College World Series press conference transcript

The College World Series does its press conferences a little different. Instead of having one coach at a time, they have four. In this case, that meant Tracy Smith had his press conference at the same time as Louisville’s Dan McDonnell, Oregon State’s Pat Casey and Mississippi State’s John Cohen. The transcript, provided as always by ASAP Sports, follows.

An Interview with:

COACH DAN McDONNELL

COACH PAT CASEY

COACH TRACY SMITH

COACH JOHN COHEN

COACH McDONNELL:  It’s a great joy to bring the Cardinal Nation back to Omaha.  We have a great fan base, as you probably saw from the Sugar Bowl or in the Final Four.

And I’ve been challenging our players all year; it’s our job to give our fan base an excuse to come to Omaha because I know how special this place is.  And obviously you’ve been here before; you know how special it is.

And we just want our fans to experience that.  Obviously you talk about your players and their families, it’s a once‑in‑a‑lifetime opportunity.

So we’re excited to be here and want to take advantage of this opportunity and stay focused, continue to play good baseball, and feel like we just have balance up and down.  We have good starting pitching, have some depth in the bullpen, some star power with our closer, and a complete offensive lineup.  I think the stolen bases really sticks out.

But we do a lot more than just steal bases.  I like to say we fill up a stat sheet when you look at our offensive spread numbers.  So it’s a fun team to coach.  High expectations at the start of the year from a lot of people sitting out there, and we appreciate that.

And I’m glad that our kids lived up to it, because it’s been a real joyride and exciting journey to be on.  So thanks.

COACH COHEN:  We’re excited to be here also representing Mississippi State.  We have an unbelievable tradition that we’re proud to uphold and represent here.  We feel, like Dan just said, we feel like we have a fan base as well, and we felt like a year ago we were very, very close to putting a team on the field that could get to Omaha.  And we feel obviously that’s been accomplished.

But our kids want to accomplish a whole lot more.  Every club that’s in the World Series this year does it a little bit differently, and we do it really differently.

We do it with our bullpen a little more than our starting pitching.  We do it a little bit more with short game running and things of that nature and a little bit less power.  Although, Hunter Renfroe, 13th in the draft, as much power as a college player I’ve seen in a long time.

But we feel like we have a nice recipe to be successful.  It’s been a little while since we’ve been in Omaha.  So it’s exciting to be back.  And as all these gentlemen will say, and have said, people here in Omaha have been tremendous welcoming us.  It’s a business trip.  I’m excited about seeing them perform here.

COACH CASEY:  I’m equally thrilled to be here, Beaver Nation, and our baseball program, and obviously congratulations to not only the clubs that are here, but in particular the clubs that we faced to get here.  And everybody knows baseball is a grind.  It’s a long, long season.  I think that if there’s anything I would say about our club, there’s really nothing that’s going to wow you I don’t think.  We’ve been really consistent from the beginning of the year.  We’ve got consistent front line pitching.  We’ve played defense well enough to keep us into most baseball games.  We have some guys in the middle of the order that can hit but nothing that’s going to necessarily wow you.  I just think that we play well together.

I think we play probably old, together.  We have enough guys that Tyler Smith came back as a senior and Danny Hayes came back as a senior, and Matt Boyd.  I think we have some kids that helped that.

It’s exciting.  Exciting for our fan base.  Great people, filled it up through our Super and Regional.  I want to thank the city of Omaha and all those people who put in the unbelievable amount of work to make this possible.  And like I said we’re thankful to be here.

THE MODERATOR:  Let’s open it up for questions.

 

Q.  Coach Smith, specifically, but anybody else who wants to weigh in, the wind was blowing up to 30 miles an hour during batting practice this morning.  How did your guys react to that, your hitters specifically, and what impact do you think that’s going to have on this tournament?

COACH SMITH:  I didn’t notice it was blowing in.  Again, I said everybody keeps talking about it.

And I guess my response to that is it’s not like we tell our kids to drop and drive and throw those old man softball swings and try to hit balls out of the park.

I think our guys have pretty good approaches at the plate.  We’ve been fortunate enough to hit some home runs.  But our game is not centered around the home run so we’re not going to make a big deal out of it.

I was anxious to see, myself, with my own eyes to see how this played.  But our Big Ten tournament was played in Target Field, a very big field.  Balls don’t get out of there like they normally would.  So it’s just not ‑‑ I don’t mean to disrespect the question or not really ‑‑ it’s just not that big a deal.  Everybody’s going to be playing under the same conditions.  So we’re really not that worried about it.

 

Q.  John, just once again, you’re going to Kendall for the first game.  I know he’s your Saturday guy, but I imagine this is because he’s the senior captain, you like having him the first guy on the mound?

COACH COHEN:  I think so.  And I think he matches up.  He’s our best matchup for Oregon State, just because he can control the running game.  He’s very good at defending his position.  And he’s been there and at least for us he’s our most experienced guy.

We have a lot of faith in him and know that he’s looking forward to a great challenge against a really, really good Oregon State team.

 

Q.  Tracy, this is for you.  Does it help since this is your first experience in the College World Series, does it help playing a foe you’ve seen three times this season and so the guys will ease into it, maybe there’s not as much nervousness as there would be with another opponent that you weren’t familiar with?

COACH SMITH:  I’ll tell you what, if we ease into it we can find ourselves down 5‑0 at the end of 1.  And I love how he said earlier our pen is good.  Now, that’s the part.  I’ve answered this thing in a couple of ways.  I think the good piece of it is that there is some familiarity with the teams.  I think that’s gotta help.  And I didn’t mean to be facetious about that.

I do think there’s a common piece to that.  But the uncommon piece to that is you’ve got to face this team.  And people have talked about you’ve beaten them twice this year and all that.  It’s a new season.  The stage is different.  We’ve totally thrown that out.  And I think this is certainly a compliment to what Dan has done with his team throughout the year.  We’ve played them and they’re very good and as he said consistent all year.  I think they’re even better right now.

So as much as we would like to say they’re friendly neighbors down the road two hours, I think they’re one of the best teams in college baseball right now and we’re going to approach it that way and hopefully we can get off to a good start and see what happens.

But any of the teams you play, I don’t think you can sit and say I’d rather play this one, because all games are going to have their own little ingredients to make it different.  But I think it’s intriguing for the media, I think it’s intriguing because we’re close.  Good and bad sides to it.

 

Q.  Dan, given the kind of sports year your school has had so far, does that put a little more heat on you to really make a splash here?

COACH McDONNELL:  No, it’s been a fun question, especially after the, both of our basketball teams, the football team won the Sugar Bowl down in New Orleans and then our men’s team won the national championship, and our women lost in the Finals to UConn.  And I hate to leave out all the other sports, because I think the average is somewhere between 15 and 18 out of the 23 teams play in the postseason every year.

So it’s not just this year.  It’s a common theme on our campus.  And you try to feed off of the success of the other programs.  You challenge the kids when they get there.  Not just for a baseball standpoint but to be part of that university.

You want to contribute.  You want to get on the train of success, as we like to call it.  And you just want to be a part of it.  And I think it does put a little nice ingredient to the kids.

It’s a nice challenge for the kids to try to uphold the standard.  And, again, at this point in the year we’re just, we’re glad that we’re able to do our part and hopefully cap off really a magical year in college athletics.

 

Q.  Dan, thinking back from your days as a player, how would you approach an at‑bat against Nick Burdi and just talk about having that weapon?

COACH McDONNELL:  I was a bad hitter, but I made a living.  This guy could hit right here, to my left.  I made a living really just walking, getting on base, just trying to be an on‑base percentage guy.

So my approach is I wouldn’t swing, but it’s not just the fastball.  I think everybody gets excited because he lights up a radar gun, but especially at this level these are the best hitters in the country.  Everybody can hit a fastball.  It’s more about location and the slider that goes with it that makes it effective.

But he can’t just rely on one pitch, because for all these schools and hitters to get to this point, they all have good approaches.  They all move the ball.  They’re not as susceptible to striking out as maybe teams on this journey.

So he’s going to have to pitch effectively just like I think any reliever that runs out there.

THE MODERATOR:  Just to clarify, the hitter on his left was Pat Casey.  Just want to make sure that everybody understood that.

COACH SMITH:  Just to clarify, I am insulted I was the player that didn’t get mentioned.

COACH COHEN:  Knew he wasn’t talking about me.

(Laughter)

 

Q.  John, you talked a little bit about your style of play.  Is there an adjustment that has to be made to West Coast style, if that’s the way to put it, when you haven’t seen a Pack 12 team all year, and I guess LSU is in the same boat, too?

COACH COHEN:  I was asked that question a little earlier.  I think winning national championships is just a winning style of baseball.

And I do think that the West Coast is a little ahead of us in the east in terms of adapting to the new bats.  And that’s been a factor in college baseball.  So I think our league traditionally was more of a power beginning type of league.

And I think we’ve all had to adapt in our league.  I think the teams that have been successful have been able to make that adjustment.  But certainly I do think that West Coast teams in terms of base running, in terms of the bunting game, things of that nature, I think they have been ahead of us for a while in that area.

But certainly Pat’s already established a pretty winning recipe, and it’s not just West Coast baseball.  He has tremendous power in the middle.  He’s got speed.  He’s got tremendous pitching.  He’s got a bullpen as well.

So I think he’s got all the ingredients not just what’s labeled traditionally as a West Coast type of college baseball team.

 

Q.  John, what was it that keyed Hunter’s kind of jump this year from last year?

COACH COHEN:  I think Hunter just really matured in a lot of ways.  It’s funny, our bus driver, Everett Kennard, a legend at Mississippi State and around the Southeastern Conference, remember him coming up to me early in the season, he goes:  It’s about doggone time.  You’ve been telling me about this boy for two years and he ain’t done nothing and now all of a sudden ‑‑ he went out and had a great summer.  Grown up a little bit.  Matured.  He’s become what we all thought he could do.

I’ve said this many times, but when you see a kid out of high school who throws the ball 98 miles an hour, runs a 6 660 and hits balls over the lights and goes on and on and on, you kind of feel like a very bad coach if those things aren’t happening on the field at the highest level.

He has tremendous tools.  He always has.  But he’s now become a baseball player and he’s been able to figure out the game at a higher level.  That’s why he’s the 13th pick overall.  And he does some things every once in a while that our team just watches in amazement.

But it’s all to his credit.  He’s done a great job of figuring out the game.  Sometimes it takes five years.  Sometimes it takes two years.  Sometimes it takes one year.  It took him a couple of years, and we’re awfully glad that he made that adjustment.

 

Q.  Coach Cohen, coming back to the World Series, you played for Mississippi State, led them there in 1990.  And now kind of that first time as a coach of your alma mater out here, are you kind of relaying some of those first‑time jitters you share with the players, because they’ve not been here either.

COACH COHEN:  I think kids have to experience that stuff for themselves.  I played in Rosenblatt just like Dan did.  And I think it’s their own experience.

I think one of the things as a club we’ve tried to do as a staff is to let our kids be a little more independent this year and do a little bit more of their own thing.

And I’ve said this before.  We’re very fortunate, there are times when we start play in front of 14,000 people.  Played in Regionals and Super Regionals, just like all these guys.  That’s not the same stratosphere as Omaha, but I think at the same time they clearly understand what it’s like to have a lot of people in the stands and want to win at the highest level.

So even though these kids haven’t been to Omaha yet, I would love to think they’re mature enough to be able to deal with this.  We have some older guys, too, but certainly I think it’s their own experience, and I hope they’ll do fine with it.

 

Q.  Coach Casey, Coach Cohen here said you are going to go with the senior guy.  I know you’ve got a senior, you’ve got a good freshman, have you made your decision there who you’re going with?

COACH CASEY:  Well, we got an e‑mail Monday sometime during the Super Regional that will let us know they’d flipped the bracket on us.  And so we want to go with Matt Boyd.  We are planning on going with Matt Boyd.  We went to practice and had him throw, and I actually haven’t talked to him.

But Mo’s ready to go too.  So there’s no secret that we threw Matt on Monday, threw him in an inning in the third, if he feels good we’ll go with him.  If not we’ll go with Mo.  We’ll know that at 6:00 when I get back.

We were planning on playing tomorrow, or Sunday, excuse me.

 

Q.  Pat, what’s the situation with Engelbrekt your closer and his back and how does that reshuffle your bullpen if he’s not available?

COACH CASEY:  He tweaked his back a little bit.  I don’t know what day that was.  And he’s been making steady progress.  I don’t know how he’s going to feel tomorrow.  He felt good today.  He was not 100 percent today.  Certainly wouldn’t help our bullpen.  And it’s kind of an unfortunate thing.  But that’s somebody needs to pick him up and make sure if he’s not able to throw that they’re able to fill that gap.

If he’s able to throw, then bring some encouragement to some of the rest of the guys.  And I think it will be okay but I don’t know that for sure.

 

Q.  I suppose it’s an applaud to you all.  Because you’re leaders.  And it’s not easy to accomplish what you do in that context.  But you have followers.  So it’s a general question.  Followers of the players.  How have they changed?  To what extent have they changed in the last 10 years in terms of how you have to relate to them as you being the leader, they being the player, the follower?

COACH CASEY:  That’s a broad question.  I don’t have that big a brush.  I’m not that smart, I don’t know that the players have changed.  There may be a little bigger, stronger, have a little more accessibility to the Internet.  But other than that they look like the same guys to me.  I’ll go to the guy on my right to give you a better answer than that.

COACH COHEN:  I like to quote my wife in these times when she says the male frontal lobe doesn’t fully develop until 25 years of age.

I’m 46.  And I’m still waiting for that development to happen.  But they’re kids.  They’re in the same dugout.  By the way, Citadel and Mississippi State were in the same World Series in ’90.  And the same kids in the dugouts are the same kids in the dugouts today, they’re kids.

And the only difference I think, Pat’s right, they’re bigger, faster, stronger because the development has gotten better but also a huge difference is these, like they know everything.  They know everybody’s RPI.  They know everybody’s numbers.  They know what he hit in college.  They know what I hit.

There’s no secrets.  I think at one point when a coach said something, everybody said, yes, sir, and they shook their head.  You better be right now.  Because everybody’s going to ‑‑ they know.

So I think that’s one big difference.  But I would agree with Pat.  Kids are kids.  And they’re going to have fun, work at it, and the teams that end up in Omaha are the teams that balance those two.

COACH McDONNELL:  I tease our teams sometimes because it’s a different generation, and of course we walked up hill to school in the snow.  We like telling those war stories.

And I tease them because, as John said, it has become so specialized that these kids, it is their job.  They play the game year‑round.  And so a lot of them never had jobs.  And I think back in our day we all had to work during the day and play at night.

And that’s not their fault.  It’s just the game’s so specialized and they travel.  And they’re farther advanced than we were because of the buses, the flights, the hotels, the road trips, you’re just getting a different kid today.

And the second thing I tease them about is their cars are much nicer than the cars we drove.  Back in our day, it just seemed like there was a lot of clunkers pulling into the parking lot.

And these days I think we have like one clunker in the parking lot and I always tell the guys, he’s my favorite because he drives the old beat up car.

COACH SMITH:  I would say in all parts of that, I think there’s some elements of kids that aren’t that different.  But I would agree with you that it seems that everybody has a pitching coach nowadays.  Everybody, when you’re recruiting them, they have a pitching coach, a hitting coach, a this coach, a that coach, and that was one of the reasons.

And if you’ve read the papers at all ‑‑ and I actually saw an article on it we took our team to the Dominican Republic this fall.  And that’s one of the reasons I wanted to take our team to the Dominican Republic, I wanted our kids to see, baseball, you don’t need all those things.  You don’t need the new batting gloves and the bat bags and the 15 pairs of this and that.

And I think it helped.  So in the leadership part of it, that was a huge part.  People say you went down and played good competition; well, yes, but realistically I wanted the kids to get back and see because there’s no better place, trust me, if you want to see baseball played at its most fundamental state of passion, there’s not a lot of the extra stuff, the things that jumped out to me that they’re using coconuts for cones in their drills, they actually will tie sandbags.  We’ve got these nice elaborate running sleds, when you’re working on leg strength.  They have sandbags tied around their waists running in the sand.

So it was just sort of that to get our kids because there’s everybody, the nice cars, the nice this, the nice that, and it’s just to get them back, you don’t need all of that to be good.  Have a passion, have a love, have a work ethic.  And if you can do that, you can accomplish great things in sports.  So that’s, from what I’ve seen, is maybe getting now that mindset of all that specialty stuff and all the new stuff.

Appreciate this game, appreciate, respect baseball for what it is.  And it’s competition.  It’s not a fashion show.

 

Q.  The last five years has ushered in this Sabermetric boom in Major League Baseball, which I’m sure a lot of you follow.  I’m curious to what degree you use the Sabermetric stats.  And it just seems to me, I guess anecdotally, that you don’t hear as much about it in college baseball.  I’m curious what do you use, what don’t you use and why?

COACH SMITH:  I’ll answer the first part of the question on how much we use it.  Zero.  How do I manage?  I manage with my gut.  I’ll take statistics ‑‑ I’ll look at some of that stuff.  But I’m not.  I’m a simple human being.  And I’ve been blasted on Twitter.

I’ve got guys questioning, coach, what are you bunting first and second with nobody on.  And they cite all these sources that say that’s the absolute stupidest thing in the world.  I’m just a big believer in I think you’ve got to know your personnel and so for me I try to put context to our decisions.

But these guys to my left may say they use it and more power to them and all that stuff.  But I don’t.  I’m a feel manager.  I feel.  I think I’ve got a pretty good sense of my personnel, and that’s how I make decisions.  Sometimes they work, sometimes they don’t.  Do I look at some of the statistical stuff, if you look at Indiana, we’re not big on scouting.

If you heard me speak at all this week, we try to focus on just being us.  And that’s a very boring answer to a very good question.

COACH McDONNELL:  Similar to what Tracy said from the standpoint, I think we have to coach to our talent.  And we were a much different team in ’07 when we came out here.  And then the bats changed and we had to change.

And I just think we learn an awful lot as the season goes on, and we have to be able to adapt or at least I like to adapt to our kids as to what to do.

But it does go in line with if you emphasize it, you’ll be good at it.  And my coaches laugh at that one all the time.  So usually when we fail at something, it is my fault, because we just didn’t emphasize it enough.  And failure throughout the season forces us sometimes to work on things that are not going our way but at the end of the day you’ve gotta coach to the players you have.  I mean, he’s got this monster in the middle of the lineup.

It’s not who you want him to be; it’s what’s the best way for him to succeed, and I think the more we do that from player to player, pitcher to pitcher, the more success hopefully we have.

But I got a degree in mathematics.  So I like numbers.  I like statistics.  I talk about the law of average.  There’s a reason the shortstop stands where he stands.  There’s no rule that says he has to stand there.  But most short stops stand in a very common place.

So the law of average unfortunately is not just 100 percent.  So stick to what you believe in and sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t.

COACH COHEN:  I love numbers.  Dan was a math major, I was actually an English major, but I do like numbers in our sport.  But I think our sport is so much different than professional baseball simply because we don’t play the same teams over and over again.  I think numbers do matter when you do that.

When you play a team three times in your league and you don’t see them maybe until the conference tournament or conceivably in the College World Series or Super Regional, the numbers just don’t ‑‑ they’re not what you want them to be.

But I think I got the same e‑mail you did about bunting.  And I responded to that e‑mail by saying we hit a whole lot of doubles this year because the third baseman was even with the bag expecting a bunt.  And there’s no statistical data to support that whatsoever.  None.

It’s kind of like the shortstop who dives at a ball in the six hole, keeps it in the infield, keeps a run from scoring.  There’s no statistical data that says that he just stopped a run from scoring.  There’s no out recorded.  There was an hit.  This guy makes an unbelievable play; it’s not recorded anywhere.

There’s a whole lot of things that happen in our sport that there’s no numbers attached to, and so numbers have their place, but at the same time trying to pressure our teams and making decisions based on your own roster is really important.

And nobody really knows your roster like you do.  And that’s why these guys are here.  Because they can really know how to make their roster work.  So I love the numbers part.

I read all that stuff.  Does it work at this level?  I don’t think half as much as professional baseball.

COACH CASEY:  Yeah, I think all that’s good.  I mean, assistants do that.  Everybody collects numbers.  You look at them.  You put your right fielder on the line and he hits it in the gap.

I personally ‑‑ it’s hard, when you’re playing teams you don’t see because all you get to do is watch them on tape.  I like watching the games myself and I write my own notes and keep them to myself as to what I have in my mind.  But I’m not a big ‑‑

 

Q.  Pat, do you know your best player’s OPS?

COACH CASEY:  No.

 

Q.  Do any of you know?

UNIDENTIFIED SPEAKER:  What is OPS?  Kidding.  No.

(Laughter)

 

Q.  I asked the coaches this at the 11:00 press conference:  Ballpark plays big in the outfield.  Just your thoughts on your right fielder, center fielder, left fielder making plays, cutting off gapers and getting it into the cut‑off guys and maybe plays at the plate could be a big part of the tournament.

COACH CASEY:  I think it will just depend where we defend normally and understand that there are big gaps and all ball parks play different.  Catch the ball and hit it.

COACH COHEN:  I will say having been at Kentucky for five years, it’s just my opinion, probably wrong, but I think it’s a little easier to adjust to a bigger ballpark when you play in one.

When we play in a very small ballpark, at Kentucky, it was pretty small, isn’t it, Dan, especially on the right side, it’s a tougher adjustment, especially for your right fielder and center fielder.  But if you have a normal ballpark, this probably isn’t as big of an adjustment.

And our ballpark plays pretty big.  We’ve been fortunate.  We played in a big ballpark, Hoover, played in a big ballpark, hosted a Regional in a big ballpark and went to Charlottesville, a big ballpark.  I think this helps us a little bit.

But he’s right if you have the guy standing in the wrong spot, make the wrong pitch, none of that matters.  It’s just conversation.

COACH McDONNELL:  I think first if you keep the ball out of the gap and you don’t give up the doubles or possibly triples and you don’t have to deal with it as much.  But we feel good about our outfield.  We do have speed out there.  It’s a very good defensive outfield.  We’re playing three juniors, played a lot of college baseball.

And so two of them were in the Cape Cod League last summer.  So they do a phenomenal job of communicating, knowing where to play, moving on pitches, counts, number of outs, number of runners on base, so fortunately the leadership we have out there can help us, but of course the infielders are involved, the catcher, and we work on just being loud and communicating a lot.  I tell our guys you might throw the ball to the wrong base, but as long as you’re loud, you communicate, you make a decision, just live with it and we move on to the next play.

COACH SMITH:  I would say the same thing that Pat, said we’ll line up and play like we’ve played.  You try to position guys based on the situation of the game.  Are they in?  Back?  No doubles.  Gotta be in a position to throw people out.  But it’s going to be no different from what we’ve done all season.  But realizing, yes, it’s a bigger part.

 

Q.  Pat, with your experience, how do you deal with the wow factor of being here with these players and how have the World Series veterans on your staff helped?

COACH CASEY:  World Series veterans on my staff?  I don’t know who they are.  I think that John said this earlier, you kind of gotta enjoy the event or the kids have to enjoy the event.  They worked awful hard.  Baseball’s a grind.  And I think they need to enjoy it.  I don’t think you can come here and lock them down.

I think you’ve got to be able to manage it, handle it, give them free time and also corral them when you need to.  But it’s pretty short once you get your practice time in and now we have this event this evening and basically wake up and play.

So when you stay here an extended amount of time then if you have days off you’ve got to manage that and all that.  We’ve been on the road all year, so it doesn’t seem all that different.  Although it’s a wonderful event and so many things going on, and guys are excited and they should be.  I don’t know.

 

Q.  Tracy, you talked earlier about the effect or noneffect that the weather could have on your players, what do you think it does with Joey and how it affects how he plays?

COACH SMITH:  I would say that most of the people sitting up here, you hope pitchers are pounding the strike zone.  And from everything I gather, the way you hurt yourself, because the three‑run homer is probably not going to happen, if you’re offering up extra bases, be it walks or errors or hit batsmen.

Again, it’s not like you tell a guy don’t go out there and throw strikes, or we haven’t been saying that, but I think there needs to be an extra focus on that.  When you get here, trust your defense and let guys play behind you.  No secret, he struggled last weekend.  And that was something.  In spite of that struggle, we still found a way to win.  But I don’t expect him to go out there and struggle like he did last weekend.

 

Q.  John, all these teams have good bullpens.  But I guess you’re unique in the sense you’re not afraid to go to your relievers in the fifth or sixth innings, that early, if that need be.  Talk about the luxury, the development of the bullpen, Girodo and Bracewell, Mitchell?

COACH COHEN:  Fifth or sixth inning, that’s good.  If we can do that, I’ll be thrilled.  We feel really fortunate we have some kids who have bought in, who are pretty selfless kids.  And nobody goes to college and says, man, I really want to be the middle guy at Mississippi State or the left on left guy.

But we’ve got some guys who have really bought into that.  Chad Girodo has been on a roll for us in the middle of ballgames.  Obviously Ross Mitchell has been on a roll for us in the middle of games and Hunter on the end.  And they enjoy their role.  And I think pitchers have had the luxury until now of saying if we could just get us two times the order.  I think if I get three times the order that closer to Holder, that’s even better.  But I credit Butch Thompson, our pitching coach, I think he’s done a masterful job of having guys buy into their role.

And all of our kids just desperately wanted to be here, they wanted to be in Omaha and do whatever they could to help our club.

We’re built a little different.  I looked at Pat’s starters.  They’re well into 100 innings deal.  And that means in order to get there you have to be real good.  I’m not saying that our starters aren’t real good, I’m saying that our bullpen has done a great job of picking that up.

I don’t know if there’s a reliever in the country who is 12‑0.  We have a guy that’s 12‑0 out of our bullpen, which means he’s really got good timing and can come in just bolt a win away from someone else or he’s just that good.

We really feel fortunate with our bullpen.

 

Q.  Tracy, the other coaches all have made great memories of Rosenblatt.  I’m wondering what you think of the new place.

COACH McDONNELL:  It’s obviously a beautiful facility, and as I was talking earlier, I was telling Dennis Pope that it’s great for the fans.  Nothing against our players.  But between the lines is between the lines and it seems like Ameritrade has given so much more to the fans bigger stadium, state of the art from, you name it, concessions bathrooms, everything.  So what an opportunity.  And where they put the stadium and locale to the hotels and restaurants and everything, just as I’ve always heard, this is about family.

So it’s neat for families to come to Omaha and that’s what makes it so much special is they’re able to have so much fun?

COACH COHEN:  I feel like Gomer Pyle walking under the stadium.  It’s like look at this room, they’ve got this.  The blue room just for hanging out and then the locker room deal and they’ve got the cage room.

I’m from Starkville, Mississippi.  This is really cool stuff.  I think they’ve accomplished a lot.  They’ve accomplished a lot for the fans and they’ve also accomplished a lot for the players and coaches.  I just can’t imagine how much planning went into this, because it’s spectacular.  We’re just thrilled to be a part of it.

COACH CASEY:  I think like history, as time continues to lapse, those things get bigger and more important, and I think that actually this beautiful stadium will add to the memories of Rosenblatt, because they’ll only become bigger.  The first base gets bigger every time.  And those will never be repeated now, those things that happened in Rosenblatt that were so special, they’re never going to be duplicated anymore.  So I think those things will actually become bigger and especially to those guys that played there.

And this is a terrific unbelievable facility.

 

Q.  John, I’ll resist the urge to ask you to do a Gomer Pyle imitation saying “golly,” but Dan, are you going to get a tattoo like Pitino if you guys win the national title.  And Tracy, how close are you guys to overthrowing basketball as a state sport?

COACH COHEN:  Fortunately, I have not gone on record as saying that I would get a tattoo.  But as I’ve referenced, and I can’t speak for all coaches.  Winning a national championship and, of course, Pat has done that, if I had to sacrifice and get a tattoo, I would.  But I’m just not going to go on record because I’ll have to talk to my wife and my kids first.

But it’s not out of the question.

COACH SMITH:  I’ll answer your question, and this is a true story.  I’ll answer like this.  So this puts in the perspective of basketball at Indiana University.  My recruiting coordinator Ty Neal, will be moving on to the University of Cincinnati as head coach, but one of his ideas that he wanted to do at the new stadium, if you come up on our third base side, there’s kind of a service drive there and equipment area but there’s a nice, big rectangular asphalt, flat surface.  In his mind would be perfect for a basketball hoop right there at the stadium.

And he was like, hey, we can use this in recruiting.  So I think that gives you an idea of what basketball means, not only to Indiana but just around that area.  But we are not even close to overcoming.  But I’ve been very appreciative of Coach Green and his nice comments out there that Indiana is a baseball school now.  But we’re a part of it.

One of the mottos we have at Indiana is “24 sports, one team.” And I think ‑‑ we just feel like we’re one of those 24 sports and doing our part.

But growing up in the state of Indiana, born and raised there, it’s a basketball state now.  It was then.  And always will be.

 

Q.  Tracy, actually, and I think about John and Dan, you guys went and played really formidable foes on the road; Pat you stayed at home.  But Kansas State with Brad Hill, there’s nothing small about Kansas State baseball either.  But, Tracy, going down to Dick Howser Field, and I read where you stated we really got it handed to us down there at one time.  So how did you approach that in terms of what changed?

COACH SMITH:  The change of the names that I could write on the lineup card for one thing.  That was early on in our tenure as a new coaching staff going down there.  And it was a different environment.  But I am really bad about remembering things and experiences, and I don’t remember in ’07 it being as crazy as it was this time.

But the difference for me is the mindset and the group of kids we’re rolling in with this time.  This group generally believes they’re good and I think deservedly so.  And this is no disrespect to any program in the country.  But I do think that is probably the toughest place to play.

I mean, they have ‑‑ they have manuals on cheers they do during the games, and they absolutely go crazy.  But the good part about that is on our trip to the College World Series, I look at it like thank goodness we had that opportunity to roll through there, because we’ll never, never in my lifetime, face anything like we faced last weekend.  And I can’t even begin.  And I know some of you guys have played there, I’m not sure.

I’ve never ‑‑ I’ve been around a lot of baseball, and I’ve never been in an environment like that that was ‑‑ they were great fans.  They weren’t hostile crazy, rude.  But so loud ‑‑ you couldn’t talk.  You couldn’t talk in the dugout.  You couldn’t talk on the mound.  Anything.  We had a six‑run lead going into the bottom or the top of the ninth and even that we didn’t feel comfortable.

When I talked about the walks earlier, Aaron Slegers’ had three wild pitches all season, has four, in like three or four innings down there.  And I think a lot was the crowd.  But we felt comfortable going down there.  And in hindsight I’m glad we went down there because I think it was great preparation for being here.

 

Q.  John, Kendall struggled maybe mid‑season.  What has he done recently that he got the ball against Virginia and now against Oregon State?

COACH COHEN:  I think he’s a little less amped up.  It’s a concern to me when he’s going like 91, 92, 93, in that area, because that guy needs to sit at 87, 88 sinking the baseball.

I think his command in the middle part of the season was exceptional, and his command wasn’t as good in the latter part of the season.  But he’s such a tremendous competitor.

We have a lot of faith in his ability to throw the baseball to location, and he’s going to have to, because he’s facing a really good offensive club tomorrow, and I think he’s a guy who loves to study it, and I think hopefully he’ll come out and not be as amped up and be able to throw the baseball where he wants to.

THE MODERATOR:  Thank you.

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