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June 20, 2016

Tyler Buffett

Josh Holliday

Ryan Sluder

Donnie Walton

Omaha, Nebraska

Oklahoma State - 1, Arizona 0

THE MODERATOR: We'll start with a statement from Josh and then player questions.

COACH HOLLIDAY: Well, unbelievable college baseball game. Pitching and defense are at a premium, safe to say. Tyler Buffett was outstanding. His teammates played great defense behind him. And we did just enough on offense against an outstanding starting pitcher who really had his ball all over the place.

Quality changeup, quality slider. Quality sinker and mixed them up exceptionally well. I thought he was one of the better competitors we've seen this year, and I thought that was one of the finer outings we've seen in a long time.

Credit to that young man and Arizona. They're a very good team. Our kids came up one run better tonight. And these kids to my right are the reason for that.

So very proud of the kids. They continue to play at a high level. We're pitching the ball, catching the ball and playing good team baseball. So that's a strong recipe, I think, especially considering the elements, couple of balls got hit in the air tonight pretty good. And it wasn't a night to hit the ball in the air.

So ground ball defense and one run proved to be the difference along with just a Big League outing by Tyler Buffett and Trey Cobb.

Q. Tyler, how did you kind of feel? And also from a stuff standpoint, how did you feel your stuff was tonight?
TYLER BUFFETT: I felt all right. First couple of innings a little bit not as sharp as I wanted to be, and then around the fourth inning I felt I got a little bit of tunnel vision toward the glove and started finding the command that is necessary at this level.

And then having those guys make the plays behind me just helped everything out. The first play of the game, Sluder makes one of the best plays of the game that I've ever seen. So that definitely helps.

Q. You had a couple of quiet weeks in the postseason. Got it going here tonight. Did you put any extra work to put the swing back on track, or it's just a matter of that's baseball?
DONNIE WALTON: It's baseball mostly, but we were working on a couple mechanics. I work with Josh on my pops all the time. But I know I put good swings on throughout the postseason. I just had to stick with it. Don't try to do anything more, because I got guys behind me that can square some stuff up.

So minor adjustments and go out there and have some fun.

Q. Ryan, take us through that catch that everybody is talking about.
RYAN SLUDER: Honestly, just trying to get a good read and just sometimes that happens. You've got to extend to get a ball. And fell in my glove. That's all I've got to say. Just happens, man. It's instinct. Instinctive when you dive and when you come up with it you do, when you don't, you don't, so...

Q. On that catch, is there a point where you know you have it?
RYAN SLUDER: Yeah, definitely. You feel it in your glove, but when you're diving, you know, it's, like I said, instinctive. So you feel it in your glove. I've had a few pop out of my glove this year that there's nothing you can do about. But luckily that one stayed in.

Q. In the moment, do you ever get a sense of -- the Arizona guys are talking about that catch as big moment in the game, potential -- they feel confident they would have scored a run in that inning. In that moment do you get a sense how important or crucial that catch could be or was?
RYAN SLUDER: Yeah, definitely you feel that. But at the same time we're just going out there, playing the game that we know how to play. So we're just playing baseball. And we're not treating this like it is the College World Series. We're just playing the game we know how to play. So just pitch by pitch, inning by inning, we're just playing.

Q. Donnie, could you talk about those two plays if you could, your vantage point at shortstop of Ryan's catch and Benge's play in the ninth inning? Did you see the first baseman hold the bag at first?
DONNIE WALTON: I didn't get a good view. I looked at the big screen, noticed his foot was on. But, no, Ryan's right off the bat just huge play, momentum swing. I see Ryan make those catches all the time. It's nothing new. Our whole outfield can do it.

And Benge has been making plays like that all the time. And it helps to have a good arm that Benge has because he got up and just fired it over there.

So our defense is pretty solid. We're pretty confident in our offense. And we're pretty confident in our pitching. As you can see, they're pretty good. So we do all we can behind them.

Q. Tyler, settling into this starting role now here down the stretch, seemed like you were pretty good in the bullpen. But what has been the difference for you in this role? Have you had to change your approach in any way, or obviously a little bit of a different animal starting and holding your stuff for eight innings like this?
TYLER BUFFETT: Well, talking with Rob at the beginning of the year, when he wanted me to start coming out of the bullpen and start throwing those ninth innings, he told me just keep the mentality the same. If I go out there and I focus on making pitches, it doesn't matter if that pitch goes down in the ninth inning to win the game or if it's the first pitch of the ballgame, it's going to be the same pitch. If I go out there with focus, it's going to keep happening and keep focusing on making good pitches.

So that's what I tried to do. I tried to go out there and treat the first inning like the second inning, like the third, like the ninth. So that's really all it's been like.

Q. Donnie, could you put in words what you guys have accomplished? I know you're not where you want to be yet, but just the run you're on, what type of baseball you're playing, what has led to this? What factors are key in your mind to be able to pitch and defend the way you have in the NCAA Tournament?
DONNIE WALTON: I think we came together as a team and not to look ahead. Not look towards the future, and I think that's helped us the most. And taking it one pitch at a time, one bat a time and one inning at a time. And most of all we're having as much fun as possible and playing fearless, and that's helping us, too.

So with that mindset going into each game, lets everybody loose and the guys in the dugout have been awesome. So we just try to have as much fun as possible.

THE MODERATOR: Thank you. Questions for Coach.

Q. What did you kind of see stuff watching Tyler, and also Bobby Dalbec, he pitched a pretty good game for those guys. What did you see from him as well?
COACH HOLLIDAY: I think Tyler, based upon the lineup he's facing with quality right- and left-handed hitters, he threw his curveball effectively to change planes and move the eyes up and down. He flashed a straight change to also back off some of the aggression of some very good, strong hitters, and I thought he competed exceptionally well and he made key pitches at key times. And I think the ballpark and the kids playing behind him, he felt confidence to pitch to contact.

Not only was he making fine pitches but he was also making pitches that allowed him to pitch eight full innings there and get deep in the game.

It's just a mature approach. You heard it in his answer. He's just executing pitches. As simple as it sounds, it takes a long time to do just that, not get ahead of yourself worrying about what is going on around you but rather take control of what you can do, and that is execute the pitch at hand.

Just a very mature, skilled performance by Tyler.

I thought that Bobby Dalbec was even better than he looked on film. He pitched a fine game against Mississippi State in the Super Regional that I had a chance to watch where I believe he went eight and two-thirds against one of the better teams in the country, and he did much the same against them where he had the ball dancing, spinning one way, sinking the other. He changed his patterns. He never fell into a repeatable pattern. Three quality pitches and you're not throwing them in any particular order. That's why you saw some of the swings you saw.

So credit to that young man. He was nails. And a lot of respect for him the way he handles himself. He's got a great face. His demeanor is strong. And he knows he's good and he doesn't need to tell anyone about it; he just flat pitches. So a lot of respect for the way he did his thing.

Q. I feel like you've probably become accustomed to the highlight reel catches from Sluder and Hassel out there and Donnie being the rock for you. But how have you seen Garrett and J.R. grow at their positions to make this infield what it is right now?
COACH HOLLIDAY: I thought Littell made a lot of nice catches on the move in left too. JJ Matijevic hit a ball good. He ran it down. Made a nice move to his left on a ball that I think Rivas hit. And he made a couple nice angle plays in the air. You mentioned Benge's defense. What an improvement that young man has put together from the start of fall practice to now he's become a very good defender. He did not enter the program at that level.

But to his credit, and Coach Vilade has done a great job of helping him grow as a defender. Same with J.R. J.R. has grown immensely as a defender, has become one heck of a second baseman.

And the double play they turned in the seventh or eighth, right, Donnie made a great play, he gets rid of it, J.R. catches it, and from the same position from which he caught it, he released it and turned that ball around. That's not a play he made six, seven months ago.

And the growth of our team over the course of the season of the goal of getting better is what's allowed us to get here. And our kid behind the plate, Collin Theroux, is catching at a high, high level. And sometimes when you're catching every pitch and sometimes the offensive side of the game is not in your favor, it can really be tough on your mind. But what a credit to that kid for just being a rock for our team and taking such pride in his defense and our pitching staff.

So defense is a constant, at least it needs to be if you want to be great. And we've been able to grow into a steady, steady defensive club.

Q. Obviously Dalbec was good but I have to imagine at some point, not to bring the room down for a minute, but you have to be a little disappointed to play 18 innings and score two runs.
COACH HOLLIDAY: I am not disappointed, John. I'm ecstatic. No, I think --

Q. What do you have to do to improve --
COACH HOLLIDAY: No, no. I know. I know. I think -- it's great. No, you're right. No question the at-bats need to improve. No doubt. We'll work at it tomorrow. You're exactly right.

I think we got away from our approach a little bit. We knew this was a kid we'd have to elevate the window that you look for the ball. We let that window too low and we saw balls down that finished out of the zone. I don't know that I did a good enough job of maybe getting the kids convicted with that approach.

I think the kid was even better than I was told, in talking to people. So like I said, I give him credit because I think his ball had Big League action. Was he drafted as a pitcher or hitter?

Q. Hitter.
COACH HOLLIDAY: He must be a really gifted kid. But his slider had big depth. And his changeup has action. And he's doing that with 92, 91, 92, 93, and he's getting the ball in and moving it around. I mean, that's a tough split. The guy's making the ball cut, spin the other way and he's running it up there pretty quick.

Our quality at-bats need to improve and execution getting our bunts down is part of our identity. It's how we create offense in certain spots in our lineup. We take a lot of pride in.

So throwing shutouts covers those mistakes but those mistakes can't be -- they can't continue if you want to continue on through the tournament. So you're spot on, we need to work and get fundamentally sound, and we'll take advantage of the next two days to spend some time on that part of our game.

Q. Follow up on your defense. I understand the status of your program and everyone wants to play quality defense. What's led to playing so well in crucial times and mentally it can wear on guys?
COACH HOLLIDAY: That little rascal at shortstop, wears No. 5, he's the catalyst of our identity. His attitude towards defense and work ethic on the field every day is infectious across the field. I give Donovan a lot of credit. You cannot undervalue or underestimate the importance of that player in a college baseball program. The kid is special.

And he makes plays all the time that look -- he makes them look easy. They're not easy plays. So I think it starts with a leader on the field. I think it starts with the mentality as a club. Coach Vilade gets a lot of credit for making defense look fun. We look at practicing defense every day is something we enjoy. It's something we look forward to. Kids love to get out there and defend. Their confidence levels have grown. I think it's a piece of the game that probably we had to establish early on as an identity piece that we wanted to possess.

For many years we were known as a team that just launched it over the fence and stuffed a bunch of DHs all over the field. So in order to be a complete championship team, you have to place a value on defense, and that starts with how you train and your outlook. And like I said, I think there's been some great growth on the defensive side of the ball for us since we started the season.


FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports

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