Kansas Softball Hosts Media Day

Feb. 6, 2012

LAWRENCE, Kan. – Five days until first pitch, the Kansas softball team held its annual media day on Monday afternoon.

Head coach Megan Smith and selected members of the 2012 team welcomed members of the media to the team’s locker room to discuss the upcoming season and answer questions.

Head coach Megan Smith
On the new pitchers:
“Alicia Pille is a freshman from Texas, (and was a) dominant pitcher in Texas. She is a fierce competitor who is a bulldog and we are looking forward to seeing her on the mound in the Big 12. She will not accept anything less than a win and that’s what we need. We need a pitcher out there who is going to fight and that’s what she does.

Morgan Druhan is a transfer from South Alabama, who has really good Division I experience from a really good program. She led her team in strikeouts, which we’ve been struggling striking people out. She comes in, has that poise and has the pitches to strike people out which we’re hoping she’s going to be able to do. And again, experience; she’s very confident and very calm in the circle and we feel comfortable with her.

Emily Stokes is a freshman from California and had a great high school career in California. She’s done a lot this fall to improve and develop and understand what it means to be a college pitcher. She’s a power pitcher, as well, so we’re excited about all three of them.”

On if it’s too early to tell who the starting pitcher will be:
“Yeah it might be too early. We’re going to really look and see that first weekend how they come out, but Alicia Pille looks phenomenal right now so we’re really hoping that she’s going to take it and run with it.”

On how softball players get so good at the fundamentals:
“I’ll tell you what, we are good at fundamentals because that’s what we work on 90 percent of the time in practice. We hammer that into the girls to get them fundamentally sound and that’s just something we value. We don’t want errors to be fundamental errors. We want it to be mental, so I think we put a lot of emphasis on that and our girls do extra work to buy into that.”

On how she likes coaching Maggie and Rosie Hull:
“Love it, they’re special girls. They’re unbelievable people and I think that – we’re with them all the time – we see how good of athletes they are, but what makes them even more special is they’re great people. They’re great teammates, they’re honest, they have integrity, they’re special and there aren’t a lot of kids like that. Rosie would rather have her teammates do well than her do well. Maggie is like that too, but Maggie is very competitive so she wants to be the one who gets things done. They are very caring and care about their teammates.”

Junior outfielder Maggie Hull
On this team’s strengths:
“We have a very special team this year. We have a lot of experience coming back and we all felt it last year being a couple of games away from making that (NCAA) regional, coming off of the best start in program history at 26-3 and then struggling more than we hoped in conference play. This year we have that taste in our mouth and we know what it takes to get to regionals. Pitching has gotten a lot stronger, defensively and offensively we’re a lot stronger. Our freshmen are looking great but most of all we know what it takes to get to regionals and the standards are raised.”

On losing junior outfielder Alex Jones:
“Alex is the type of teammate that whether or not she’s on the field, she’s a huge contributor to this team just because of the leadership she has vocally. Obviously, we’re going to miss her in the batting lineup and at centerfield but the way that she’s been able to mentor Elsa (Moyer) and Cassen (Salamone), who are underclassmen fulfilling that role in centerfield. They’re looking pretty good so it doesn’t look like it’s going to be too much of an impact on the team.”

On playing more games against Big 12 opponents:
“Instead of a two-game series we’re going to a three-game series – a game Friday, Saturday and Sunday, typically – and I’m excited for that and I honestly don’t know what to expect. I do know that it’s a horrible feeling splitting with any team, so it’s going to be kind of exciting always having that third game to go in and say we’re either going to sweep them or we have a chance to win the series.”

On what she expects with Big 12 play:
“The Big 12 is one of the top conferences in the nation and we prepare mentally for that. We know that we play the toughest competition in the Big 12 and we want to rise to that standard.”

Freshman catcher Maddie Stein
On this team compared to last year’s team:
“I think this team is absolutely one of the most special teams I’ve ever been on and I can say that not just for myself, but for everybody. I got to watch the team a little bit last year when they played Oklahoma State and they were right on the bubble of going to (NCAA) regionals. We have so much potential this year and it is going to be really special because we know we’re going to make the (NCAA) Regional. With Alex (Jones) gone, it was tough to recover but we have two other amazing centerfielders who have been able to step up.”

On college softball being different than high school:
“It’s definitely a big adjustment but the upperclassmen and the coaches have made it like a family here. From day one, they have been there; whether it was adjusting to practice or classes, they’re always here for you. From the first practice to now, I feel like I’ve taken big strides with the help of my teammates and it’s really been awesome.”

On advice upperclassmen have given her:
“Besides everyday softball, as a whole, they really give me my roll and buy into the program. We really try to take what they say and buy into it. We have so many philosophies, but our big goal is to make it to (NCAA) Regionals.”

Senior outfielder Liz Kocon
On the upcoming season:
“We have some strong pitchers in Morgan (Druhan) and Alicia Pille among others, so our pitching staff is going to help us this year. Our offense looks great, we have a lot of different tools we can use to execute, so we are just ready to play and show what we can do.”

On the warm practice weather thus far:
“We have been blessed to be able to be out on the field and the dirt, which is something I have never been able to do in my five years here. Even though Anschutz (Pavilion) is great, it is not the same as dirt because the ball reacts differently along with the wind, the sun and all of those factors. Up until this year we have never been able to experience that, so it is definitely going to benefit us a lot. We have been taking advantage of scrimmaging and seeing a lot of live pitching.”

On the chemistry of the team:
“In December before finals, we had team retreat where we learned a lot about each other outside of softball, which helped us relate better. We are definitely a close team, which is something that you won’t see with a lot of other teams in softball. We love each other, we are a family and when we travel, it just gets stronger. When we lose, we lose together and when we win, we win together and it is just going to make us even stronger for the first six weekends that we are gone.”

On team goals for the upcoming season:
“Our overall goal is regionals, which is what we are aiming for. Like last year, we want to dominate our out-of-conference games, but this year we want to win more in-conference games. If we accomplish those two things, we are going make regionals. We were only a game or two away last year and that was really devastating, so my senior year we are going to give it everything we have to make it this year.”

Senior infielder Marissa Ingle
On her excitement for the 2012 season:
“We were within one game last year of going to (NCAA) regionals, so it was a tough way to end the season. This year it’s so great coming back even though we lost Brittany Hile and Allie Clark, which were two huge players for us. The freshmen and our junior transfer this year have really stepped up and I am just excited to get out there on Friday and see how we all perform.”

On the warm winter practice weather:
“It has definitely been a huge blessing because last year we didn’t get any work on the dirt before we played at North Carolina, so it was kind of hard to get used to that. Now we have been on the infield dirt this whole time and haven’t taken one ground ball in doors, so that is a huge advantage for us. We are going to be prepared for any type of bad hop and our defense is going to be even more unstoppable than it was last year.”

On the team’s pitching staff:
“Our new pitchers are really good at keeping batters off balance. They throw fastball, rise ball and then they will hit you with a changeup. Every single pitcher on our staff this year has an amazing changeup, which I think is one of the most important pitches to have because if we are going to get them off balance, that is going to be one of the best ways to approach a batter. We have two rise ball pitchers this year in Morgan (Druhan) and Alicia (Pillie), and those are one of the trickiest pitches to hit because you either hit it, or you look like a fool on it. I would say they are going to definitely making people look like fools because they will have very impressive pitching (performances) this year.”

On the Big 12 Conference:
“Winning even two more games this season is going to make a huge difference for us and we are definitely capable of that. We have set the standard a lot higher this year in the pre-season. Our coaches have made sure we push ourselves farther than we ever have and I think that is what’s going to push us through the season and get us a couple more wins in the Big 12. A couple more wins (in the Big 12) almost guarantees us regionals because our conference is so good. If we can hit any pitcher in our conference, we can hit any pitcher in the country.”

Kansas officially opens the 2012 season against Tennessee-Martin on Friday, Feb. 10 at 12:30 pm CT. The matchup marks the first of five games the Jayhawks will play at the Southeastern Lion Classic in Hammond, La., Feb. 10-12.