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May 27, 2015
OKLAHOMA CITY, OKLAHOMA
THE MODERATOR: I want to welcome everyone to the 2015 Women's College World Series. We're joined by Carol Hutchins, Coach Patrick Murphy, Coach Mike White and Coach Kelly Inouye-Perez. We'll start with Coach Hutchins.
COACH HUTCHINS: First of all, congrats to everybody. And especially since the inception of the Super Regionals it's made getting to Oklahoma City quite the prize because it's very difficult to advance and make it to the top eight. And it's a great credit to the teams that make it here, but really it's a great credit to where our sport has gone. And I got a chance to make the tournament by Friday night and I got to sit back and watch all the Super Regionals and I've got to tell you watching all those filled stadiums all across the country and the fantastic TV coverage, it's a dream come true for some of us who have been around a long time, because this sport has gone through the roof. And it's a credit to, of course, the power of TV, and it's a credit to the institutional support that we've all received and all the great coaches and student-athletes in the game. So Michigan is extremely excited to be back here in Oklahoma City. It's tough to get here. Even tougher to win here, and I've got a great group. We're excited and ready to get going.
COACH MURPHY: I want to say thanks to everyone. A gentleman from OU took me around a little bit and showed me the renovations. The first time we were here I think was 2000, and this is just unbelievable. It reminds me a lot of Omaha, where they've done renovations year after year and now Oklahoma City is following in the footsteps of Omaha. There's not a better place to be, the stadium, the people, the media -- everything is just, the coverage has doubled, tripled since we started. And it is so much fun for us. I apologize to the Sooner fans because it was just a hell of a Super Regional with OU and we're just glad to get out of that Super Regional.
COACH WHITE: I'll echo what Coach Hutchins said. I don't think she could have said it better. It's just so exciting right now to be in this sport, as a coach, as a team. And to see the spread of the wealth of talent across the country. It's not just the West Coast anymore. Everyone's talk talking about SEC versus Pac-12, but as you can see the Big 12, Big Ten, I don't know if you're called the Big Ten anymore or the big 14. But all these conferences, ACC, the softball is just getting better and better and it's exciting for us, not only as coaches but student-athletes. And then of course the institutions. I know we're getting a new $16.5 million stadium and we're hoping that's going to be the start of the build and growth on the West Coast. We hope to see other institutions in the Pac-12 follow suit and really start to improve the facilities. And I want to thank our administration in their support in that. And I can't tell you how excited we are to be here right now. All eight seeds, first time since 2006, made it through. That's going to make for some really good, exciting softball.
COACH INOUYE-PEREZ: What all three said. But I'd like to congratulate all the teams. I think we all start our seasons with the goal of being able to get to this point, to be a top eight. And it is a tough road. Been a part of this process for a while, as a student-athlete to an assistant to the head, and it's awesome to see the evolution of our sport, the evolution, the work, the time, the investment put into the stadium. I just got a mini walk-through and it's awesome. I think a big part of that also is the ability to have the coverage on TV that has allowed us to get in those living rooms and have people really truly see how special this sport is. But very fortunate. I'm surrounded by some great coaches and some great teams. Our team also, we've been on a mission to get back here and it's exciting to be back here and we just look forward to getting out here playing some great softball.
THE MODERATOR: Questions?
Q. Carol and Patrick, can you talk about the meetings earlier this season, what you learned about each other and how your teams are different or better now?
COACH HUTCHINS: Well, that was a long time ago. And actually you think about how long, what a grind our season is and I would have thought it was last year. But I've been able to watch our team just evolve and keep evolving from day one to whatever day we're in right now. And just like I know I've got a chance to watch Alabama. I know they're on TV a lot. When we saw them early, I thought this is a team that's still trying to search for their new identity, their post-(Jackie) Traina identity, and they clearly have found it. And they're gelling as a team and playing so well. It's a credit to Pat (Murphy) and what he does with his team every year. It's the goal, from day one we talk to the kids about being a little better every day. I think we're a better team. And I am certain that Alabama's a better team.
COACH MURPHY: When we played February 20th, the first thing I thought of was this was her best offensive team. She comes from the cold and an inside batting cage, I'm sure they weren't outside. And they hit the ball better than they've ever hit that early in the season against us. And that really impressed me. And they have two very good pitchers. They obviously have one of the best players in the country at second base. But it was a fun series. I know that we are better. I'm sure they're better, which is kind of scary. But we're looking forward to playing Michigan again.
Q. Coach White, obviously with the success you've had and I guess you can say a short period of time, going from toward the bottom of the conference where Oregon had been in the past to the top, Women's College World Series appearances. Obviously you garner high praise throughout the country and with that praise comes overtures from obviously different places. Could you comment on some of the rumors going around about the overtures, particularly with jobs at Oklahoma State and Arkansas currently?
COACH WHITE: Like you said they are rumors. I haven't been contacted by anybody. But obviously with a new stadium coming I'm pretty happy where I'm at and the support from the administration. But having said that, it is an economic thing for your family and everything else. So you have to listen. Doesn't mean you're going to move. But I think Patrick (Murphy) was kind of the one that did that. But it's part of the sport. Obviously we want, as head coaches, I'm sure we all want increasing salaries and we all want to see more for our assistant coaches and for our programs, facilities, everything else, as the growth of the sport. As the growth of the sport grows, I think we have to be open and hopefully our administrations are open to that as well.
Q. This question is for everybody. This weekend one of the pitchers were hit by a ball. And on our forum, tons of people have been saying that they should wear face guards out there. I'd like everybody's thoughts about that?
COACH HUTCHINS: I was watching that game. It's tragic. And I think that they're allowed to wear them, whether we mandate that, I don't know that we have enough data. We really need to take a look at the data and see where we're at risk, because anytime you play any sport, especially with the ball and a bat, there's an assumed risk. And kids get hit, they get hit with pitches. But is it happening at a rate that we need to mandate like we've mandated helmets? And I think we shouldn't make an emotional reaction to somebody that gets hurt. And we certainly need to consider our student-athletes' welfare. But I've seen baseball pitchers get hit as well. I've seen more baseball pitchers get hit than I've seen softball players get hit. And thank goodness -- not against baseball, of course. But it's something that we have to look at data. And I think that we need a better system of collecting that data.
COACH MURPHY: I think there was a couple of them in the SEC that have worn it. But after watching that, we've never said you can't wear it. And I think the pitchers probably assume we don't want them to wear it. I've never said that. I'm going to give them the option. Because I want them to feel safe. I don't want them to think every time they throw a pitch they're going to get hit. And so I'm going to sit down, I'll have four next year, I'll say if you want to wear one, fine with me.
COACH WHITE: I'm in the same boat as Patrick (Murphy). There's a rumor out there that travel coaches say head coaches from D-I schools won't recruit a pitcher that wears a facemask. I'll tell you that's not true. In fact, I think we have one coming in next year, Megan Kleist committed to us or signed, so I can talk about her. But she wears a facemask. I'm not going to tell her she can't wear it. Who would feel worse if something happened? I couldn't live with myself if I told her to take it off and she got hit. I didn't wear one. I didn't feel the need for it. But you can certainly see the need for it. You can see it in slow pitch softball. They're all wearing full batting helmets, full cages right now, hockey masks basically. They're so afraid of it. So if they're men and they're wearing helmets why shouldn't women wear helmets if they feel like or face masks if they feel threatened by a softball.
COACH INOUYE-PEREZ: I can echo what everyone said, Coach Hutch said. There's an assumed risk whenever you play any sport. And that's something that should always be taken into consideration to make sure we look out for the welfare of the student-athlete. But I do believe that there's a fine line on mandating things and also stop telling someone that they can't. I think there's reasons for the mask. Most recently for the concussion, once you get a concussion there's a seriousness of being able to continue to play and being at risk to further the injury. I see some teams, my daughter, she's only 10 and they've mandated that everybody at practice, everybody in the infield wear a practice. I'm not necessarily saying that's something that I would like to be a message in our sport. But I do believe there's a safety issue we have to consider and it's usually injury-based. And ultimately as we've all said it's the student-athlete's choice to be able to be in that situation and that's ultimately probably the bottom line.
Q. For any of you, back when the softball was taken out of the Olympics, I think there might have been some concern about the future of the sport. It was strong in a lot of ways, but maybe some concern about the way it might be perceived, visibility. But you guys have all said it very strong. Are you surprised in any way that it's continued to grow in spite of that?
COACH INOUYE-PEREZ: Well, I think there's always concern if you don't have the ability to have, you know, your team as an Olympic sport because that is ultimately the pinnacle of the sport to be able to wear the red, white and blue in the Olympics. We still do have a national team, and I think the national team does a great job of being able to get the best athletes to be able to compete on the national level. College has become the stage, and TV has allowed us to be able to grow the viewer, the viewership, to be able to have people watch the road to the World Series. So it's become our biggest stage and we do celebrate the continued increased numbers of viewership that we see every year at the College World Series. They've had to expand the stadium and they brag about the number. So I think that's something we are proud of. I think at the grassroots level I truly believe we are a sport that needs to make sure that we continue to get those grassroots kids in the sport. And a big part of that is getting us ultimately back to that Olympic stage, because that's something that all kids have a dream to be able to strive for. But for right now, college is the stage. Getting that opportunity to get a discount or get a scholarship and then represent your school and be on TV is a big dream. And all of us here know that out there recruiting that's what kids are really trying to get after. So for right now it's the biggest stage and we celebrate that.
Q. Patrick, Alabama won it in 2012. This gets to experience. How important is the experience factor playing in this event, just the format and everything else? You may have some weather, may have some rainouts or rain delays. And dealing with that whole thing, is experience important dealing with that or is that overplayed?
COACH MURPHY: We had a little team meeting before we left and one of our seniors said we're very experienced. The only class that hasn't been here is the freshman class. And there's a lot of different things that go on at the World Series that don't go on during the regular season. I think everybody is kind of used to you guys, the facility, the fans. Everything that goes along with it. So I'm hoping that it works in our advantage, because it is very different from an everyday game at Alabama.
COACH HUTCHINS: I've been out here with teams that came back to back to back to back and they didn't always win a lot of games. And we came here in '05 after we had our hearts broken in '04, and I thought it gave us a fantastic edge. I really think a lot of it had to do with the makeup of your group, but we do try to stay on task with what we've done all year. And we do have media. We do have great facilities and great fans. So it's a little more normal than it was back when I played on what was virtually a high school field, the year we won the championship, our high school field near my house was nicer than the softball field we played on at Michigan. So I think our kids are used to playing on the big stage and TV and ESPN. But ultimately we're just playing the game of softball. Nothing changes.
Q. Kelly, 10, 15 years ago this tournament, this field was dominated by the Pac-10, now Pac-12. You talk about the softball wealth has spread across the nation but it's become tilted. Now, the SEC is doing to this field what you guys used to do in the Pac-12. Why did that occur? What's happening down south or is not happening out west anymore?
COACH INOUYE-PEREZ: Why did that occur? I don't necessarily have a reason on why the SEC is represented more here at the series. We just know anything can happen now with the format, which I think is outstanding. But what I do believe is very true is the sport is in a great place. As Coach White just said, it's no longer just West Coast dominated. We are coast to coast. We have outstanding athletes all over the country. We have outstanding coaches that are doing a great job of being able to teach the fundamentals and teach these girls how to be the best they can from coast to coast. The schools and administrations are backing their programs and the SEC and other conferences have made a strong stance with their facilities, with their salaries, with their ability to make a stand in the sport. And I think it's been great for our sport. So I don't know if tilt is the word, but I think our ability to expand and truly have excellence from coast to coast is something that we're seeing right now. And I celebrate that. I really do.
Q. Patrick, going into her I guess last at-bat in the Super Regional Marisa (Runyon) was 0 for 8, really stepped up and made that huge play that obviously sent you here. Did you get the sense that she was due for that, or were you concerned about her slump? And how much confidence has that given her moving into this?
COACH MURPHY: I wasn't concerned at all. Because she's one of the easiest-going kids we've ever had. Her demeanor is perfect to be a hitter. You would not be able to tell by looking at her body language that there's 0 for 4 or 4 for 4, but I think it's perfect for the game of softball, a baseball player. I think it just seemed like it was going to be fate because I had pinch-hit for her the time before. And, you know, the ball's going to find you. And then Danae Hays gets hit by a pitch with two outs and guess who's up? The kid that's 0-fer. I went up and down the dugout and said, this is fate, this is fate. She's going to do something here. And I think the entire dugout believed in her. I didn't think it was going to happen on the first pitch, but she liked the first pitch. She's just a very resilient, gritty kid.
Q. Carol, can you talk about, since you've been around the sport, saw the SEC and what it's been able to do to go from five teams through 2004 here and now 28 in the last 11 years and obviously the five this year, what you've seen from afar? And Patrick, can you add, seeing it up close, why it's increased so much?
COACH HUTCHINS: I don't remember what year it was, but we went down to play in our spring trip. We stopped in Tuscaloosa and they hadn't built that magnificent facility yet. Patrick was the assistant coach.
COACH MURPHY: '97.
COACH HUTCHINS: So that was '97. See, this is team 38 at Michigan. I believe this is team 19 (for Patrick Murphy). So the SEC didn't even have softball. They didn't sponsor it. And I think in Florida the schools were playing some slow pitch. And like any great institutions and great conferences, they decided that they wanted to have softball and they didn't just want to have it, they wanted to be good at it. And give the SEC credit because they have supported them in the areas that matter, which is facilities and coaching and support staff for their student-athletes, and they've done it the right way. And there's talent. There's more talent than ever. There's more youth ball than ever. There's more dreams for young kids because this going to college and playing softball is their dream. There's a lot of great kids and the SEC has done a fantastic job with it. And you have to give them credit.
COACH MURPHY: I think a lot of the schools and administrators do not like status quo. When they see somebody do well, they're going to go back and say, wait a minute, we've got to do that. And I think it's just evolved from there. You can see how many either coaching changes, facility changes, upgrades. It's just like any sport in the SEC now. You know if somebody wins in football, somebody else is going to try to win the next year. And I think it's evolved to the sport of softball. I think it's a very good thing. Because if you think you've reached that point, you're going to get run over the next year. And it's just like in the Big Ten and Pac-12. If somebody does really well everybody else is going to try to catch up. And I think that's happening in the SEC.
Q. Just your thoughts on playing again such a familiar opponent, to go through so much and end up matched up again?
COACH WHITE: Well, you don't pick your opponent. It comes from a draw. But obviously UCLA, it was a great series. Obviously it came down to one pivotal game. It could have gone either way, and we were fortunate to come out of that game and next day have what happened. But I don't think it's going to mean anything to the next game. It's going to be a knock-down, drag-out game. I'm sure they're prepared for us. We're prepared for them. It's exciting. Any one of these coaches will tell you if you want to win this championship you're going to have to beat a good team or several good teams. And this is just the first game. So, obviously, hopefully, we're going to be on top, but it could happen either way, if it doesn't we'll be prepared for the next game. But we're excited to play UCLA.
COACH INOUYE-PEREZ: I echo that. As he said our series was exciting. Both of us were striving for that Pac-12 Championship. We had a decisive win, they had a decisive win, and that middle game could have gone either way. It wasn't the prettiest game. So I at this as a great opportunity for us to be able to get back out there. We are very familiar, we're very prepared, but we're in a new season. So everything -- fortunate Coach Wooden has shared is very simple, yesterday is old as dirt and we have no control over tomorrow. So we're living right now, and we're going to go out there and have a great practice and get out there and play great softball tomorrow.
Q. Talking about facilities. You mentioned it earlier, you hope it spurs more construction on the West Coast. Have Pac-12 facilities fallen behind the curve?
COACH WHITE: A lot of it comes down to what generates the revenue to build them. It's football money, obviously, a lot. But we had a great sponsor stand up, Mr. Sanders. So separate from all football money and everything else we found our own sponsor. And that's Herb Yamanaka that got that done, a big fundraiser for us. But hopefully it does lead, as Patrick said, it's competition. Now Oregon has this. We hope that it spurs the other schools to do things. Cal obviously needs an upgrade. UCLA could do with some new facilities. You see little bits and pieces -- like ASU, Arizona has a new batting format out there. You are seeing bits and pieces, but I'd really love to see some of these new stadiums get as glitzy as the SEC and Big 12 and Big Ten.
Q. Patrick, you touched on it a little bit earlier knocking off Oklahoma and having them not here. And it's been a while since Oklahoma hasn't been here. For each of the four of you all, make your case for why the local fans, the fans who typically come out here and cheer for OU should cheer for your team?
COACH MURPHY: Same colors. (Laughter). When I saw a couple of Oklahoma people at our game I almost said Roll Tide because I didn't see the rest of their shirt. And I was like, oh, Boomer. I came to the football game here when we did home and away and I did it probably ten times and they just kind of waved at me. They didn't know what to say. But they can cheer for everybody. They're great. It's very knowledgeable fans here. That's what's so cool about it. Everybody knows a good play, a good player, when a big time is in the game. And the crowd is just awesome here.
COACH WHITE: We're just excited to play in front of 10,000 fans. That's what we're excited to do. And I said it to my team, I've played in plenty of stadiums where we didn't have anybody watching. I'll tell you what I rather have. We play it like no one's cheering against you, everyone is cheering for you. They want to see good softball. That's what we're coming prepared to play is good softball.
COACH INOUYE-PEREZ: I agree. I think the Oklahoma fans want to see great softball. And the series is going to, I think, truly allow us to be able to do exactly that. But if you want a little inside scoop on why they should be cheering for us, we have a Bruin that's engaged to Patty's son, Andrea Harrison.
COACH HUTCHINS: You would think they would cheer against Patrick and those Alabama folks, if I were them. (Laughter) But I've seen the fans here, they do, they just cheer for great softball. But when they do tend to get behind a team, the Cinderella team that steps up, maybe the team that -- the very first year we ever came Iowa came as well. They were unseeded. And they came in third in the tournament. They were the Cinderella team. That was the team everybody picked up on. And the top eight seeds are here. So I don't know who the underdog and who the Cinderellas are. In my case I always feel like we're the underdog. So they can cheer for us.
COACH WHITE: I just hope that Oklahoma forgives us for that football game. (Laughter) I was at that game and that was a bad call. (Laughter).
Q. Carol and Patrick, Carol you talked about the time you came to Alabama in the first season and maybe the second home game Alabama added a public park. You two have obviously known each other for a long time. What do you see in the other that you most admire as a coach?
COACH HUTCHINS: Well, I always say Patrick's one of the good guys in the game. And I've watched him with his student-athletes. And those kids, it's hard to play Alabama because I like them so much. I like their kids. I like the way they represent the sport. They always say thank you. They're always really reverent. We have gone down to Alabama a number of times. Actually he owes me a trip. We played this year. We happened to win both games. And afterward Danae Hays came up to me and said, thanks, it was an honor to play you. It's hard to dislike kids like that. They are just always classy. And that starts at the top. And he teaches respect the game. And they play for the big A on the front of their shirt. And they're my kind of team.
COACH MURPHY: For me, like you said, I've known her since 1997. And maybe even before that.
COACH HUTCHINS: You played on our field in '93 when you were the assistant at Southwest Louisiana and beat us.
COACH MURPHY: Okay, a little farther back. But the same goes for me with her and her teams. I try to be like her. I mean, everybody loves her. She always wins in the cold, in the snow. I'm from Iowa, I respect that. I love her staff. Just really, really good people. And that's what we try to emulate. We try to do the same thing she's doing. She's done it for years. She's got like 1500 wins. That's unbelievable. And we tried to go there in 2013 and it didn't work out. So I will go.
COACH HUTCHINS: You're going to have to swear more if you want to be like me. (Laughter).
Q. Carol, there's a bit of a local tie with your star, Sierra Romero, being that her younger sister went and signed on at OU.
COACH HUTCHINS: Thanks for bringing that up.
Q. With that local tie, wanted to get your thoughts on her as a player and what that recruitment process was like. That being Sydney.
COACH HUTCHINS: Want me to comment on Sydney? Is that your question.
Q. Yes, with the local connection?
COACH HUTCHINS: Maybe Patty will root for us. I saw Sierra Romero walk up to Patty last night at the function. I don't know what the conversation was. But people ask about Sierra Romero all the time. She's clearly one of the greatest in the game. What I always say about her is what I like best about her is she's humble and she was raised really well. This is a kid who understands what "no" means. This is a kid who respects authority and respects her coaches and respects her team. And I'm certain -- we did try to get Sydney to come to Michigan. And honestly I don't know why she didn't choose us. But I'm certain that Sydney, too, will be a great player because she comes from a great gene pool. All those Romeros. You meet Michael, the younger son. Can I comment on him? He's a fantastic athlete. But they were raised well. And I think that's a really important quality in these kids.
Q. Patrick, when you guys won it, I guess three years ago, and your seniors were freshmen. In that Game 3 you guys were losing I think going into the weather delay. Looking back on that, what about that weather delay allowed you guys to come out of it so forcefully the way you did and considering there could be some weather this week, is that something you guys can draw on at all?
COACH MURPHY: Possibly. I mean, we've had bad weather all spring. I mean, out of our eight SEC weekends, only two, was Friday, Saturday, Sunday. We either got a doubleheader Friday, a doubleheader Saturday, or a single Saturday and a doubleheader Sunday. Everybody had to deal with the bad weather I think everywhere. But that game and that time, it was just unbelievable. And I think that break was perfect for us. Our crowd got involved. Our dugout was the main reason why we won that game, though, because they charged out of the dugout. The people that weren't playing, they were ready to go. They were ready to do anything and everything they could to win that game, and I think they willed everybody else, especially the next four hitters, to get hits. And that was, for us it was a once-in-a-lifetime deal with everything was going wrong and then all of a sudden it turned the opposite way. And I'm not sure if it will help us this year, but I think everybody's used to weather delays, because this was one of the worst springs ever in the South.
Q. Were some of those players that were on the bench that you said were so helpful, were they the younger players, the freshmen that might be seniors now?
COACH MURPHY: Yes, really the only one that played was Danae Hays. The other four, they were role players that year. And they bought in immediately.
Q. Kelly, you all had the discussion about wearing face masks to protect the pitchers. Obviously you were there to see the latest incident happen. When it does happen as a coach, what goes through your mind when you see the ball come off the bat like it did?
COACH INOUYE-PEREZ: It was very scary. I think we immediately, all of us, kind of rushed the mound, even though it wasn't our player, because she went down and clearly was in pain. So my first memory of it was when she went down, the crowd went silent because it was very loud. And Lisa (Fernandez), my assistant, ran, literally ran straight to the training room and grabbed a bag of ice and Kirk (Walker) went straight to the circle, almost got there just as quick as their trainer did. So I have a pretty clear picture we all circled her pretty quickly and pulled everybody back. I actually went to my player who hit the ball and she was in tears. She was like -- because she almost hit her at the at-bat before. She hit a ball that went right by her. She said, Coach, I almost hit her. And for that to happen she emotionally, as a freshman, just lost it. So I kind of went to her to console her. But it went from a very, very loud rocking atmosphere to complete silence. It took some time for us to all take everything in what happened. When they took her off the field we got to see true sportsmanship. I think everyone gave her a standing O and we all consoled the players and the coaches and we went back out and got back after the softball game. But it's part of the game and it was a very scary time.
Q. Patrick, we have a coach in town now who took a job and changed his mind a few days later, Billy Donovan. My question for you is how tough is that when you go back to the job that you had and still a great job, still doing a great job, but what kind of transition did you have to make just that first week or two or however long and obviously you got the program back to where it was, no missteps, but how tough was that on you and what kind of things did you have to go through?
COACH MURPHY: You have to mend some fences first of all, that's basically with administrators, your boss, the fans. I think the girls were relieved, the players. But it was the outside people that didn't understand. And that's the people that, the 4,000 people that came to the game against OU on Sunday afternoon. It was those people. They mean a lot to me, too. So it was the fans, the administrators. Spent a lot of time with the media. But then back to normal.
Q. Kelly, to follow up on Kyle's question, you said that your player was in tears about that and how difficult that was. How tough is that moving forward for a player who experiences something like that from the side of the person who actually hits the ball? And how much can that linger?
COACH INOUYE-PEREZ: Speaking about my player or -- you know what, that girl is -- I don't worry about her. It kind of showed -- I believe she is very well rounded. It's just a young, competitive athlete that also has that real side of her. She's a sweet girl, yet she's a very fierce competitor. In that moment, yeah, she stopped the game and it was very scary. But how she responds, I believe she'll get back out there because she's a true competitor. She loves to compete, loves the game. And so we respectfully, she went over and she even had a moment to be able to talk to the coaches and the players, that's what we do, then she went back out there and got back after it again.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you, Coaches.
FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports