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NCAA MEN'S COLLEGE WORLD SERIES MEDIA CONFERENCE
June 26, 2011
THE MODERATOR: First of all, let's do start with some overviews from, first from Kevin, would you start us with an overview of going into the championship series.
COACH O'SULLIVAN: Well, we feel very fortunate to be one of the last two teams playing. Obviously we played a very good Texas team, faced a first-rounder in Jungmann. And next game faced, obviously, a very talented Vanderbilt team in Gray and Garvin.
And then third game got to face Sonny Gray and Vanderbilt again. So we feel very fortunate to be where we are right now. We feel like we're playing our best baseball right now.
And I think obviously South Carolina can probably say the same. But looking forward to it. Tomorrow night should be a great series. It's not going to be easy. South Carolina is playing extremely well.
They pitch; they play defense. They don't give you a whole lot. So we're going to have to be on top of our game if we want to have any success against them. But it's kind of ironic that two SEC teams get a chance to go head to head here in Omaha.
But we feel like the SEC is certainly the best conference in the country. There's certainly other teams that could be here right now within our conference, and I think playing the SEC schedule has certainly prepared us for this opportunity, and just looking forward to playing tomorrow night.
THE MODERATOR: Ray?
COACH TANNER: To sort of reiterate what Coach O'Sullivan said, this is a wonderful opportunity for both of us to be here. There's so many great teams throughout the country. There's parity in college baseball like never before with the emphasis from presidents, athletic directors, facilities, and to end up in the final two teams is very, very difficult to do.
You can be a great team, you can have all the ingredients you need, but still not be here. And last night I was reflecting back with my coaches about some of the teams we've played throughout, and the times that you've played them and how good they were.
But, yet, it's hard to advance. It's very, very difficult. To be in this situation today is just a tremendous accomplishment for both of our universities. And these student-athletes up here, it's exciting. It's on a great stage, and there's no better place to be this time of year than in Omaha.
THE MODERATOR: Questions.
Q. All four players, could you just talk about your conference and what Kevin had to say, and obviously the specialness of being here and how playing in the SEC gets you ready to play in the postseason.
PRESTON TUCKER: Obviously having three of the last four teams playing in this thing be all from the SEC shows a lot about how tough this conference is and how much competition there is in it.
It's going to be fun. It shows -- you know, we're not going to be surprised with who we play. We all know each other we've all seen each other play all year long. It's a good thing to kind of know what to expect and know how competitive it's going to be. So I'm really excited and looking forward to it.
MIKE ZUNINO: I would say the same thing. I know the SEC is very deep. All 12 teams in there are extremely competitive. I mean, all eight teams that made the SEC tournament made a regional, competed in it. And we're fortunate enough to be here and play another great SEC school and to just have a good series.
MICHAEL ROTH: It's a battle every weekend. You never get a weekend off. It's always a fight.
SCOTT WINGO: Same as Roth. We've seen them three times this year. But whoever comes to play the best out of these two out of three series is probably going to win this thing.
Q. Scott, you guys were here last year all the way with the old bats. You've played out through with the new bats. You've seen the numbers and seen how it is on the field. Could you just talk about how different it is this year with the new bats at this level, at this final stage?
SCOTT WINGO: The home run numbers obviously went down. But I just think that the sweet spot just is not as big as last year. And I didn't notice too much of a difference, I don't know how, but I hit better than I've ever hit. So probably bad person to ask on that one. But that's all I got on that.
Q. Scott, for Michael, Mike and Preston. We'll go to Michael and Scott first. What do you admire most about the style of play that Florida plays, that you like about them, and then, of course, for Preston and Mike, what do you like a lot about South Carolina and the way they play?
SCOTT WINGO: Florida, they're a little bit similar to us. I think they hit and run, bunt, steal. I mean, whatever. Anyways -- but, yeah, and they got great pitching and defense.
That's the bottom line. They're a great team. So we gotta come out like we always say battle.
MICHAEL ROTH: They're one of the toughest teams we've played all year. One of the best hitting teams we've faced. And really it's going to come down to pitching and defense and we're both pretty good at that.
MIKE ZUNINO: South Carolina, they're a tough team. They compete every game, game in, game out. They win games in the last half of ballgames. They always stick around, and it's teams like that that do really well.
PRESTON TUCKER: You know, South Carolina, they just know how to win. If they find themselves in a tough spot in the ballgame, they know how to get out of it. They make big pitches and get timely hits. I think they know how to perform late in the ballgame.
Q. For any of the players, you guys played a series against each other in March, what has changed for each of your teams since that series?
PRESTON TUCKER: I think there's a lot of things that change. Everyone's not quite figured out their lineup. Everyone's trying to figure out what role they play. I know us and South Carolina are both different teams than we have been in the past. But you know it's all about who is playing well right now. I think if guys step up in certain situations, I think the best team should win.
MIKE ZUNINO: I agree with Preston. We played them fairly early in the SEC schedule. And you're still trying to figure stuff out, trying to get everything solidified. I mean, both teams have made great strides forward since then, and have really played well and both teams are playing really well and we're just looking to compete.
MICHAEL ROTH: Our pitching rotation was a little in flux still that second week since in the SEC. So that's kind of settled down for us. And our lineup was kind of the same back then, but it's kind of changed with all the injuries, but we're pretty similar still, and like they said it's going to be a fight.
SCOTT WINGO: Yeah, I just think pitching, really getting that down and everything, and, yeah, we had some injuries. So the guys that stepped up for us really helped us out. Jackie got hurt. Matthews went down and we had some guys step up. So really just injuries and getting our pitching.
Q. Coach Tanner, and also Scott, I guess if you could answer this one, since you've been such a big part of it. Last year walk-off fashion to win the national title. This year two of your three wins here are walk-off with that dramatic win in the 13th the other night. Do you guys ever amaze yourself with how you guys just kind of do it?
COACH TANNER: I'll defer to Mr. Wingo.
SCOTT WINGO: I think -- I don't know if we amaze ourselves, because I mean we just go out there and we fight every inning. And I'd say getting back-to-back national championships is pretty amazing. So if anything amazed, I'd say that.
COACH TANNER: Could you ask the question again?
Q. Do you amaze yourselves?
COACH TANNER: I don't really think it's anything about amazing yourself. We understand who we are as a team. And when you've got Mike and Preston over here that blast a three-run homer and take the other team out, we don't do that so much.
And we have to hang around and compete and try to stay in position to win, and we do win a lot of games from the fifth inning on. That's who we've been.
So it's sort of the trademark of our team. And certainly with Coach O'Sullivan's bullpen, they win late, and that's why they've won so many games, too. So that's just sort of the makeup of our team. And that's the way we've been able to be successful.
Q. Michael and Scott, when you guys started the season, how realistic did you think it would be for you guys to be sitting back here going into the championship series?
MICHAEL ROTH: I don't know if I really thought about coming back here yet. You know, we were just trying to go out there and find out who we are a little bit. The thing coming into the season was the pitching staff, was it going to be good enough, was the starting rotation going to be good enough. I think some of us had something to prove. And thus far I think we've done a good job.
And you know it's great to be back defending our title.
SCOTT WINGO: The pitching staff, that was really the question. Because I knew we had the core group of guys coming back. And when we got done, through the summer, when we got back in the fall, we just worked hard and got after it and said we can do this again. So I think just pitching staff is really the question.
Q. All the players, when you walked in the room, the trophy's sitting right there. You guys obviously have seen it before. But mainly for you two, what did that mean for you to see the trophy?
PRESTON TUCKER: Obviously it's exciting just seeing how close you are to getting it. Again, it's just a three-game series. Whoever is playing the best at that time is going to win it. It's there for the taking; whoever wants it more is going to end up with the trophy.
MIKE ZUNINO: I mean, like Tuck said, it's something our school has never done before, and it's something we set out to this year. We want to try to make a statement, and I mean, like Tuck said, three-game series away, and we're just going to come out and compete and give it everything we've got.
MICHAEL ROTH: Obviously the trophy has 2011 engraved on it, and we'd like to have it.
SCOTT WINGO: Same with Roth, we'd like to have it. (Laughter).
Q. Preston and Mike, getting here last year, you know with kind of a young team, a lot of freshmen, just getting a taste of it, do you think it really benefited you guys out here this year?
PRESTON TUCKER: Yes, obviously getting a taste of Omaha was great, but obviously disappointing ending. I think we had a different mindset coming in this year. Last year was the first time for all the guys getting here, I guess it was a little overwhelming. I know it was for me. But I think everyone's playing a little more comfortable, more relaxed this year, knowing that we have been there before. And hopefully we can carry it on and hopefully win the championship.
MIKE ZUNINO: It definitely helps getting here before. But getting a taste of Omaha helped but we got a bad taste, we were two and done last year, and it's something we didn't want to do this year. We came out with more of a confidence and just of a demeanor we know what we had to get done. And we're just trying to do that.
Q. Obviously both teams have bigger rivals on their schedule, but what's the rivalry like with the two ball clubs last year: Florida went to Carolina, knocked them out of the regular season championship; this year Carolina goes to Florida first week of the season, beats you guys two out of three. For all the players.
SCOTT WINGO: I was trying to look whoever is talking. I really didn't even. I got nothing on that, man. I'm ADD, man. My bad. (Laughter).
MICHAEL ROTH: Last year it was tough to see their team dogpile on our field. And they won the championship. And that was tough to see. You know, this year we were able to do that by winning the Super Regional at our place. And you know we also -- we played them down at their place this year, and that's a tough place to play.
And, you know, I mean, it's hard to say. There's obviously -- you know, we played them when they were No. 1 and we obviously were in the top of the rankings. It's always been a dogfight, and that's what it's going to be again.
MIKE ZUNINO: Last year we were able to go there take two out of three from them, but they got the last laugh in last year, they got to hold the national championship trophy up.
But then they came to our place, they took two out of three. They just compete every time we play them. And it's just always a fun series to be in and looking forward to playing them.
PRESTON TUCKER: I think it's real exciting. Obviously when we won two out of three last year, it was great fun winning the SEC. But then, again, they won the national championship. They were the best team last year.
They took two out of three at our place. They got the best of us there. But then, again, it's a new series. It starts 0-0 here. And whoever takes two out of three here is going to be the best team in the nation.
Q. Preston and Mike, I'm sure when Kevin was recruiting you guys he told you this was the goal, this is what he was working to get this program to. What made you guys buy in?
PRESTON TUCKER: You know, absolutely, he told me that he wanted me because he was trying to find the keys to success and getting a national championship team.
He was real enthusiastic, real excited. He said, if you perform the way we think you can, we can have a real great team. And obviously he's done a great job of getting guys that can perform in big situations and guys that can get the job done.
I think we've done a great job of winning so far. And he's done a great job of recruiting those kind of guys.
MIKE ZUNINO: Like Preston said, it all starts with recruiting and getting players. And Sully is one of the best at that. He gets all the right guys in. And then from there on out it's up to the players, the bond, work hard and try to get here. And I think he got the right guys in here, and hopefully we can do that.
Q. Kevin, is Hudson going to be your starter tomorrow night?
COACH O'SULLIVAN: Yeah, he'll start Game 1. And probably Whitson Game 2, and Game 3 is still undecided, if we get to that point. But definitely Hudson and Whitson will go Game 1 and 2.
Q. For the players, can you talk about what you're doing with all your downtime? And for Kevin, can you talk about trying to keep these guys focused and structured when there's so much downtime between games.
PRESTON TUCKER: Obviously we have a little more downtime than we're used to on road trips. We played three games in a row. But here we've got a few days off in between. Obviously we want to stay rested and healthy.
But at the same time, when we go to practice for a few hours a day, we want to stay focused. We all share a common goal, which is to win the College World Series. You're not going to be able to accomplish that unless you stay focused at all times. And you're not, you know, losing focus of that goal.
MIKE ZUNINO: We're trying to rest up. When we get to practice an the games just be as focused as we can and just on off days, enjoy your days off, but rest, because we have a bigger goal in mind.
COACH O'SULLIVAN: As far as I'm concerned, haven't been doing a whole. I've been letting these players enjoy time with their family, their time off.
I think they went to the zoo a couple of days. But I think part of coaching is you try to figure out where you are at with your club.
And right now we're playing at a high level. We've got a tremendous amount of confidence. I think you gotta step back a little bit. There's times during the season where you gotta kind of get involved and coach more. I think we're at a point right now where they don't need motivational speeches. They don't need me to get too involved.
I think we're at a critical point where I need to kind of stay out of the way. And kind of taking that approach. We had a great practice yesterday, it was spirited, a lot of execution. And, like I said, just trying to stay out of the way as best as possible and let these guys do what they do best and that's play.
Q. Michael, have you had to convince Coach here to allow you to pitch the second game of this series, be on three days' rest?
MICHAEL ROTH: We haven't talked about that yet.
Q. Ray, will Forrest start Game 1? And how does your pitching set up after that?
COACH TANNER: Forrest Koumas will start Game 1 tomorrow against Randall. And I think we're pretty good.
Matt Price through in the low 90s in relief because we went to free baseball the other night. So he probably will not be available. It's not 100 percent, but it's unlikely that he will pitch. So we'll have to go from there. Everybody else is good to go.
Q. Mike, have you gotten a new bat since your last one went kapluey?
MIKE ZUNINO: Yeah. It was a little depressing. I mean, I had that bat almost the whole year. Yeah, I did it. Was really weird seeing a barrel fly off a bat like that. Got a new one, got it taped up, and just trying to break it in.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you. Now we can direct questions to the coaches.
Q. The players kind of touched on this, Coaches, but how different, if at all, are your two teams from the end of March, and have your teams developed or evolved differently than you expected this year?
COACH TANNER: I'll just maybe speak to our club a little bit. It's been quite a while. One thing that remains constant is that both of us have remained consistent. We've been in the hunt. We've won our share of games from that point on. But things change. And personnel changes. You have pitchers in and pitchers out. We were still trying to sort through our rotation. We had to go through the injuries but in the end we got a lot of the same guys back. It's a different time. No doubt about it. And we all played pretty well to be still be playing. So from a consistency standpoint, it's been a constant.
COACH O'SULLIVAN: Yeah, I mean, just like Coach Tanner said, we've been consistent. You know, it's been a different year for us this year because we've kind of had our bull's eye on our backs since day one. We knew we had a chance to be good but to be at this position at the end of the year it doesn't always work out that way.
We've had some struggles mid-week games. I don't know if it's lack of focus or it certainly has a lot to do with the competition we play because everybody we play in mid-week is good. But I think going through some of the adversity has helped us get to this point. I think I keep pointing back to that Super Regional game on that Saturday when we got left on the field. I think that was a turning point in our season. I think that helped us all. It not only helped the coaches, but also helped the players as well.
Q. Letting Omaha get exposed to SEC baseball once a year when you guys come to the series. What's it like, week in, week out, for you guys?
COACH O'SULLIVAN: It's not easy. I mean, I was talking to somebody this morning about that. I remember going to Arkansas at the end of the year. We lost the Thursday night game and a Friday night game, and we're just trying to scramble to get the third game. And we got Whitson going, and he's pretty darned good. And they're hitting balls all over the field against him. There's 10,000 people.
And, you know, it's not easy. We had to go to LSU, which is a difficult place to play. Even when you're at home you're playing the likes of South Carolina, and we had to go to Vanderbilt. I mean, every weekend is very difficult. I think that's what separates this league from most. I think we have great players in this league. There's no question. But I think the places that you have to play and that there's no let-up from any weekend to weekend, it's certainly -- it certainly helps your players stay on their toes. If they don't they're going to find themselves on the losing end.
Q. Ray, what do you remember about Randall and that start down there, and is there any advantage at all to facing a guy like that, a top line guy a second time, just so your order knows?
COACH TANNER: Did you wish me to continue? I came into the SEC 15 years ago, and I think early on it dawned on me that I might be the team that got circled on the schedule.
And that was tough. And then we got a little bit better and I started looking for a team or two that maybe I could circle for a two out of three weekend. And there might have been one after a couple of years, and then that disappeared.
It's just nonexistent. You're not going to get me and probably Coach O'Sullivan is probably going to tell you, well, I'd like to play this team next weekend. There's nobody to play. Everybody's good. And that's why at the end of the year there's eight, nine, ten teams to get consideration for the postseason. That's how good the teams are, the coaches, the conference, and it goes throughout.
So when we get together in November at our coaches meeting and we're in that room, there's a feeling in there that there's going to be a number of teams in the postseason, there's going to be a number of teams that get a crack at Omaha. And there's a possibility that somebody could win a national championship from their league. That's where it is.
I think one of the coaches coined it a long time ago in that meeting in the fall, I'll never forget, we were talking about our league and trying to continue to do things to keep us near the top with the other conferences throughout the country.
And one of the coaches said: Our league is tremendously exciting, but very dangerous. And that's what it is. I mean, you can go from first to worst, that's just the way it is in our league. You can be a pretty good team and not feel very well at the end of the year. That's where it is. So it just speaks volumes about the commitment from the top down in the Southeastern Conference.
You were talking about Hudson Randall. I see him in my sleep a lot. (Laughter) Hudson Randall has been spectacular. He's been fun. Coach O'Sullivan and I chatted a little bit when we were down in Gainesville. I think before we went in there he was throwing a complete game around 75, 80 pitches.
And it looked like he was going to do it again against us. We decided I think to just stand there for a couple times so he couldn't set an NCAA record for fewest pitches.
I think he CG'd us 90 in the 90s that particular day. But he's special. He's fun to watch. He's a pitcher. He's a guy that looks to me that his velocity has probably increased a little bit, but his pitchability is off the charts. And that's fun to see.
You know, you're talking about a guy that in my opinion can be successful beyond here at any level. And he's very special. If you're going to beat Hudson Randall you'll have to do some things particularly well.
Q. Does it help at all to see him earlier in the year?
COACH TANNER: I don't know that it helps a heck of a lot, because most of the times you've seen him you haven't been very successful. So you don't have a lot of great memories to go back to. But it's that point of the season everybody's good, and he certainly is special in his own right.
Q. Coach O'Sullivan, you were just kind of talking about that Mississippi State game there in Super Regional, what exactly has changed for your team since then and why exactly was that the turning point?
COACH O'SULLIVAN: Well, I think you can coach all you want. But I think the adversity part of it of not having Austin or Brian Johnson available, your 5, 6 hitters, your closer, number two starter throughout the year.
But you know that experience, the adversity of having to come back the next day and play your best against -- which I considered one of the best teams in the country at that point, Mississippi State, they were playing really, really well. And you can't draw that up in any practice schedule. You can't script that.
You can't go through the types of emotions that we went through in those 24 hours. So I think kind of hardens you up a little bit as a team and as a coaching staff. And as you go through difficult times like we did on Friday with Vanderbilt, we had the bases loaded, one out, I think those situations help you.
Like I said, you can't draw that up in any practice plan. There's no speech you can give your team. You just gotta go through that. And unfortunately you have to go through some very tough times if you want to win a national championship. And I think that helped us an awful lot.
Q. Coach O'Sullivan, you've gone against Ray Tanner for a lot of years. What are your thoughts on him and how difficult is it to play against a Ray Tanner team?
COACH O'SULLIVAN: Well, the first thing is they're very well coached. And they play with a great deal of confidence. And I think that's the thing that probably is going to be the most interesting thing these next two or three games is we're playing with a great deal of confidence as well.
I called it the other day, it's swag versus swag. I mean, it's going to be one of those things where both teams are playing very well. Both teams are very well coached. Coach Tanner's teams never give you anything. Their pitchers are very good at getting ground balls, double play situations. They got different looks.
Their hitters are very, very competitive. They don't swing at balls. They're out of the strike zone for the most part. That all starts from the top with Coach Tanner. And his team -- there's a reason why every year they're ranked where they're ranked and they end up where they end up. That's because he does a great job.
I'm not saying that because he's sitting to my left. The fact of the matter is that he's kind of set the standard in the SEC. And we're just hoping to be successful like a South Carolina club or an LSU club, we want to get to that point.
And, like I said, this would be a great challenge for us, but I think it should be a great series.
Q. Ray, Forrest hadn't thrown in 21 days or so. Are you worried about him at all not being maybe as sharp as he would have been if he had stayed on regular rotation, and are you worried at all about freshman, biggest game of his life, first game of the College World Series?
COACH TANNER: Yes. (Laughter) absolutely. Forrest has been chomping at the bit. We won the Super Regionals. He was scheduled to go. Didn't pitch. His bullpens have been great. Coach Meyers has done a great job keeping him there. But he hasn't been on this stage that Hudson Randall has. And Hudson is certainly a much more proven pitcher. He does have good stuff.
One of the better games he had earlier in the year was in Gainesville when he pitched with short notice. His stuff is good enough. He's certainly talented enough, but as a coach you are concerned about if he's able to harness his emotions and all those things that come into play.
And that's just the way it is, though. That's the match-up. So we'll go with him, do the best we can, and if he's not as good as we want him to be, we'll go to the bullpen.
Q. Michael just told us you've not had a conversation with him pitching in the series, will you have that conversation and what will the conversation be like?
COACH TANNER: Well, most of the time when I talk to Michael it's one-sided. He does all the talking. So we'll get to that point. We'll see where he is. I know we got him out around 90 the other night. And my guess is that he'll want to pitch.
But I don't want to have that conversation now, of course. And we'll just do the best we can. Coach O'Sullivan's team is so good, so talented, they can beat you in so many ways. You've got to try to be at your best.
And if it's a situation where we feel like Michael gives us the best opportunity, we'll run him back out there. But we want to make sure you do the right thing physically, and then not make a decision on emotions so much.
Q. Sully, before the postseason even happened, you kind of admitted that the season had been a grind just because of the burden and expectations and the lofty pressure. What would it mean to you after the roller coaster Super Regional and now getting here, what would it mean to you personally to win a national championship?
COACH O'SULLIVAN: You know, personally, I really don't look at it that way. This is a collective effort. I think more about our assistant coaches and their families and how much sacrifice they've made to this program since we've been here. I think about the players and their families and how excited they are to be out here and the administration at Florida. And I really don't think of it from a personal level. There's so many people that have contributed to us to get to this point that my mind just works that way. I feel more excited about everybody else that's involved rather than me.
But, like I said, it's a great deal of satisfaction to be at this point, but there's so many people that have contributed for us to be here.
Q. What does it mean for this team for this season?
COACH O'SULLIVAN: Well, you know, the players, you know, we've recruited the players. We know their families. We know their brothers and sisters.
There's going to be a team at Florida that wins it for the first time. And hopefully this is the one. But we've got a tremendous challenge ahead of us. But it would be awfully special to be the first team at Florida to win the national championship in baseball.
Q. Kevin, you mentioned how difficult it is to get to this point in the season. Can you fathom at all how difficult it would be to do it two years in a row?
COACH O'SULLIVAN: I'm worried about Monday night. I'm not worried about 2012. But it's a heck of an accomplishment. And I talk about the bull's eye that we've had on our back, but South Carolina has as well.
When you go into the season as the defending national champs, you always wonder from the outside looking in, are they going to be complacent with what they've done in the past, and they haven't. To their credit, they've battled game for game with Vanderbilt and us all year long. And I think it ended the regular season, led the way it should have.
But to do what they've accomplished, to come back after winning it last year, it says a great deal about the competitive spirit of their program, for sure.
Q. Ray, you said Price may be unlikely. Do you start making contingencies if you have the lead in leading tomorrow night, do you look at somebody to take that role?
COACH TANNER: Coach Meyers and I we have sat down and we've gone through it, and there's a contingency plan in effect if he's unavailable. And he probably will be. So we're going to do the best we can, be prepared. And try to get in a situation to win the game. And if we are, we know what we'll do. If it works, great, if it doesn't, that's just part of it.
But when we went to extra innings, Price had to stay out there. As I said the other night, I was probably not going to give in until he got Kline out of there, and he wasn't leaving. So we left Price out there, too. So that's just part of it.
Q. Obviously all your pitchers so close to the title want the ball, how do you balance that, their desire to go out there and your desire to win the championship with their long-term health, and how much do you trust them when they say they can go when they inevitably say they can give you another inning or whatever?
COACH TANNER: I'll start. I'd like to hear Coach O'Sullivan's answer as well. But it's a challenge, because there's emotion involved. And sometimes you gotta know your players. Michael Roth, he's told me many times, he was in relief for me last year for the most part of the year, and he would tell me exactly.
And I trust him. Because he would tell me, I need one more day or I need two days. Some guys won't tell you. Some guys will just go with the emotion. And some guys will tell you, I don't have a future in this game. The future is now. And a lot of guys do have a future. So there's a balancing act that goes on.
And I don't think there's anybody certainly here or participating in this College World Series that will put winning ahead of a young man's health. And so that's the bottom line. But sometimes you do -- you've really got to understand your players to get to the right answer, because they may not give you the right answer.
COACH O'SULLIVAN: Yeah, it's a fine line. But we're fortunate that we have pitching depth. And sometimes those decisions work out great. Sometimes they don't. But that was part of the decision to start AP on Friday. Part of it was that Whitson was not available on Saturday. We were not going to throw him on four days. We hadn't done that all year long, ask we weren't going to put that pressure on him.
And the fact of the matter is if we were going to get to this point some other guys needed to contribute. And so it's a fine line. But I think it all starts at recruiting, to be quite honest with you. If you recruit pitching depth, it gives you other options. Because the fact of the matter i all of our jobs are the same, that's to win baseball games. That's how we get judged.
But if you have pitching depth, it gives you more options. And if you don't have pitching depth, then it forces you into making some tough decisions, that's the fact of the matter.
So we're in a good situation as far as depth is concerned but sometimes that doesn't always win you the games. Like the other night, we take out AP after six, you know, he certainly could have run right back out there for the seventh, but we had some pitching depth.
And we knew that those guys needed to go to the mound. Toledo hadn't touched a mound yet, and Maddox hadn't touched a mound yet. Maronde had thrown briefly. Larson had thrown briefly. So we needed to get those guys out there.
Unfortunately we didn't throw the very best we have all year, but we do feel better about our depth going into this final three game set.
Q. Coaches, you were both here last year. We're on a pace to have the least offensive College World Series since the wood bat era. Does it seem that much different, the lack of offense and the struggle with runs from a year ago?
COACH O'SULLIVAN: You know the numbers may be down, but I think offensively it's been an exciting series. We've been using the same bats all year long. So the bunt game has been an emphasis for both clubs all year long. And there may not be the home runs; but I think offensively it's been exciting the grinding out of the bats, the hit and runs, the drags, the pushes, the defending the bunt, the walk is now in a huge part of the offense.
So maybe home runs are down. But as far as the offensive excitement, I think it's as good as it's ever been.
COACH TANNER: I think managing the game has changed quite a bit. I'd be the first to admit I spent some time with Coach Skip Bertman back in '95, '96, I was his assistant on the U.S.A. team, and I was with him night and day for two summers. So I learned a lot about offense.
And that basically has changed. The day of the three-run homer is hard. There's some teams that still hit them. And these guys have hit some. But you have to manage it a little bit differently. I find myself now sometimes saying, well, we can pitch to this guy instead of waiting for the next guy. Because years ago I would say this guy's a home run threat to decide the game, pitch around him. And we'll take our chances with the next guy. He's got two home runs on the season. I think that's taken out a little bit this year and the ballpark, there's been some home runs hit but not that many. It is hard to get one out of here.
Q. Coach Tanner, obviously you guys have had the bull's eye all year as the defending champions, but once again here you are heading into the Finals against a team that has its rotation set up just the way they want it, whereas maybe yours isn't quite set up that way. And you have Price again kind of fatigued. But do you feel like your players almost feed off of that being behind the eight ball a little bit?
COACH TANNER: Maybe a little bit to that. And they are set up a little bit better than us right now, but it's a short series. Anything can happen. It's one play, one pitch, that kind of thing.
If you just go on paper, they may be in a better position. But you know we really haven't been an imposing team. And not to discount my guys or anything like that, we're not a team that can throw a crooked number on you. We have to pitch and play defense and stay in the game and win one late.
That's who we are. And so our guys have great respect for the Gators, no doubt about it, and their players. And I love watching Zunino catch. He has great passion for the game. And Tucker with a bat in his hand, big, big time at-bats.
But we're just going to try to figure out a way. It's certainly not going to be easy. But the thing that I really like about where we are right now and getting a chance to play Coach O'Sullivan's team, you know if all you guys went away and there were no fans, we were on the back sandlot, we flipped a coin said who was home and visitors, I'm not sure it would be any different.
I think they love to play; we love to play. Yeah, there's a lot more at stake now than there ever was before. But it's really genuine baseball. Let's go. Let's strap it on and let's try to make a play here and let's be competitive.
I remember, and Coach O'Sullivan may remember this, I was up in the Cape many years ago watching a couple of my guys play. He was coaching up there. I was sitting in the press box at Wareham, and I saw him. He was managing the team.
And this guy's got some serious passion, enthusiasm for this game. And he can coach. So there's no surprise to me that he's been as successful as he's been in such a short time. And last year, when we got home, I got a note from Mr. Foley, very, very nice note, congratulating us. I wrote him back, and I said: Your team is outstanding, your coach is the best, and you will win a national championship in baseball sooner than later. Be careful what you say. So I said that.
But there was never any doubt in my mind. There was never a doubt. This guy's the best. He has been for a long, long time, now he's a young head coach. And just does it the right way. They get after it. And you don't want to lose, but you like being in the environment where it's done the right way. And that's the way they do it.
Q. Coach O'Sullivan, I'm sure you guys were watching the game the other night when they went into 13. What were your thoughts seeing Price just get out of jam, after jam, after jam, but also still pitching?
COACH O'SULLIVAN: I'll be honest with you, what was going through my mind, I was getting nervous. I mean, it's getting to a point now where it's hard to watch other two teams play, because you know how important it is.
You know how badly Ray's team wants to win and how bad Coach O'Connor's team wants to win. And you know how much effort is being put in to get to that point. From a coaching perspective, it's unfortunate somebody has to lose.
Because you know that there's so much emotion into that game. And it was one of the best games I can remember watching. I mean, it was back and forth. And both teams had their horse on the mound at the end. And it was an exciting game.
Wish they had played a little bit longer. But, like I said, South Carolina deserved it and they played great there in the 13th and made some big pitches. I'll tell you, I was on the edge of my seat basically, there was nobody out, one out, Wingo gets the big double play there in the middle.
It was a back-and-forth deal. But, you know, like I said, from my perspective you just know how much the players and coaches put into it and it's an emotional, emotional deal.
Q. Kevin, when you took over the program and you started trying to put the puzzle together and sell guys on your dream, when did you start feeling pretty good that, hey, I got what I need to maybe get to this stage, and was there a guy or two that maybe put you over the hump?
COACH O'SULLIVAN: Well, people have asked me before, you know, your expectations, what did you think and how long would it take, and I'll be honest with you, I take a day-to-day approach. You know, Jeremy Foley made it loud and clear when he hired me, this isn't a two- or three-year deal. This isn't about 2011. This is about making Florida like a South Carolina, like a Florida State, like a Miami, year in, year out, that you have a chance or an opportunity to play for a national championship.
Never once did he say you have to win a national championship. It was all about consistency and being one of the elite programs in the country. I've never put a timetable on it. I've never looked at it that way. This league is too difficult. I think if you get too far ahead of yourself and look too far ahead, then you'll find yourself in some trouble.
Every year it's a different team. You've got the draft to deal with. You've got scholarship restrictions and that type of thing. So it's a difficult thing to maintain year after year.
So I just take a day-to-day approach to it. But to get back to the second part of your question about which player or players, I think when we were fortunate enough to land that recruiting class with Mike and Maddox and Johnson and Hudson Randall and those types of players, I think we knew we would have a chance. It was a collective effort.
And sometimes you land one or two special players, but I think in that class we were able to land quite a few. And I thought as long as we stayed healthy and they improved at the normal rate we thought they would we would have a chance to be pretty good.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you.
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