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June 18, 2016
Arizona - 5, Miami - 1
THE MODERATOR: Coach.
COACH JOHNSON: Unbelievable atmosphere out in the ballpark when you think about what it would be like or whatnot. That was it. It was a great crowd. Exactly what we expected and anticipated.
Earlier today we kind of set out a roadmap for what we need to do to be successful offensively defensively and from the mound. Nathan took care of it from the mound. I thought he settled into the game really well against a really good offensive team, calmed his nerves early, found his spot and found his stride in the game offensively. That's a pitcher that hasn't lost much over the last two years.
I thought our guys did a great job of competing, of hitting with discipline. The at-bats that turned the game were all two-strike hits, Jared Oliva in the first and then Cody and Zach who have been doing it for us all year and played very good defense.
Feel good about it. Get a good night's rest and get ready for Monday.
Q. Nathan, looking at your performance, how did you feel out there? Seemed like you were pretty confident from the get-go. And also seemed like you went to the breaking ball quite a bit tonight. Kind of go through that with us.
NATHAN BANNISTER: All year we've been preparing to make Omaha. That's every team's dream. And just to come out tonight was really to enjoy the moment and have fun and to play baseball with our teammates.
So the breaking ball, just started working for strikes in the dirt. Sala did a great job back there blocking it, and Coach Lawn did a great job of calling it in the right spots.
Q. Nathan, when you're watching that first top of the first inning, you see a base situation, possibly a chance to put a crooked number on the board. For you what was the difference in the mindset versus getting one run across as opposed to stepping out there with a 3-0 lead without throwing a pitch?
NATHAN BANNISTER: When the offense, before I even throw, puts up three, that's a good cushion to work with, especially in this park and with the defense I have behind me. Just letting them make the plays behind me, and that was a smooth transition.
Q. Nathan, go back to the bottom of the fourth inning. That was the inning where you got hit a little bit. They had had four hits on you in that inning, but you were able to come back with the bases loaded and one out, strike out a guy, and then get a weak groundout to short. What were you able to do in that situation, either pitch-wise or mentally, in order to get out of that big jam?
NATHAN BANNISTER: I think that comes with the 3-0 lead, to be honest. I could attack the hitters. Even with the bases-loaded situation, don't want to fall behind. To get that strikeout, Coach Lawn called it perfectly. Couple of breaking balls and good fastball outside. I think that was the right pitch. And that was a big second out, and then the next guy, top of the lineup, just trying to get an out any way I can. And good play by Boyd up the middle.
Q. Zach, you and Cody, obviously seniors on this team and guys hitting in the top of the order, how important is it to you guys just to be able to set the tone offensively, especially early in the game like tonight?
ZACH GIBBONS: It's really important. Miami's pitching, they have a great staff. So it's super important including here. Not a lot of chances to get on base. We have to capitalize there. But, like you said, it's really important just getting on base, having the opportunity for teammates to drive us in.
JARED OLIVA: Yeah, I think we all know our job, just kind of our own, I guess, approach at the plate. We had a game plan coming in. It was just a matter of us executing it. We had to make them throw strikes, and it was a matter of who would execute better and throw the pitches.
I thought we did that the first inning got to them. And Zach drove in two more later in the game. That was huge. It was a matter of sticking to our game plan, our approach.
Q. Coach Johnson alluded to it, you started to allude to it, Jared, for the two offensive players, what exactly was your game plan going in against a guy who hasn't lost a lot?
ZACH GIBBONS: I think just honestly sticking with our game. We've been doing like all year, the whole year. Just laying off pitches in the dirt and making them get us our pitch, not swing at his pitch. I think that's really important.
JARED OLIVA: It's just about not chasing balls, chasing his pitches. It's a matter of getting our pitch something we could get a good barrel on. It's that simple, I guess, as you could say it. But it was just trusting the approach and sticking with it.
Q. Zach and Jared, with the success that this guy has had and as a senior, kind of a warrior out there, is he one of those guys where when he's on the mound, does it give you that little extra confidence? I know some pitchers have that effect on their team.
ZACH GIBBONS: Definitely. As I've said before. I try to play hard with all our pitchers, but I play extremely hard behind Nathan because I know what he's been through, and I have exceptional confidence in Nathan when he's on the mound.
JARED OLIVA: Yes, all of our pitchers compete well. When you see him constantly pounding the zone, getting strikes, giving us a chance to win, it fires all of us up. We want to do our part, our job and obviously try to win the ballgame overall.
Q. Coach Morris mentioned this in his comments. You guys have been on the road a lot, faced a lot of situations that aren't necessarily comfortable as far as being away from home. How comfortable do you feel in these types of situations at this point in the postseason, for any of the players, as far as how far you can take this?
NATHAN BANNISTER: I think over the last month our team's really grown closer together. And we started in, Eugene, Oregon, then went to Hawaii and Lafayette and so forth. And that really just gave us a chance to lose any attachments to home or road and really just focus on the game of baseball and what we need to do day in, day out to perform.
ZACH GIBBONS: I definitely give credit to our coaches and our trainer, Leanna Olivar, just making sure we stay on track, not going out late at night, just staying in bed. And she's hydrating us every single day.
JARED OLIVA: It's just getting comfortable with the uncomfortable. That's common sense. On the road four, five weeks in a row, it's not easy at all; but we feel we've developed a good routine to get on the road and Coach has done a great job making sure we stick with it. By that time it's just a matter of focusing on baseball. Everything is done, all the drama set aside, we're just focused on the road playing the game sticking to our thing.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you. Questions for Coach.
Q. Coach, last year you brought a Nevada team here. Played, performed well. There was a team that was heading into the stretch run feeling good about themselves and obviously didn't end the way you wanted it to. You didn't end up back here. But taking from that point that series creating to now how does it feel to be in this situation in the winner's bracket in Omaha with this team?
COACH JOHNSON: Well, I'll answer the last part of that first. It feels good to be playing the night game on Monday. Yeah, that was a big deal for me personally. When you talk about setting goals and whatnot, I thought I couldn't want to be in the College World Series worse than I did prior to that trip.
And then you walk into this stadium, and it was actually cool -- Creighton had like a military day or something like that and there was 10,000 people in the stands. And it had a College World Series-type feel to it. And we won the two games we played here.
And I walked back into the stadium and go somehow some way we're going to get here. Somebody thought we shouldn't be in the NCAA Tournament last year. And I think they're out of their mind, but that's a story for another day and I'm still not over that.
But, yeah, to get back here and with this group I'm very proud of them and the experiences we've had we played great nonconference schedule working to the Pac-12 and being on the road the last five weeks essentially. We were prepared to play tonight. And like I said we had a good roadmap for what we needed to do and they stuck with it really well.
Q. Jay, you've had Nathan Bannister pitching great for the last couple of months. Was there something different tonight because seven strikeouts looking, and he was just able to carve the hitters up. Cody said it was deceptiveness, what do you think?
COACH JOHNSON: Well, I have to give him credit because I thought he handled the situation very well. We have the best home field advantage in the west in terms of fans and get a lot of people out to Hi Corbett, but that's different from 25,000 people. And I thought he was a little nervous early on. I think scoring the runs helped.
I think he settled in really well. He can just throw any pitch in any count at any time. And being an offensive-minded coach, when you get guys doing that, it's really hard to game plan against and get guys sitting on pitches and whatnot.
And I thought he did a great job of hiding the ball. I thought he did a great job of getting them crossed up. And that's a good team. I mean, they spit on some pitches from him that other teams haven't. But he just kind of stuck with it and pitched well.
Q. Jared Oliva is a guy, he was out of the lineup for a little while, hasn't been your most consistent hitter. How big was it for him to come through with a base hit in that situation in the first inning?
COACH JOHNSON: It was huge. And I mean, we try to stay a pitch at a time, an inning at a time. And the reality of it is it's a little bit easier to do that when you're playing with a lead. And we've been fortunate in four of the last five games against 45-whatever-win teams that we've been out in front, 2-0, 3-0, and that's a credit to our players being prepared to play from the first pitch.
I thought it was huge. We made a decision to get him back in there, because he can win the game by himself. He's not as good as a player as he's going to be. But he's really helped us here over the last three, four weeks.
Q. Jason, you talked about how you followed the roadmap tonight. What's the roadmap look like for Oklahoma State?
COACH JOHNSON: Well, and this is the honest truth is, I haven't thought one second about Oklahoma State. And I love the schedule of the College World Series as opposed to the Regional round. We're going to have a sandwich, have a Diet Coke, and I'm going to think a lot about the orange and black Cowboys over the next 36 hours.
I know they're good. Great coaching staff. Great players. I watched the first three innings before we went and hit today. And that's a deceptive score, 1-0, because there were some pretty good at-bats taken in that game against two really good pitchers and we're going to have to be prepared to play.
Q. Jay, did some of the aggressive base running you've done all year end up in some outs tonight, did that worry you at all that that ended in outs?
COACH JOHNSON: I don't even use the word "worry" or "panic." We have a dictionary of things that we aren't allowed to say. Those are two of them. But I mean Kyle Lewis, he only played two games in the first 25. And he -- when we started putting him in the lineup, things changed for us.
And part of his deal is he has to play hard or he's not a very good player. So I'm fine with that one. Zach's play was a little bit tricky. We never want to make the first out at third base. That's like a cardinal sin. I'm usually going to put somebody in a headlock if they do that. Not really. (Laughter).
It was a tricky play. All the Miami outfielders are really athletic. He got to the ball quick. I made a little bit later decision to send Cody because we're not going to make an out at the plate with no outs.
And by the time I got back to Zach, it was too late. So I have to wear that one.
Q. We saw a lot of shifts out of your defense that from our vantage point looked like you're creating huge holes for Miami to hit it into. It ended up working out as far as how you were scouting some of these hitters. How comfortable were you with the scouting report you had for Miami and the way it worked out tonight?
COACH JOHNSON: Well, when you look at all of those offensive players in that lineup, I don't think the word "comfortable" comes to mind ever. But we do try to prepare well, and I thought Coach Brown in the infield and Coach Wanaka in the outfield did a nice job of placing them. It starts with your pitcher being able to execute pitches. And Nathan did that.
Good team effort. I thought one of the key plays of the game was line drive double play. Because it was 5-1 and we had all the momentum and then you get two outs on one pitch, that allowed him to essentially extend two more innings and change the game. So that was a big deal.
Q. After spending three weekends on the road against hostile crowds, were you able to hear the U of A chants, the Arizona chants, and maybe help a little bit having more neutral crowd here?
COACH JOHNSON: Well, I definitely heard them. And it was nice to hear them for the first time in about five weeks. And it was a different environment. We talked to our players about it a little bit, and observing some games in the past, just even on TV, this can kind of feel a little bit more like a Major League Baseball game where you smell popcorn and people are eating hot dogs and having conversations and all of a sudden somebody gets a hit and everybody cheers.
But it was nice to have that presence. I mean I looked up in the first inning, the first at-bat, and they're waving the 3-2 rally towels. We haven't had that in like five weeks. So that was pretty sweet.
Anybody out in Tucson wants to jump on a plane and come out and add to that contingent, you have my blessing. Greg Burnwell. Sitting right there.
Q. When you're rolling like you are the last few weeks, I imagine the road thing, kind of the road warriors might actually help you guys. What's the balance between kind of riding the momentum of being a road team week after week after week and being able to be together and focus and all these things and sort of dealing with the potential mental exhaustion that comes with that, too?
COACH JOHNSON: I think a couple of things happened. Before the trip, number one, we got out of school. And these guys take academics seriously and they care about it. And so that's one stressor that's been off their brain.
They like to sleep like all 18- to 22-year-olds, and we stay in pretty nice hotels. They cook breakfast for you every morning. So in some ways I think that those two things have helped and have been an advantage.
I don't believe in momentum from game to game. In baseball it is a completely different deal. What happened tonight will have nothing to do with what happens on Monday night.
So we go back and we prepare and do good things for the next 48 hours or whatnot and get ready to go.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you.
FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports