back all the way. She is a competitor and I couldn’t ask for more from a player than Jolene (Henderson) has given us.”

On facing Oklahoma or Oklahoma State in the WCWS with those teams having a fan advantage:

“Some years we did really well (here against Oklahoma) and some years we didn’t. It is an incredible environment to play Oklahoma or Oklahoma State here because of the large crowds that will be attending. We will just have to handle it the way we do every other game and go out there and play. We’re used to playing in crowds because we’re not playing at home and are used to only having 20 or 30 fans in the stands and the rest are in all different colors – the team playing against us. So our team will handle the environment. We just have to focus on what we need to do to go out there and play our best.”

CALIFORNIA SOPHOMORE PITCHER JOLENE HENDERSON

On her sudden emergence this season:
“I think our season has been great. I definitely don’t think it’s all about me. It’s our team. We’re strong on defense; it’s what keeps us in every game that we play. And offensively, our team isn’t always the strongest but we always find ways to get on, find ways to get them in. We have a really fast team that can steal bases on anyone, basically. They came together and figured out what we had to do because we lost our only senior athlete – and we have the most underclassmen and they are all in the field. We came together and united to be a strong team. Not one person.”

 

OKLAHOMA STATE HEAD COACH RICH WIELIGMAN

Opening comment:

“This is Oklahoma State’s seventh time here but my first. So this is all new to everybody on this team. We are having a blast. I think the girls are having a great time. They found out what it was like to go through a lot of interviews and didn’t have to go to practice. I think they are doing a great job with the organization of the tournament. I know our kids have grown up living the dream of being here, and actually being here – it’s just awesome and I am so proud of them.”

On Oklahoma State’s respect toward Baylor after two head-to-head games in the regular season:
“Playing Baylor, you always have to think of one thing: their speed as a team. The pressure they put on your defense. And then you add in the fact that you have Whitney Canion pitching. It’s about playing defense and holding teams down until we can find a way to stretch a couple of runs across. That’s softball in a nutshell to me. I believe they were No. 1 or 2 in the conference in offense. So we know what’s ahead of us. Every time we have played it has been a close game.  Everyone has said ‘you’ve beat Whitney Canion,’ but those games have been nine innings long. It wasn’t like we went out and scored a bunch of runs. I think it’s going to be a good game. It’s going to be a tough contest, a well-played game. It’s just Big 12 ball.”

On the excitement of being at the College World Series:

“We started out the year playing a couple of tournaments, playing No. 1 Georgia in Palm Springs and coming out on top 1-0. At that time I told our team that if they stuck together we could be here. They believed that. We went through the Big 12. We got beat up a little bit, took some knocks, but they never quit. They never stopped practicing. For them to go out every day and look at the outfield wall with the College World Series banners on it, with players like Michele Smith, Lauren Bay, Melanie Roche – and for them to put themselves on that wall is really special and exciting for them. I think they have a lot of pride in that, and they will always be able to come back and look at that.”

OKLAHOMA STATE SENIOR INFIELDER ALYSIA HAMILTON

On the excitement of being at the World Series:
“We are very excited. I think we worked really hard. Everyone – freshmen, sophomore, juniors, seniors – all of us worked hard. We go out every day in practice and it’s pretty exciting when everyone isn’t ready for the season to be over. We are really excited and we worked really hard to be here.”

 

 

 

– END –

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