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May 31, 2015

Mik Aoki

Ryan Smoyer


Illinois – 3
Notre Dame - 0

MIK AOKI:  Yeah, I thought that was a really, really well played ballgame.  I thought Ryan pitched exceptionally well.  I thought he did a nice job stringing that one inning together against him.  I thought we swung the bats, in spite of whatever it was, the five hits that we had, I thought we swung the bats extremely well, especially early.  Just kind of one of those bad luck type of deals.  Had a lot of hard‑hit balls right at some people. 
Illinois, certainly give Johnson a lot of credit.  He made some plays when he needed to.  Made some plays when they needed to.  I think that was really a well played game that got won by the slimmest of margins.

Q.  Could you talk about the defense in one inning‑‑ against Virginia last week, seemed to be back on it today.
RYAN SMOYER:  I felt good today.  I had four pitches working.  In the bullpen, I felt good.  Got out there, everything felt good.  And then, you know, we were just putting zeros up on the board.  They get a couple timely hits, every couple guys come up with some key hits through the infield that hopefully we can put a glove on.  They get by a guy, there's nothing you can do about it.  Credit to them, they just made timely hits when they needed them.
That's a good team.  That's a lot of upperclassmen and a lot of guys that know how to play and they were just putting balls where people weren't and they were making key hits, the pop‑ups that end up getting guys in, moving guys over.  They went first to third a couple times, which I thought on their part was a smart move with the wind playing in and guys trying to throw the ball in the outfield.
As a pitcher, that one inning kind of killed us, but as a whole, I felt good out there.

Q.  The bottom of the order started it for them.  Did you pitch them differently the second time through or did they adjust to you the second time through?
RYAN SMOYER:  They adjusted.  Their plan of attack was to come out breaking ball a little more heavy toward the top.  A little heavy in that part of the lineup but the bottom half was just as good.  They made some adjustments, put balls into play, made us play defense.  Our defense has been great all year.  It was today.  It was just they hit them where we weren't, and bad luck happens some days.

Q.  What did you do‑‑ that's a really tough lineup, one through nine, what did you do to turn it over?
RYAN SMOYER:  I just think you have to split them up.  Going one, two, three in the first was big.  You come up with four, five, six;  you hope to get those three outs before you have to face Kerian.  If you can get Kerian up with nobody on, that helps, limit the damage to what he can do.  If he hits a double, guy on second base and there's not anything that hurt you.
I was talking to some guys that pitch in the Big Ten from Ohio State and Michigan, some friends that have played with him.  The key thing with them was they said, keep runners off when Kerian gets up there.  They are all good hitters, but you can get those guys out with good pitches.  It's just when Kerian gets up, he's a good hitter.  He might hit a ball, mis‑hit it like he did in the first and it drops in; and if guys are on base, they are going to score.
The big thing was just kind of trying to chop that lineup up and make them string a couple hits together, which to their credit they did and the game kind of went their way.  Nothing you can do about that.

Q.  Did you think you would be sitting here with a 9‑0 record heading into the NCAA Tournament?
RYAN SMOYER:  A year ago today, probably not.  This summer, absolutely.  When I kind of got back into what I did in high school this summer, I kind of felt‑‑ I didn't have a great start to the season, but I think I worked through that.
And I was hoping to get the ball, and Coach in practice on Tuesday said, "We're going to go with you in the second game.  It's either going to be the game that puts us in the championship or the game that keeps us out of elimination."    To me, that was a sense of pride that Coach had that kind of confidence in me.
Last year wasn't the greatest for me but I knew I was going to work at it.  I knew the pitching staff we had was going to be good so it was going to be competitive.  Any guy on our staff could have pitched today and done just as good a job if not better.
Next year we are going to come back fighting even harder with our pitching, and it's just our competitive attitude as pitchers in the staff is just unbelievable and it could have been anybody out there today.

Q.  I think it was the sixth or seventh inning, three hitters in a row swung at the first pitch and grounded out.  You had so many quality at‑bats this year.  How do you look at that when you're down three and you want them taking pitches, or not necessarily if they feel they can get a good hack?
MIK AOKI:  I think the only time that I called for them to take a strike was I think Mac was at the plate.  They had just scored their three.  I didn't want to go up there and have the first pitch result in an out.  And Johnson threw strike one, right.  He's a kid a lot like Ryan in terms of their numbers.  He's got a little bit more strikeouts than Ryan does.
But he's not a kid who's walking a whole lot of people.   I think that inning that you're referring to, or a couple of those innings that you're referring to‑‑ and even there, there was some well‑hit balls that just happened to be on the ground and they happened to be at a player.
So I think that part of it, you have no control over.  You have control over the swing; you have control over what you swing at.  Where it goes, you have no control over it.  If you figure that out, you and I will go into business and we'll be millionaires.
I thought our kids played great.  I thought our kids competed great.  I thought Johnson did a good job.  I thought it was just a really well‑played college baseball game, two good teams going at each other and they came out on top.

Q.  Not many conventional doubleheaders being played, and coming back in less than an hour, does that give you an advantage over Wright State?
MIK AOKI:  I think if you went with conventional thinking, we might be on the short end of that stick.  We just lost a difficult ballgame and Wright State won a game, so they might be feeling a little better.
I think these days, as a northern school, and I'm sure Illinois has been in the same boat; I think we've played maybe six doubleheaders this year or something like that.  I'm sure that we've lost the front end of them, and I'm sure that we've bounced back and probably won the back end of them.
I think it all just goes back down to going up there and playing as best as you can.  Wright State is a good team.  They certainly proved that this morning and they certainly proved that against us on Friday.  We have to go out there and hope that we can stave off elimination and we have the right to go back and play Illinois again tomorrow.

Q.  The errors ‑‑ three in scoring position, as Johnson settled in, did that become more of an opportunity missed?
MIK AOKI:  I think any time you have that opportunity missed,  right.  But I also think like there were a couple of balls; I thought Lane squared that ball up pretty good up right field to end that first inning.  I thought there was another one we hit pretty well to hit the second threat that we had.
And again, those are not things that you can necessarily control.  I thought Johnson really changed as a guy once he got that‑‑ once he got those runs on the board.  I thought he just was out there.  The body language picked up, the tempo picked up.  I felt like he got stronger. I thought he was pitching with a lot more confidence after they put that three‑spot on the board.  The kid is 10‑3 now I think with almost a sub 2.0 , close to a 2 .0 ERA.  The kid is a good pitcher and did a really good job against us.

Q.  Who is starting?
MIK AOKI:   Bielak will start.

Q.  From what you've seen in the ACC and beyond, this Illinois team, where do they stack up with what you've seen so far this year?
MIK AOKI:  Tough to say.  I mean, it's a good lineup.  I really like their lineup.  Obviously I've only seen two of their pitchers, right.  I saw Duchene a little bit the other night and I saw Johnson here tonight.
In a lot of ways, outside of maybe Jay at the back end, I feel their staff is very similar to ours in terms of numbers.  They are not a prolific strikeout team, that sort of thing.  But I think that they are a very, very good baseball team.  I think that they are solid all around.  They played good defense today, saved the one error in the first inning, and they are athletic in the outfield.  They try to play the little game; thankfully some of those punch (ph) rolled foul.
I think that they can do some different things and I think that they are kind of a multi‑faceted ballclub and they are not looking for the three‑run jack, because you're not going to get that with the wind blowing in 15 miles an hour today. They were opportunistic today I thought, and it's a team that's playing obviously with a ton of confidence.  That was, what, their 50th win today or 49th or something like that.  It's a team that's been feeling pretty good about themselves.  I would think that if they move out of this regional that they will continue to feel pretty good, and it's going to take a pretty good effort to keep them down.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports

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