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May 31, 2019
Oklahoma City, Oklahoma
THE MODERATOR: We are joined by the UCLA Bruins.
Rachel, could you talk to us a little bit about Stevie Wisz, what that meant for your program, for her not only to play but contribute in that way, also what she means to your team.
RACHEL GARCIA: Stevie is just a light in this program. I mean, the first day she came up, she was a little hesitant, a little uncomfortable. We made sure she was going to be a huge part of this team.
Just seeing what she does throughout her years here, huge impact, it's great to share that moment with her.
THE MODERATOR: Questions for the student-athletes.
Q. Malia, when you were called in to pinch hit, you saw the pitch, what pitch did you see? When you made contact, did you have a feeling it was going out?
MALIA QUARLES: I didn't swing at the two previous pitches. I'm not striking out, I'm going to hit there. I saw the pitch, I'm swinging as hard as I can. I just swung. It felt pretty good (laughter).
Q. Malia, how do you prepare your mind for a moment like that?
MALIA QUARLES: Well, in practice we do a lot of one shots. You get one opportunity to hit one ball and see, like, if you score it up or whatever.
I just practiced one shots. Before I went up to bat, I talked to a lot of my teammates. Colleen Sullivan came up to me, You've been here before. Don't make it bigger than it is.
I just hit the ball.
Q. Rachel, on Wednesday you were talking about the way the team was able to recover to win the one game, prevent a sweep. What was the mentality entering today?
RACHEL GARCIA: Main thing was just playing for each other. I'd have to say it started in the locker room once again. I think it even started out on the field. We had a little dance party going.
I think just getting after and scoring first was our main priority. We were able to do that. I think just bouncing back after they scored that one, just Malia, huge coming up in that moment. Just getting it started for us was a huge moment for her.
Q. Paige, can you talk a little bit about you and Rachel calling your own game.
PAIGE HALSTEAD: I think it's a three-way thing. It's me, Rachel and Coach Lisa working together right now. I think it's a good routine we have going on. We all trust each other. I think we're just rolling right now.
Q. You struggled to get momentum on offense early in the game. What was it that Arizona was doing that made it difficult? What changed in the seventh inning?
AALIYAH JORDAN: I think early on the pitcher was throwing a lot of change-ups, off speed. I think once we realized what she was doing, it was easy to adjust.
The last at-bat doesn't affect the next.
RACHEL GARCIA: I mean, I think we were getting on it all game. But I think we just didn't have our moment till that last inning. I mean, like I said, we were swinging at balls, but they were going right to people. Started making a little bit more of an adjustment, hitting it to the gaps, coming up huge in moments that were needed.
MALIA QUARLES: I don't think we started slow. We were just hitting the ball hard and we were hitting it to people. We eventually came through. I think that was big for us. We passed the bat, scored a bunch of runs.
PAIGE HALSTEAD: I think it's about trusting the process and the hard work you put in. It's going to come at a time that you want it to.
Q. Aaliyah, with your hit in that seventh inning, it seemed like you were aggressive running around the bases. What were you seeing and thinking as you were running around to third?
AALIYAH JORDAN: Me and coach have a bet, she swears I'm slow, but I'm not slow. I'm not slow. I don't know. I don't think people expect it from me. Once I saw she threw the ball home, I'm like, I'm going to go (smiling).
Q. Malia, I sat with your mom after you hit your home run. The tradition is your parents get the ball. Do you have any emotions now that the game is over, that was your moment?
MALIA QUARLES: No, I'm usually pretty happy all the time. It's kind of just added more happiness to me. Yeah, I'm just happy about life. But that just made me happier. I just hit the ball really well.
AALIYAH JORDAN: She does that at practice all the time. So it is nothing.
KELLY INOUYE-PEREZ: Clearly you've been preparing for this moment. You were going to have this opportunity.
She had been that type of pinch hitter. She came through in some big moments. She actually hasn't had outcomes in a couple of her last at-bats. We talked about this, it was going to be that big moment. I was going to call on her, she was going to have this opportunity. That's what she signed up for.
I've seen this girl hit since she's been 10 years old. She came here to do exactly that. For her to come through in that critical moment is why she's here, why she's a Bruin. She is happy all the time, but I think she's super happy right now.
MALIA QUARLES: Actually, October 31st, 2018, I had a meeting with Coach I. I was writing a note in my notebook. When I think of one thing, I'm invincible. I felt invincible today.
Q. Rachel, calling your own game, give your perspective on that, the situation that comes in.
RACHEL GARCIA: I've been working with Coach Lisa all year, just being able to give me that moment to call my own pitches just helped me grow in a way. Then when we hit post-season, we decided to work together, being able to throw in different looks.
I mean, she'll have certain batters, I'll have certain batters. When I'm needing help, I'll just look to her and she'll give me ideas.
Also going off calling around pitches, it puts me and Paige in the flow. That's the big part.
Q. You were talking about how Malia does this all the time in practice. For everyone but Malia, what was it like to watch her succeed in that moment?
PAIGE HALSTEAD: Amazing because she's such a hard worker, such a positive energy on the field and off the field. It's awesome to see people like this thrive in situations like that.
RACHEL GARCIA: I mean, just watching her the past two years, watching her put in so much work, her coming in when the time is needed. She's always been such a huge clutch person for us in this lineup when she's really needed.
Seeing her come out today and step into that role, it lifted everyone up because it took the pressure off of all of us. She's going to get the job done when called up to the plate.
AALIYAH JORDAN: It's funny. I think the last game, Bubba hit the home run. Coach I pushed me over on the way to celebrate. Today when Malia got in, I was thinking, She's going to crash, go crazy. This time I'm going to push you over. She launches the ball, we were both pushing each other.
It was really cool for Malia to come and do her job. I'm really excited for her and her future.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you, ladies.
We'll continue with questions for coach.
Q. What did you see in Malia in that moment?
KELLY INOUYE-PEREZ: Like what I was saying, there's a backstory. As a coach, there's certain players that you hone in on for those personal opportunities. Sometimes you put them in, it doesn't work. Sometimes do you and those big moments happen.
I have literally prepared Malia for this role all season. She's been huge. She has come up with a long ball. We kind of threw out some challenges. This team is all about challenging. They threw out some challenges for her not only to hit a home run, but to be able to see if she could come together with a grand slam.
She's had these things she's been striving for. There are critical moments where she came through early in the season, came up with a home run. She came up with the bases loaded. I put her in twice. First time she didn't come through. The team was fired up, It's going to happen. Such belief. If you saw her practice, it's not that hard. A lot of her balls leave the park. She has a lot of power.
To do it in those critical moments is a whole different thing. I've been preparing her, like she said. This has been a very balanced lineup with speed and power. She wasn't an everyday player in this lineup.
I'm going to call on you in a critical moment and it's going to be big. We've been talking about this all year, that this was going to happen.
In that moment, there's batters throughout games -- the one thing that's different is I'm working with the hitters so I have a better feel for them personally, where they are, even their BP, what's happening within there at-bats. It was just an opportunity for us to be able to take advantage of right there. I wanted a quality at-bat, I wanted something big.
I looked at Malia, she's always ready. I can look in the dugout, her eyes are right on me. I know she's always ready for an at-bat. She'll even come sometimes and hover. Okay, not yet.
But I love that. I told her that. You better have helmet on and bat in hand, especially in these parts of the lineup. She's always ready. I was proud of her because she works so hard and she's committed to that role.
She can go anywhere in the country and be a serious impactful All-American. But she wants to be a Bruin. She's bought into the role. She hasn't been 100% healthy which is why she's not an everyday.
It was a huge swing of a stick for UCLA today. Super proud. That's what you are signed up for, girl. So proud it happened.
Q. Them calling their own game, what is it that gives you the confidence in them to do that?
KELLY INOUYE-PEREZ: I think I hear you. You're honing in on what's happening. From last year I called the games. This year I made a change in January. January I gave it to Lisa, but I said I want Rachel to continue to call her games. This is why:
I wanted Rachel, a junior, she's a phenomenal pitcher, we made a commitment right after the end of last year that she was going to have to really work on the down ball. Her rise ball and curve are phenomenal, but she had to change planes.
With that I wanted her to be committed to it. I had her calling her own games. It started in February. She had been calling her own games. Then by nature you can almost get caught up into just throwing again and lose your edge of what you're really trying to do. It's a craft, a skill, to be able to call games.
Lisa and all the pitchers and catchers work really well together. She was still calling for the other pitchers. She had Rachel doing her own thing. There were a couple times where I'm still paying attention, What's going on? I'm not really liking what's happening in the game calling. It was not anything more than a lack of focus, kind of getting caught up in pitching.
I paired them up with Lisa. It helped her, as she said, to stay the course. Ultimately Rachel is a high level competitor, she's a pitcher. I played the game, I was a catcher. I caught Lisa Fernandez. We have a high level IQ of the game. I like it when pitchers are committed. I want her to be able to own it and be dialed into the at-bat.
Lisa, all of us, we work together. Ultimately the players play the game, the coaches prepare. In critical moments our job is to make sure everyone is on the same page. They are studying, we're communicating in between every pitch. There's times we say, Remember what we studied, there's a plan in place and execute it. That's it. It's not bouncing all over the place at random. There's a complete plan, a lot of time preparing that.
In critical moments, I want Rachel to be fully committed to the pitch. You'll see it every once in a while. From this point forward, they're working together as a unit, the pitchers, catchers, Lisa Fernandez.
Q. There's a lot of players from southern California in the World Series. Why do you think it is that even as softball has grown, southern California remains a dominant place?
KELLY INOUYE-PEREZ: First and foremost, I think softball in the hotbed in southern California, a big part of it is the weather and the amount of teams that are playing softball. It was a West Coast sport. It was a southern California sport. It's year-round that we play. There's a lot of high level, quality teams.
When you want to play softball from rec leagues, there's rec all over the country. You make the decision, because not everyone is on the same page, everyone wants to play and have fun. You realize you want to play travel. The concentration of travel has always been more dominant in southern California.
As a result, there's more players, period. Now, it's grown in other states, absolutely. But there's no other place -- well, Texas is pretty big with softball now. But the amount of players that are in southern California, you talk about California, Nor Cal, So Cal, you're going to get more.
When you see the influx of players that are going east of the West Coast, anywhere, going east, people will say, You're losing all the California players. I say, No, it's just the opposite. We have more opportunity from coast-to-coast. I celebrate that. You're going to see the high concentration of travel ball power teams, great opportunities with great coaching, facilities, all those things you're seeing dispersed.
A big part of it is, once again, if you want to play competitive ball, the West Coast is where it began, and it's still there. There are big tournaments. You'll see West Coast teams go to Florida, Colorado. There's other places where there's tournaments. Still the majority of higher level play you're going to find on the West Coast.
Does that answer your question?
THE MODERATOR: Thank you.
FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports