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May 31, 2017
Oklahoma City, Oklahoma
THE MODERATOR: Good afternoon. I want to welcome everyone back to the 2017 Women's College World Series here in Oklahoma City. This will be our first press conference of the day. The second one will start at 3:00 p.m. here today in the same room. Today we have Head Coach Patty Gasso from the University of Oklahoma, whose team advanced out of the Auburn Super Regional, and they come into the Women's College World Series with an overall record of 56-9 and they're making their 11th appearance here at the Women's College World Series. Next we have Mike White from the University of Oregon, whose team advanced out of the Eugene Super Regional, and they come into the Women's College World Series with an overall record of 52-6 and making their fifth appearance here at the WCWS. And next to him we have the very young coach Heather Tarr from the University of Washington, whose team advanced to the WCWS out of the Seattle Super Regional. Washington comes in with an overall record of 48-12 and making their 12th appearance here at the WCWS. And next to her we have the young fellow Glenn Moore from Baylor University, whose team advanced out of the Tucson Super Regional with an overall record of 48-13 and are making their fourth appearance here at the WCWS.
PATTY GASSO: You did not preface my introduction with young at all.
THE MODERATOR: I didn't think I had to.
PATTY GASSO: We are, again, just really pleased to be here. It was quite a season with a lot of highs and lows and a very tough regional at home that we had our backs against the wall. To see this team fight through it and go against a very good Auburn team in Auburn was another difficult challenge, but to see them step up and face the challenge was exceptional, so I'm extremely proud of this group, and getting a chance to be back here and being called one of the final eight is quite an honor, and we're just very pleased to be back.
MIKE WHITE: Well, obviously we're very excited to be back after missing out last year in a close one in Eugene. I think that this is the first time that all 16 seeds made it through to the regional round, to the super regional round, I mean, and I think that shows a lot of parity, and even the teams that are outside the 16 were very, very good and could have probably been in the top 16, so I think it looks very good for softball itself.
We had our backs to the wall at least twice going into the last innings or so, and for us to fight our way through and make it here, it definitely seems like the hardest part is getting here, but we also know that once you're here, it's hard here, as well. Great competitive teams here.
We're looking forward to, again, helping softball make the big stage and having great games against great competitors, great crowds. Oklahoma City is the show, and that's what it's about, and we're here to help showcase the game of softball. Thank you.
HEATHER TARR: We're just so proud of our team and our program for being able to get back here. It's a place that in '09 we won it, '10 we were here, '13 we found a way back, but we've had a little drought, so I'm just really proud of our team and our program for really setting its mission of finishing in the top eight, which we were able to earn that seed to get the host of regionals and super regionals.
It wasn't easy for us. We had a great team in Michigan come in and we had to find a way to beat them twice at home, face a really good pitcher in Megan Betsa, and then of course we faced Utah for our fourth, fifth and sixth times on the season within the last 15 days, so that was pretty tough to do.
They took us to the it game, which was a little bit challenging. We were able to win a nail-biter 2-1 to get here, but just super proud of our team. Trying to make a name for ourselves. I know we're somewhat known here with some tradition in our program, but it's really tough to get here. It's really tough to get the seeding to be able to get here, and again, I just am so excited for our team and our program and what's to come, and can't wait to continue our quest.
GLENN MOORE: I agree with these guys. It's very tough to get here. Every year I have tons of boosters ask us if they need to purchase tickets to the World Series, and I always say it's about 300 teams trying to get here, and it takes a lot of work and a little bit of luck to get here. We started the year off with five surgeries in the fall and lost two of those players that would have been starters, so we had a lot of unanswered questions, and the biggest one was pitching, which is a pretty important part of this game, and Kelsee Selman and Gia Rodoni both stepped it up big for us and led this team, which was probably in a rebuilding mode, somewhat of a rebuilding mode to becoming a pretty good team.
You know, we just certainly didn't have an easy path. I think of the four World Series we've been to, we've only hosted a super regionals once, so that's beating the odds right there, so I think this team thinks they're odds beaters.
But it was fun to go through Tucson. Obviously I don't have to tell everybody what that would have been like and the challenge ahead of us there. To be able to celebrate that super regional victory in Tucson was big for our program.
Q. You've obviously faced Oklahoma a lot over the years --
GLENN MOORE: Too much.
Q. Historically, what's the challenge you've seen going against their pitching staff, especially historically, as I said, but then what's the challenge this year as you see those pitchers going against them?
GLENN MOORE: Well, historically I have a lot of lefties in my lineup and they have a lot of lefty pitchers that are pretty good, and that's not the best matchup, so that's a challenge in itself. They're a team that's full of tradition and know how to win and know how to win when they're down, and they've got great leadership.
There's never going to be an easy game against them.
I guess overcoming that is the biggest challenge.
Q. Patty, about Paige Lowary, her earned run average at one time was 2.7. It's now 1.6. I'm just looking at it here, her walks are down, her strikeouts are a little bit down. What has happened for her this season?
PATTY GASSO: Melissa Lombardi has happened to her. Our pitching coach has done a fantastic job, really starting from ground zero, and giving her a breath -- a lot of you might know, she had a horrible -- actually it was an Oregon player when she was at Missouri hit a ball up the middle that caught page in the face, and it was pretty traumatic, and she just kept playing, kept going, and when she came to OU, we wanted to give her some time off and the doctors recommended it, and then it was after those like two months, then it became like a rebuilding, start over from ground zero and let's redevelop you into what you're comfortable with, and she bought into it, and she's become a completely different, more confident pitcher.
Q. Last year you said that the young ladies weren't even maybe sure what they were doing because they were so young and so new to it. Now that they're defending national champions and they've been through it, how have they handled the process of getting to this point?
PATTY GASSO: I don't think we handled it very well to start. There was a lot of expectations that they took on their shoulders. It's pretty evident, we struggled through mid-March, and it's very tiring to live in that world. We, through a lot of work together, pretty much decided this isn't fun. Softball isn't fun right now, so let's go back to what we know, and they all, again, bought in and exhaled and became a very competitive, trusting bunch with each other and enjoyed softball again, and that's really the key is just let your guard down and go for it, and they did.
Ended us back here, so it was a phenomenal journey with them.
Q. Heather, I saw on social media recently that Holly Rowe had posted a photo of a poster board she received from your team with signed messages of encouragement of her battle with cancer. What do you think compelled your girls to do that, and what has Holly meant to this sport as of course she's here this week, as well?
HEATHER TARR: Well, I think just in terms of like our football program was able to bring ESPN and Holly out to Seattle that weekend, and we saw, gosh, how cool is it that one of our softball favorites from ESPN is in our neck of the woods, and we ended up actually not meeting her. She had messaged me, but it just didn't work, and our team was so excited to at least just write her a note on our whiteboard in our own locker room with the hopes that she would be there, and she ended up seeing it, and it's just kind of ironic what they had written on the message, and we just said, "our fight is nothing like your fight, but hope to see you in Oklahoma City," and it rang true. How awesome for our team and obviously for Holly, too, to be here doing what she loves.
Q. For both sets of coaches, what are your thoughts on just the familiarity between the teams and having conference matchups in these games?
PATTY GASSO: Talking to Glenn, I don't think either one of us are thrilled to see each other this early. We're just thrilled to be representing the Big 12, and we don't get a lot of attention, so I think we're both pretty thrilled to be here. That in terms of what I would say we might talk about restructuring or re-seeding once teams get here and try to avoid some of this, but it is what it is, and I think both of us are, like I said, just proud of our teams and ready to get going.
MIKE WHITE: Yeah, I think it's something that you'd like to avoid if you could, but I know in September at the Pac-12 coaches' meetings, we really as a group wanted to see more Pac-12 teams back at the Women's College World Series. We almost had four if the weren't for the super regional matchup, could have been five, you never know, but it is exciting for our conference to have more than one or two teams here for sure, and having be in three of the eight it's great for our conference and hopefully we can represent well. It's unfortunate we do play each other the first round, but those things happen. I'd much rather be doing it here than not be here, so it is what it is, and we've just got to go out and make the most of the opportunity.
HEATHER TARR: Well, I think if you look back in history in terms of all of our conferences, there have been a lot of times where you've seen these early matchups, and I remember just as a player experiencing you actually almost didn't want to win the Pac-10 at the time because it kind of like sets you up for maybe peaking early, so you end up facing maybe a UCLA, our program, or an Arizona in the College World Series, first game out. So I think it just kind of -- it's awesome to see the greatness kind of rise to the top, and eventually you're going to run into each other if you're doing a good job. Like he's saying, it is what it is, and it's a game, and we all get to play and get to see what we've got when it matters.
GLENN MOORE: I think three of our four appearances we've started with a conference foe, and certainly not the situation if you had to pick, but I certainly don't want to pick from this group of teams, either. They're all quality teams, and it's just going to be some great softball this week.
Q. I just had a question for Mike and Heather. When you look at this field, there's three double-digit seeds but you have OU and LSU as two of those, and those are two of the most storied programs in the history of softball. What's that like knowing that these teams pulled the upsets to get there but they're still plenty powerful themselves?
HEATHER TARR: You know, we've been here in that position before, too. 2013 we beat Missouri, we were the 13 or whatever we were at the time, but you know, those programs have every chance to be here that everybody else does, and I think that they should be here. So whether they were seeded and maybe under the underdog or came from the bottom and got to the top, they're just as good as everybody else. I am not surprised that those teams are in it.
MIKE WHITE: Yeah, the seeds come from over the body of work of the season, and we all know it's what happens at the end. I think if you look at Oklahoma last year they didn't start off great, but they were the best team at the end, and they're starting to dot same thing this year, and I think that's what we all want, we all want to peak at the right time on the big stage and that's what matters the most. The seedings right now, there are no seedings, we've got opponents, and whoever plays the best on the day is going to get the next game, and that's what we want to try and do, play the best on the day.
Q. Baylor athletics has been in the news the last couple years for things you don't want to be in the news about, but your golf team made the Final Four or Final Eight yesterday, your tennis team is great, the basketball has continued, you're in the World Series. What have you guys done in Waco to make sure that that scandal didn't affect your program and you guys were able to not just keep going but excel and get better?
GLENN MOORE: Well, I think we've become the model school for correcting the mistakes we've made, and it'll be a shame if other schools that are making the same mistakes that we made don't follow that, and that if the national media just focuses on Baylor instead of the other schools, because we have an opportunity to correct those mistakes nationwide or make a great effort to do that, and I think Baylor has gone above and beyond, not that you can go beyond, but can't do too much in those circumstances, to make sure that we correct those mistakes.
As far as Baylor softball, we've continued to do what we've always done. You know, we took the team to Denham Springs, Louisiana, and helped out. I didn't see any national media there filming any of that. Spent several days down there during the flooding. We're heading to Ghana, Africa, in December, goodwill events that we don't publicize because we're just doing what we do and Baylor has done all along. But typically they focus on the negative, and I understand that.
So I hope, my desire is that there will be focus nationwide on the cultural issues that we have going on in our society rather than just attacking Baylor.
Q. This is a general question. This time last year we weren't really sure what was going to happen in terms of softball being an Olympic sport. Now it's back. What does that do for the sport and for some of the players here who might have that maybe as something that they'll gun for down in the future?
GLENN MOORE: If you don't mind, I hate to ask you to repeat that question, but if you would, I missed the point there.
Q. Softball will be in the Olympics in 2020, and so what does that do for your sport and then also for some of the players who may have dreams of getting there?
GLENN MOORE: Well, I've been coaching long enough to have seen the initial rise of softball across the country, not just on the West Coast in the warm climates, because of the Olympics, and I held camps where kids would come in, and their dream -- every rÃ©sumÃ© we got from kids was my dream is to play in the Olympics, so it gives them an opportunity to dream and motivates them. It's grown our sport.
From that point of view, it's going to continue to do that. It's a great sport, and it changes lives.
HEATHER TARR: I just think the greatest stage in a lot of sports is the Olympic Games, and I think the neatest part for softball is that in 2020 it will be back. Of course you don't know its future beyond that, but in the interim it brings back that feeling that maybe those young kids had once it got into the Olympics in '96 and beyond. But I just think more importantly, we all have the obligation if the Olympics is to continue to have softball, to continue to grow the game globally, and unless that continues to happen, it won't continue to prosper in the world. Obviously it's prospering in the United States and we're all proud of that, but I think this is an opportunity for all of us to continue to help grow the game more worldly, and I'm hopeful to continue that in however I can contribute.
MIKE WHITE: Well, the boost of softball from the '96 Olympics was just tremendous, and it really pushed everything, not only into the college ranks but the lower levels, as well. But internationally now what we're seeing is that a lot of countries are opening up and looking for U.S. players that actually have heritage from another country. My daughter is one, has the ability to go play for New Zealand and the possibility to go on from there, who knows, but it is opening up a lot of avenues, and what we're hoping is that those foreign teams actually become better and the competitive stage on an international level will get even better, and that will push the softball past that just Japan and just USA level. So we want to get that bigger stage, make everybody better. The rising tide lifts all boats, so we're hoping that the Olympic stage will do that for all of us.
PATTY GASSO: Agree with all, just the dream that kids get to dream again, representing your country is a dream of anybody's, so especially now, it just seems like there's more to represent and more pride and wanting to. So the dream is back, and I couldn't be more thrilled, as all of us coaches could tell you, to see the little kids come to your camps, know that's what they're shooting for. It's a great thing for our sport.
Q. Coach Tarr, you guys have been known for swinging the bats really well all season long, and then specifically in the last game against Utah you guys win kind of a grind it out, low-scoring affair. Does that give your team a lot of confidence heading into this tournament?
HEATHER TARR: I think our team has gone through like a three-year progression where we had to find a way to overcome our pitching for a couple of years after we graduated two good arms in 2014, so in '15 and '16 we were just finding ways to maybe overcome some of our young pitching, our lack of pitching. Our offense is somewhat regulating to feeling the pressure of not scoring eight, ten runs, it's okay. We need to pitch, we need to play defense, and whatever it takes to get one more run, that's what we have to do. So it's kind of recentered ourselves to, fine, we can outscore someone, but at the end of the day, at the championship level, most likely it's going to come down to who can pitch, play defense and score the couple runs that you need.
Q. Coach Gasso and Coach Moore, I was wondering if you could talk about the biggest differences in your teams since the early season, regular season series that you guys had in norm an.
PATTY GASSO: I think we're a little more confident team and even a little more complete. Pitchers have really found their groove. Offense has improved some. So I just think we're just a little more complete than we were in early April.
GLENN MOORE: I think we are more unified as a team. I think we're going in multiple directions and trying to get on the same page, and a lot of that has to do with the stresses of college life, academics, and once that's over, certainly it allows you to just think about softball, and not everybody has that ability because they're still in class, some of them, but I think that's unified us quite a bit after we got those stressors out of the way.
Q. Coach Gasso, how comforting is it for you to go into this College World Series knowing your pitching staff is a little deeper than it was last year at this time?
PATTY GASSO: We're in two different worlds than we were last year. I took back at what Paige Parker did, and I find it pretty amazing. I don't know when we might see another pitcher do what she did from throwing every inning of every regional, super regional and College World Series except the second championship game. Now having options and having a little bit deeper staff takes a lot of stress off of Paige and keeps her mind a little bit freer and strong, and I think our team feels that, as well. They don't feel like, oh, we've got to -- kind of on what Heather was saying, feeling like you have to score because Paige is going to run out of gas. I mean, we're talking about completely different style now that we have confidence in everybody who can come in and throw a pitch. I just don't want to mess that up. With Paige, it's like you do it, this is you, I can't mess this up, you're the only choice we have. Now there's choices. So we need to be calculated and smart in what we're doing.
Q. This is an event that's been held in Oklahoma City for a long time now. This facility that they've had has also evolved over those years. Just in terms of comparisons to over stadiums that you play in, other venues, how does this compare and what are some of your favorite aspects of the stadium and the facility here, and is there anything that you'd like to see changed or updated in future years?
GLENN MOORE: Oh, man, this is -- I tell the girls every year, this is the center of the universe for the softball world, and the atmosphere probably supercedes anything facility wise, but the facilities are phenomenal and the field is great. I heard last night over the next couple years we're adding seating, so that would be the one thing I would say that we need for the World Series is more seating and an air conditioned -- maybe a dome. Other than that, this is a great venue.
HEATHER TARR: Just selfishly for our program, not possibly having a senior class that got to come here and this senior class found a way to get their group to come here, it's like Disneyland for softball. It's the mecca of softball. To be able to show them the progressions of how it used to look when it was just grass on the sides and just a little white fence and really nobody in the outfield, too, literally like he's saying, adding that second deck and then having them go see the Hall of Fame museum and then go downstairs and see the history and tradition of college softball, it's just the coolest place to be, and I'm just so excited for our players to be able to experience it.
MIKE WHITE: I guess one of the best things about coming back is you get to see how it improves each time, and just the little things sometimes can make a big difference.
You know, just the hotel situation, having eight different hotels is pretty nice, and it makes it a little -- especially if the teams are still in school, less distractions. I think that's pretty good, try to keep things normal.
As far as the playing surface goes, it still gets pretty dangerous in the first and third base dugout, so I'd like to see a net that protects the players. I think that's something that should happen.
PATTY GASSO: Seen some great improvements throughout. Now adding I thought a locker room attached to your dugout where we didn't have to use the porta-potties in your dugout but you could go now into a locker room with bathrooms and a meeting room attached to the dugout was very important. So I've seen some great improvements.
What's hard for me is being 30 minutes away, people think that I work at the TicketMaster and can give them free tickets and free parking passes, and I think we get -- the toughest happens against us thinking that we're trying to work deals. It's hard sometimes. But I'm not complaining. I'm happy that it's close to home and the Sooner fans get spoiled by that, so we're pleased about it.
Q. So you're saying you don't have tickets to the game?
PATTY GASSO: I do not have parking free, I do not. (Laughter).
FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports