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June 18, 2016

Garrett Benge

Thomas Hatch

Josh Holliday

Collin Theroux

Omaha, Nebraska

Oklahoma State 1, UC Santa Barbara 0

THE MODERATOR: Opening statement, Coach.

COACH HOLLIDAY: I think it's pretty clear that both the young men that took the mound today were dialed in and Thomas Hatch pitched a fantastic game for us. His catcher, Collin Theroux, did his part behind him, and we played very good defense to help maintain that pitch count and allowed Thomas to finish that game. And Benge had a big hit there in the middle of the game that gave us the deciding run.

So two excellent pitchers squaring off, pounding the strike zone and a high level baseball game to start the College World Series off. We feel fortunate to win and we are excited about just the effort that Thomas put out there. A lot of courage. It's not the easiest game in the world to pitch. The first game of the World Series has a little buzz and vibe about it to kick things off. So I thought he handled himself exceptionally well and it's a great win for us to get the tournament.

THE MODERATOR: Let's start with questions for the student-athletes.

Q. My question is for Thomas. Early on in the first four innings you had trouble stringing outs together they put runners on base one out each time. Was that just kind of getting over the nerves a little bit? Or was there something you did to adjust in the middle of the innings to help you settle in?
THOMAS HATCH: I definitely think there was some adrenalin there. I wouldn't say there's many nerves. I was in a good place mentally. I was missing high, arm side and when I tried to get the ball down I was spiking fastballs which was unusual. But I was able to make adjustments and luckily, I don't know how many in a row I went through, but I was able to calm down and make the pitches I needed to.

And then in the ninth I got the first two outs which was big, and they made a pretty big swing. You got a big guy that has a little bit of juice and luckily I was able to make a couple of good pitches there.

Q. Big base hit against a terrific pitcher like Thomas. One of the best in America. These two were terrific. Tell me about the base hit in the fourth inning that scored the only run in the game?
GARRETT BENGE: Yeah, their pitcher, he was dotting up pretty much the whole game, just hitting his spots and right before that at-bat the coaches just told me just get a good pitch and stay convicted on it and I trusted that plan and went through it and it turned out going in our favor.

Q. Collin, did it seem like -- I know this guy's always got all kinds of life on his ball -- but what, 10, 11, 12 ground-ball outs today. Did it seem like in particular you had a lot of life compared with usual or just about average?
COLLIN THEROUX: Early on I was worried. I told him after the game you were scaring me there. Like you said, he was flat, just kind of missing spots. But once he and Rob got together and made that adjustment, I think like you said the adrenalin wore off a little bit, and he got back to what he was doing which was hitting his spots incredibly with movement which is at a really high level what he does. He's doing it with a change-up, slider and fastball.

I think that's what made him so hard to hit. He could throw all three of those in any count and just loves to attack the strikeout. So I think really the ground balls come from just him being in an uncomfortable at-bat really more than anything.

Q. Thomas, when you're struggling to find your juice and whatnot, how important is it to just to pitch to contact with that great defense you have behind you? Two double plays, a couple of line-drive snags, to help you out?
THOMAS HATCH: No, our defense has played incredible all tournament. I don't think it was any different. I didn't have my stuff. They were putting that ball in play pretty hard the first four innings. But Donnie made a hell of a play and Benge had really good plays, and J.R., too.

So Collin behind the plate and Rob called a great game. I'm not going to take any of the credit on this game. It was a lot of them.

COACH HOLLIDAY: You can take some credit, Thomas. Some.

Q. Garrett, before the fourth inning hit, you made that double play happen. Was your blood pumping a little bit more there? Did that get you going a little bit more for the offense? Talk about that play and coming back with the big hit.
GARRETT BENGE: Yeah, I would say it does. I mean after making a really nice play, it's just human nature to get really pumped up and get the adrenalin going. And I think -- I mean, I think it helped a little bit going into the next at-bat. But, yeah.

Q. Thomas, Coach referenced starting the first game of the College World Series and how it's not an easy environment to pitch in. What did you do -- you said you were in a good place mentally -- what was the process for you to get there and anything different before this start than normal?
THOMAS HATCH: I think just keeping it the same is the biggest thing. The less and less you think about it and just know that it's baseball, the game you grew up loving and playing, and I mean that's what I did.

I like to go shag before games and treat it as any other day. Just keep my mind off of thinking, really, because that's what gets you in trouble really.

Q. Thomas, I think unofficially the last person to throw a shutout in College World Series for Oklahoma State is your pitching coach. Who gets dinner in this situation?
THOMAS HATCH: He's calling the pitches. It's half him, half me. A lot of it is Collin, my defense. There's too many halves there. But there's a lot that goes into it. It's crazy. Coming into the game I was just trying to go deep in the game to give my team a chance.

And their pitching was incredible, too. High execution level. And it was really fun. Pitching a 1-0 shutout, it's tough.

Q. Thomas, you looked like a Major Leaguer throughout the game but especially at the end with Bush, as Gradford gets on, he can steal, how did you pitch Bush, what was your thought process because if you walk him, you have the tying run at second base?
THOMAS HATCH: Throughout the game we went to change-ups a lot. Other than that, you just gotta execute your pitches. Rob has the scouting report and he's really good at it. So I'm going to trust him and just focus on executing and keeping the runner close so he doesn't steal.

He's had an incredible last two weeks, I believe, and you just really can't think about that, though. You've just got to execute.

THE MODERATOR: Thank you. Questions for Coach.

Q. A lot of people have tried to figure out why the Gauchos are here, how the Gauchos are here. It looked like your team had the approach that a lot of teams in the last five games didn't have. You didn't ask any questions, you just said they're here so obviously they deserve to be here; we better go out and play like they're No. 1 in the country?
COACH HOLLIDAY: Yeah, I mean, you're right, they're here because they earned it and they earned it in a big way.

You know, at this stage in the season, you as coaches, prepare strategically based on what you would normally do, but then you let the kids just keep playing the game. It's about execution for them.

The opponent can't take on too great of a personality for them. The game is the game. Locating pitches to the glove is locating pitches to the glove. It can't be about who is standing in the box and what school he's at.

If you allow that to happen, then you get into the ups and the downs and the perception game. That doesn't allow you to execute; it's about the pitcher and catcher and about the kids fielding the ball. And we know everyone here deserves to be here.

You can't get here anymore by accident. The levels you have to play through to get to Omaha are legitimate levels. And to go on the road and win 14 tournaments in best-of-3 series, every team here got here because they earned it. We know that.

We want our kids to focus on executing baseball within themselves; and whoever we play, it's part of the competition, but it has to be secondary to our thought process.

Q. With Thomas's injury from last year, could you have envisioned the kind of season he put together this year and to really be on this stage and having this moment?
COACH HOLLIDAY: No. I mean, when a kid misses a season due to injury, you're hopeful they can get back and resume their careers and get back to contributing and having fun and enjoying the game again. For a kid to return from injury and become a conference pitcher of the year, first-team All-American and put together some of the outings he's put together, that's exceptional; he's an exceptional pitcher. And credit to Thomas for staying with it.

Credit to Coach Walton for staying with the kid and bringing him along. Our athletic trainer, Eli Williams, who spent hours with that young man helping him get back on his feet.

A lot of people showed a lot of care, a lot of time and a lot of effort in that young man, which is what we're about is serving these kids and helping them. And the return for the team and the kid has been exceptional.

So it's a great story. And the kid has done his part and he's had great people behind him helping him get back on the horse. And he's been exceptional. To think you could have anticipated that, I don't see how you could have.

Q. Going into the ninth inning, knowing that you have to deal with Bush if a runner gets on, what were your conversations like with Thomas knowing that he was giving the heat, the pitch count and all sorts of things, and the one-run lead, what was your conversation about how much margin of error you were going to let him work with?
COACH HOLLIDAY: We knew where he was at with his pitch count. His execution the three innings prior to it was exceptional. He was making his pitches.

He tired a little bit in Clemson in similar conditions after seven innings and 100 pitches. Today he seemed a little bit more, I guess, refreshed, if you will, after the middle inning.

He really had to grind in the early innings today. But in the middle innings he got back smooth and coasted a little bit in the fifth, sixth, seventh and eighth. There was a little bit more left in his tank in the ninth if he needed it.

To get the first two out quickly -- but you know the rules of baseball, you're never getting out of that thing without the big guy getting to home plate. That's just how baseball is. The home run hitter always gets to home plate.

So the decision was to continue to sink the ball and try to keep him from elevating the ball in the air, which we've all seen the highlights of how they got here, and he's elevated the ball.

Or to go to the bullpen and maybe bring in a left-handed breaking ball and try to keep the ball off the barrel by moving it a different direction.

But with the nerves and the adjustment to that mound and that situation, we had a guy that had settled in really well. We were going to stick with a guy that had made 112 quality pitches at that point and let him finish what he started.

I think Rob, he has an exceptional feel for the kids; and he made a very good decision how to manipulate and manage Thomas late.

Q. Looked like you liked that note about Rob having the last Oklahoma State shutout. What's your favorite part about that?
COACH HOLLIDAY: Well, my favorite part is just sharing all the cool experiences of being here with our team, but then also appreciating the unique history that Rob has with Oklahoma State, with the College World Series. He played here four times. How many people get to say he did that?

He threw a shutout. His son's getting to play here. Just some things for us that we're capturing those moments. That's why you're here, and it's why you celebrate this. And you take a picture and 20 years from now they're going to look at that and that's going to be a real source of pride.

So to hear that, doesn't surprise me. Rob's unbelievable at what he does, the job he's done with our pitchers, but really our whole team. He's an extension of leadership for our program.

And so I love hearing about those good nuggets of our history. And we're very proud of OSU baseball history. This is our 20th trip to Omaha. And for a long time we were a fixture here. And that was something that our program and players who played here and our fans took an amazing amount of pride in.

So trying to get back into that mode is something that we've been very determined to try to do.

Q. Knowing that you're going to have two outstanding pitchers going, you've managed a lot of games, knowing that they're going to be very few scoring opportunities in a game, do you manage it differently than you would, say, another one?
COACH HOLLIDAY: Yeah, I think it's really interesting question. You have to have a pulse of how the game is moving, how the park feels like it's playing on that particular day, and the back and forth and the flow of the game feels.

It felt like one run today was worth maybe three, just because it didn't seem like things were coming easy for offense.

So, yeah, you would probably play for a run any chance you could as that game progressed. But they're hard to score on.

He's quick to the plate, throws a ton of strikes. Catcher can throw. They'll pitch out. That leaves you very limited attacking plans. So you either have to string together base hits, which we were able to do once, or lay down a sacrifice bunt and go for a base hit, which we tried early.

So it's just the strategy of the game and the flow of the team. And their bullpen had a swing-and-miss lefty down there with a nasty slider. So you've got to ask yourself how do you want to try to maneuver the lineup each time it rolls through and try to score.

So, yeah, there's strategy to every game, for sure, and how the game feels like it's going affects your thought process.

Q. With the way -- there's been a lot of discussion about how this ballpark plays and it certainly plays different than a lot of ballparks around the country. How do you feel like your team fits in the style of play that you really have to play here in Omaha?
COACH HOLLIDAY: I think good. Yeah, I think good. First you've got to be able to run the ball down in the outfield. Guys are big. We run pretty well across all three spots.

And I think it's an awesome place to catch a ground ball. The grass is extremely well manicured and the dirt has excellent rhythm to it when the ball bounces. So I think it's a great place to defend grounders and the mound is exceptional.

So sometimes parks play a certain way because whatever side of the ball you're on you have confidence. The mound feels great. You like the rhythm of the ball coming to you, so your high level -- confidence level is high on defense.

I think it's a good park to hit in. I think you've just got to make sure you keep your barrel above the ball. To peel off and launch a 390-foot fly ball to center and come back and say I just missed it, we knew coming in that we needed to get above the baseball.

That's just the discipline to take your approach and train yourself right and that's just part of the great challenge of coming here and keeping your adrenalin under control and sticking to your plan.


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