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Kentucky Softball Media Day Wrapup




Feb. 10, 2014

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Kentucky Softball Head Coach Rachel Lawson

Opening Statement ...
"First off, I want to really thank you guys for being here today. I want to wish baseball a lot of luck on their upcoming weekend. First of all, it is so cold here, so to be able to get somewhere warm and play ball is a really cool thing. I can't say enough about how much work has been done for both baseball and softball over the past few years. It is a great time to be here and it is very exciting. You can see it because this weekend we opened up 5-0 and a lot of times that is a tough order if you don't get outside a lot. As most you guys know we have new facilities and an amazing stadium and an amazing indoor and you can see the fruit of that labor. Offensively, we were really good this weekend and a lot of that can be attributed to the support we get from the athletic department and the Big Blue Nation. We are able to build things so that our girls can compete."

On the team's depth ...
"Actually, I was incredibly impressed by that. If you really went into the play-by-play of all the games, for example, when we played Oklahoma and beat them they got their runs from 1-2-3 in the order and we got our runs from 7-8-9 in our order, which is pretty cool. The top of our order did produce, but just to be so strong top to bottom is a lot of the reasons we won pretty convincingly this weekend. At no point were we out of it this weekend, it didn't matter who was up. We had a lot of key contributions from a ton of people and that is a good thing. In order for us to go where we want to go you have to be strong."

On the pitching staff ...
"We have some depth there. It is pretty cool because in our five games we had four different pitchers with complete games and I don't know if we are the only school in the country that would do that, but I bet if you looked it up we are the only school in the country to be able to do that. All of them had great outings. (Kelsey) Nunley came back with the highest ERA but she had the toughest game to pitch. She threw a ton of pitches against Oklahoma. Long Beach State is a really good team and has been to the postseason a lot and Lauren Cumbess only had to pitch 66 pitches to beat them, which is pretty cool. And then to have two freshmen come out and do so well in their first weekend really says a lot about our recruiting classes that we have been able to win and how good they are at this point in their career."

On handling the pitching staff going forward ...
"I have no idea. That is a good question and a good problem to have. They are all very different. Shannon (Smith) is a power pitcher and more similar to someone like Chanda Bell that we have had in the past. You look to someone like her for big power numbers. Cumbess really is a smart ballplayer and she knows how to pitch and she is really efficient with all of her pitches. Meagan Prince is probably the feistiest person I have ever met. She is really cool to put into some key situations just to go at someone and she is left handed. And then you have Kelsey, who was obviously our ace last year. She won 27 games as a freshman and was the best freshman in the country from that standpoint. It is hard to say. I think we are going to match them up against the teams we are playing offensively and try to attack and use our strengths to attack the other team's weaknesses. It is a day-to-day thing, but a nice problem to have."

On the team's reaction to the success so far ...
"Yeah, our team has a lot of high expectations. They want to go to the World Series. We have been in Supers two out of the last three years and been in postseason five years in a row so for our program the next step is the World Series. They love to play ball and it is really exciting for them to be out there. That was a hug criteria when I picked them was that they loved to play softball and loved to be on the field. And they are all winners. They won before they got to Kentucky and they are continuing that tradition here. As much as they had a really good weekend, they are very focused on the end goal. Being in the SEC, we are going to have so many big games ahead of us. They are taking it in stride. They are really happy that they were able to get some good games under their belt and to win. I think that is a really exciting thing for them."

On making it to the next step ...
"The key, obviously, it starts in the circle. You have to have good pitching. But for us the major goal this year is to really amp up our offense and I think you saw a little bit of that this weekend. Our power numbers were up and we hit the most home runs at this point in school history. Our doubles were good and we got that contribution from a lot of different people. Our main focus is to be able to have more production offensively, both in power numbers and the ability to create against some of these dominate pitchers we are going to face in the SEC."

On the freshmen ...
"We only have three freshmen, but one of them is left handed thankfully. So she will be able to hopefully step in where Alice O'Brien left off and she had a great senior year. Breanne Ray will be a big contributor for us just to be able to give us that left-handed presence along with Emily Gaines. The bulk of our team now is sophomores and seniors and it is an interesting mix. (Griffin) Joiner is the lone junior who is out there playing right now. We have great leadership from the top that understand the program and what the games are all out. The sophomore class is very feisty and talented and we have a lot of contributions from them. We are a great mix of young and old, which I enjoy, not just from the current team but also for the future."

On Emily Gaines' role ...
"Emily probably has one of the hardest jobs on our team. She has been trained to come off the bench and come in there and get a pinch hit when we need it. Because we don't have a lot of lefties we try to pick the exact moment where the pitcher is either struggling against left-handed hitting or we just really need that hit behind a runner. She has a really tough job. She is so steady. When she was in high school I think she had a 54-game hitting streak or something. She is the perfect person for the job. It is not an easy job, but it is crucial going forward."

On the team's run last year and if they draw on that for motivation and experience ...
"When they left the ball field last year, I think at first, it was pretty exciting that we got to Supers considering we were starting so many freshmen, but once we got there and we ended up losing to Arizona State nobody was disappointed in the season, but I don't think anyone was satisfied either. I think that is a good thing and that is where you want your team at. The experience they had then gave them a good focus for this year. We are really strong now and they have done a great job with our strength and conditioning coach. They have been dedicated throughout the year and we are healthy -- knock on wood. They made it a priority to really get in that hitting building and work on their own, while keeping their grades up, which is a good thing. More than anything, because they were so close (last year), they knew if they just did a little bit more they had a good shot of going to the World Series."

On being one game away from the World Series and if it weighs on her ...
"Not really. I don't think I have done it enough. There are things I wish I would have personally, as a coach, done differently, and I think that will help us moving forward. I think you have to do it five or six times and really mess it up to be a white whale. Hopefully, I don't get to that point. I don't really think about that. I think about all the different things that I need the team to be able to do by the end of the year so we can get to the postseason and Supers and have the .500 record and do well in the SEC. If we can do those two things and then get through a regional and to Supers. We want to host here, which means we have to win a lot of games before we get to that point."

#30 Ginny Carroll, OF, Senior

On this season's expectations...
"We have the same expectations. We know we want to go to the World Series, so that's what we're just thinking the whole time. We are really proud of our 5-0 start, but it's just a start so we are not resting on this by any means. We are just going to keep working."

On the key to reaching the World Series...
"I think just keeping the work ethic that we have had all offseason. Before the first game I said `Alright, it's our first game against their first game. Our offseason against their offseason so let's see who worked harder.' I think that's what we are going to keep doing is working."

On the performance of the freshman on the team...
"They definitely showed out. Shannon Smith and Meagan Prince both pitched their first full games and they were phenomenal. I mean, I know nerves as a freshman, when I was a freshman nerves were crazy, but as a pitcher with all the pressure on you, or a lot of the pressure on you, I think they did a great job of handling themselves and keeping themselves composed. As a team, we just want to give them run support. Shannon had to wait a little bit later in the game, but we got it for her. They did awesome and held their own for sure."

On the team's depth...
"Yes, definitely. I think this is the most depth that we have ever had during my career anyways. Before the season when the players were talking with each other about what the lineup might be, and we had no idea. There are so many options. Each game could be different, which is great for competition and practice and then also seeing who is hot on that particular day. I think the competition makes everyone work harder, and no one can be complacent. It's really nice we've got a lot of good stuff."

On Kelsey Nunley's performance...
"Definitely. She is such a competitor and she never stops working. She gets frustrated with herself way too often even when things are going OK and not going great. She wants things great all the time and think that's one thing that lets her keep getting better and better."

#13 Griffin Joiner, C, Junior

On the early season tests against non-conference competitions...
"I think our offseason helped us offensively and we came out strong this weekend with that and I think this weekend we played good teams like Oklahoma and it gave us confidence. It was good to play teams like that because that's the type of teams we play in the SEC. It's nice to win the early season tests and have an extra inning game to get prepared for SEC play."

On the impressive things that have happened so early in the season...
"I think that our offense was able to produce top to bottom throughout the whole line up. Everybody stepped up at different times in the game. It wasn't just one person it was everybody throughout the lineup and also all of our pitchers got a win this weekend and they looked tough on the mound."

On the biggest difference from last season to this season...
"One of the biggest differences would probably be that you know Kelsey (Nunley) won't have to throw every single inning. It looks like we will be able to give her some support and also I think we have a lot more depth this year and especially with the experience that our returners have."


 

 

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