May 16, 2013
TUSCALOOSA, Ala. - The four teams participating in this weekend's NCAA Softball Championships Tuscaloosa Regional held at Rhoads Stadium in Tuscaloosa, Ala. On the University of Alabama campus took part in media day Thursday. The following are quotes from those press conferences:
HEAD COACH Patrick Murphy
"I just want to say welcome to the other three teams. I think it's really cool that for two of the three it's their first time in an NCAA event. It's a pleasure to host them at Alabama. In years past, I think our event staff has done a great job, obviously our fans are awesome and you guys at the media treat us very well. Congrats to Western Kentucky and USC-Upstate and of course Jacksonville State whose a regular now in regionals."
On momentum in the post season:
"Well I think you can look at years past and there are some teams that just ended the year horribly and ended up in the World Series or as a national champion - in all sports, not just softball. There might be one little key play and I think really one of the biggest for us all year was when Danielle Richard hit that triple to beat Texas A&M in the bottom of the seventh with two outs and two strikes. That was the first time all year that we had come from behind in the last inning. As a coach you want that to happen sooner rather than later, because every time it doesn't happen there's a doubt in their head and it took until the 54th game, or whatever it was, for us to do that. That was a huge accomplishment and I think that's a huge momentum shift for us. Now maybe we get down one of these games and we have that to lean on. That to me is big momentum. It was a week ago, but we still remember that. We just need a spark and it doesn't matter who - it could be Haylie McCleney, it could be Keima Davis or it could be Leslie Jury- it doesn't matter. Usually somebody does step to the forefront and says `this is going to be my weekend.'"
#1 Kayla Braud, OF:
On playing in a regional:
"It's a different atmosphere, is the best way to describe it, because there's something greater on the line than just a regular season win - it's postseason, it's something special in the air when postseason comes around. Teams play harder, we play harder. The fans are louder and crazier and more into the games and it's just a special experience. We were talking after practice and Molly Fichtner hasn't ever been in a regional before. She had this big grin on her face after Murph (coach Patrick Murphy) was talking about it. That's a regional - it's something special that not everybody gets to experience. You are playing for your life and it makes playing softball that much greater - when something's on the line, when something bigger is on the line."
#10 Kaila Hunt, IF:
On Alabama's seeding and if that fuels passion:
"Yeah definitely - we kind of talked about being the underdogs. Jackie [Traina] was just talking about how we are kind of like the [MLB's St. Louis] Cardinals. They come in as the wildcard and end up winning the World Series. It's kind of like a different experience than from last year. Last year we were the number two seed and we had all the experience. Obviously it's not exactly what we want, but in the same breath it's like a clean slate from here on out. It really doesn't matter what we did before - it's anybody's game from here on out. You could go into next weekend as the number one seed and could be eliminated. You may have had a great year up until now, but you may not be playing next weekend. What happened before this, we are kind of just trying to wipe it away."
HEAD COACH JANA MCGINNIS
"First, I would like to say what an honor it is for Jacksonville State University to be here in the NCAA Regionals. As a coach you want your players to get to experience the best of softball. Other than making it to the College World Series, this atmosphere that we will experience this week is the best thing. Alabama always puts on a first class tournament and we will get to experience it. I am thankful. For a school like Jacksonville State, when you are able to win a conference championship and make it to the post season, it is not just good for the softball team but the whole school. It's like it gives us a shot of energy, or caffeine. You see a lot of excitement around the athletic department. We are glad to be here."
On your postseason success:
"I don't think that it is a secret. I think that from the time the girls walk onto our campus they understand that we want them to be successful in everything they do, be it in the classroom or on the field. We try to recruit good kids, not just great athletes. At Jacksonville State, I don't know if I have ever signed a "five-star athlete". We sign good girls; good athletes that we see the potential to be successful and overachieve. We are going to win with good people. That is why I am so proud of this team. If you look at them on paper they don't have the numbers or the home runs that you look at on the stat sheet. What they do have is what you don't see; it's the caring about each other and the hard work. "
#3 Tiffany Harbin, P
On the OVC Tournament
"The conference tournament was very exciting. I do not think that a lot of people expected us to go in there and do what we did. We took it one game at a time. The adrenaline all week kept us going."
#12 Sara Borders, IF
On the OVC Tournament
"It was very exciting to get to play in the conference tournament, let alone win the conference tournament. It was a great opportunity to be able to show all of the hard work that you have put in for six months."
#26 Kelsi Johnston, IF
On the OVC Tourment
"This team has worked so hard. We have had our ups and downs. We came together as a team and played with heart. We are all so happy to be here and get to play in a regional."
On the opportunity to play at Alabama
"It is exciting. It would have been exciting wherever we went. There will be a lot of fans on both sides here. We are all looking forward to getting to play in front of this kind of crowd. The new girls will get to experience playing in a regional."
HEAD COACH CHRIS HAWKINS
"We had a good Atlantic Sun Championship last weekend, having to come back twice against Lipscomb University. It was in good fashion in a positive way. We worked hard and did the things that we had to do. We tried to keep the ball in play, move it around a little bit. We are looking forward to a really good weekend. There is no pressure on us; it is all on everyone else. So we will enjoy it and play to the best of our ability."
On Alabama's field:
"We went to Florida and played at Georgia and they have a hard firm field, which we like. It speeds the game up a little bit. The wall in the outfield is a little deceiving; it is a little farther than it looks. It was good to hit some balls to our outfielders so that they could get a feel for the range, guidance and how hard to break, what angle to take. Our field is 205 up the center and theirs is 220. There is a little bit more to work with. Our strong point is our outfield too. Our biggest thing is to keep the ball in the park and not walk people.
#4 Ericka Harris, C
On balancing joy with determination:"This is what we have worked for all year. To beat everyone will be a big deal but we are definitely ready."
On their defense:
"Our infield never takes a day off. It is not ever easy for them. You watch the infield and everyone gets really excited because they are diving for balls. Even today we did not take it easy or take a day off. We work our butts off the whole time."
#21 Cheyenne Griffin, 1B
On being here:
"Being here is definitely exciting. Working hard and beating teams that we are not expected to beat is a big part of what we are here to do."
On their defense:
"(Assistant Coach) Bryan Pack gets on us all the time. But it is for the good things. The smallest things that we do wrong he gets on us because he knows that we can do better and he wants the best out of us. We never take a day off. We go harder than most teams that I have ever played with before. And I believe that is what makes our defense so good."
HEAD COACH TYRA PERRY
Opening Statement: “We are very excited about our first regional postseason opportunity. It’s great to be here in Tuscaloosa, Ala., and we can tell already that everything is going to be a great experience for us and we have a great team that works really hard and has had an outstanding season of firsts – including being here today.”
On memories of playing here: “We were actually back at Bowers Park – I’m that old. Alabama – tough program. If you are in the Southeastern Conference (SEC) at all, you know that it is tough day in and day out. There are no ‘gimme games’ and you have to come out and play every day.”
On the perception of this being a weak regional: “I think it’s pretty funny – just look at USC Upstate – we have done our research on them and they have had a great season – they have some signature wins. Jacksonville State [is also] a strong, traditional winner in their conference. I spent six years at Birmingham Southern and we played Jacksonville State every year and they are just well coached, great program. Ourselves, we have done a lot this year. We have played a lot of really competitive games – we have gone and played Missouri, Louisville, Kentucky and Hawaii – a lot of ranked teams, a lot of ranked programs. We have had success – just being in the Sun Belt, playing South Alabama who’s hosting this year and Louisiana-Lafayette who’s strong year-in and year-out. I believe people will change their minds we they see us playing on Friday.”
#4 Ciara Garcia, IF
On how playing through the conference schedule prepared the team for this opportunity:
“Our conference has really grown since I was a freshman. Every team is a definite battle, everybody is scrappy to the end – you never know really how the game will end up. You just [have to] keep playing from the first inning through the last inning. It gets you ready for things like this – going to regionals, super regionals – playing like that. All the intensity has definitely made each player we have had for the past four years grown and it gives us courage when playing great teams like Alabama and other teams that we will face.”
#42 Emily Rousseau, P
On what it is like being the ace of the Western Kentucky pitching staff on how it is a big responsibility:
“It is, but it is also exciting. I love being out there with them because they are just so supportive. I know we can all have an off-day at some point and if those days do happen I know that they have my back and there is not a doubt in my mind that they are going to back me up. Like she said, I try to stay calm on the mound no matter what’s going on, but I just try to keep my emotions in check. On the inside I might be a crazy wreck, I try not to show it so that they can just keep doing what they are doing and keep playing and backing me up like they have.”