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May 22, 2017

Brian O'Connor

Louisville, Kentucky

BRIAN O'CONNOR: We're excited to be in Louisville. We actually arrived on Saturday night from Atlanta from our series at Georgia Tech. Just actually getting headed out. Took an off-day yesterday. Headed out to practice today. We're excited to be here. The ballpark is great. It's a tremendous venue. The city of Louisville is a great host, and we're excited to start on Thursday.

Q. Coach, I'm curious with the word on the pitching staff, how does the format affect your plan for who to pitch when? In a sense, some coaches are saying you basically have to -- there is one game as a top seed that you'll have to win. How does that play into your pitching plans?
BRIAN O'CONNOR: Well, I think it's certainly an advantage when you finish the top four in the league that went into this tournament, is that you do have that advantage. So we won't make a decision until after the Tuesday night's game, at some point probably on Wednesday, on who we will pitch on Thursday and Friday and how that will map out. So certainly it's going to be a factor.

I like -- overall, I like the way the tournament lays out for us. Playing Thursday, Friday, and potentially Saturday and Sunday if we do well because, you know, that is basically what you're dealing with next week and in a regional or super regional where you're playing three or potentially four days in a row. So certainly the pitching is a big factor. You know, we'll make that decision at some point on Wednesday.

Q. A couple of weekend guys that you do have healthy, we talked in the preseason about the jump you expected from Daniel lynch, and also the kind of comeback for Derek Casey. What have both of those guys been able to do this year in terms of their development?
BRIAN O'CONNOR: Well, I think they've done a great job. I mean, Derek was tremendous down in Atlanta this last weekend. I mean, he was in complete command of the game. I think he only gave up three or four hits, had eight strikeouts or so. And really is, I think, pitching some very good baseball for us. Giving us a chance to, you know, win the first half of the game and get the game to our bullpen. So I'm excited the way he's throwing.

Daniel Lynch certainly has a lot of starts under his belt, and has done a nice job for us all year. We were just with him yesterday. He was doing a little bit of work, throwing around yesterday, and he looks good. I'm excited to see him compete in this postseason as well. I feel great about where we're at and the options that we have certainly coming out of our bullpen. Looking forward to playing on Thursday.

Q. How much did the Duke series in Charlotte back in late March serve as a turning point, particularly after that Friday night game? You guys won the next two games, and it's been pretty much 21-6 from April to May to this point. Was that a turning point for you, do you think, after that Friday night game?
BRIAN O'CONNOR: You know, I think you can look back on it now and say, yeah, it probably was. We got our butts kicked on Friday night, plain and simple. They beat us up and we responded. But this has been the story of this team this year. It just happened down at Georgia Tech this past weekend Thursday, Game 1, they beat us up, and our guys responded the next day and the day after that.

So this has been -- it hasn't come easy for this team. There have been a lot of cases where we lost a game on a weekend and had to respond. I think you're right that Duke weekend kind of set the tone for us that this is the way that we have to be. This is the way that we need to play the game. Since that point in time, we've played very, very consistent baseball.

Q. Jake, since he's gone off, you put him back to number two. He's batting .500 and obviously a really big weekend for you in Atlanta. Not like he was hitting poorly when he was in the nine hole, but what do you think has really clicked for him here recently? Is that more his natural position to be in that two hole considering his speed and the things he can do out of that spot?
BRIAN O'CONNOR: Well, I think he's capable of hitting in a lot of different spots. Part of the reason I moved him to the nine for that period of time was I thought Andy Weber was really swinging a hot bat for us. And sometimes you've got to make those moves. Players go through a season. They go through ups and downs and through some streaks. During that period of time, it was the best thing for our team. The best thing for Jake to push him down towards the bottom. I love him at the nine, too, because he's a great hitter at the back of the order. He has a chance to turn it over, a chance to steal the base and get into scoring position for those guys at the top of the lineup.

So that said, since we've moved him back to the two, he's really producing. Really high on base-base percentage, which is important for the two guys set behind him in Haseley and Smith.

So really proud of Jake. We talked about Jake all year long, how him being healthy this year, the impact he can make to our lineup, and it certainly shows.

Q. The regular season records and your NCAA performances kind of speak for themselves. Have you changed your emphasis or your priority for the ACC Tournament over the course of your career?
BRIAN O'CONNOR: No, no, not really. I mean, it's a good question, because I think you hear a lot from coaches that, hey, the most important weekend starts next weekend. That said, two of the four years we've been to Omaha, 2009 and 2011, we won the ACC Championship. And make no mistake about it, we are here to play well Thursday and Friday and give ourselves a chance to get to Saturday to try to get to the championship.

Winning the ACC Championship in baseball is one of the more coveted things. This tournament is so, so challenging with the level of competition that you're playing. I feel it's important to come here and play really well, play to win the title. Because I think there can be carryover from that into the following weekend and give the players a very high level of confidence. So we're here to win this thing.

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