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May 29, 2019

Mike Candrea

Kelly Inouye-Perez

Heather Tarr

Jamie Trachsel

Oklahoma City, Oklahoma

THE MODERATOR: To my right, the Washington Huskies, Heather Tarr. Washington is 50-7 overall. They are the No. 3 seed. This is their 14th Women's College World Series appearance and third straight. They defeated Kentucky in the super regionals. Coach Tarr is in her 15th season at Washington.

Coach Tarr, if you could tell us a little bit about your journey to get here this year.

HEATHER TARR: Just really excited to be here. Congrats to these three on bringing their teams, as well. Just honored to be up here amongst some amazing coaches.

What an opportunity that we have before us as a program, again, to be back here. It was definitely not easy for us after graduating six seniors last year, five of whom started pretty much every single game for us and were a huge part of our last four years' teams.

Just really proud of our team, proud of our program, to be able to achieve this opportunity. We have great pitching, great defense. We find ways to score runs. Just really excited for our women to be able to have this opportunity to continue to grow, learn together.

THE MODERATOR: We have Mike Candrea, the Arizona Wildcats. Arizona is 47-12. They are the No. 6 seed. This is their 23rd Women's College World Series appearance, first since 2010. They defeated Mississippi in the super regionals. Coach Candrea is in his 34th year at Arizona.

Coach, talk about your return to Oklahoma City.

MIKE CANDREA: It's been a journey. I think some journeys are more frequent than the last one. Very rewarding to get back here and very proud of this team. I think the highlight of this team really for me is just their chemistry. I think they've worked very hard to do the little things that it takes to get to this level.

Just getting here is becoming tougher and tougher. I think that's just a compliment to coaches that are sitting around here. It's a compliment to the game, where our game has grown. It is definitely a tough journey.

I think we've weathered the storm to this part. We're looking forward to meeting a conference foe tomorrow. But we're very excited to kind of get the ball rolling, seeing where we're at.

THE MODERATOR: We have Kelly Inouye-Perez, the UCLA Bruins. UCLA is 51-6 overall, the No. 2 seed. This is their 29th appearance, and their fifth consecutive. They defeated James Madison in the super regionals. Coach Perez is in her 15th season at UCLA.

Coach, tell us a little bit about being back here again.

KELLY INOUYE-PEREZ: First I'd like to thank the city of Oklahoma City and the NCAA. A shout out to USA Softball and the NFCA for the opportunities and recognition they give to our student-athletes.

I agree, all the coaches, the programs, it is a journey to be able to be a top eight, we all strive to be able to do it. We all have our stories of how we get here, which is always exciting and personal. We all persevered to be able to be here.

For us personally, we're a very balanced team. You have some speed and power. We have a staff with pitching. I think your ability to have a strong culture. Ability to put the team before yourself is something that's important for every program.

I have think experience plays in. Your ability to have high expectations, but then to be able to put the work in to be able to get back to this point knowing that everybody is talented in the country. You can see that in our sport.

I have a lot of respect for all the programs that are striving to be this top eight. So we're excited. We celebrated. It's a new season. We want to get out there and play our game. Can't wait to get after it. We're excited to be here, as well.

THE MODERATOR: We have Jamie Trachsel, the Minnesota Gophers. They are 46-12 overall, No. 7 seed. This is their first Women's College World Series appearance. They defeated LSU in the super regionals. Coach Trachsel is in her second season at Minnesota.

Obviously, you have a lot to talk about.

JAMIE TRACHSEL: Well, first of all, it's an honor, we're proud to be in the Women's College World Series. I'm honored to be sitting up here, a little bit star struck. Earlier I texted Candrea, You're the first tapes I bought, all about Arizona softball. To be up here, it's quite an honor.

I'm proud of our team. This team has been through a ton last couple years. We faced a lot of adversity this year. Each step of the way I'm just proud of everything that they've been able to handle.

We have our themes this year was we kind of came together and figured out in January, poster said, Dream big. Why not us? We told them, Don't be afraid to be great, don't think for one second that you're not capable.

Obviously, we had strong pitching coming back led by Amber Fiser. Our defense has played consistently behind them. How we found ways to score runs.

We're honored to be part of this group. We want to come out here and represent the state of Minnesota the best way we can, keep it a game of execution with a ton of emotions. We're not just happy to be here. We're going to come with our best stuff and see if we can make what we have good enough as we face the mighty UCLA Bruins.

First time in program history, why not try to slay the ultimate dragon (laughter).

THE MODERATOR: We'll open it up for questions.

Q. Coach Trachsel, it's not just the first time that Minnesota has been here. You look back at what happened in 2017, not even seeded, having to go on the road. You still have some players who went through that. You came in and had to pick up the pieces. What does this mean from that perspective?
JAMIE TRACHSEL: You can't go backwards. I wasn't part of that. Each team has its own journey, its own identity.

I know that the players that were part of that feel a sense of, like, pride in the fact that they represent the teams that came before them, that they were part of, too. They should be, feel that way.

We take it personally that we were getting to represent some teams that came before us, some of the opportunities that maybe they didn't get, that we did get and we earned.

Q. Jamie, you mentioned trying to avoid the just happy-to-be-here syndrome. How do you do that? What do you say to a team?
JAMIE TRACHSEL: I think the last four weeks for us has helped us prepare as best we can. I don't know that you're ever as prepared just walking into the stadium, the magnitude of being here.

But the last four weeks we've had something to play for, there's been expectations, people talking about what's in front of us. We played in front of an electric crowd at home. We've been fortunate to do that.

Last week wasn't as much preparing for super regionals and LSU as it was controlling the emotions. Practice really didn't matter. It was just us controlling the emotions, making sure we had good conversations with our kids.

People are saying, You're two wins away from your dream, one win away from your dream. I think the same will go for this weekend as well.

Some of our kids said, ‘We're not always best on Friday.’

‘Good, we don't play on Friday, we play on Thursday.’

We'll try to use every experience that we have, all the lessons learned to make sure we come out ready to go. You don't get a game to get into this tournament. You have to be ready from the get-go. We'll do the best we can to be prepared for that and keep it a game of execution and go out there and put our best foot forward.

Q. Coach Tarr, you have two really phenomenal pitchers, some would say you have two aces. How do you make the determination of who gets the ball in the circle? How do you then also balance the personalities that those pitchers have? Great pitchers always want the ball.
HEATHER TARR: I think this season and last season really helped Taran and Gabbie understand their roles and who they are as pitchers. Taran carried us in the whole 2017 season. Last year she sustained a little bit of an injury maybe halfway through our conference season. Gabbie had to carry us. They both had those experiences which is an amazing thing to have as a coach.

In general, they've learned to work together and understand what they each do are two different things. They can just be available and ready as called. They're not fragile. They're able to adapt and compensate, whether one has to come in and close. They don't know about an hour before the game starts who is starting the game.

Q. The Women's Final Four Muffet McGraw brought up the issue of not enough female coaches in female sports. How do you feel that's going in softball? Is it going in the right direction, where it needs to be, or do we need more female coaches in the sport of softball?
JAMIE TRACHSEL: How about Kelly? Kelly has a lot of experience (laughter).

KELLY INOUYE-PEREZ: You know, to answer the question, my personal opinion, I just think having the best coach for the job is always the most important. I always encourage our own student-athletes, being able to be a Division I coach is a real job now. Even the opportunity to be the real breadwinner in the family.

I think it's a great opportunity for those that have played the sport to continue to give back. They're in great programs, learning a lot. I think they're not only softball experiences but their life experiences can help develop these young females to be the best they can be.

I also played for a male coach growing up. Good coaches are good coaches. They're focusing on the people, the development. There's so much information I believe in the game now, everybody knows how to play the sport. It's how you manage your people, how you grow your individuals through these hard lessons on these big stages that I think great coaches leave their mark.

Yes, I believe always, I encourage our own student-athletes to give back to the sport. I celebrate that. It is a real opportunity for them now to do it. There's a lot of support, budgets, salaries for them to be able to pursue it. I hope we continue to see the sport grow and the female coaching generation continue to grow.

Once again, I'm looking for the best coaches that can represent at this highest level. It's not just about the sport. It's not about your knowledge. It's about how you grow your individuals, in my opinion.

HEATHER TARR: I maybe have a little bit of a different way of thinking about it.

I think the thing that I hope for, maybe 25 years from now, is that our sport continues to gain the respect and a genderless respect with respect to bat and ball. I would just predict in 25 years, you're going to want some of the Major League Baseball infielders to play like some of our infielders, some of that game to be able to aspire to be like our game.

There are men in our sport. I think it's really good for cultures to have both genders maturing young women. I would say why not women coaching men? That's I guess where I would like to take the conversation, not try to eliminate men from women's sports. I would say why don't we be more inclusive and respectful about what women can add to men's situations.

Another thing, too, Coach Candrea can probably speak to this, I don't know if a lot of men in this game would want to go back to coaching men.

THE MODERATOR: Coach Trachsel, do you want to take a run at this now? We'll come back to him (laughter).

JAMIE TRACHSEL: I'm going to echo what Kelly said. It's the right person for the job.

I also believe in having a well-balanced staff. With the way that society is, I think having good men around to be good examples to treat these young women with respect, how they should be talked to, cared for, with good boundaries and stuff to show them, like, to be around good people, how they should be treated is important, too.

Just challenging your kids to be the best versions of themselves, they want to be great on and off the field, in everything they do. Everything is a representation of their character. When they leave your program, they are confident, capable to go out to the next phase of their life, to make their own choices so they can own their own happiness.

Some people see that in women, some people see that a little bit through men. I think regardless of who the head coach is, maybe having a good balance in your staff, so there's always someone your players can identify with and feel comfort with as they grow through their collegiate experience.

THE MODERATOR: Coach Candrea, I feel it's important you weigh in on that, as well.

MIKE CANDREA: The one thing I've seen in the sport is that we've grown a lot more good female coaches. I think when I got into the game early on, that maybe had not been the case. Most of us came from baseball. It was pretty natural.

I think in today's world, I mean, I've been around enough to see these young ladies grow. I think we have some very capable females that are really good coaches, that understand how to manage people. I'm happy for that.

I'm also a believer that if you're looking for someone, you want the very best fit for your program. To me, it's the person that's going to be able to develop these young ladies for life after softball.

One thing about our sport right now, I wish we had more opportunities for them to play professionally and actually make a living. Until that happens, I think my major job is to get them ready for life after softball. If I can be a good mentor and a good role model for them, whether you're female or male, I think that's what's important.

Q. Coach Candrea, last time you saw Washington, you were one hit away from taking Game 1 and maybe even Game 2. Since then you took two away from UCLA on the road and have remained undefeated in the post-season. Have you turned around enough to be able to maybe actually beat Washington tomorrow?
MIKE CANDREA: Well, we would not be here if we didn't think we were capable. I think the great thing about this stage and the thing that we grew from that experience was just being able to handle the big moment. I think now our kids, their motors are going to run a little bit higher. When you get here, that I think is the key. We all have good pitching. We all play good defense. It's going to come down to the timely hit.

But I think the big thing is to be able to handle the emotions of the game. At this stage right now, this game, that's the center of it. If the game gets too quick, you can't slow it down, it's awfully tough to be successful.

I think we've grown in that regard. I think physically we're hopefully a little better team than we were. That's our goal. But I think mentally right now, I think our kids have kind of figured out what each of them have to do to kind of slow the game down and be able to handle the big moment, and we'll see.

Q. Coach Tarr, Arizona has been on a roll hitting throughout the post-season. What are you looking forward to tomorrow?
HEATHER TARR: I think every single game we play in our conference tends to come down to execution, the ability to find a way to win the game. No matter who we play, who we face, it's going to come down to that.

I'm just excited for our team to continue to compete and be able to play a quality opponent that we know, just go to battle.

Q. Coach Candrea and Coach Inouye-Perez. We've seen this game grow so much over the last few years. If you could speak about the parity of the game. How much does the game need to grow and expand and have those other schools start competing at this level?
KELLY INOUYE-PEREZ: I think it's a true comment. We played what you do call non-traditional in that there were some firsts. The need to grow, I think the sport has definitely grown. I think the playing field, definitely you can see it. It's very true from coast-to-coast.

When I played, it was very dominated with the Pac-10, when I played.


KELLY INOUYE-PEREZ: Pac-8 (laughter).

To see the sport grow, to your point, I celebrate it. I say that always. It's more of a challenge, the road to get here is truly just a different roadmap. I talked to Coach Candrea about this. It's just a different time and age. But nothing changes the history of our sport. Very proud to have the history and tradition of what was established in the roadmap to get to where we are, the history of the Pac-12. Nothing more than that.

But we celebrate the fact there's more opportunities, great programs, great coaches, great competition. The regional, super regional. We got to be a part of the first time it changed to the best two-out-of-three in the championship game.

The game has evolved. Very fortunate to be able to be a part of it, to see it grow. A great deal of respect for the investment that schools and conferences are putting into our sport, to the point where ESPN, how they're backing literally the road get to get here is just phenomenal for our sport.

There's a lot of people that are watching softball in their living rooms that we didn't have before. We celebrate that for our sport, which is always great for our student-athletes and for our programs ultimately to be able to say softball is a real sport that people love to watch. We had to make the ball a little more exciting. The ball had to change, the mound, TV coverage is real, parity is important. Everyone loves to see that. I think that's great for the sport.

MIKE CANDREA: I totally agree. I look back at benchmarks that have kind of changed college softball. The first one I think is ESPN. I can remember back when we had one game on television. If you were lucky enough to get in the championship game, that was it.

Today softball is a household sport that everyone is watching. I got a call yesterday from a gentleman, I knew who he was, I answered the phone. It was Johnny Bench. I'm going, Wait a minute, are you talking about the Johnny Bench?

Oh, yeah.

He was talking about softball, how five years ago he never really watched a softball game. Now he's just absolutely thrilled about the quality that he sees of the athlete.

We've always known it's been there. But I think it's been ESPN that came in. Then for me, I really believe it was the SEC getting into softball, putting in some money into facilities, into salaries, into a lot of areas that I think have helped grow the sport.

Those are the two benchmarks I look at as far as why we're at right now. I think this sport right now is absolutely in the best place it's ever been. We have great athletes, great coaches. We're getting great facilities around the country.

I think people are starting to recognize maybe this could be the best sport right now in the NCAA on the female side. I'm not taking anything away from basketball or anyone else. I'm just saying that right now, these young ladies can play this game at a really high level. I think people are starting to understand that and enjoy it.

Q. Jamie, 28 non-conference games, all away from home. You played seven super regional teams, three of these people on the road. What was the philosophy of scheduling?
JAMIE TRACHSEL: We thought we had the team to try to host a regional tournament, to put together the best schedule. You can only do what you can do at the time because you don't know how other teams will fare. A lot of the teams we played were really successful. That always helps especially down the road.

It was to go out, to be the best you have to play the best. Put together a schedule if we do our job, had some success, got enough Ws, we'd be in contention to host a regional tournament. The way everything played out, at some point we thought maybe we're around the 8 to 10 mark, then how we finished the season. Again, it's out of your control because you don't have anything to say about that.

We wanted to put our team with who we had at the time that I did put it together that we thought we could do something special this year, if we did our job, with the schedule that we had.

Q. Coach Perez, Rachel Garcia had a huge season for you last season, another this year. How has her game evolved year over year? What has that meant to your program's success so far?
KELLY INOUYE-PEREZ: I agree. She's had just a quality career. I first want to be able to say I'm so proud of her because she came in at the top of her game in her freshman year. She was going for a championship, leaving the next day for junior nationals, tore her ACL, meniscus. To be able to come back from that, get to the level she did, was phenomenal. That's one thing.

The two things I think have been game changers for her this year is she's added to her toolbox. She has more. She has the drop. She has the off speeds that have complemented her game.

Then the second thing is I've really paired her up with Lisa. I think it's been game changing in that Lisa knows how to win. Lisa has a competitive edge about her that I believe was something I really believe Rachel and Megan and Holly, our pitching staff could benefit from.

I made the transition to have Rachel and all of them work with Lisa, both mentally and physically with Lisa on what it would take. I believe they're better, stronger, more fit, mentally tougher than they were last year. I do credit the work that they've put in with Lisa to be able to be who they are right now.

I just think she's in a better place. She has the staff, so she hasn't pitched our whole year. There's opportunities. We definitely gave the ball to other pitchers, which has allowed us to be better as a unit.

All these things tie into her being able to have another successful year. When it comes down to it, Rachel has been literally our go-to girl. I look forward to her getting out and competing this weekend.

Q. Coach Tarr, it's the 10-year anniversary of the national championship. Has that been a topic of discussion throughout the season? How do you handle it? Sounds like a lot of pressure.
HEATHER TARR: Well, we remember it. It doesn't seem like it was 10 years ago. We talk about that team a lot, always. A lot of those women are around our women a lot because they still live in the area.

I mean, it's just a mark in time. Hopefully it doesn't keep going that long, and it becomes like a 20-year anniversary before we find a way to win another one (smiling).

It's special for a program like ours to achieve that. Not saying we can't do it every single year. Where we live, geographically, how to build a schedule. In a way, we're probably the farthest away from geographically where the genesis of where some of the RPI points exist, if you know what I'm talking about, you look at the map. It's really hard to continue to do that.

But to get to the World Series, you have a chance to be in it and win it. I just think we don't feel that. We feel excited for our program and excited for our women to be able to look up to those women who did win that. We continue to aspire to do things like that every year.

Q. Jamie, what is an opportunity tomorrow against this team in this arena mean for a player like Amber Fiser?
JAMIE TRACHSEL: Fiser? She's a difference maker in a program, no question. Great pitchers can do that. It's been cool to be part of seeing her development. Piper Ritter, who has been with Minnesota since she played, we kind of joke, when I first got here, Piper was my first phone call. All you do is spit out All-Americans all the time.

With everything that's happened the last couple years, Fiser has put this program on her back. It started last year once we got into conference, so that team could get their legs underneath them a little bit. We were able to compete for a championship our last three weekends of that season. Everything she's done this year, who she's had to go up against. Every time she's had the ball, she's given us a chance to win.

We kind of keep telling her, She's good, but she really doesn't know how good she is. That's one of the biggest compliments you can give someone, let alone someone who has done what she's done for this program, because she's led us to this point.

We want to make sure she enjoys it, relaxes, doesn't try to recreate something. One weekend doesn't define you. Everything she's done to lead this program is special in its own right, history making, memories that will last a lifetime. We want her to free herself up, let the results take care of themselves.

She's not a player that wants to be good, she wants to be great. She's done the work to do that. Proud to have her on the field tomorrow against UCLA, give them our best stuff.

THE MODERATOR: Thank you very much.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports

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