6-1-2013 Game 7 Notes and Quotes

NCAA WOMEN’S COLLEGE WORLD SERIES

May 30-June 5, 2013

ASA Hall of Fame Stadium
Oklahoma City, Okla.

POSTGAME NOTES

 

Game 6: Florida 9, Nebraska 8 (15 Innings)

 

  • No. 2 seed Florida defeated 14th-seeded Nebraska 9-8 in 15 innings of play in the WCWS elimination bracket. UF improved to 58-8 overall this season and 6-1 in NCAA postseason competition.

 

  • The loss eliminated Nebraska from WCWS contention in the program’s seventh all-time tournament appearance. The Huskers finished the 2013 season with a 45-16 overall record and a 5-3 mark in NCAA postseason play. All of Nebraska’s postseason losses came in extra innings.

 

  • Friday’s game marked only the third time Florida and Nebraska have met on the softball field, and the first in WCWS play. Florida now holds a 2-1 all-time advantage in the series.

 

  • Florida sophomore pitcher Lauren Haeger improved to 16-2 on the season with the win. Haeger threw 7.0 innings in relief, allowing one run (earned) on three hits and four walks while striking out four. Junior Hannah Rogers, who pitched the first 7.0 innings for the Gators, picked up her sixth save of the season, by pitching the final frame. Rogers allowed seven runs (six earned) on 11 hits and three walks while fanning one.

 

  • Junior Tatum Edwards (30-10) took the loss for the Huskers, surrendering eight runs (five earned) on 10 hits and five walks while striking out 12. Edwards completed 4.0 innings as the starter, gave way to freshman Emily Lockman and then returned to record another 5.1 innings. Lockman gave up one run on three hits and two walks while striking out four in 5.2 innings of work.

 

  • Haeger (111), Rogers (126), Edwards (185) and Lockman (112) each threw more than 100 pitches in the contest. A total of 534 pitches were thrown and the elapsed time of the game was 5:20.

 

  • Florida improved to a 6-3 in extra-inning games this season.

 

  • Six Huskers recorded multiple hits with Edwards going 3-for-6 with two runs scored and two RBIs. She belted her 13th homer of the year in the 10th inning to knot the score at 7-7.

 

  • The 15-inning game marked the longest in WCWS play since Oklahoma State defeated Cal State Northridge 3-2 in 15 innings in 1994.

 

  • Florida will face fourth-seeded Texas on Sunday at noon CT in an elimination contest.

 

FLORIDA COACH TIM WALTON

BRIANA LITTLE

KIRSTI MERRITT

HANNAH ROGERS

KELSEY STEWART

STEPHANIE TOFFT

               

 

THE MODERATOR:  We are joined by Florida head coach, Tim Walton, and student‑athletes Briana Little, Hannah Rogers, Kelsey Stewart, and Stephanie Tofft.  We’ll start with an opening comment from Coach and then questions.

COACH WALTON:  Well, I just want to say congratulations to Nebraska for a great season and one heck of a ballgame.  If that wasn’t one of the best, most exciting games of the College World Series, I don’t know about ever.  But it was one of the most exciting games I think I’ve ever coached.  And I’m really proud of our team and the way they handled.  Just got punched in the gut in the seventh inning with two outs, but I thought we did a really good job of bouncing back and showing a lot of heart as did they.  They showed a lot of heart and will and determination and hit a home run.  We hit a home run back.  And that is the last thing I remember to be honest with you.  There were so many innings, I don’t know exactly what happened after that.  But just proud of our whole team, the team effort again.  Lauren Haeger pitched her butt off for us and got a big hit.  And every one of these ladies up here and the rest of our team really showed me a lot of fight and will to win.

Winning a game at the College World Series for any team is huge, but they showed me a ton today, and I’m really proud of the way we played today.

 

Q.  I don’t even know where to begin.  Let’s go with Kirsti and Kelsey.  Just talk about the fatigue factor of playing 60‑some pitches in five and a half hours.

KIRSTI MERRITT:  For our pitchers, that’s great.  They did such a good job.  We have practices for so many hours and this is what we prepare for.

COACH WALTON:  Four hours.

KIRSTI MERRITT:  Four hours, yeah.  I didn’t know the exact number.  But our conditioning really prepared us, and we even actually run three miles, so we’re really prepared.

KELSEY STEWART:  Yeah, it was hard.  I’m not going to lie.  Our 6:00 a.m., everything we’ve done up until this point paid off with our mental toughness.  Coach kept telling us we’re in better shape than them.  I felt like I was in ‘Coach Carter,’ you know?  I think the energy with my team and knowing I couldn’t give up on my team really helped me the whole time.

 

Q.  About two hours ago, Stephanie, you were running down somebody at the third baseline.  Can you talk about that play?  Obviously, it didn’t work out, but how deflating that had to be at that point?

STEPHANIE TOFFT:  Definitely very deflating, it was very frustrating.  It just kind of popped out of my glove.  I felt like I let the whole team down, but they came right back behind me and picked me back up.  They fought through the whole game and really what should have been over in seven innings was over in 15.

I kind of caused the whole extra innings, but my team had my back the whole time and I just really felt the love.

 

Q.  Hannah, you started the game, at I guess at 6:00 o’clock, and then you saved the game at 11:25.  What about siting there in the dugout watching what was unfolding?  What were you seeing?

HANNAH ROGERS:  I was seeing a lot of fight from our team.  No one ever gave up.  We all kept fighting.  Lauren was throwing an awesome game.  She did awesome for us.  She kept everyone up.  Everyone was picking each other up.  When everyone could have gotten tired, we all just kept fighting.

 

Q.  I was going to ask, Briana, about your home run.  When you hit the home run, the dugout must have been jacked.  How deflating was it to have to go back out there again?

BRIANA LITTLE:  I just went out there trying to do something for my team.  And then when ‑‑ sorry.  I knew we’d come out there and work our hardest to get back in there and getting ready to hit again, so I had faith in my team the whole time.

 

Q.  Kelsey, could you talk about the two plays, the one outfield to home, to second to third and then of course the last play?

KELSEY STEWART:  I don’t feel like it was chaos, really.  Just because as a softball player at practice we always get the ball hit to us and we have to look for the next play.  So those were just the next plays.  I don’t think it was chaos; it was just heads‑up for the next play.

 

Q.  Stephanie, would you talk about the last play?  It looked like you were trying to block the bag.  Did you think you got her before that or she came off and you got her then?

STEPHANIE TOFFT:  I don’t think she touched the bag.  I think she got my whole knee and that’s about it.

 

Q.  What about the quick turnaround having to play in the next 12 hours?

COACH WALTON:  I’m not going to worry about that.  I’m just going to let them have this moment.  We’re conditioned.  Whether we’re going to be any good tomorrow or not really doesn’t matter.  I think what these guys showed me tonight, I’ll take them to battle any day of the week.  I told this team from one of the first weekends of the season, I’d win or lose with this kind of team any day of the week.  The way they play and how much they care.  Stephanie Tofft comes in the dugout just completely demoralized with tears in her eyes and feels that.  For her to go out there and sacrifice her body with a cleat in her leg to get back on the W side of things, I just give her a lot of credit for that will and determination.

 

Q.  Coach, just try to put the game itself into words if that’s even possible.  Have you ever part of a game quite like that?

COACH WALTON:  Well, right before the game as you’re preparing your team for the game, I looked at all the statistics, and I looked at the fielding percentages and you look at the batting averages, and you have two really evenly matched teams.  I think both teams are coached the same way.  Coach Revelle, who I have a lot of respect for and I’ve known her forever, she’s kind of enough to be on my resume a long time ago.  I always admired the way she coached her team until the end.  She did it all the way to the end again.  Her team reflects just how hard she competes and how hard they compete.  I think, again, my team’s the same way.  They understand how to compete and go hard.  Both teams laid it all on the line.

 

Q.  You guys got punched in the seventh inning with two outs.  What was the mentality in the dugout after that?

KELSEY STEWART:  Punched in the gut.  Yeah, it sucked.  We’re up by three runs and then 7‑3.  There is no blame on anybody.  It’s just like the game.  So after that it was like here we go.  Fighting again.  So it’s really just fighting the whole time.  No one ever gave up.  I never saw ‑‑ I mean, when someone was getting tired, there was someone picking them up.  It was really the fight in my team.  I never had a doubt in my mind that we wouldn’t come out on top.

 

Q.  Katie Medina’s catch, did that bring up the energy level perhaps when maybe things were starting to slip away on that play itself?  Because it seemed like the team really moved.

COACH WALTON:  I think the team for a couple of reasons was ‑‑ obviously, the timing of it.  But that’s not a play Katie Medina can make a month ago, and we worked really hard on increasing her range and making that play in practice.  Coach (Kenny) Gajewski, twice a week, works on that kind of play.  Just three weeks ago we were talking about how we were going to be able to defend that.  She just, gosh, laid parallel to the ground, caught the ball.  Showed the ball to the umpire, too.  I saw that.  I was fired up for her.  But just again, how hard we work on those kind of plays and she came through.  It was definitely an adrenaline rush and something that we needed.  I’m just proud of her effort.

 

Q.  Kirsti, can you talk about the play in centerfield where they said you didn’t catch it?  And Hannah, can you talk about the last play and the helpless feeling of seeing the ball bouncing in the outfield with the game on the line?

KIRSTI MERRITT:  When I was in the moment I was like, I caught that ball, I caught the ball.  But then when they showed the replay, I didn’t catch it.  So I guess it didn’t go my way.  But either way, it depends.  If the umpire doesn’t see it hit the ground, I guess, it’s going to be a phenomenal play.  It didn’t go our way.  But there is nothing I could have done about it.  I did all I could do.

HANNAH ROGERS: I saw Katie running after the ball hard, and I just knew that our team sets up, like they said earlier, at practice, we always know where the next play is.  At practice, we’re always working on and we need to finish up every play.  I knew that Katie was going to know where to go with it.  I mean, I know Stephanie’s always giving her body up for us, so I just knew that they were going to make something happen.

 

Q.  Coach, as it gets to the 14, 15th inning, is your job more about motivation at that point or are you still tweaking X’s and O’s so to speak?

COACH WALTON:  We did a few things.  Obviously, we bunted with one out in one situation, we bunted and we sacrificed Katie and got a nice bunt for us later.  We were going on the down angle there with Lauren Haeger if their infield was playing back.  I think the shortstop kind of peeked a little bit to see if Lauren was going and then the ball ricocheted in the outfield.  So we were trying to be maybe a little more aggressive.  Maybe you can call it conservative.

But I was pushing the envelope a little bit and trying to put a little pressure on them.  But I don’t know that I changed because of the innings.  I think it more had to do with the personnel at the plate and where we were at and what was going on, to be honest with you.  That’s how I felt anyway.

FastScripts by ASAP Sports

NEBRASKA COACH RHONDA REVELLE

GABBY BANDA

HAILEY DECKER

TATUM EDWARDS

BROOKE THOMASON

 

 

THE MODERATOR:  We are now joined by Nebraska head coach Rhonda Revelle and student‑athletes Gabby Banda, Hailey Decker, Taylor Edwards, and Brooke Thomason.  We’ll start with an opening comment from Coach and go to questions.

COACH REVELLE:  I don’t know if you can ask anything more if you’re a fan, and I know you couldn’t ask for anything more as a coach on either side in either dugout.  It’s a shame that someone has to lose that, but I don’t feel like anybody lost it because both teams just fought tooth and nail.  Congratulations to Florida.

I’m just really, really, really proud of this group.  I’m proud to be alumna of the University of Nebraska.  I think that the alumni that have worn the jersey are very proud of this group as well.

 

Q.  I don’t know who to start with.  We’ll start with Gabby here.  Just your thoughts on that game.  Did you think it was ever going to end?  Are there part that’s you don’t even remember?

GABBY BANDA:  Yeah, probably the first game, and then we played a whole other second game.  I don’t know.  We kind of just stayed with our motto that we’ve been with all year and it was one pitch at a time.  We just battled through every single pitch that we wanted to win.

But we just didn’t come out on top this time, but I couldn’t have been happier to end my year like this.

 

Q.  My memory ‑‑ that game was so long, I can’t remember some of the stuff, I think you were the one that scored the tying run in the bottom of the seventh on the play?  Can you describe that run and what happened?

GABBY BANDA:  Yeah, I thought I was out.  I was crying on the plate because I thought I was out. But then I saw Brooke and she was yelling at me, ‘You’re safe, you’re safe.’ And I was like, ‘Oh my God,’ and I just kept crying.  So it was a cry‑either‑way moment, whether the game was over or we had tied it.  I don’t know.  I kind of got caught in a pickle there, but I’m glad it came out the way I wanted.

 

Q.  Rhonda, you’ve talked about your team having this bounce‑back resiliency and everything, and you did it despite the six errors.  And on the other hand, how costly were those for you tonight?

COACH REVELLE:  Well, yes, the errors certainly allowed some runs to score, especially early in the game when we were getting some groundballs and then some things happened.  With that said though, this team has never ‑‑ we just keep running.  An error, we don’t let it be a speed bump.  We always work to get better and get fundamentally better.

But I think that’s one of the things that has sustained us is the heart of this team, and that’s what our motto is, heart and hustle.  So even the play that ended the game, that was a hustle play, and it took a great play by Florida to make that play.

 

Q.  Brooke, was there ever a point in the game where ‑‑ I mean, obviously, you guys got up and then you were down 6‑2.  Was there ever a point in an inning where it was like, all right.  We’ve got this.  Let’s just finish it.

BROOKE THOMASON:  Well, we said that multiple times.  Like, ‘All right, all right, this time.’  Then we’d go back out on the field and come back in and be like okay, this time.

But it was a dog fight for both sides.  I don’t think either team felt comfortable.  I think Florida might have gotten on their heels a little bit after they scored those six runs, and we’re a team that comes back out fighting.  We’re not going to turn over and play dead or whatever, we’re going to fight hard.  We definitely did that tonight, and I couldn’t be prouder of my team.

 

Q.  Obviously, Alicia, big reason that you’re here have you had a chance to speak to her after the game?

COACH REVELLE:  We talked as a team.  I haven’t talked individually to anybody, no.

 

Q.  Just to follow up, when you do speak to her, what will be the message?

COACH REVELLE:  Had a great freshman year, and I know that you’re going to be motivated for next year.  I just know her.  She’s competitive.  I think that she did a remarkable job this year, just a remarkable job.  She had a few tough balls tonight that didn’t go her way, but it is what it is.

 

Q.  Brooke, couple years ago you said the walk‑off grand slam was something you could just write in a story book.  Is this experience kind of up there with that feeling, something that is a storybook ending for you?

BROOKE THOMASON:  This is better.  Losing is never fun, but losing a 15‑inning game where both teams are fighting, it’s not like it was scoreless until the 15th inning, you know?  It was a dog fight for both sides.  This game will be something that we were saying earlier that we’re going to be able to talk about years and years and years from now.

 

Q.  Coach, just talk about the mutual respect that the two teams had there on the field after the game.  I mean, obviously, I wasn’t down there, but it seemed like an incredible thing.

COACH REVELLE:  Well, yeah, the last time we played Florida, I think the score was 2‑1, but it was the same kind of fight.  I just think they’re ‑‑ the history in their program is well‑documented.  The history in our program within ourselves is well‑documented, maybe not as well‑documented on the outside.

But I think that there was a recognizing by both teams and both coaching staffs that everybody was giving their all.  As a fan, as a fan of the sport, you appreciate that kind of effort.  I mean, 27 hits and 15 innings, and we threw 297 pitches on our side.  I can do the math here.  But I don’t know really what more you can ask from two teams.

 

Q.  You’ve coached a lot of games.  Have you ever, ever been a part of anything quite like that?

COACH REVELLE:  No, when I played in the World Series with Nebraska, I think we went 18 innings with Creighton one night.  Right there until the end, I mean, who knew.  It was kind of like the twilight zone.  I’m with Brian here.  I don’t remember what happened in the sixth and seventh.

But I haven’t been a part of a game like that so much.  We always talk about really trying to detach from the scoreboard and it being about effort and being in this pitch.  Even though we’d love to be getting up tomorrow and putting on our uniform, I think everybody has to feel good putting their head on their pillow tonight.

 

Q.  Two of your four seniors up here with you tonight.  How much have they meant to you and to the program?

COACH REVELLE:  Well, they have been incredible leaders.  I take this quote from Coach Tom Osborne because he’s been a mentor of mine for many, many years, my whole coaching career, when he said a team goes as far as their seniors lead them, and I really believe that.  They have ‑‑ from this point a year ago when we finished our season, they started leading and they started being determined to be the very best that they could, the very best role models that they could be.

Brooke even said, ‘Coach, I can be that tough gal if I need to be.’  And then Gabby did the same thing with the young ones on the infield, and Megan Southworth who didn’t play much but had an incredible role in the dugout, that’s valuable.  People don’t realize how valuable that is, and then Courtney Breault, she kind of keeps everybody loose.  She’s our DP and has done great things for us.  They’ve been a great group.  That is one of the things we talked about after is challenging the returners to step up and be as effective leaders as we’ve just had in our senior class.

 

Q.  Lots of smiles and laughter up here, but I didn’t expect that.  Is that a sign not necessarily of satisfaction, but are you at peace?  I guess I’ll start with Taylor, with what happened tonight.

TAYLOR EDWARDS:  It was just exciting.  I mean, we’re still all excited.  We just all want to continue playing.  Like Brooke said in our meeting just now, we ran out of time.  That’s it.  We all just feel like we’re still going to keep playing.  I mean, yeah, there are some tears, but that game, 15 innings, I mean, who can ask for more fight than that from both teams?  It was all extremely fun.

COACH REVELLE:  May I make an unsolicited comment?

 

Q.  Sure.

COACH REVELLE:  The thing that I said in the locker room, I’m going to let you be privy to what I said in the locker room. This group of young women has restored and returned Nebraska softball to the national stage, and Nebraska has spent a good many years on the national stage, but not in recent years.  I just really feel the motivation, the drive, and the talent to not only put them on the national stage right now, but to continue to grow that, and the motivation to be better and to return here and take it farther.

So when you have that and when you have fifth‑year players that played last year like Ashley and Kirby Wright who were helping our team and said I feel so proud to be part of this team, then you feel like you’re laying down great layers and your culture and your tradition.  Bottom line is these are young people here to get an education.  They’re here to have an experience of a lifetime and make memories that they can never really have anywhere else.  One of the things as a coach that I take great joy in is when they leave and they’re happy.  They’re happy for their experience.  That’s really important.  That’s really important for the collegiate experience because you hear a lot of athletes that might win a lot that maybe weren’t happy.  I know I’m getting off on a tangent, but you’re getting Rhonda in full force here.

 

Q.  Gabby, obviously a lot has been made by us the media that this team maybe overachieved a year early.  You’re a senior and this is your last go around.  What’s it like to be a part of that team that restores the name Nebraska here to the College World Series?  What’s it like to be that team, be that senior class that is part of that?

GABBY BANDA:  It’s probably one of the best feelings I’ve ever felt in my life.  I couldn’t ask for a better group of teammates to play with my last year.  I couldn’t ask for more memories, more happy memories.  There is just so much that you can say about this group and it’s just an honor to be a part of it.  Just to help them grow in any way that ‑‑ like the seniors, like help them grow in any single way that we could.  I just had the most fun that I’ve ever had playing softball in my entire life.  That’s exactly what I wanted to do when I finished.  I wanted to let people ‑‑ just let people know who I am and help out my teammates that I was with for my last year.  I think that the seniors did a great job of doing that.

 

Q.  You had talked this week about how much this stage has changed since you were here last.  I’m just wondering if you were conscious of the crowd and the atmosphere out there on the field tonight and how they were reacting to you guys and to this game?

COACH REVELLE:  I think in the first game we were conscious of it because there was a whoa moment, then we settled in.  Tonight it was ‑‑ I think we felt kind of wrapped, like it was a blanket wrapped around us.  That’s how I felt anyway.  It was really fun.  It was really fun.

Taylor gets over to first base in like the 28th inning or something and said, ‘Coach, this is really fun.’  I was like, ‘I know.  I know.’

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