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June 12, 2015
THE MODERATOR: Welcome back, 2015 College World Series. First I'm joined by Vanderbilt head coach Tim Corbin, LSU head coach Paul Mainieri, TCU head coach Jim Schlossnagle, and Cal State Fullerton head coach Rick Vanderhook. We'll go from my left to the right, beginning with Coach Corbin.
COACH CORBIN: Welcome. We're certainly glad and fortunate to be back in Omaha once again. Great experience, obviously, last year. I think, as a coach, we all want that opportunity for our kids, if we're fortunate enough to play consistent baseball during the course of the year, and we have. We've survived our league and been able to get through it, and certainly like everyone else that's here, played well in the postseason in order to earn this opportunity. So we're very glad and happy to be here.
COACH MAINIERI: When you're a young coach, which I was many years ago, I was laying in bed at night, and I bet I could speak for the other three guys and say, dear God, if you ever let me take a team to Omaha, I'll never ask for anything else. Then you get to come here and see how cool it is, you go, well, I kind of fibbed to you; I'd like to bring another team here. This is my fifth time here, and I can tell you, it never gets old. Every coach, every staff member, every college player, this is the ultimate dream for them to come to Omaha, Nebraska, and have a chance to fight for a National Championship. It's a great honor to be here, too, because you know you're surrounded by seven other tremendous teams that all could tell the story of their journey here. The trials and tribulations during the season, we've all had them. For these eight teams to emerge and to be here, they've all earned their way here, and I would expect nothing but great baseball every ballgame out there.
COACH SCHLOSSNAGLE: I would echo the same sentiments as Coach Corbin and Coach Mainieri. This is the pearly gates of college baseball. You wake up every day, at least I do, trying to find a way, whether it be in recruiting or coaching your team or just anything you're going through in your program, to give you a better chance to be here. Personally for me, it's just an honor to be on the stage here with these guys and then the other four coaches. These are guys that you've either grown up watching as a young coach or you've grown up with them, guys like Kevin O'Sullivan and Brian O'Connor. So we're certainly excited to be here. This is the first time I've had a chance to coach a team that's been here that has Omaha experience. Certainly the first time for TCU to be back-to-back years. So looking forward to see how that helps us. Just all in all, just tremendously blessed and looking forward to our opportunity to be a part of this thing.
COACH VANDERHOOK: Honored to be here, definitely. I've been here a few times. My first time as a head coach. I've talked to some people about how overwhelming this can be. When you're an assistant, you set off in the bushes and do what you want to do and not getting stuck up on the stage. As I look out at Coach Mainieri, who I've seen coach for many, many years back at Notre Dame when he brought his first team here, and I met Brian for the first time, and I said the other day, I can remember the first time I met Brian, he was your assistant at Notre Dame. Just honored to be here. Our program hasn't been here for a while. I don't have any experience being a head coach here. My players have no experience here. But where we were 2 1/2 months ago, I think we were like 11-12, gone 29-9 since. It shows the character of the players that we have on our program. They're honored to be here, and they're not going to be wooed by everything, at least hopefully after the first inning, because that's going to happen. But surreal is the way I'm going to put it for me to be sitting up here with these guys and preparing to go to battle with every team in here. It's eight good teams, and we're ready to go.
Q. If each coach could just name your opening starter.
COACH VANDERHOOK: Thomas Eshelman.
COACH SCHLOSSNAGLE: Preston Morrison.
COACH MAINIERI: Jared Poche.
COACH CORBIN: Carson Fulmer.
Q. As you talked about the experience your team has and getting to coach a team with experience, what did you see from them all day yesterday as you visited the stadium, made the ride here, and spent the night with them?
COACH SCHLOSSNAGLE: It just, they weren't -- certainly the new players were a little more starry-eyed, like you normally have when you bring a team to Omaha, but I didn't see nearly as much of that out of the older players. They were just looking to get something to eat versus taking as many pictures in the stadium. I don't want the greatness of Omaha to ever become routine for anybody, but I think those guys, their heartbeat is a little more normal than it normally is. We're going to rely on that hopefully when we get a chance to practice today and play on Sunday.
Q. This is for all four of you: I wonder if you could address just what you've seen from the flat seam ball this year, how do you think it's affected the game, your hitters and your pitchers, and whether it's affected the way you coach at all?
COACH MAINIERI: Well, I think it's had some effect coming out of fall practice. We felt that it would make a little bit of a difference. Last year we hit 41 home runs; I predicted we'd hit probably 60. I fell a little bit short of that; we hit 50. I think the biggest thing, quite frankly, is our pitchers enjoy throwing it more. There's no blisters. They get a little bit more movement, maybe even a little bit more velocity. I think it's been a slight improvement. I think more needs to be done, quite frankly.
COACH SCHLOSSNAGLE: It's definitely had an impact. I agree with Coach Mainieri. I think we can take one more step and play with a Minor League baseball. But we're not a home run-hitting team, and we do not play in a home run-hitting park. The biggest thing it's done for me is push the outfielders back. At least they have to play legitimate outfield depth. Last year, especially in that Virginia game for us, the wind was blowing in. You had great pitching, and you had the old baseball. Unless the ball was hit directly over the shortstop or directly over the second baseman, you couldn't score a single from second base. So I didn't think that was legitimate baseball back then. Without question, in my eyes, it's had an impact, and like he said, the pitchers really enjoy it as well.
COACH VANDERHOOK: We haven't hit any home runs except the last game. But our pitchers really enjoy it. It's given them a little more life on the ball. It took them a little while to get used to it, to control the movement of the ball a little bit. We don't hit any home runs, but it has -- I agree with Jim, it's made the field not as small. For a few years, the field was like playing on a softball field. When you've got good athletes on the field, they can cover the whole softball field. Hits were at a premium. I enjoy it. I'd like it to be a little more livelier also with them, but those choices are out of our hands.
COACH CORBIN: I think it's created a little more harmony between the offense and the defense. To me, it's been a better game. I like the adjustment. I don't even think about it anymore until a question like that's asked. To be honest with you, it's a good game right now. I like the way it's played.
Q. First of all, for all coaches a question, congratulations for getting here: With the personnel out of the ballpark, as it is, I'd like to have you maybe talk a little bit about your defense, what makes it so special, and also the arm strength of your outfielders.
COACH SCHLOSSNAGLE: About our defense, outfield defense you're talking about? Well, the best quality our team has is just we have eight seniors, and five of them play every day, four in the infield and one in center. So they don't get fazed by anything. I'm not going to say they're plus defenders, but our shortstop is the all-time assist leader in the history of our school. He's the all-time currently among active college players, he's played in more games than anybody else in college baseball. So I would say we're an above-average defensive team. Our centerfielder, Cody Jones, is well above average. Probably a tick behind Coach Mainieri's centerfielder. They all throw solid. But all three outfielders are athletic and could probably play center on any given day, which has been good with the timing of the new ball because you've had to play better outfield defense.
COACH VANDERHOOK: I consider us efficient defensively. I don't think we're above average. We're not below average. We get the outs we're supposed to get, and that's all I ask our guys to do. Our shortstop Timmy Richards has really played phenomenal defense for the second half of the season, and he's probably our best defender. Our catcher is a solid catch/throw guy. But we're just efficient. That's all I want to do. I don't ask our guys to do anything beyond what they do, and they've done a good job of just staying with that process right now.
COACH CORBIN: I think for the most part we're experienced defensively. We have two new kids, one at third and one in left field, but they've transitioned nicely. Third baseman's played very well actually as the season's progressed. Swanson's made the transition from second to short well, but I thought that would be the case. He would have been our shortstop his freshman year had he not gotten hurt. Zander Wiel and Tyler Campbell have played well on the right side. I think a little bit like maybe Paul and Jim, from what I know, is all three outfielders for us could probably play centerfield if they had to. So I like the athletic ability of them.
COACH MAINIERI: I don't think it's an accident that you're staring at these four coaches because you don't get here unless you pitch and play defense. It's just a reality. In this era, you can't put together a lineup that's good enough and powerful enough to ride your offense to Omaha. If you look at all four teams, they all have sub-3.00 team ERAs, and they're all excellent defensive teams. When I put together our lineup every day, it starts with defense, quite frankly. If I have two equal players on defense, then the guy that's a better offensive player ends up playing that position. So we end up trying to figure out a way to scratch some runs across. But you have to play defense. We're pretty proud of our guys. We've got a pretty good shortstop. Our third base situation was very scary going into the year because we lost what I thought was the best third baseman I'd ever coached in Christian Ibarra. When I moved Conner Hale over there, I think he's done a good job. And we moved Jared Foster over to get a little more oomph in our lineup. He's a really good athlete. He's not a polished, finished product at second, but he's done a solid, steady job. And our outfield can really run, as Tim said. We catch a lot of balls out there. I think the key for our defensive team has been the evolving of our catcher, Kade Scivicque, who's turned into a really solid defensive player.
Q. This is for Paul and Tim: You guys played Arkansas, their first six SEC games, they were 1-5. Some fans were freaking out. What did you guys think about Arkansas, and what do you think about the job Dave's done to get them here to Omaha?
COACH CORBIN: I think he's done a great job. I don't think there's any question about it. We played them on the first weekend, and I thought they were pretty good during that time. So as the season progressed, you could see them just hanging there, hanging there. They certainly had a guy at the end of the game that could finish games, and I thought he was very, at least from afar, looked like he was very patient with the group, and it paid huge dividends. No, I like his team, I never looked at them -- if you told me at the beginning of the year that they'd be in Omaha, I'd say, I can see that because of some pitching, some older kids. Very unheralded kids for the most part. They're a good team.
COACH MAINIERI: I've coached against Dave's teams now for nine years, and there's nobody I respect more than him and his ability as a coach and how he handles his team, how he game strategizes. He's an excellent coach. Good coaches earn their money when things aren't going so great. It's easy to coach a team when everybody's doing well, but when things are struggling a little bit, that's when you hold it together. You look at Brian O'Connor with all the struggles he had this year, and they got here. You look at Rick, how he demonstrated how they held it together. You look at Arkansas. Those are commonalities among those teams. I'll tell you this, they've got a relief pitcher in Zach Jackson. You don't want to be behind when you get to the seventh inning, I promise you.
Q. Coach Mainieri, LSU is a brand name in college baseball. Now TCU has been here three of the last six years. Do you recognize things in their program that LSU used to build?
COACH MAINIERI: Well, I didn't build the LSU program. So I don't know how it was built. I wasn't there during the Skip years. Listen, there's a lot of great programs. I think you could look at all four of these schools up here as being brand names in college baseball. Fullerton for how many years, decades. Vanderbilt under Tim, what he's done is remarkable. And obviously what Schloss has done at TCU. You don't accidentally -- maybe once in a while you could put together a good team and get to Omaha, but when you are banging on the door every year and you get here in consecutive years, that's not by accident. That's a program. That's a difference than just having a good team. What these coaches have done is really remarkable. I'm just kind of the custodian of the LSU program. It was developed a long time before I got there. I hope that we make Skip proud and can keep it going well.
Q. Coach Mainieri, you mentioned Brian O'Connor. Obviously, you two go back to your days at Notre Dame. This is his fourth trip here. What in your mind has made him so successful? And also, how close do you think he is from finally winning a National Championship?
COACH MAINIERI: It was pretty close last year. This guy to my left here broke his heart. Brian, I hired Brian when he was 23 years old to be my number one assistant at the University of Notre Dame. It was probably the greatest decision I ever made in my coaching life. He's just got it. He's one of those guys that you meet him for five minutes and you know he's got it together. The success he's had in Virginia does not surprise me in the least. The only thing that would have surprised me is if he didn't have this kind of success. To be already to Omaha four times in his tenure there is remarkable. He's banging on the door. To win a National Championship, I was fortunate enough to experience that one time. It takes an awful lot of luck. You have to be good, but you have to be good at the right time. There's just so many things have to fall in place. I'm sure Tim could tell you, they won it last year, and I'm sure a half dozen other teams are capable of winning it, but a bad umpire's call, a bad hop, so many different things can happen to knock you off track. Sometimes it happens when you least expect it to happen, quite frankly. Brian will get his National Championship. I'd be surprised if he doesn't finish with multiple ones before he's done.
Q. Coach Corbin and Coach Mainieri, with the SEC having half the tournament field this year, how much pride do you take in your conference sending four representatives?
COACH CORBIN: We're all prideful of that. I think -- Paul would probably say this, too -- we don't bang ourselves on the chest and say this is the toughest conference. It's a very good conference, and I think you have to endure it. I think you just have to keep the confidence of your kids going during the course of the year because there's certain times that you go through a weekend and you wonder -- you do a self-check of whether or not you've got the right club or not, but you do. You're just getting through another club, and you're just going through maybe a weekend that's not as good as the one prior to or after. I just think you have to endure that, and if you do, I think you're prepared. You're prepared for the Regional. You're prepared for a Super Regional, just because of what you have to go through and the level of abilities and skill sets that exist inside the conference.
COACH MAINIERI: I don't think I could say it any better than Tim just said. Perhaps the best team in our league isn't even here, Texas A&M. They started out 24-0, and Jim Schlossnagle's team beat them in a 16-inning game, or they'd be here as well. But I think that, like Tim says, we let the people out there evaluate what our conference is like. We're not the ones that are beating the drum saying we're better than everybody else. We're better than this league or better than that league. But we know every weekend, no matter who you're lining up against -- it could be the top team in the league, it could be the 14th place in the league -- if you don't bring your "A" game, you're going to get beat. It's that simple. We lost a home series to Kentucky this year, and Kentucky didn't make the NCAA Tournament, and they were capable, believe me. Maybe they should have made the Tournament. It's just every game you go out there and you play, you know there's going to be two or three future big leaguers minimum on that other team. You don't outcoach anybody. The environments are almost the same everywhere you go with big crowds, beautiful stadiums, spotlight. With the SEC Network and the ESPN contracts, everything is under the microscope so much. You're dealing with the media. It's just a very, very challenging conference, and it prepares you very well for the postseason because, honestly, there's nothing you're going to see in the postseason that you haven't already seen during the regular season. If you're able to survive it, you're prepared.
Q. Tim, when I go out there, I talk to a lot of kids that have Vanderbilt caps, and they can name your whole lineup. They said they didn't know that about Vanderbilt last year. What does Omaha do to the branding of the program? Did you foresee that brand coming out of coming here?
COACH CORBIN: You couldn't buy a Vanderbilt hat back in 2002 and 2003. I remember going to a sporting goods store and asking, and there was just a lot of orange. There was nothing black and gold. So I think that part has been fun to see. I would say that our network has done more for our kids and done more for our league in players than anything I've seen in the past 12 months. They do a remarkable job of celebrating the kids and making them feel good about what they do. Prior to getting to Omaha, I think that's the one thing that all of us could point to and say that's been a very good thing for our kids. That's been a good thing for branding. That's been a good thing for LSU, Vanderbilt, Arkansas -- all of our teams. So, yeah, branding is a very powerful thing with young kids because they look up to these kids like they're rock stars.
Q. Coach Schlossnagle, Tony Vitello is here with the Razorbacks. How much did he have to do with assembling some of the players you've had here the past couple of years, and what do you remember about working with him?
COACH SCHLOSSNAGLE: He's a tireless recruiter. He's relentless. It's all he thinks about 24/7. Not that he's not a good coach, because he is. I'd have to think through the roster. He was with us for two years, three years. There's a couple guys on the team that we had recruited before he came, but the majority of the roster, without question, especially the sophomore/junior class -- and particularly this junior class that's had so many guys drafted, and the pitching, he did a phenomenal job with. We're very grateful for Tony's efforts at TCU.
Q. For the other three gentlemen, could you explain to me the way you revitalized the way you recruited players, the type of players you recruited to get to this level, to win at this level, and how long ago did that process start?
COACH VANDERHOOK: I recruited at Fullerton before I got in this position, and we've taken -- we don't go after the top dog. Thomas Eshelman was not recruited by anybody out of high school before we got him. He was an 83 to 85 guy who threw strikes. So that is what our program's about. You go back to one of the greatest players in College World Series history, Mark Kotsay was the same guy. We had a lot of guys close to our program. Some played football, and Eshelman played basketball, but you kind of just go out and find them. It was more of the ball at one era where you had to change your recruiting and go out and get arms and go get speed. After they changed the bat, you couldn't go out and try to get thumpers because they couldn't thump, and now the cycle is going back around again where you need to get more physical guys and do what you do. We're a small program, extremely small program. We don't play football. Our league hopes that they get -- well, they actually get one bid in basketball, and they play one game. With all the other people that come here, it's different. I'm just trying to do what Augie and George did after them, what Paul said about Skip. This year, as he said, luck. We had some luck go our way. We definitely did. That ball nicked the foul pole, and he called it fair, but it was instant replay for the first time, and we're sitting there for five minutes waiting for that until they confirmed it. I consider that lucky. You need to create your luck and hope it comes at the right time. I've been here as an assistant with some real good teams that didn't get lucky and went home. In 2004, we weren't lucky at a certain point. And now that team which played good and won a National Championship, had seven guys on that team play in the Major Leagues, which you would have never thought. So that's what I've got.
COACH SCHLOSSNAGLE: Well, I mean, I think we've always tried to recruit the best player we could find. The difference at our school being a private school, with next year a $55,000 cost at 11 1/2 scholarships and really not any alternative means to get guys to TCU. We have to find guys that are good players, really good students, and their families come from some resources to where they could help afford the cost. However that fits together is however it's going to play out. Without question, if you're going to be over invested, with 11.7 for us, it's going to be the pitching staff. Keaton Jones our starting shortstop, who just got drafted in the 15th round, was a walk-on pitcher. Preston Morrison, like Thomas Eshelman, a nonrecruited pitcher from North Carolina, became the best pitcher in our school. With every college underfunded, every coach is going to be able to come up with that type of player on your team. Like Rick said, to me, the line between winning and losing, whether you're in the SEC, the Big West, or the Big 12, the line between winning and losing has never been thinner. You look at our season last year, we won an 11-inning game in a regional, a 22-inning game in a Regional, three one-run games in a Super Regional, won a one-run game in Omaha, lost in the 15th inning, and you know what's happened the last two weeks. So me, it's about putting together the most athletic team you can come up with and good pitching and coach them like crazy and hope things go your way.
COACH CORBIN: I guess I vaguely remember what the question was. Could you just repeat it again. I'm listening to the answers. Certainly, I had to adjust. I think through the years, when we were trying to compete at a level that was somewhat successful, we had to recruit a better athlete in a lot of different ways. I think what Jim said, the pitching was paramount. Before my arrival, Vanderbilt had some good arms. Jeremy Sowers was already there when we got there. But the thing about Clemson and how Jack (Leggett) went about recruiting there was power arms, efficient arms, guys who could keep your team close and play good defense. That certainly was very impactful on me personally on how to build a club.
Q. Have you ever been around a catcher as effective catching base stealers as Kennedy? And also, how big of a factor is he going against some pretty good base-stealing teams on your side of the bracket?
COACH VANDERHOOK: He's good. We had a guy named Kurt Suzuki, who was pretty good a few years back. But he's good. We went into Louisville last weekend, and he had 20-some stolen bases. My thoughts are you don't have to be any different. For my catcher, you catch it, you throw it to second. If they're out, they're out. If they're safe, they're safe. But he came up with some pretty good throws there. He catches. He handles the pitchers. He's done a fantastic job of it. Now, he's not Suzuki, but he's good. I can say that he is.
Q. Jim, would you tell us why you're going with Preston and a little bit about him. And now that you know that LSU will throw a lefty, how does that change your approach? Paul, will you talk about why you're throwing Jared Poche.
COACH SCHLOSSNAGLE: With Preston, we could go right or left. We basically have two guys rested. With Preston, he's the best pitcher in the history of our school, most successful at least, not the biggest arm. He's got a great presence. He pitched really well here last year. He's not going to be wowed by the environment in any sense of the word. He's going to give us, at least I think, on that particular day, the best chance to be successful. In terms of Poche, we know he's really good. We knew going into the season we were going to play a lot of left-handed hitters. Going back to the recruiting season, that was one effort we made the last two or three years to add more balance to our lineup. When in doubt, they're equal and ready to take the left-handed hitter, which then means you're going to be a lot more susceptible to left-handed pitching. So we knew that was going to be the case all year. We've seen everybody's -- when in doubt, the other coach normally picks the left-hander. NC State did that, Texas A&M did that. We've seen it all year. That doesn't mean we've seen guys that are better than him. It's just we've seen everybody's best guy. There's some guys, some of those lefties on our team, they hit lefties as well, if not better, than right-handed pitchers. So certainly it adds an element to the run game we have to deal with. Again, we've seen that all season long and we are looking forward to the challenge.
COACH MAINIERI: I've never seen Morrison pitch in person. I think he pitched with Alex Bregman a couple summers ago. Alex told me he's a tremendous competitor and a really outstanding pitcher. So he's going to be a great challenge for us. So I'm not surprised Jim pitched him because of his experience. I think he pitched your opening game here last year, didn't he? So there's actually several reasons. I'm not really going to go into that kind of depth about it except a lot of it is the same reason that Jim is. Poche's been our opening game starter for most of the year on our weekend series. He's the grizzled veteran in his sophomore year on our staff with all the freshmen pitchers. He's pitched two terrific games in a row in the postseason. So he's pitching with a lot of confidence. He's got a little bit of experience, a lot of moxie, and we just thought that, hey, the first game's important, but the second game is equally as important. So the bottom line is we've got two starting pitchers that need to perform well for us if we have any chance to win this thing.
Q. This question's for Paul and Tim and whoever else wants to chime in: The shortstop serves in the Draft was pretty well documented with the top three guys being shortstops. What do you guys attribute that to? Is there a reason for it? Is the position developing differently? Is there any trend or any explanation for it?
COACH CORBIN: I think Major League Baseball is always looking for shortstops that are competent, that they think have a skill set that can stay in the game for several years. In the college game, it's very cyclical. I think it just happened this year you had so many good shortstops, and even in our league, outside of Alex and Dansby, there were great shortstops in our league, and all can play at a very high level. And the guys that aren't mentioned are very good. I think it's a year where the shortstop can defend but also has offensive abilities, is out there, and because they're out there, they got grabbed quick. Sometimes in drafts, whether it's MLB or NFL, you see a certain position get highlighted, and the next thing you know, once one guy goes, then that position, the next position guy right next to him goes. I think that's kind of what it was this year.
Q. Coach Mainieri, do you have anything to add?
COACH MAINIERI: I think one of the reasons as well is there were several guys that got hurt that were projected first round power arms. I think six or seven first rounders came down with injury, and that kind of kept moving some people up the Draft ladder a little bit. I know in our case we're very fortunate to have Alex Bregman. I'll tell anybody that. For all intents and purposes, he wasn't coming to college, and then he broke his finger right before the start of his senior year in high school, missed his entire senior year. The new Draft rules were put in place that particular summer. When he didn't go in the first round, he was committed to coming to school. Boy, weren't we the lucky ones. We weren't sure he was going to be a shortstop when he arrived at LSU, and through a lot of hard work and obviously having the physical tools to do it, he's made himself into a pretty good shortstop, who I think will -- there was a lot of questions whether he'd stay at that position, but I don't think there's any doubt he can play shortstop in the Major Leagues.
Q. Coach Schlossnagle, Preston Morrison doesn't have a win in the postseason yet in his career. How much would it mean to you personally to see him get one before he's finished?
COACH SCHLOSSNAGLE: It would mean a lot because it's going to be in Omaha in the first game. He pitched great here last year, and all the games are close normally at this level of play. He gave us an unbelievable chance to win, as you know, pitching into the tenth inning. First time I've had a pitcher -- he only threw 105 pitches. That's the first time I've had a guy go beyond nine innings in my career, and he was lights out against A&M last week. It just happened that Matt Kent was just as good. I'm sure Poche is going to be really good. When you are playing at this level, there's a lot of things that go into a win and a loss for a pitcher's record, but Preston's going to give us a great chance. There's no doubt about it, especially if he's pitching the way he's capable of. I'd love for him to get a win. I'm just glad we get a chance to see him pitch again because last week I was worried we wouldn't get to.
Q. Jim, you talked about battling late-inning games, extra innings throughout the season, and last season in your Omaha run. What has been the key of controlling the emotions of the team and making sure they move on to the next phase after a win?
COACH SCHLOSSNAGLE: Experience is the greatest thing. We've done a good job in the middle game. We employ a guy named Brian Cain, who's really helps us and established a culture in our program of just playing on to the next pitch. That trickles down from the older guys to the younger guys. When you play eight seniors every day, these guys have been in two College World Series, three Super Regionals, they've been a part of a really bad season in 2013. We led the Big 12 in pitching but we were so bad offensively, that we played in a lot of close games, just happened to lose them. They're resilient. All of the teams -- if you're still playing, you're resilient. So a lot of the characteristics that I could come up about our team could be said for all of these teams. They don't panic at all. They certainly handle it a lot better than I do.
Q. Two different questions for Jim and then Tim: Jim, I know you've been asked about it this week, your relationship with Andy Cannizaro, what does it mean for you to see him at the level he is with Paul now? Tim, I know you guys didn't play LSU, but you guys watch each other through the season. Going into the year, seeing all the freshmen pitchers, what's it say to you that they are here with that freshman and sophomore-dominated pitching staff.
COACH CORBIN: Well, you're right. We saw LSU from afar. Good to see them in the Tournament. Alex Lange is about as impressive a kid -- now, I don't coach him. This is just my observations. But having met him out in New Mexico at the end of last summer and watching him pitch in the Connie Mack World Series and watch what he's done this year, that's about as impressive as a continual performance as you can have by anyone. Not really a surprise. I think, in order for a young man to come in and compete at that level, they have to be mature. There has to be an old soul component that exists inside of him. Like I said, I don't know him, but it looks like that's the type of kid he is. Certainly, when someone like that or an Alex Bregman comes into your program and plays as a freshman, it directly impacts not only the younger kids that age, but the older kids. They see it, and there's a level of play that rises because of that type of fabric that is on the team.
Q. Your relationship with Andy (Cannizaro), you recruited him to Tulane, you know him well. I guess your feelings seeing him achieve what he has just in one year for Paul.
COACH SCHLOSSNAGLE: I'm very, very close to him. All of us, you'd like to think your relationship with every player is the same. It's certainly not. Certainly as an assistant coach, I recruited Andy since his junior year in high school and coached him for four years. He was our shortstop on the first College World Series team I was ever part of in 2001. He's just a very, very special young man in every sense of the word. Talking about shortstops, he was as good as any that I've ever seen or that I've ever coached. He just had the worst job in the world, that's being the Triple-A shortstop to Derek Jeter during his career. He had a cup of coffee in the Big Leagues. But had no doubt he would be successful in whatever he wanted to do, whether it be professional baseball, which he was great at with the Yankees, and certainly when we talk, if we just don't text every other day, it's every third or fourth day. I told Coach Mainieri yesterday he beat me to the punch because, if I would have had the right opportunity, the right fit at the right time, certainly Andy is a guy I would love to have on our staff. There's no doubt that he's, I'm sure, a big part of their success and going to be for a very, very long time. He's a very special human being.
Q. Coach Mainieri, making that first trip to TD Ameritrade two years ago in 2013 and having it been a different experience from what you were used to, now coming back two years later, how much better prepared do you feel with that experience?
COACH MAINIERI: I hope we're better prepared. We were two and out two years ago. I don't know if it's because the newness of the field as much as UCLA played a little bit better than we did one game, and North Carolina did the other. It was much different than the atmosphere that we experienced at Rosenblatt in a lot of little ways. Just the driving up to the stadium with the bus and the parking lot as opposed to here, where you drive up to a door. Obviously, the field played differently. Just the whole atmosphere is a lot different, and a lot of it caught me by surprise, quite frankly. I don't think I had the team as prepared as I should have had them. I had built up the experience of Omaha so much that some of the things that had changed were a little bit of a letdown for the kids, quite frankly. Now everything is more focused just on playing the games and realizing that's what we're here for is to go out there and play as well as we can on the field, and the bases are still the same distance as what the mound is. The fences are kind of far. The ball doesn't travel as well. All that stuff's been well documented. I don't think that's going to affect us much. We've played in big ballparks before, and I think we've got a team that can handle whatever circumstances. I just think the familiarity will help in a lot of different ways.
Q. Jim and Tim, since you were here last year, you've gone through the season with the new ball. Do you expect the home run correction in offense will be better in this year's World Series than it was last year, or do you think it's not going to quite match up?
COACH CORBIN: I have no idea. I'm anxious to see it, I guess. The level of pitching that we're up against with Eshelman and Poche and Preston, it would be tough. These kids pitch very, very well. So I don't know, ball or old ball, new ball, I'm not really sure. I'm anxious to see what happens.
COACH SCHLOSSNAGLE: Since it's up during the regular season, I would assume there would be some sort of upward trend in the postseason. But at the end of the day, the pitching is going to dictate that, like he said. Last year, I know I was vocal after the 15-inning game about the ball and everything, but Nick Howard and Riley Ferrell had a lot to do with that, too. Not a lot you can do when those guys are throwing 95 to 100 with 88-mile-an-hour breaking balls. We'll see, but I would anticipate yes.
Q. Rick, looking back into April, you guys were 20-19 after that Bakersfield loss. It seemed like this team kind of flipped the script a little bit. From your perspective, what changed on this team? And I guess individually, from a player's standpoint, who kind of flipped the script on their own season?
COACH VANDERHOOK: Richards. Richards got consistent at shortstop. Offensively, we made -- or defensively, we made moves. We moved Pinkston to first. We went from 5'9" to 6'5". Infielders like that a lot bit more. We lost a little offense. I think they just got on a roll a little bit. We played all over the country. We flew 26,000 miles before the Super Regional to play games in Indiana and Maryland and Hawaii and Tampa, Florida, to get some different flavor in the preseason. And then after that point, we pretty much stayed on the West Coast for a while, and they got to get in a little bit of a rhythm and a little groove, and we've learned how to play in one-run games. We've learned how to score late in the game. Those are things that you learn throughout the season. You can't teach. They just have to figure it out and how to do it. I thought they did a good job with that. We started getting Eshelman more than one run a game, which helped him a little bit. And then we lost Garza, and we didn't miss a beat. It's all them. I didn't do anything. Well, I did. I made them shave and get haircuts. That's about it.
Q. Paul, you're good friends with Brian O'Connor. Have you all eaten dinner here? Will you do anything with him here while you're all here?
COACH MAINIERI: In 2009, we were both here, but we were in the same bracket. We pretty much had the same schedule, so on the off-days we could get together. Now we're on opposite brackets. So the days that we're not playing, he will be playing, at least the first few days of the Tournament. I got to visit with him a little bit last night after the administrative meeting, but I think everybody's here just to do a job, quite frankly. We'll have plenty of time to socialize later.
Q. Jim, in your time at Tulane, you guys played LSU quite a few times. How do you take from those times going into a game like this with such a big program like LSU?
COACH SCHLOSSNAGLE: That was so long ago, and I'm not a player. It doesn't really matter for me. It's all about what the players are able to handle. It's just a great opportunity for our program, to play one of the more elite programs, if not the most elite program in the history of college baseball, especially the last 20 years. I know Omaha is a different place when LSU's here. The first time we came in 2010, there was a bunch of LSU people still here even when their team wasn't. I've been called "tiger bait" plenty. If I get that Sunday, I'm used to that part. It will just be a little further away instead of right in your ear in the bullpen like the old Alex Box was.
Q. Coach Schloss, last year your pitchers had to face six guys batting over .300 for Texas A&M that could hit for both average and power. On Sunday, your pitchers are going to face eight guys batting over .300. How does that experience going in help you prepare for LSU?
COACH SCHLOSSNAGLE: I think the last couple teams we played, North Carolina State and Texas A&M, were very physical clubs. Somewhat similar to LSU. The difference is the speed element. They're not just -- they can win games in a variety of ways. So with Texas A&M, it was a matter of they're going to hammer your mistakes. If you could make pitches, then you gave yourself a chance, which is probably most good hitters. The difference with LSU is just very, very complete team. So there's more than just making pitches to bigger physical players.
Q. Perfect timing because my question for Jim is controlling the run game. LSU obviously has a weapon in their arsenal. How much of an emphasis is it this week based on any other week?
COACH SCHLOSSNAGLE: Don't do anything more in practice because you certainly don't want to make your players panic in any way. But that's one of the beauties of a guy like Morrison, he's going to be able to handle it. Whether he's successful or not remains to be seen. He's a guy that can still execute pitches and then pick off at first base or pitch out or whatever the things you have to do, whereas other guys, they're not equally as adept at doing both. If they're worrying about the run game, then their pitches are going to suffer. I don't worry about that as much with Preston, but it's definitely something you have to prepare for.
Q. Tim, there's a difference between a good player and a popular player. Carson and Dan are both popular players. What is it about their philosophy or approach that makes them attractive?
COACH CORBIN: I just think that, as the years have gone on, they've been able to hold on to their innocence. I think that's very seeable, and they certainly engage other people well, and they do it naturally. It's not manufactured. Their personalities are very engaging. They see people for what they are, and they see themselves for what they are. They're real. They don't get outside of their personality, and I think it wears well, and people feel that.
Q. Coach Schlossnagle, a lot is going to ride on Evan Skoug for you on Sunday. First College World Series, and after the 16 innings he caught on Monday night, what do you see when you look at him this week, in terms of how he's prepared physically and mentally?
COACH SCHLOSSNAGLE: He's excited to play. Everything's been brand new for him. We've asked a lot of him all year, to clean up every game and handle an older pitching staff. He's mature beyond his years. I don't anticipate anything being any different for him. He's had plenty of rest since Monday night. In this day and age of college baseball, when you get a guy like Bregman or Swanson -- I'm not certainly ready to put Skoug in that class, but they're high level amateur players in high school and summer baseball, and they're prepared for a lot more things than kids used to be 10, 15 years ago.
Q. Going to Jim and Tim again, back to the running game and Andy for you. You see Andy's influence in that running game a little bit when you've scouted LSU. Paul's talked a lot about how Andy's added that. And, Tim, even though you haven't played LSU, do you see a little bit of a difference in the way they attack on the base path this year?
COACH CORBIN: They just operate aggressively because they can. When you can, you will. They're able to do that. There's just a lot of kids with long legs that pick up their feet very efficiently and close down space quick. Then you've got a guy like Alex who's just so competitive and so wired to get to the next base that he's fast, he's quick, he wills himself. It's just a combination of a lot of good athletes. That is, that's a tough component to defend in a lot of different ways, and it does take some savvy in order to try to stop it and then deliver pitches at the same time. The best thing you can do is just not let them get to first.
COACH SCHLOSSNAGLE: Regarding Andy, I don't know who's in charge of what at LSU. I don't know who runs the offense or anything like that. I know what kind of player Andy was. He stole 50 bases and drove in 80 runs as a lead-off hitter on a team that won 56 games. Certainly, I see a lot of the way LSU plays with those speed guys and the way Andy played. You'd have to ask Coach Mainieri, I guess. You probably already know since you're around them all the time. I don't know what effect Andy's had, but I know he was that kind of player.
FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports