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May 29, 2015

Mik Aoki

Ryan Bull

Robert Youngdahl


Notre Dame – 13
Wright State - 7

MIK AOKI:  It certainly didn't start out the way we wanted it to.  We thought Scotty would be a little sharper than he was but I'm proud of the way our kids continued to compete.  Made some big swings.  These guys certainly, and a few other guys, made some big pitches and big plays.
Thought it was a good ballgame, kind of back and forth.  I thought from a fan's perspective, probably a pretty entertaining game.  I think if the wind continues to keep blowing like this, we are going to have some coaches that are going to age about 15 years over the course of these next two or three days.
But I thought it was a good college baseball game, and certainly I thought that Wright State did a good job of competing against us.  Ultimately, we just made a couple of more swings.

Q.  Do you think this regional, this season in general, as kind of a bounce back for you from last year?
RYAN BULL:  I think this year I've just kind of taken a different mental approach than I did last year.  For me personally, I think I focused on things that I couldn't control last year, and this year, I've gone through like a maturation process.
Just learned to focus on the things that I can control and ultimately I think it's helped me.  Like I've been able to share some of the things that I went through last year with some of the younger guys, and I think that just as a whole, our team is taking a much better approach to the game than we did last year.

Q.  First time through the lineup today, you guys had just one hit and were not getting a lot of solid contact.  What was it about the second time through the lineup that got things jump started?
RYAN BULL:  I think it's always big to see a pitcher more than once.  So it's like throughout your career, you're always used to seeing like a softer left‑handed pitcher.  So you have a better idea of what to do with that.
I think that the softer right‑hander kind of threw us for a loop the first time that we went through the lineup.  But we garnered a little bit of experience, understood what his pitches looked like; what kind of the stuff that he had.
And I think the second time we went through the lineup, we were just more prepared and we had more information.  And we were able to just stick to a better approach, work the opposite way with all of his pitches because he wasn't going to beat you with velocity and if you were a little bit early, you were able to pull something.  I think that was something that worked out well the second time through.

Q.  You alluded for to this; a lot of time when you talk about turning things around and changing the attitude, it takes a while to make that adjustment during the season.  You guys did that from the first game on.  How were you able to make those kind of changes in the off‑season and pick up running right when the season started?
ROBERT YOUNGDAHL:  I think last year left such a sour taste in our mouth that we wanted to do whatever it took to turn it around right from the get‑go.  There was limited success last year, so everyone bought into the whole culture change, which we thought was big going into the new season.  Everyone bought into the mental game, stuff we had been doing with Brian Kane, and just everyone understood what the goal was and just wanted to do whatever it took to not let a repeat of last year happened.  So we wanted to do it right away.
RYAN BULL:  Yeah, I think that was basically it.  Like we learned a lot as a group.  We knew that we had a large senior class.  We had a lot of people coming back.
So the seniors are going to play an integral part in just kind of like integrating this new culture into our team.  I think as a whole, everyone has bought into it.  Everyone's team first.  Everyone is rooting for each other regardless of their role on that given day, and I think that just as a whole, we have done a great job just implementing it and just executing it and winning pitches.

Q.  What was Coach's involvement in helping get that?
RYAN BULL:  Well, Coach gave us, like Robert just talked about, Brian Kane.  He gave us the resource of Brian Kane.  He's come to South Bend a few times, talked with us, instituted his system.
And just after we did that, our engagement level, our mental conditioning, our approach, just things that you can control that people sometimes just disregard, like there's so much more to baseball rather than just‑‑ or other than just going in the cage and hitting and fielding ground balls.
Like baseball is extremely mental.  It will humble you, absolutely.  If you have a feeble mind and you can't get through like lining out or not getting a pitch called and you carry it over to your next pitch, you're not doing yourself justice or benefitting the team as a whole.

Q.  If I remember right, both of your doubles came after borderline pitches, they were both 2‑2 pitches and went to full count.  Were you in a different mode there looking to attack or take advantage of a pitcher that was frustrated that he didn't get the call?
RYAN BULL:  Once I get to two strikes, like I'm just trying to put a ball in play.  Like I knew that I wasn't going to be beat with velocity in either of those at‑bats, so I was just looking to drive a ball to the opposite field.  In my second at‑bat, it ended up being an outer‑half fastball that I could just take the other way.  In the first at‑bat, it was a changeup.  So I was on time for the fastball, hit it to left, pulled the changeup, and ultimately ended up working out.

Q.  Robert, you guys had that comeback last week against Miami, even though you guys didn't win the game.  How much did that help when you were down 3‑0 and again 6‑5 to give you a little bit of confidence?
ROBERT YOUNGDAHL:  I think the Miami game just reaffirmed what we knew all year; that we could play with anyone and beat anyone.  I think today was maybe more similar to the North Carolina game where we fell down 6‑0 and just battled back and ended up winning.
So I think that we have learned that no matter what the score is, we could just keep playing our game and we can battle back from anything, and like I said, play with anyone in the country. 

Q.  Building on what I was asking about Ryan, so what do you think is the difference between last year and this year?  What have you noticed?
MIK AOKI:  For Ryan or for our team?  I think the big thing was I think Ryan, as he alluded to, got caught up in things that were beyond his control, putting probably too much pressure on himself.  To be honest with you, I think Robert falls into that same boat last year, as well.
I think they were consumed with things that just ultimately don't matter, and ultimately, you have no control over, right.  Thirty scouts are sitting there watching Tyler‑J and they are going to have 30 different opinions of what Tyler‑J is going to be or what he could be or anything else.  And if you get into a mode of going up there and trying to pitch or trying to play or trying to hit to go please 30 different guys, you're just going to scramble your brain and you're never going to come out‑‑ you're never going to win that war.
I think that those were the things that got them a little bit off of their‑‑ I think Robert had a couple other things; he was coming in, transferring in.  I think he wanted to sort of impress his teammates.  A lot of different things.  I think you guys alluded to, as well, the sort of overall culture.  This year, we have just been incredibly intentional about talking about it; talking about the things that Notre Dame baseball wants to represent; that if we leave this regional, that people are going to walk away saying, X, Y and Z about Notre Dame baseball, whether we win it, whether we lose it, whatever it is.
So we were incredibly intentional about it.  It was stuff that we talked about a lot, but I think the way in which we really kind of put it down on paper, used our players to really drive the engine of how we wanted to represent Notre Dame and our baseball program, they took ownership of it.
And our senior class is an interesting one because you've got a couple of guys obviously in Robert and Ryan who have been contributing on a daily basis.  We have got Scott Kerrigan that's been doing that.  But it's a mixed bag in terms of their contributions on the field.
But we have talked a lot with this group, and like they said, it's a large group, about legacy.  I think that they have started to build this.  So if we win this regional, we get an opportunity to go to a super regional; or we don't, and two years or three years from now we are winning and getting to a super regional or getting to Omaha, the idea that, your guys started that; that's your legacy.  You're going to have the opportunity to touch about eight different classes, maybe not directly, but the guys that came after you are going to be touched because of the guys that were on this team all the way down to our freshman class.
And I think as our team and these two guys, especially, as they just got more into the success of our team, ironically enough, the game sort of begins to pay you back, and their success rate went up substantially.  That's probably more information than you wanted to know but there it is.  (Laughter.)

Q.  I'm sure you would have liked to have gotten more out of Kerrigan, but Tully came in and really settled things down.  Going into the game, were you planning on going to him after Kerrigan, whenever that may be?
MIK AOKI:  I think that we kind of looked at Brandon and Scott as guys that might be good matchups for this team.  I thought Scott would be a good match up.  And to be honest with you, I thought Wright State did a phenomenal job going down the stretch.  They made some adjustments.  The center fielder, Fucci, sets sits on that 3‑2 changeup and he didn't miss it.  I think 2‑0, I think it was Timm got the knock that put them ahead.  I thought they did a phenomenal job as they sort of started to see what Scott is about.
Because there have been a lot of teams that Scott has pitched against that have not made the types of adjustments that you need to to have success against Scott.

Q.  Is he available to you‑‑ scoring all the runs in the 8th‑‑ going into the ninth‑‑
MIK AOKI:  I think Brandon presents some issues because he's got a changeup and a slider and he's got a pretty good fastball.  And so as long as his stuff‑‑ like he's on top, as long as he's working downhill, he's pretty tough.  We kind of liked it.  He's a kid who, outside of these last three appearances has been in our starting rotation and pitched in really big spots throughout the course of the year.
I was willing to sort of let it ride with him a little bit.  If he had gotten into some trouble, we would have gone to Brad.  The only guy that turned out this morning, Guenther woke up with like a 100‑degree fever, so he wasn't available to us today.
Outside of that, I thought both Scott, as you alluded to, did a really good job, and I thought Brandon did a good job kind of keeping us in there as well.

Q.  No issues with Scott's ankle going forward?
MIK AOKI:  I don't think so.  He got smashed pretty good on that thing.  He had the ice pack on the right arm and he had the ice pack on the left shin or whatever it was.  Hopefully he's okay.  I would think with as few of pitches as he threw, if this thing goes to Monday, he might be available for an inning or something like that, but we'll see.

Q.  Will you go with Smoyer tomorrow?
MIK AOKI:  Smoyer will go tomorrow and then we'll figure out Sunday when Sunday arrives.

Q.  Curious on the home run that was called foul, what were you discussing?
MIK AOKI:  That's a difficult call, right.

Q.  Were you talking between third base‑‑
MIK AOKI:  I just wanted them to get it right.  I wanted them to just get it right.  That was a big spot in the game.  I didn't have the greatest angle sitting there in the third base dugout obviously.  But it just looked to me like it kind of left the yard fair.  I mean, that's a difficult call.
A week from now in a super regional, a lot of the cameras and everything else, we could probably take that thing to replay to see what it was.  I don't know, I mean, I think Bill and Chris, they try to do the best they can as far as I'm concerned.  They got together.  They discussed it.  Bill, he was pretty certain that he had gotten it right.  So, you know, it wasn't like he was out of position or anything, so you just kind of go with that.

Q.  In addition to the win today, what do you attribute Kutsulis's power surge?
MIK AOKI:  Zak has power, period, end of story.  If you watch our BPs, he and Robert can really launch some balls.
The thing with Zak is just being able to understand how to hit on his terms rather than the pitcher's terms.  I think at times, he's got pretty darned good hand‑eye.  And so he's willing to, in a plus count for him, just kind of hand‑flip the ball in there.  And I think that we've just been talking to him more just on mental side of, look, don't be satisfied to just put a ball in play; for a kid who can really unload on it when he's on his legs and he takes a good swing.
I think when you've seen him mature as a hitter and understand that a little bit more, you've seen some power numbers come from him.  I think that's just kind of the tip of the iceberg going forward to be honest with you.

Q.  Four home runs out of 16 hits, taking advantage of wind blowing out?
MIK AOKI:  I don't know, there weren't too many of them that were like no doubt‑‑ yesterday we came out and took BP and there definitely wasn't four home runs in yesterday's wind; everything stays in the yard.
Yeah, we were fortunate a little bit.  We got some balls up into that jetstream.  It wasn't like we didn't hit them well.  I think all of them were well‑hit balls.  They just got a little bit of help from old Mother Nature, right.  She's smiling on the Irish today.

Q.  Top of the order today too ‑‑ something you've stressed for five years with the program; that you are starting to see guys really take advantage of it‑‑ is that again just the mental conditioning or what is that?
MIK AOKI:  I think it's a lot of kids just maturing and developing and understanding what you have to do to be successful.  Just kind of‑‑ just never letting the moment, hopefully‑‑ I mean, it does, we are not perfect with it‑‑ but never letting the moment kind of get away from you.  Just thinking about, look, I want to try to win this pitch.  And if you do, great.  And if you don't, you move on to the next one.
That's all that you can control.  You don't worry about what the umpires call were.  You don't worry about game situation.  You don't worry about the rest of it.  As a hitter, you just try to go out there and make as quality contact as you possibly can.

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