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Lawson and Players Preview Cal Series




May 23, 2011

Head coach Rachel Lawson and players from the UK softball team answered questions from media about winning the Ann Arbor regional, hosting the Super Regional in Lexington, and previewing the series with No. 7 California.

Head coach Rachel Lawson

Opening statement…
“We’re really excited to be hosting a super regional’s in Lexington. If you would have asked me four years ago that I’d be standing here today one weekend away from the world series I think I would have smiled at that one. No, it’s a real credit to this team and a real credit to this senior class. We’re just getting excited to take on Cal.”


 

 

On how far away it did seem four years ago…
“I’m really a day-to-day kind of person and I’m someone who thinks you can win and you can win now. I was just telling this story earlier, I remember I was talking to one of our administrators and they were redoing how your contracts are made and stuff like that and I remember her thinking, ‘OK, this is what happens if you make the NCAA Tournament, but the SEC Tournament, you should be making that anyway.’ And I remember thinking, ‘My god, if I make the SEC Tournament this year I should be getting a Cadillac or something.’ That was probably my thinking that year. But that was the only time I was like, ‘Wow, that’s kind of a stretch.’ But since then you just go day-to-day and you just work on it and now here we are.”

On the talk in the dugout going into the seventh inning on Sunday…
“Well, you know, I’m not privy to the chatter, thank goodness, because I’m at my end and I notice that everybody kind of stays away from me. But, actually, I removed myself from the third base (coaching box) this year which was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. So I should get a raise for firing myself from the third base coach’s box. Coach (Kristine) Himes has done an excellent job at that, but also its freed me up to make other decisions and to let my mind continue to move forward which I think is the best thing about our team. But actually, I was talking to Chanda Bell at that moment because regardless of what we did offensively at that point it was out of my hands. It was really in the hands of Meagan Aull and everybody else who was going to come up to bat. I was just thinking about how we were going to attack the next game (game two). I knew that if we could just stay in it long enough our hitters would come around. It was just a matter of when. That’s what I was thinking. Now what they were thinking? I don’t know because they didn’t say a word until Meagan (Aull) hit that home run and then once she did it was like, ‘Oh yeah, this is great, we’re going to win now.’ I don’t think they said anything until that moment.”

On how Meagan Aull’s game-tying home run affected Michigan pitcher Jordan Taylor…
“Well, Jordan Taylor is awesome and she pitched awesome that day, that’s why we were having such a hard time hitting her. What I think happened to Jordan is at that moment I think when that home run went over, my guess is she understood the full magnitude of what was happening on the field, and for a woman, much different than a man, someone who has that kind of success when you’re a female, sometimes your last college game is the last game you’ll ever play in your career. So I don’t know exactly what was going on in her head, but I know for every female athlete that’s at that stature, it’s a much bigger deal when you’re in college and you’re at the top of your game because this is it. So depending on when that moment hits you it can be a pretty powerful one. That would be my guess.”

On the confidence their bats have given them this year…
“Yeah and that started weekend one. Again, I have to give a lot of credit to Coach Himes because she’s very aggressive on the base paths. So at first, we were getting a lot of big hits but we were also generating a lot of offense in different ways. I remember when we played DePaul, specifically, she called a suicide that I never would have called and I would have killed her, but we ended up winning the game and so that gave our team a lot of confidence. From that moment on they knew that if they hit a home run they could win, if they hit a double they could win, we could steal, we could hit and run, we could suicide. I think the fact that we can do so many different things allows us to get confidence because we don’t just win one way, we win many different ways, and that started rolling weekend one and I think it really carried us through this weekend.”

On the personality of this team…
“This team is crazy. I’ll be honest with you, they really have the personality of, I would say, Annie Rowlands and (Samantha) DeMartine, and a little bit of Meagan Aull, but Meagan Aull kind of takes on the personality of Sam and Annie. Every now and then (Megan) Yocke gets involved but thankfully we have her there because she’s kind of an anchor, she’s a little bit steadier. Even now and then I hear Rachel Riley making little silly comments here and there and that’s what floors me. That’s when I know the personality has shifted. But it’s a lot of fun, a very resilient personality. I think because they’re enjoying the moment we were the perfect team to play in a setting like Michigan because we were about the moment and we love playing in big crowds. It doesn’t matter if they’re all yelling at us or whatever. It’s just a fun time and I think we’re a fun team and I think because of that we’re able to win a lot of games.”

On if it’s more difficult or easier to coach a team like that…
“I’ve never told them this before, but how I run this team is we’re more like professionals, in that I don’t try to control them, I try to give them guidance throughout the year and I try to help them make good decisions. They all have great parents, they come in making great decisions anyway, and I try to let them be who they are. So actually, the personality of our team changes all the time depending on the dominant characters in the group. Because they handle themselves professionally on the field and off the field, they’re allowed that flexibility and I think because they’re allowed to be independent they perform better on a big stage.”

On the crowd she’s expecting for this weekend against California…
“I think we’re going to have a great crowd. Over the last year in Lexington we’ve had so many people that have been fans of ours who have come in. Before CATSPY’s I was sitting there – and I know it’s funny, I was doing my nails which never happens – and I hear, ‘Hey, you’re the coach.’ And I’m sitting there like, ‘Oh no.’ And I look and she’s like, ‘Yeah, we come to the games and it’s great.’ So I’m thinking, ‘OK, she must have a daughter,’ and she’s a young woman. And she’s like, ‘Oh no, I have two sons, but my husband loves coming, we love coming, my sons love it.’ I was at the super market the other day and that happened, and that’s happened so many times to me this year, especially in the last three months. So I expect that we’re going to have a great crowd. Actually I think that we really have a home field advantage now. I think we’ve done a good job creating that and Kentucky fans are awesome. I think that’s a lot of the reason we’ve won most of our home series this year.”

Senior Meagan Aull, CF

On what she was thinking about in her at-bat that tied the game …
“Well, I was just thinking base hit. I had to get on base. And then I knew the hitters behind me would hit me in. I wasn’t thinking home run, I was just thinking base hit for the team.”

On what she did to calm herself with all the pressure …
“Well, I was taking some deep breaths. In the at-bat before (Jordan) Taylor struck me out. She did great. I was just taking some deep breaths, and I was just taking some pitches. I was looking for a pitch to drive. She gave me one, and that’s what I did with it.’’

On her initial reaction as her game-tying homer left the bat …
“As soon as I hit it, I was like ‘That’s out, just please stay fair.’ I saw it going out, and then I knew it was fair. Looking at the replay, I just sprinted around the bases, so I was very excited.”

On the feeling after she knew it was gone …
“It’s a feeling that I can’t really describe. I was so happy for the team. I wouldn’t have been able to do that without the strong defense that we had and the strong performance by Rachel Riley. Rachel kept us in the game, and our defense kept us in the game. It helped me stay confident. All we needed was one run to tie the game, and then, Jordan (Taylor) got a little shook up, and she walked a couple of batters. Then Annie (Rowlands) pulled through and got that one hit to win the game.”

Junior Chanda Bell, P

On her being excited about UK hosting the Super Regional …
“It’s really exciting actually. You have the home field advantage like we saw against Michigan this weekend. They had amazing fans and you could see the atmosphere was helping them get the runs they needed and helping them just do what they needed to do. I feel like if we can get that here it will help us tremendously.”

On what it means to her to be able to host a Super Regional …
“The home field advantage is always awesome and with the fans we have its really great, especially since it’s the super regional. Hopefully we’ll get a few more fans coming in. We know our field and are familiar with it. It is a great field to play on.”

On playing in a Super Regional compared to just a regional and what will be different about them …
“I think it’s going to be more intense and a little nerves start kicking in, but of course they go away right as the game starts. But definitely it’s going to be more nerve racking and just really exciting.”

On if there is more pressure on UK because they will be playing at home …
“I don’t know that there is any more pressure. I think since we’re the underdogs no one expects us to win. It’s going to be great to ride that feeling all the way up. I wouldn’t say there is more pressure, but definitely more exciting.”

Junior Brittany Cervantes, 3B

On her hitting success this past weekend in the Ann Arbor Regional …
“Well, I have to admit that I was kind of struggling (entering regionals), but this past week we worked really hard on hitting. Coach (Lawson) told me I needed to focus on the pitches that I am going to see because I am not going to see a lot of pitches that are decent. The thing with Jordan Taylor, I have been facing her since my freshman year of high school. So I kind of know what she is about and what she is looking to do. I felt like I was seeing the ball well and was really focused before my at bats. I was seeing the ball well and knew what to look for and knew she would be throwing the curve ball over the plate.”

On the calmness of the team even through tough times and if they get that from Coach Lawson …
“She is a very calm person, but when something crazy happens she kind of explodes. I also think because we had a lot of upperclassmen and because we have been in that position the past three years, we knew the feeling of losing in regionals and we wanted to get past it. I think we all had this mindset that we wanted to be focused and get this win. We wanted to come out of regionals and I think that is what kept us into the game.”

On the regionals they played in the previous three years and how they prepared them for this run in the NCAA Tournament …
“Like I said before, I think that regionals the past two years at Ohio State really lit a fire in us because we had them. We just feel short. That is what has driven us this whole year is that we can’t stop. We have to keep pressing the gas and keep going. If we don’t, then there are so many good teams out there that are going to shut us down.”

On why the front of her jersey is always dirty before the game even starts …
“Before the game, I like to get my jersey dirty and I like to be diving for the balls. If your jersey is not dirty then I feel like you haven’t done anything in the game. I like being warmed up and being ready for the game.”

On the atmosphere she expects this weekend …
“I think that we are going to have a great crowd. A lot of people in the community have been talking to us, saying they are going to come out and support us. I hope we have a big crowd because we are getting more seats. The more the better.”

On what she knows about California’s team …
“We faced them last year in Arizona State and their pitcher does really well. She has a really low ERA this year. I know that this week we are going to focus hard on what she is pitching. We just have to stay with what we have been doing and stay focused.”

Senior Samantha DeMartine, 1B

On UK’s pitchers …
“I couldn’t ask for better pitchers. Chanda Bell, Rachel Riley, Lauren Cumbess, Ellen Weaver, Ashleigh Gustafson, they’re all phenomenal. They all come in different situations, anytime they can and they do what they’re told.”

On the advantages of having so many pitchers they can go to any time …
“Yeah, to have four or five is a blessing and you can thank Coach (Rachel) Lawson for that for recruiting.”

On how exciting it is to be playing at home again …
“Yes, finally back at our home field in Lexington. It’s a great honor to be back here and hopefully our fans come support us. I know a lot of tickets have been sold already so hopefully we can keep selling those tickets and fill our stands up. I know more stands are coming in – or that’s what I just heard so hopefully I’m not starting a rumor.”

On if she’s gotten a lot of feedback from Twitter or Facebook …
“We were actually just joking about that on the bus ride, how you get so many friend requests now and so many little tweets. It’s funny and it’s a pretty cool thing that people are starting to notice how good softball has become, especially for Kentucky.”

On if it’s easier to get ready for practice now …
“I wouldn’t say it’s easier, but it’s a little relaxed. We know (California’s) an extremely good team and I know Coach Lawson will also have some – not brutal practices – but she’ll have some hard practices in there to prepare us like she has done all year.”

Junior Rachel Riley, P

On if anything was different on Sunday …
“I think we went in with the same game plan that I’ve had. We knew what certain batters were better at certain pitches. Of course my drop ball, that’s usually my go-to pitch, that was working well. I threw my rise ball a few times, that’s what I struck (Dorian) Shaw out on, so that was pretty cool. And I used my change-up just to kind of get them off balance.”

On the difference of playing at home opposed to playing on the road …
“Of course it will be a bigger game but it will be great to have a home crowd and everyone cheering for us instead of Michigan this time.”

On Michigan’s crowd …
“Michigan had a great crowd. It was actually pretty fun for me. The band was playing the whole time. It was just a great atmosphere.”

Senior Annie Rowlands, LF

On making history and the mindset of the team right now …
“I think we’re all really confident. Since the beginning of the season we’ve all had goals to win regions and go on to super regionals and we’ve accomplished one of our goals, now we just have to win super regionals and get to the world series. I think we’re really focused on trying to shock a lot of people this year. Our mindset is strong. We all believed we could do it all year long. A lot of people doubted us from the beginning, but we knew we could and it looks like it’s shaping that way for us so we just have to keep playing strong.”

On being able to play at home in front of your fans …
“It’s such an advantage. I think it’s kind of a blessing that we actually do get to host. We were hoping we might get to host regionals, but that didn’t work out for us. But it’s kind of cool that we did get to go to Michigan and beat them there anyways. So, now we get to host supers and hopefully we get our stadium full and packed. Home field advantage would be really cool.”

On maybe smiling before she even hit the game-winning RBI on Sunday …
“I think it might be true. I heard that from my sister as well. I kind of knew it was going to go over the first baseman’s head, I was just hoping it would stay fair, so once I made contact and saw that happen I kind of knew we won the game there.”

On the game-winning RBI …
“I didn’t care where it went or how it was going to happen, I just knew if it landed we won the game and that’s all I really cared about.”

On how things just seem to come down to her in the big moments …
“I actually wasn’t nervous, really. Normally I might be nervous in that type of situation but for some reason yesterday I kind of just felt like, you know I haven’t had the greatest season ever, and before regionals even started I was talking to Meagan Aull and I said, ‘I’m going to have a great postseason.’ I just kind of felt like, it’s my senior year, why not go ahead and do it and it started winding up that way for me and I just knew that something great was going to happen and I wanted to make sure that it did.”

Senior Megan Yocke, C

On what it means to go to Super Regionals …
“It’s definitely a huge turnaround, and it’s been a fun ride all season. I just think that this senior class wants it, and I think you are seeing that right now by the way that we are playing. We just are feeding off of everyone’s energy, and it’s really exciting right now.”

On Meagan Aull’s homer to tie the game …
“I knew it had the distance. I was more worried about it going foul. I tried to stay in the dugout because coach (Rachel) Lawson had been yelling at me to stay in the dugout. There was a weird sense of being calm in the dugout. As soon as she hit it, all I could think was stay fair, stay fair. As soon as it went, we all just went nuts, and I really can’t tell you what happened because it was complete chaos.”

On having to possibly face Michigan a third time if UK didn’t win game one …
“My thought going in was that we did not want to have to play a third game against a quality team like Michigan. We don’t want to give them any momentum. However, we also knew that we didn’t have to press, and that they would be the team pressing. That was a great position we put ourselves in, and it was really nice to have that luxury. That was the first time we have ever put ourselves in that position before. We have never been in the driver’s seat. With Michigan being such a great team, we didn’t want to have to play that third game and give them any momentum.”

On if it has sunk in that they are off to the Super Regionals …
“I don’t think it has really sunk in yet. We were all sitting on the bus yesterday coming back and usually we watch movies, and joke around, but we couldn’t even focus on the movie because we were so excited. We were all laughing, and joking. We couldn’t control our emotions. We were all grinning ear to ear.”

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