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June 3, 2019

Caleigh Clifton

Patty Gasso

Giselle Juarez

Shay Knighten

Nicole Mendes

Oklahoma City, Oklahoma

UCLA-13, Oklahoma-3

THE MODERATOR: We are joined by the Oklahoma Sooners.

Coach, I'm sure this is an easy game to flip the script and move on. You gathered your team together before the at-bat in the sixth inning. What was the message?

PATTY GASSO: Not to quit. Try to get momentum towards the end of the game, which we did. This game absolutely does not define us or our season. This team is very resilient. That's what we were just trying to get out of, probably -- not probably, but the worst game we played all season on the biggest stage. Unfortunately, it happened that way. But it does not define who we are.

THE MODERATOR: Caleigh, you did flip the script a little bit, home run from Grace... What is your message moving forward? How do you forget this and move forward now?

CALEIGH CLIFTON: I mean, I think it shows some positivity towards our end. We're losing by that much and we're still fighting to score runs. Just showing even in the seventh inning, we're down by 14, we're still trying to produce runs, get momentum going into the next game.

We have to think positive about it.

THE MODERATOR: Questions for the student-athletes.

Q. Ladies, this is a weird game. You played so well all year. How do you flush it? Is it just doing that, coming back tomorrow? How do you go about getting rid of this taste?
SHAY KNIGHTON: I think that's all we can do, exactly that, flush it. Let it go. It happened. You can't go back and change it. The outcome is the outcome.

We just have to go back, recoup, regenerate, do what we have to get done. Come out tomorrow with the same mentality we had today. Attack, play our softball, flush it, go at it. We have two games left. We're not out of anything.

GISELLE JUAREZ: Exactly what she said. Just learning from it, too. We learned a lot this game. So just adjusting from there.

NICOLE MENDES: Same thing. Flush it, new day, new game, new team.

CALEIGH CLIFTON: That wasn't our best stuff in any way, defensive wise, hitting wise or pitching wise. It was not good in any way, our game, in those three areas. We're going to bring a whole new game tomorrow.

Q. For the two seniors, in terms of leading the team, what do you say to the team tonight and tomorrow in order to regroup?
CALEIGH CLIFTON: I mean, we can look at that loss and, yeah, it stinks. We're literally playing at the highest level on the biggest stage. For that we have to be thankful and grateful. For the next game we can't be pouting or anything like that. It's just being appreciative for the spot we're in, just fight.

You don't want to leave tomorrow with any regrets. I think we know that. We're going to bounce back.

SHAY KNIGHTON: Just be thankful and grateful for the opportunity to play on this stage. A lot of teams gun for it. To be one of the final two teams playing for a championship is all that we can ask for. We just told them to keep calm, stay relaxed, just keep playing the game we played all season, let the chips fall where they may.

Regardless of the score or outcome, keep doing what we're doing, because that's what got us here. It's going to fall our way at some point in time.

Q. Caleigh, three consecutive errors in the third inning. What went on in that inning after you led the nation in fielding percentage this year? Did it seem that was a turning point hard to come back from?
CALEIGH CLIFTON: I mean, that was tough because, like you said, I feel like for us that doesn't happen a lot, especially three in one inning. We can't be perfect all the time. We know that. This game is about failing. It just so happened to be in the same inning, so that stinks.

I don't know, yeah.

Q. Shay and Nicole, when those errors occurred, it's so not what you guys have had happen to you this season. What did it feel like out there? Do you step back from yourself and go, What's going on here?
NICOLE MENDES: Our defense is really good. Today it just happened that we had some errors. Whenever it happens, you have to take a step back, take a breath, refocus.

I think that was the only thing we could do. If you dwell on it, we knew we were going to make some more errors. We just had to reset and look to the next pitch.

SHAY KNIGHTON: Yeah, it sucks that three errors happened at one time in one inning. But we're not going to be perfect all the time. But I think everyone was still calm and just still in the moment regardless of what was happening.

So I think that was just cool on our part, just humbling on our part to know everyone was so calm and in the game regardless of the fact that we had three errors. We had a feeling, we just had this thing about us, that we were still in this thing, that this ballgame still could have been ours.

Q. Tomorrow will essentially be your third elimination game of the post-season. What type of mentality do you need to see?
CALEIGH CLIFTON: I mean, I think that's a good point. Every loss that we've had, we've taken it and learned from it. We don't usually dwell on it. We think it will make us better, that kind of thing. We take it, we bounce back, are ready to fight tomorrow.

NICOLE MENDES: I think it's something to be said that it's happened twice in post-season already this year. We've learned from it. We know what it feels like to have our backs against the wall.

This team is fighters. We're a team that fights together. Whenever we come out tomorrow, I know we're going to go down or up together.

GISELLE JUAREZ: Exactly what Nicole just said. Just fighting with each other and for each other, alongside each other. Just giving it everything we have, leaving with no regrets.

SHAY KNIGHTON: No regrets. That's been our biggest thing this post-season, going out, having no regrets, enjoying the moment, our journey, where we're at and who we're with. Just being thankful that we get to play softball, that we get to do it on the biggest stage with the people that make us great.

They make us better, whether now in the future, they make the program better. Just learning from it, being able to come back and fight for what we want tomorrow.

Q. What does the inscription on your visors mean?
SHAY KNIGHTON: So 'KN' stands for Kelsey Nalepa. Nicole, her mom, was coach's first recruit when coach got here. Kelsey passed away in a car accident. That represents for Kelsey, her family, we fight for her family, that they're not alone, that her Sooner sisters have her back, have her family, and tragedies are what brings the sisterhood together.

THE MODERATOR: Thank you, ladies.

Questions for coach, please.

Q. You've actually won games as many times on defense as offense throughout the year. You always bragged on the defense. Just one of those weird games, wasn't it? What do you think happened defensively?
PATTY GASSO: Well, first I'll give absolute credit to UCLA. They cleaned our clocks. There's no tiptoeing around it, that's bottom line. There's nothing in our game that worked tonight, nothing. Our pitching wasn't good. Our defense wasn't good. Our hitting wasn't bad. We started to feel like we had something going.

It's very atypical of this team. It happened at the wrong time. But they are not discouraged because those are the lessons that this sport and this program has taught these young women, is that we don't quit.

Even when it's not pretty, we are going to find a way to rebound and come back even stronger. That's the message. It's a message they gave me more than I gave them.

Q. I guess we can look at the box score, it might not tell everything. The third inning, the errors, Jocelyn almost hits one out, that was the story of the game really when it turned, that one inning?
PATTY GASSO: Yeah, I don't know. I just felt like the first inning, they hit it out hard. Their three hole hit a bomb. Then we come back and score. You're like, Okay, this is going to be an exciting game.

Then it was like 3-1, 4-1. Giselle didn't throw well. It wasn't her night. It just wasn't. It wasn't Mariah's night or Shannon's night. I put Nicole Mendes out there as a sacrificial lamb for this team. Maybe that wasn't fair. There's one young lady that can handle that, and that's Nicole Mendes. She gives her heart and soul. She would do that for the team.

The last time she pitched, I don't even know when it was. But I needed to get those three off the field and let them just regroup as soon as possible. We might have embarrassed our Sooner Nation, but we're going to do everything we can to make them proud tomorrow.

Q. With the two elimination games you faced this year, they've been double headers, 30 minutes to prepare. How do you approach the next 24 hours, having the extra time to think about the next game?
PATTY GASSO: We need some time because this whole thing has been kind of a blur, with the games last night as well. It's absolutely no excuse for our performance. Again, I don't take anything away from UCLA. They were ready. They came hot and heavy at us.

I don't need to say a lot to this group. They aren't discouraged. They're not crying in the locker room. They've been in this position many times within these upperclassmen's careers. Sometimes when their back is against the wall is when it brings out the best in them, so...

They're not afraid. They're not scared to play tomorrow. The whole group was saying, Hey, we're going to come in and give all we have. I don't need to say that. They know that. They want that. You're going to see a different look, I'm trusting, tomorrow.

Q. The players all talked about when an error happens, you have to flush it so they don't happen again. Three happened on back-to-back plays. From where you're standing, do you see a correlation in that, they were related? To you did they seem like three individual plays that happened to be consecutive?
PATTY GASSO: We've been in positions where we'll make a mistake. We just keep going. But this was not typical of this team. Did it bleed into others? I don't know. I mean, C.C. doesn't drop a ball at second on a bunt. She doesn't do that. Grace doesn't overthrow at first. There's things that just were, Whoa, what's going on?

It seemed to run into every part of our game. Against a team like UCLA, you got to have all three cylinders hitting hard, defense is solid, pitching is strong and on point, aggressive, attacking, and your hitters need to make solid contact, find ways to score runs.

It just was not -- not one thing was not working the way we expected it to, yet this team is still in the locker room waiting to come in here saying, Hey, let's go. We've been here before.

I think the score, if anything, I told them not to read what people are going to be saying about us. Don't get caught up into that. Like I said, the thing that hurt them the most is feel like they disappointed our fans. They're very prideful about the University of Oklahoma. Playing in Oklahoma City, a lot of fans are here to see the Sooners. I don't know. I think that was a thing that really disappointed them the most.

Q. Are there any specifics about Giselle's performance that you could dig into a little bit more that you didn't like? Did anything seem off before the game about her?
PATTY GASSO: No, nothing was off. You really got to pinpoint some things. You can't leave balls up in the zone against UCLA. You got to really hit some hard corners. You got to mix your speeds. You can't make mistakes. We made a ton of mistakes tonight, not just on defense, but locations.

Again, they're a prideful group. They are going to do everything in their power to fix that.


FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports

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