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May 22, 2017

Monte Lee

Louisville, Kentucky

Q. Coach, just a brief opening statement, and then we'll go to questions.
MONTE LEE: Well, we're really excited about coming to the ACC Tournament. Obviously had a great run in the ACC Tournament last year winning it, and it propelled us to be a regional host and national seed. So we're kind of in a similar situation right now going into the ACC Tournament. A little bit of a different direction from last year to this year. We actually finished the season last year with a sweep, and that kind of propelled us into the ACC Tournament where we made a great run and won it this year.

We started off extremely strong. Struggled here over the last few weeks, and had a nice win at N.C. State to close out the regular season, and hopefully that can carry some momentum for us coming into the ACC Tournament.

But very excited about being in the tournament. We know how good the baseball is in our league, and we know what kind of challenge we have in front of us and looking forward to that challenge.

Q. Coach Lee, I guess FSU is a team that kind of has been coming on as of late. 14-5 in their last 19. What did you take away from how they looked when you guys played them a little bit earlier this year?
MONTE LEE: Well, I think that a healthy Florida State team with their lineup, with what they do offensively, makes it very, very difficult on anybody they play. When they have their lineup as healthy and together with the offensive approaches that they have or they'll take pitches. They don't come out of the strike zone very much. They'll run the pitch count up on your starting pitchers and get into your bullpen, they have some power. They're very fundamentally sound offensively, it's a dangerous team to play because your starting pitcher. A lot of times if he's not in the strike zone he'll be at 100 pitches by the fifth inning.

I think that, first and foremost, is the key when you're looking at Florida State. If you've got a pitcher that can get leadoff fouls and execute pitches and pound the strike zone and force them to swing the bat, then you've got a chance. If they're drawing walks with the amount of power that they have and the level of hitters that they have in their lineup, they can hurt you badly.

So they're just a very difficult team to pitch to because they don't chase out of the zone very much and force you to throw the ball over the plate where they can do some damage.

Pitching-wise, they were struggling earlier in the year. But one thing they do have, they've got a true ace in Holton. Holton is a guy that, for whatever reason, he doesn't give up any runs. He's very difficult to hit. He locates three pitches. So they've got a guy that if you match-up with him, you better hope like crazy that your starting pitcher gives you an unbelievable start because you're probably not going to score a lot of runs.

So to me, I think they're clicking on all cylinders right now. They're probably playing right now what I think everybody kind of expected Florida State to be. So I know they scuffled earlier in the year. But I think a lot of that had to do with injuries and probably just trying to deal with expectations that sometimes are tough on young men. When they've got everybody together and started playing better baseball, now you're starting to see the Florida State team that I think everybody kind of envisioned at the beginning of the year.

Q. How weird is this time of the year in terms of teams that may have had a bumpy start or bumpy middle? All of a sudden, they end the year hot and they do look kind of dangerous. Do you see that every year, how is that?
MONTE LEE: No, I've seen that. You've seen it plenty of times. I think that -- you know, I've been in the game long enough to see teams that go through odd spells. I think that oftentimes, whether it is injury related or expectation related, I think sometimes when you come into the season and you're a preseason -- a team that's rated extremely high in the preseason, and sometimes those expectations put a lot of pressure on your players and your coaching staff for that matter.

I think sometimes you see that happen. You see a team that will struggle some early because they're trying to do too much to try to live up to those expectations, and then you wind up having a few injuries, the key components, whether it's in your pitching or within your position players. I think what a lot of people don't understand, and this is something that I've learned over time, too, depth is one player. You lose one player in your lineup, and the domino effect it has on your lineup and on your team can hurt you. I know FSU has had a couple of them.

I think it's just a matter of you've got to stay healthy. When you've got a good club, you can't preach the expectations, the outside expectations of what's going on around you. You've just got to go play. I'm not saying that's what happened. I really don't know. I do know that when you've got extremely high expectations from the outside, preseason rankings, et cetera, et cetera, sometimes you'll put pressure on yourselves. Eventually when you get everybody healthy, and everybody relaxes and just plays, you see some really good results.

I think probably that's what's going on with Florida State. They got healthy at the right time. They've put together some good series, and next thing you know, that confidence builds and they start playing their best baseball.

Q. I was wondering if we could get an update on Pinder and also Chris Williams. Will he be able to play behind the plate on Tuesday?
MONTE LEE: Yes. Pinder should be okay. He is scheduled -- we're actually getting ready to fly out here in a little bit to Louisville. He is scheduled to practice. As long as he feels okay, he'll be able to practice at 100% today. He had some swelling in his knee from when he ran into the wall at N.C. State. But we expect Pinder to be 100% and ready to go. Unless we get into practice today, and he's not feeling as good as maybe we anticipate.

Chris Williams, more than likely, will only be able to DH. We don't feel like his arm is at 100% and that he'll be ready or available to catch. He'll catch today, and we'll see how he feels and that could be adjusted based on how he feels. It would be my expectation right now that we won be able to use him behind the plate.

Q. You talked about the domino effect that one player can have. How much of a critical loss or -- I guess you've been playing with Chris Williams at DH, but how much does that hurt your team both offensively, defensively? You've given up critical runs on wild pitches and fastballs. For people who don't know out there? Are people cognizant of that when you have base runners on third? Are they more observant of throwing balls down in the dirt? Does that affect your strategy or philosophy from a pitching standpoint?
MONTE LEE: Well, it can. It can a little bit. We're never going to use it as an excuse. But there are times, obviously, if you've got somebody behind the plate that hasn't been back there a whole lot, and he's trying to block a slider that's being thrown at 83, 84 miles an hour in the dirt to get a swing and miss, it's a tough thing to do regardless is to block a breaking ball in the dirt with runners on base.

It's extremely hard to do when you haven't been back there. Chris has been our guy. He's been back there every day for the most part this year when he's been healthy. So whether it's Jolly or Wilkie, those two guys are not nearly as experienced as Chris. That's not an excuse. That's just a fact. Sometimes as a coach, you may decide we probably need to throw a fastball here, elevate a fastball as opposed to breaking ball.

Yeah, it's just a factor of experience, I think, more than anything. When you put somebody in the most difficult position to play on the field and he doesn't have a ton of reps because he's not your starter, it's not easy. I would think anybody would tell you that anytime your number two catcher, your number three catcher is now your everyday guy, that's not ideal for anybody. But it is what it is. Hopefully the experience that Wilkie is getting right now, he's getting more and more comfortable and more and more ready to be back there and doing a good job. I thought he did a nice job for us in Game 3 against N.C. State. So the more comfortable he gets, the more reps he gets, the better he's going to get.

But, yeah, that domino effect would definitely hurt you. You take Pinder out of our lineup, Chris Williams out of our lineup, and it's a different lineup. It's a different defense. Everybody has to deal with that. It's not an excuse. We all have to deal with injuries. We lost Ryan Miller and Brooks Crawford for the second half of the season. Ryan Miller was probably -- at the time we had 1A and 1B in the closer role with Ryley Gilliam and Ryan Miller, you take that arm out of your bullpen, and that's a huge blow. Brooks Crawford has been dealing with mono for the second half of the season. So you take two guys out of your pen that are throwing meaningful innings, and that can hurt you as well. It just is what it is. You have to deal with it, and hopefully other guys around them will step up and fulfill meaningful innings and a meaningful role for us in our lineup.

Q. I just wanted to see what your plans were for your pitching rotation for the week? Obviously with the two games off during the week, who you plan to throw on Tuesday? Who all would be available? Your plans for Friday, and just to check in on the health of Reed Rohlman.
MONTE LEE: Yeah, we're planning on starting Barnes. Barnes will be on four days rest, so he should be good to go. We'll also have Eubanks available out of the bullpen. We can use Alex out of the pen on Tuesday. You know, Pat Krall probably will not be available. He's going to want the ball at the end of the game, but he's not going to be -- I think he's only going to be on two full days of rest, so I don't think we'd do that. But Eubanks will be available out of the pen.

Bottom line, we're going to do everything we can to win Game 1. So we're going to go with Barnes, and if we need to use Eubanks out of the pen, we're going to use Eubanks out of the pen to try to get that win. That will give us the opportunity, especially with two full days off Wednesday and Thursday, to make the decision as to whether we'd start Eubanks in Game 2 or do we start Krall on Friday and then use Eubanks again out of the pen or possibly hold him for a Game 3 start? Or do we start Eubanks on Friday and then use Krall out of the pen.

The bottom line, I think, for us, in terms of our game plan is we're going to use the guys that we have available to win Game 1. Then once we win Game 1, we'll let the dust settle and we'll try to figure out what we do in Game 2 based on who we've used and how many pitches they've thrown. The good thing is we've got a guy in Eubanks who can start or pitch out of the pen, and the same thing with Krall. And we have Tyler Jackson who we can start, and hopefully we're in a position to have to make that decision, because that means we've made a deep run in the ACC Tournament.

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