May 27, 2009
OKLAHOMA CITY -- Arizona Softball Head Coach Mike Candrea and senior first baseman Sam Banister participated in a pre-tournament press conference on the eve of the team's 21st berth in the Women's College World Series.
The Cats, playing in their 21st Series in 22 years, also practiced at ASA Hall of Fame Stadium after doing a photoshoot for ESPN earlier in the afternoon.
Up Next: Arizona takes on Florida at 8 p.m. CT (6 p.m. Tucson time) on Thursday evening. The game will be broadcast on ESPN television.
ALABAMA HEAD COACH PATRICK MURPHY Opening comment: "Just want to say thanks to everybody, from the NCAA softball committee, the Oklahoma City All Sports Association and everybody with (the University of) Oklahoma. This is our sixth time (at the WCWS) and it never gets old, we never take it for granted. It's a great experience for our student-athletes and we appreciate everything that everybody does, including the media.
"We are looking forward to a great week. I think five or six years ago, if you would have said `Alabama, Michigan matchup,' everyone would have said `all right, it is going to be a great football game,' and now we're at a point where it is going to be a great softball game. It's a credit to Hutch (Michigan head coach Carol Hutchins) and her team, and my team of course, too."
On the matchup with Michigan: "They are similar to us in that they have a lefty and a righty. They are both really good and can both win a game here at the WCWS, for sure. Their power hitting is just incredible. We have had a little bit of an off year with our power hitting, but you saw (Wolverine) Dorian Shaw go 3-for-3 with three home runs that were not questionable at all - they were gone as soon as they hit the bat. Their team defense from the games I saw, their shortstop made some very good plays. They are just an all-around good team. You are really going to have to play well to beat them.
ALABAMA SENIOR INFIELDER KELLEY MONTALVO On the importance of winning their first game of the WCWS: "We know with the seniors and experience we have had coming into the WCWS a couple of times, we know that first game is basically starting the tournament. Starting to see how the outcome will go for the rest of the week. It's really hard to bounce back from the losers' bracket, because clearly we have been there. That first game, like I said, it's one that needs to be won."
ARIZONA HEAD COACH Mike Candrea Opening comment: "Well I could ditto what Patrick (Murphy) said, this is the place we all want to be at this time of the year. To be honest with you, in September I didn't know whether this team was going to pull it all together to get here. It has been a roller coaster ride for us, but a team that has embraced the opportunities to maybe be the underdog in many situations this year and have thrived on that. So I am very proud of the group of athletes we have.
"I have a lot of respect for what Florida has done and the great season that they have had. We kind of know what it's like here at the College World Series. You have to get lucky and you have to do it at the right time. We are looking forward to a great World Series and I would like to congratulate everyone up here, because we know how tough it is each year to get back here."
On the emergence of the SEC: "I said a long time ago that when the SEC got serious about something, they were going to do it right. If you look at every sport in the SEC, there is a lot of pride. I grew up in New Orleans, so I know what it was like when LSU played even Tulane. People would paint their houses for that weekend. So it is a different breed and I knew that once fast pitch caught on in those areas, that there would be a lot of good talent coming out of those areas. Sure enough, it has and I think it has been great for our sport. I think really when the SEC got involved with women's college softball, the parity kind of spread much quicker, kind of like what baseball experienced 20 years ago. So it wasn't a surprise, it was just a matter of time. We have with us two very formidable programs (Alabama and Florida) that have done things the right way and are very good at what they do. I think it's a great thing for our sport and why our sport is growing. It's not just a regional thing anymore; it's from coast to coast."
ARIZONA SENIOR INFIELDER Sam Banister On Arizona using the underdog role this week: "At the beginning of the year, we have always been known for our dominating pitching but there was a lot of talk that maybe that wasn't the case with us. We could have taken it two ways - we could have laid down and died or could have fought, and we chose to fight. If people want to label us the underdogs, we will take it in stride. It's a long season for a reason. There are so many good teams, that you never know what is going to happen. I wouldn't necessarily label us the underdogs, but we'll take it."
FLORIDA HEAD COACH TIM WALTON Opening statement: "Our student-athletes, with their second time being here, are super excited to have the opportunity to play at the College World Series. To be sitting up here with some of the best college coaches in the country, sometimes the world, it's kind of overwhelming. At the same time, when we're on the field it's going to be a different feeling. We're really excited to be representing the University of Florida."
On if he playing baseball at the University of Oklahoma could make for more Florida fans this week: "We always try to do our best to get as many people to watch the Gators, get them out there cheering and supporting our kids. Last year was such a fun event for everybody, I think our fan base grew as we were able to fight through the losers' bracket and play for a long time. There are a lot of Gators fan all over the country so I'm sure they will all be cheering."
On being the top seed: "With facing Arizona in the first round, I'll go with the opposite of what Sam (Banister) said and say that we're the underdog. They have won more national championship games here than we ever have at this stage. Our kids are embracing that role and we have to do a good job at staying focused and staying grounded. We're not worried about the other stuff, at this point we are all 0-0. We just have to take care of ourselves and focus on the game."
FLORIDA SENIOR CATCHER KRISTINA HILBERTH On the difference coming in this year versus last year: "I feel like our team has a little bit more experience coming back for a second year. Obviously, playing a team like Arizona, who has a lot of experience, in the first round, we're going to have to battle it out. They might be the eight seed and we might be the one seed but at this point it doesn't matter. All eight teams are out here to play hard. We are just hoping that our experience from last year will help us a little bit more this year."
MICHIGAN HEAD COACH CAROL HUTCHINS Opening statement: "Michigan is very excited to be here. I think our team is pretty honored to be here. I have a number of players who have fallen just a game short and they understand how hard it is to get here. More than anything, I'm very happy for my team - they are the hardest working team I have ever had. In college softball there are always about 20 teams, maybe more, who are good enough to get here but there is only room for eight. I'm very happy for my team and I'm excited for our "football" game with Alabama."
On what her team's biggest challenge is against Alabama in the first round: "I think Alabama is our challenge. One through nine they can hit, they can pitch and they can play defense. I agree with Coach Murphy, I think we are fairly similar teams. They're very fast and a challenge in every aspect. The biggest thing for us is to not focus too much on them. We need to focus on our strengths and focus on what we need to do to play good softball."
MICHIGAN SENIOR SHORTSTOP TEDDI EWING On the first round against Alabama: "Obviously everyone is going out there to compete and to win that first game. It's an easier road to take if you win that first game, but it's going to be a battle. Whatever happens, happens. Our team is here to fight and every time we go out there it will be a battle."
On her team: "I would definitely say that we're excited to be here. We have fought so hard the past three years and fallen just short. We were determined this past weekend in the super regional to go out there and make it happen this time. The girls are tough, we're here, we're together, we're ready to fight and go out there to play some Michigan softball."
ARIZONA STATE HEAD COACH CLINT MYERS Opening comment: "We're really excited to be back here. The city of Oklahoma City and the state of Oklahoma do a tremendous job of hosting this and putting this on. We are really fortunate and honored to be able to come back and participate again. We are excited and glad to be back."
On ASU freshman starting pitcher Hillary Bach: "Hillary has just been amazing - a young lady that came in from Tulsa and has really gotten better each and every week. She really performed well in the regional and even better in the super regional and we're hoping her growth continues."
ARIZONA STATE SENIOR OUTFIELDER KAITLIN COCHRAN On how her game has evolved since playing Alabama her freshman year: "I'd say it feels different because we have that experience getting through the College World Series. There are a lot of great teams this year and we are going to have a big target on our backs being the defending champs, and we just want to be able to play our best softball."
GEORGIA HEAD COACH LU HARRIS-CHAMPER Opening comment: "We're thrilled to be here. Thanks for the hospitality that we have received so far and we are looking forward to some great competition."
On the strength of the SEC: "I think you have to attribute a lot of that to the administration in the SEC, and that the AD's and the presidents are willing to put forth the dollars to help grow the sport. The stadiums they build to help bring recruits from all across the country. I think you have to give a lot of credit to the administrators, who are saying `we are going to have this sport and we are going to do it right from the get go.' I think again you have great players from each of the teams helping to get to where it is."
On her team's character: "This team never quits. They don't see their limits. They just go up there competing, work harder to get better with each at bat. They see a lot of pitches through the game and try and get to the end of the game where they have an opportunity to do something."
GEORGIA SENIOR INFIELDER KRISTIN SCHNAKE On Alabama's Easton Classic featuring Baylor, Georgia, Washington and the Crimson Tide: "It was great competition playing in Tuscaloosa. Anytime you can play against that kind of competition, it really prepares you for the end of the year."
On coming back from substantial deficits in super regional action: "Both games we had a deficit, one game four runs, the next game five runs. We came out in the dugout, it was fifth inning the first game and sixth inning the next game. We just knew that if we could get up to the plate and have quality at bats - as long as one person got on, the next person got a hit, the next person got a hit and string some hits together and score some runs. A young team, you just can't count us out."
MISSOURI HEAD COACH EHREN EARLEYWINE Opening comment: "This is the first time we have been here in 14 years, so obviously we're excited. I feel like we have a pretty good product and we're looking forward to getting on the field tomorrow and getting this thing started."
On the growth of the Big 12 Conference and how it continues to send new teams to the event: "This is only my third year in the Big 12, but in my experience with it, it is deep. We lost four or five games this year to teams that we thought we were comparable to or better than. I think that is just further proof that every weekend you don't bring your `A' game anyone in this conference can beat you. Every year the Big 12 conference is sending teams to the College World Series, we're just glad it's us this year."
WASHINGTON HEAD COACH HEATHER TARR Opening comment: "We're happy to be here. We have a bunch of student-athletes on our team that got to come here in 2007 and to see the growth that has happened in the stadium. There are more seats, more publicity and it is amazing to see the game continue to grow every couple of years. We're proud to be able to represent the Pac-10 as well as the University of Washington."
On the 15-inning game at UMass to reach the super regional: "Going to UMass, we knew what we were in for. We knew it was going to be a tough battle. Just being at UMass' home field and having their seniors play for potentially the last time, we knew we were going to be in for a battle, not saying we knew we would be playing until 1:30 in the morning. At the time it was scary, it was fun, it was stressful. But I think our team grew a lot that evening. It was an amazing night and I think our team grew from it."
WASHINGTON JUNIOR PITCHER DANIELLE LAWRIE On Alabama's Easton Classic featuring Baylor, Georgia, Washington and the Crimson Tide: "It showed that the SEC has a tough conference and we got to see what they were made of. We were challenged, we learned from it and I think we grew from it."
On being on the road for regionals, super regionals and now the WCWS: "I personally have enjoyed it. I looked at it as an opportunity to be together. Hopefully it is for three weeks and if it is you have to enjoy that time together. We have seven seniors and I said to them `this is going to be your last crack at it so suck it up for the teams, who cares about your boyfriends, who cares about the other things, this is something you need to focus on.' We've had to do class and so many different things together. We have had some tough weekends and I think it's actually been better for us than staying at home where there could have been more distractions."