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May 30, 2018

Trisha Ford

Patty Gasso

Heather Tarr

Mike White

Oklahoma City, Oklahoma

THE MODERATOR: Welcome to our afternoon session of our head coaches' press conference. I'll introduce the head coaches, all four of them, ask them to give a brief opening statement. Once we've introduced all four, then I'll turn it over to you guys. To my right is Patty Gasso from Oklahoma. She is in her 24th season at OU. This is their 12th Women's College World Series appearance and their third straight Women's College World Series, so obviously have won the last two championships. They are the No. 4 seed. They are currently 55-3. They went undefeated in the regional play, went 3-0, beat Boston U, beat Tulsa and Missouri, and then defeated Arkansas twice in the super regional. Coach, if you could talk a little bit about your season.

PATTY GASSO: Well, we're very excited to be here. I feel a little uninvited up here with being a little out of the conference, but tough bracket. Tough College World Series tournament. Probably the toughest top to bottom that I've seen or been a part of in a long time. There's no easy side. You look either way, it's no easy side.

We're excited to be here. Been playing some really good softball. Got a very good group that I adore and love to work with on a daily basis, and just to be part of what is now one of the most watched universal championships out there, to be a part of it is quite an honor, and our goal is to put our best softball out there and have a great time doing it, so we're really honored to be here.

THE MODERATOR: To Patty's right is Heather Tarr from the University of Washington. This is Heather's 14th season at UW. This is their 13th Women's College World Series appearance and their second straight. The Huskies are the No. 5 seed, and they are currently 49-8. They also went undefeated in the regionals. They beat Boise State, Texas and Minnesota, and then they defeated Alabama twice in the super regional. Heather, welcome back, and if you could tell us a little bit about your team.

HEATHER TARR: Yes, I'm just so happy to be here amongst some amazing coaches and awesome teams, and I'll echo the fact that there is no easy way out of this, and what an awesome opportunity for all of us. But we're just excited as a team, as a program to continue to grow and learn, and our team is fun to watch. If you haven't seen them yet, you'll enjoy seeing them play. I love coaching them every day, and just proud to represent the Pac-12 and the University of Washington.

THE MODERATOR: Next to her is Mike White of the University of Oregon. Mike is in his ninth season at Oregon. The Ducks are the No. 1 seed. They are 52-8. This is their sixth Women's College World Series and their second straight. They went 3-0 in the regionals, they beat Albany and beat Drake twice. They went 2-1 in the super regional, lost their first game to Kentucky and then came back and won two straight against the Wildcats. Coach White, tell us about your team.

MIKE WHITE: Well, we're excited to be ranked No. 1, but as we know, that doesn't mean a whole lot at this time of year. There's great competition. We've played a lot of the teams that are in the College World Series except Florida, and I can attest to how good all those teams are, and it's been a real battle so far this year.

The weather could be a little bit of an issue. I'm sure people are going to ask about that. But it's the same for every team, and I'm just excited to come back and see the improvements that happen at this Women's College World Series in Oklahoma City every year. You start to see some little things; the bullpens look a lot better. I'm excited about that. I'm sure that with the renovations that are going to happen after this year it's going to be even better.

It's just a testament to the growth of our sport, the viewership, the numbers that are popping up. People love this game, and it's been hard to get people out to watch it sometimes, but once they get out there, they're hooked, and that's why we're excited to be coaches of this great game and to -- continue to grow it, both internationally, we were fortunate enough to go overseas and play in New Zealand, and I'm sure there's going to be other opportunities that pop up, keep growing the sport around the world. We're excited to see it back in the Olympics, and we are super excited to be back here in Oklahoma City.

THE MODERATOR: Next to Mike is Trisha Ford from Arizona State. This is her second year at ASU. This is their 12th Women's College World Series appearance and their first Women's College World Series appearance since 2013. The Sun Devils are the No. 8 seed. They are currently 48-11. They went undefeated in the regional and the super regional. They beat New Mexico State and Ole Miss twice in the regional, and beat South Carolina twice in the super regional. Congratulations. Welcome back, and tell us a little bit about the Sun Devils.

TRISHA FORD: Well, I'm obviously the rookie up here with great coaches. We're really excited to be here, and just enjoying and taking this all in. I think we have some great competition. We were fortunate enough to be able to play each one of these programs up here, and I think you're going to just see a great week of softball. I'm just going to kind of reiterate what they're saying: Happy to be here, happy to represent the Pac-12, excited where softball is going, excited about the Olympics. But again, I think you guys are in for a really great week of softball.

Q. Coach Gasso, talk about the journey this year that your team has made just to get back here, especially, marked as the two-time defending champion.
PATTY GASSO: I think the key is not feeling like you're marked. We don't think that way. We don't play that way because there's a lot of teams out there that could say just with the tradition that they have that X on their back. But we just try to go out and give it our best every day, and we've had some highs and lows. One of the biggest eye-openers was actually playing in Oregon and how impressed I was by their fan base, and it's a very difficult place to play, and their team was very good. We took a journey there, and we learned a lot about what we needed to do to get better.

What we try to do, and I'm sure all of these coaches would say the same thing, is throughout the year, checking in and saying we're not as good as we think we are, and we find out quickly that we're not, and we learned a valuable lesson there and tried to build off of it, and playing some good ball right now, but it's a veteran team, and I think it's made my life a little bit easy.

Q. Coach Gasso, with Jocelyn (Alo), there's people that hit for power, but you don't generally get them hitting over .400. How has she been able to do that, especially being a freshman and having that kind of an eye?
PATTY GASSO: I think she has a real good eye. She works diligently on her craft and practices hard, works hard, works extra, loves to get as much live as she can. She's a learner. She absorbs. She makes adjustments. She makes changes. But she is more than anything just a competitor. When she puts her mind to something, you can't stop her, and I have not seen a freshman so goal-oriented and hitting those goals like they're nothing. She's a special athlete.

Q. For all four of you, obviously you were tested in the previous rounds, but all of you were able to make it through as top seeds. What do you think that says about what you guys have been able to do?
PATTY GASSO: You mean in -- explain that a little bit better for me.

Q. In terms of being top-8 seeds, obviously the parity of the sport is great, but you guys were able to make it through, all being favorites.
PATTY GASSO: Well, I think it says something to home-field advantage, as I was saying about any of these programs, you go play a home-field advantage, including ours, we have an advantage. The fan base now is coming out, and they're very vocal, and they get into what's going on, and it makes a big difference, especially when you're facing programs that maybe have not been in those kinds of settings.

But home is where most of us all play our best, and I think fans have a lot to do with that.

HEATHER TARR: I would just say that in general, the sport is growing, and there is parity, and you can't take pitches off. If you do, then the person that comes into your home field can make you pay, and you've really got to be on your game. You have to be playing well at the right time. You have to have all components of your game working well for you, your pitching, your defense, your hitting, and I would say for us, that's where we're at today. You learn throughout your season, so I think our conferences help us get to the point where we can play our best at these times of year.

Q. Mike, you obviously had the situation where you dropped your opener against Kentucky and then came back.
MIKE WHITE: I was just going to say that. I think we were the only one to lose actually at home. It is difficult. We know this, whenever we go on the road, it's always difficult to beat a team in a series or a sweep. It's extremely tough, and it's getting more so. But our fan base has grown -- when I first got the program there was 300 people at the games, and now we average over 2,200, and often 2,500. 2,200 is a sell-out, and we had several sell-outs. It really helps our game. It lifts our athletes. We felt the support of the crowd. No one walked out, no one left, knowing we were down, I think it was maybe four runs or so. Nobody left. Everyone stayed there, and you feel that.

Our athletes are special. They want to play. They want to represent, and if you want to be the best, you've got to go out and get up off the canvas and take another shot, and that's what we did.

TRISHA FORD: I would say we were never warm and fuzzy about any game, so I think it worked out in our favor, but I think all of us up here would tell you that each game was very, very difficult, and I think speaking from our perspective, I think our conference really prepared us for this. Our fans were fantastic, but each weekend we were playing Oregon, Washington, UCLA. You know, we just -- we're fortunate, and some might say unfortunate, but I think we are fortunate that we get to each week play really high-caliber games, and so you are prepared when you get into postseason, which is one of the reasons why I think -- one of the reasons why I came to ASU is that you get to prepare every single weekend.

Q. I have a question for Coach Gasso and Coach Tarr, and if Coach White wants to jump in, he can. What's it mean to have Paige Parker going into this World Series, especially considering she has eight World Series victories, and Coach Tarr and Coach White, you guys have faced her on this stage. What's that like?
PATTY GASSO: She's been the face of our program since she stepped on it. She kind of grabbed the torch from Keilani (Ricketts) and said I'll take it from her, and she's done a great job. Gets better every year, which is hard to do from a pitching standpoint. She's had her ups and downs, but she always bounces back, and she's always very good on the big stage.

HEATHER TARR: Obviously great pitching staff Oklahoma has, and I think what a great opportunity that Washington has to see how good we can get through the experience that we get to have tomorrow.

MIKE WHITE: Obviously as a head coach, you want consistency out of your pitcher, and she's consistency. She's a model of it. She always wants the ball. She wants to get out there. She's a competitor, and that's what you've got to be. That's obviously a luxury having to play with Oklahoma behind you, you've got some great players behind you, and that certainly helps, but like Coach Gasso said, she's the face right now, and she's doing a great job. She took over from Ricketts.

Q. Patty, Lea (Wodach) has had a big season for you. How has she solidified everything behind the plate?
PATTY GASSO: I think any coach would tell you that what makes a good pitcher is a great, great catcher. They're the assistant coaches that make the pitchers look so good, just like our assistants make us look so good. She is a fighter. She's been beat up pretty good this season, catching quite a bit. But she's a gamer. She loves the game. She loves to play. She's very smart in the way she goes about things.

But the pitchers wouldn't want to throw to anybody else, and I think that's probably the biggest compliment she could ever get.

Q. Coach Gasso, all of you coaches have talked about the importance of atmosphere and environment, and the OU fan base has had a tendency to pick up little symbols for you guys throughout the course of the season. Now that it'll be under a national spotlight, what's the relevance of the rally Twizzlers for your team?
PATTY GASSO: I have no idea. I don't know what -- I don't know. I have read a little bit about it, but I don't ever see it, so I think somebody was swinging a Twizzler around, and we got a hit, so give me another one, and I think that's how it started. We're making them a lot of money, apparently, but quite honestly, I don't even see it. It's so far away from what I'm trying to get into that I'm the wrong person to ask, I think.

Q. Coach Ford, can you talk about the changes that you've instilled in the program since you first took over that allowed the Sun Devils to get back here?
TRISHA FORD: Yeah, I mean, I think -- I don't know that there's a secret formula. I know that we work just as much as these people up here work. I think for us, it was creating an environment where they could be pushed but loved at the same time, creating a standard, and that's not just on the field, that's off the field, and I'm really big on how you go to class, how do you treat other people, please and thank you. Little things, but I think a lot of what we do up here is parenting and managing 18 to 22 year olds, which I think is difficult. But we get to be a part of their lives during a very influential time, and hopefully you always keep those bonds. So I think for me it's giving them some love when they need love, but also being that stronghold and letting them know what the standard is and what the expectations are.

You know, I'm a big believer that everything has a consequence, good or bad, and I think it's important for them to understand what that is. You put in the work, the game knows. You don't put in the work, the game knows. So just kind of instilling the same things that I would say that these programs have done year in and year out.

Q. Coach Gasso, I wanted to ask you about your coaching staff and obviously the importance of them to what you've been able to accomplish here. Obviously your son growing up within the program, and then Coach Lombardi has been here now I think this is her 21st season. How special is that to have those two a part of this staff?
PATTY GASSO: Well, Coach Lombardi was a player for me. When I first came to OU, she was a junior college transfer, and skinny, scrawny, tough little catcher who demanded things from her pitchers, and I thought, she is going to be a really good coach one day. And obviously she is one of the best pitching coaches in the country.

She has just stuck with me. We're two of a kind, yet we make each other better.

On the other side, that's a whole new can of worms there with JT, who grew up in our program. I think as a parent, I always had regrets as to why am I spending more time on the field, less time with my kids and so forth, and felt a lot of guilt over that, and to see my career come full circle with him in it by my side is pretty unbelievable, and he's doing just a tremendous job.

Do we get after each other? 100 percent. But I'm always the mom, and I'm always his boss, so I always win those arguments. But I listen. He's very, very smart, too. So it's been quite a blessing to have them both. We're just a good meshed group.

Q. Coach White and Coach Tarr, I looked at the standings and Washington was 4th in the Pac-12 but 5th overall in the seedings, which is just mind blowing to me. Is this a unique year, a special year in the Pac-12, and what was it like getting through it over the course of the season?
HEATHER TARR: Well, some parts were really fun, and some parts were really hard, and it's an environment like this where if you're playing well, things are going good. If you're not playing well, things aren't going good, but you can't feel that bad about things that aren't going good because of who you're playing against. The margin of error is very small, and the conference somewhat mimics what it, I guess, traditionally has been. You have to get through the gauntlet, and there's times where you might face ASU, UCLA, Oregon, Arizona and all the rest. You might just go right in a row. If you're playing well, it's great, and if you're not playing well, it's really hard. But it's humbling to be a part of the conference where it's challenging every single weekend and you face every single team every single season.

MIKE WHITE: Well, I think it's something that hasn't happened overnight. Just didn't happen that the four Pac-12 teams turned up here. It was something we identified several years ago at the Pac-12 meetings that we needed to get better as a conference and individually as teams, and I think you're starting to see that. We started to see it two years ago, last year stronger. This year was the strongest, and several of us said, yeah, this is the strongest Pac-12 conference we've in quite a while, and that does help us prepare, just like Coach Ford said. It certainly helps prepare us. Now, whether that's going to turn into a championship, I don't know, but it certainly is a lot of fun playing in a conference environment like that, where week in and week out -- I go back to last year, we won 54 games straight and then we lost like three weekends in a row against Washington, Arizona and UCLA, and believe me, that's a tough gauntlet to run, but hopefully that adversity does make you stronger in the end.

Q. Coach Tarr, how are you feeling at this moment about Taran Alvelo's health, and how important is having her available to your success as a team?
HEATHER TARR: Yeah, Taran has been a huge part of our program ever since she stepped foot on campus, and she's gone through a little bit of stuff this year. But fortunately for us, she hasn't had to pitch, and it's been nice to be able to give her the rest that she's needed to have her ready at this point in time. I mean, it could have hurt us big time, maybe not even getting out of the regional or not finishing at least strong the last weekend in conference. But she's ready. She pitched last weekend. She threw a shut-out, and lucky us.

Q. Coach Ford, for fans who are going to be here who have never seen your Sun Devils play, how would you describe your style, the team's style, and what people can expect to see?
TRISHA FORD: I would say that we kind of surprised a lot of people, I think, this year. I think we have great pitching. Our defense has been really solid, and we've been able to get a big hit when we needed a big hit. I think we're scrappy. I think we're kind of -- we don't go away, and I hope that that kind of continues.

We just fight. We just keep fighting each pitch and really just -- yeah, I would just say tough, tough and gritty.

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