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June 3, 2017

Juan Aguilera

Jay Johnson

Alfonso Rivas

Cesar Salazar

Lubbock, Texas

Arizona - 6, Delaware - 5

JAY JOHNSON: First off, I want to congratulate Coach and Delaware, unreal team, special season for them, and hats off. I mean, nothing but respect. You get into playoff baseball, from a fan standpoint, that's probably what you dream about. And it was a fun day to be a part of. As crazy as it sounds, we mentioned last night when you get into a loser's bracket situation, it's really not about baseball, it's about courage, competitiveness and toughness, and what these guys are fighting for and how they did it and exemplary today. These three, Cesar bended down catching 12 innings, whatever it was over eight hours. Alfonso has been hitting the ball hard all over the field, and to get that kind of swing shows what type of hitter he is, and Juan Aguilera, great story, and what a performance by him. So I'm really proud of these three. I'm proud of our team, and what we kept saying through the game is we want that double header tomorrow. That was the most important thing in the world was getting an opportunity to do that and to see these guys execute that, I'm extremely proud of them.

Q. Alfonso, can you talk us through the at-bat, what you were looking for, what the pitch was, what it felt to hit the ball out, et cetera?
ALFONSO RIVAS: Yeah, so just going into that at-bat, obviously I'm real confident with myself, with everything, how I felt. Just the situation and everything. And you know, with that pitch, you know, right down the middle, and I was just trying to put a good swing on it, hit that ball hard somewhere on the field, and it went over the fence.

Q. Juan, what kind of went through your mind when you found out that you were going to be the one that comes in after the rain delay and get that opportunity?
JUAN AGUILERA: Excited is the first word that comes to my head. I've been through some pressure situations back in my junior college, and I just looked back to that and my success from the previous years, and just wanted to attack the hitters, and it worked out.

Q. You've kind of had a kind of uptick in your performance the last month or so. What do you think you can attribute that to?
JUAN AGUILERA: Confidence, and just belief in myself. That was my problem before, and I've just been working on that since I've been here. It's been helping me ever since.

Q. Cesar, two questions. The first one is what do you think enables your buddy Alfonso to come up big in clutch situations, and the second one is how do you think Juan handled that pressure situation out there?
CESAR SALAZAR: First with Alfonso, he's obviously a great hitter, how he said he was -- I could tell he was feeling confidence. He was feeling himself, just by the way he was walking up to the plate and he was taking hacks. He works extremely hard. He's a really good hitter, and he just got that pitch and put a good swing on it, and on Juan, Juan last couple times he's been on the mound has been outstanding. His slider is dirty, and he's been able to locate fastballs in and out-and-out and in. Like he said, good for him that he has been working on that confidence, and it's slowly working.

Q. What is it about the postseason where you kind of come up with these big hits?
CESAR SALAZAR: No, I just treat it one game at a time like Coach Johnson said. It was our Super Bowl 58, right, so we just treat it one game at a time. I just want to put up good at-bats, help my team win.

Q. Do you kind of expect him to come up big in a situation like that?
ALFONSO RIVAS: With him, it's expecting something big every single game, if it's regular season or postseason. So I mean, I'm not really surprised that he played how he played today, it's just something regular about him.

Q. Alfonso, you guys had a 5-1 lead at one point, they charge back and tie it up. Do you feel like the rain delay gave you a chance to kind of reset the deck?
ALFONSO RIVAS: Yeah, 100 percent. You know, we were just hanging out in the cages, in the batting cages during the rain delay, and I just felt like just the stress we had just went away. It gave us a little reset button right there, so we came out ready to play.

Q. Juan, you addressed earlier how you felt when Jay tapped you for this assignment, but when exactly did you find out that you were pitching, and what was your process for getting ready to go out there and pitch?
JUAN AGUILERA: I found out pretty much right when the delay happened, and after that, after he told me, just wanted to clear my mind and just take a deep breath and understand what I was getting put into and not to overthink it but just go out there and perform.

Q. What was the biggest reason to choose Juan in that spot above everyone else?
JAY JOHNSON: Well, Cody was in the game at the time, and health-wise for him, I didn't feel like it was smart to send him out for the delay, and then I really just went through the list of everybody that was available, matched it up with the hitters that were coming up, very right-handed heavy team, so I went, who has the best out pitch of the guys available, and I thought Juan's slider could get them caught in between, hit the ball in the air, the ball wasn't carrying earlier, and just felt good about him.

Q. The guys had kind of mentioned how the biggest thing was getting to tomorrow. You mentioned it as kind of the Super Bowl. What's the toughest part about having your back against the wall but also not wanting to press in that type of situation?
JAY JOHNSON: You know, we talked about it before we came to the field today. There's nothing to be afraid of. There's nothing to not empty the tank for. These guys play as fearless as any group that you'll find. Sometimes you have to wonder, like do they really understand what's going on and at stake, and that's what I love about them. You know, it's about competing. It's about something that's bigger than baseball at this point, like we talked about last night, the brotherhood that they have together, and so what we said is we're going to be extremely competitive, and we're going to be extremely together.

And there was a few points along the way in that game where it got wobbly for them, and when we got to the delay, we just said, there's no way that we're going to hold anything back or have any excuse about this. We play inter-squad simulating a tie game in eighth and ninth, so what's the difference in the 11th and the 12th? Alfonso got a swing, we executed from the mound, made a couple nice plays, and really proud of him. It was a special effort today.

Q. Last year you went to Lafayette, kind of the same deal, you lose and then you come back and win the regional, then go all the way to Omaha and go to the Championship Series. Do you kind of see that in this team with your backs up against the wall, kind of the same feeling you get?
JAY JOHNSON: No. I mean, and I say this all the time. With young players, everything is so day-to-day. I do believe that we have enough guys that were a part of that that they can draw from that successful experience. With that being said, we have a tremendous challenge on our hands. I mean, these two teams on the field tonight are special teams, just like my team is a special team. So we're going to embrace the competition. Kind of our theme of the day is like let's get to the double header, and we're going to go all in to make tomorrow the best day that this group has shared together, and the result might be positive and might not be, but that's our goal is to make tomorrow the best day that this group shared together.

Q. Do you agree with what Alfonso said about the rain delay sort of serving as a reset button and you guys were able to kind of regroup?
JAY JOHNSON: Yeah, I did not like the vibe at the end of -- I don't remember where we finished, I think at the 10th, and it's understandable. They got kicked in the teeth. We're two outs, nobody on base in the eighth with Cameron Ming throwing a spectacular game for us, and he walks a guy, and it's double, and then it's a walk, and then it's another base hit, and we're lucky to get out of the inning, we got the guy at second base. And then we're one strike away and Tyler McGill made some nice pitches, and one is an infield hit for Mohollen who's a great runner and it's a close play, and then one squirts through the infield. It was a little bit of wind-out-of-your-sails type deal, but they regrouped, and that's what makes them fun to coach is their ability to with stand adversity and respond in a championship manner, and that's what they did today.

Q. Speaking of Ming, what was the conversation when you went out there? How tempted were you to take him out at that juncture and just kind of go through all the late-inning pitching switches?
JAY JOHNSON: Yeah, well, I didn't want to take him out, and J.C. and Cameron have earned the right for me to at least have a conversation about them staying in the game, and you all know nobody likes to make pitching changes more than I do, and Jason talked about the four and a half hour average games that we play all the time, and I understand that, but he's a warrior. He is the centerpiece of this team, as a leader and as a competitor, and I just felt like he'd earned the shot. It was around 100 pitches, and he's done that. He's thrown two complete games his last four times out. Michael Flynn is our guy. He's our go-to guy, and I didn't think he pitched bad. They ambushed that first-pitch fastball, but he got us two outs in the ninth. In hindsight you could say maybe we should have stuck with him. I didn't like the way the ball was necessarily coming out of his hand today. It looked a little different than last night. So we decided to make a change, and I thought Tyler made pitches, and we were unfortunate. We were a little bit unlucky there, and you tip your hat to Delaware.

Going to Cody, there's no way I'm leaving this tournament without one of our best pitchers pitching. I'm not doing that, and he's grown in his progression, and I knew he'd be able to handle it. It was a little unfortunate with the delay. Now that we came through on the positive side, it worked out because now he's available to pitch in some capacity tomorrow, whereas if he goes three, we probably can't use him tomorrow, and we'll need to use him tomorrow at some point.

Q. The Cal Stevenson play where he ran after stealing, was that your decision or his decision or how did that go down?
JAY JOHNSON: We're a live by the sword, die by the sword team. Two outs, we're going to send guys. I was stopping him. It was down the line. But we also do have a play where we're talking about turning and looking in and it's specific with him because he has such great instincts as a base runner and he shuffled down the line. It was either the second baseman or the shortstop was a little flatfooted with the ball, and he took off. I have no problem with that play whatsoever, and you know, there's no conversation between me and him because of the way a 5'8", 5'9" baseball rat makes it is to be extremely aggressive, and he's our firestarter, our Dexter Fowler type guy, and I'm totally good with that there.

Q. How many guys can make that throw that Ryan made to get the runner at second?
JAY JOHNSON: Wow, that ended up being a big play. The next guy got a base hit, and it would have been tied in the eighth there. You know, it was a big-time play, and he's got a great arm and he's a good athlete. I think that says a lot about him as a person, being essentially a backup catcher because we have a great catcher, and finding his way into the lineup at the most important parts of the season, doing anything to help the team win. To me he blistered the ball today and had nothing to show for it. He hit three or four line drives and he's 0 for 5. That's how unfair this game is sometimes, but there was no bigger play in the game than cutting that guy down at second.

Q. Juan said confidence is the reason that he's turned it around the last month, but is there something different like mechanically or is there an adjustment you guys made with him?
JAY JOHNSON: I think the confidence allows him to throw his pitches with conviction, and that's what I see as different. You know what, it's a steep learning curve. It's Cochese Junior College, which is one of the best JC's to play baseball at in the country with one of the best coaches, but it's the Pac-12, it's Division I baseball, it's the NCAA regional tournament, and he probably thought for a little while, hey, do I belong here. We liked the breaking ball. We felt like it was an out pitch he could serve a role for us, and he just needed to feel about himself the way we did when we brought him in here, and it's been a nice progression, and he'll be out there tomorrow again for sure.

Q. You had talked about the lesson learned from that Cal series, about finishing innings, and it seemed like it was kind of a problem today. All of Cameron's walks were with two outs, the rally that you mentioned. Do you feel like maybe now they understand what it takes?
JAY JOHNSON: I think they've always understood. I think when you play the schedule that we play, the amount of top 100 opponents, playing in the Pac-12, rolling into a regional like this, you're going to play in a billion one-run games. They want it badly. There's no question with my team about -- it's never more important to the team across from us than it is from us, but what you have to remember is it's about the play, it's about the task at hand, and you've got to take the result out of it. I mean, everybody is going to focus on the result at the end of the day, but it doesn't help you get it. You've got to focus on what it takes to get there. You know, you're going to get some hard reminders no matter how good of a team that you have.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports

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