OKLAHOMA CITY — Kenzie Fowler Quinn knows what it’s like to climb through the loser’s bracket at the Women’s College World Series.
Fowler Quinn was a UA freshman when, in 2010, Tennessee run-ruled the Wildcats in their WCWS opener. Arizona then won four games in two days to reach the championship series against UCLA. (The Bruins went on to win.)
That was the last time — until now — that Arizona had vied for a national title. After upsetting third-seeded Washington in the WCWS opening game, No. 6-seeded Arizona fell to No. 2 UCLA on Friday. Rain and thunderstorms delayed “Survival Saturday” games.
The Wildcats were scheduled to play the nightcap against either Florida or Alabama.
The Star caught up with Fowler Quinn, who’s in Colorado at her sister Mattie’s bachelorette weekend. Fowler Quinn is a digital production assistant in the UA athletic department and a television softball analyst. Here’s what she said about her time at the WCWS, Taylor McQuillin’s development as a pitcher and why the Wildcats should embrace playing in the losers bracket:
Saturday morning’s game between Washington and Minnesota included a three-hour weather delay. How much does a weather delay affect players?
A: “Well, I never had a weather delay. When we were there my freshman year, we lost our first game — like, got killed — and then we had to win two straight doubleheaders. We had to have that wait in between games, so I can’t really speak on a weather delay. But I think they’re just going to be at the hotel. So, you have so many feelings about the game you just played and you can sit around and think about it a little bit too much. But hopefully they’re getting out, walking around and not just stirring in the hotel, because that can make it a really long night.”
How important is it to be able to bounce back and have that time to recover, especially if you’ve lost the night before?
A: “I think it’s good. You want to have a little time, so maybe it could be a good thing — kind of give them some reflection. But at the same time, I feel like they’re still playing well, if that sounds funny, even if they did lose. It was just really one inning and the game got fast in one inning, but I don’t think that takes away what they’ve been building the last couple of weeks. I think they’re still in a really good place. So, you just hope that it doesn’t take them out of that place and you just hope that they can stay up. I don’t know, it’s a tough balance because you want to stay up, but at the same time, you don’t want to waste all of your energy too soon.”
Do you feel that there’s an added pressure on the pitchers, specifically, at the Women’s College World Series?
A: “Oh yeah. Speaking for Taylor, she’s a senior, though. So, this is everything she’s ever dreamed of. At this point, pressure is not going to be a determining factor. If you were talking to a freshman, absolutely. But if you’re talking to a senior and a junior, which is what Arizona has, absolutely not.”
How much do you think that McQuillin has grown during her four years at Arizona to be able to prepare for this?
A: “Oh, gosh. I mean, I’ve been calling her last four games. So, it’s been really fun to watch her from up close, from afar. No. 1, she’s just such an incredible person. She’s just genuinely a good human. Everyone knows her adversity story with her eyesight — it’s been really blown up on ESPN right now. It’s getting national attention right now. It’s funny, it’s finally in her senior year and everyone is kind of figuring out how special she really is. But watching her be a freshman, just kind of young, I think she would put too much pressure on herself early in her career. She would let the moment get a little bit too big too fast and she’s really slowed it down and that’s what I’ve seen. Just watching her demeanor in the circle, she slowed the game down and you can tell she’s in a really good place — the best place she’s ever been. And that’s what you hope: You hope that in your senior season, and whatever position you are, that you’re peaking at the right time. And then you’re at the Women’s College World Series, just to add a cherry on top of it. So, I’ve just been so thrilled for her. When she got named first-team All-American, I texted her I was so proud of her. I’ve been wanting her to be an All-American for the last couple of years because she’s had All-American-type stuff. So, it’s just really rewarding for her to get that.
As someone who’s been on this stage before, what’s it like to finally get on TV every day and every night when the Pac-12 doesn’t really offer that?
A: “That’s fun because you get new fans. I’m so thankful that I didn’t have Twitter back when we were in Oklahoma City in the Women’s College World Series because I can’t imagine what some of these young ladies — you know how it is. You see it and we’re not even playing. So, you can’t even imagine what they’re either getting or what they’re seeing. I remember it was my Facebook that was blowing up when I was at the Women’s College World Series and I’m not even really on Facebook anymore. So, these girls have Instagram and Twitter and our game is so crazy right now — it’s just the biggest it’s ever been. It’s so exciting. The game’s in the best place it’s ever been as well. Getting national recognition is just, that’s what you all dream that. And how many athletes get that? Not very many. So, it’s really cool for them to be in that big spotlight and get rewarded.”
And as someone’s who’s not in town for the World Series?
A: “I’m watching, though.”
What have you heard about the team and how they’ve been playing?
A: “Heard? Or just my assessment?”
A: “I mean, they look like they’re still playing good softball. I know they didn’t have the best game they wanted (Friday) against UCLA, but for me they’re still playing well. They’re hitting well. Alyssa (Palomino-Cardoza), Dejah (Mulipola), Jessie (Harper) and Malia (Martinez): those are their four core hitters and when you get to this stage, you need those type of hitters to show up — and they have. And I think Taylor’s pitched really well. I know that she got a little roughed up, but she had some errors that didn’t help her and just extended the inning. You can’t let that happen against a team like UCLA. You give them extra outs, they’re going to take it. She’s still pitching well, though. She’s probably going to get the start and they’re just going to go with her as far as they can. I know (Alyssa) Denham will be ready to go if they’re needed, but I still think they’re playing really well. It’s a fun group to watch. They look like they’re loose, which is good.”
What advice — if you were here — what would you tell them to help them get back on the path?
A: “Oh, that’s tough. Embrace the loser’s bracket. And embrace that feeling of elimination. And embrace the underdog. We lost our first game — it’s just kind of funny the way we lost, looking back. We lost it so bad that we had nowhere to go but up. The next game we had to face the defending national champs (Washington) and we just kind of got together and were like, ‘You know what? Nobody is expecting us to come out of this loser’s bracket, but the only thing that matters is the 20 girls in our dugout and our coaches.’ So, you just kind of have to take that ‘us against the world’ mentality and totally embracing it and striving in it. Because it can be really fun when you’re playing for your season and you get hits and your pitcher strikes them out because you know it’s one hit there, one strike there — the season could be over. So, I think it’s weirdly fun.”