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June 18, 2017

Dan McDonnell

Brendan McKay

Devin Hairston

Colby Fitch

Omaha, Nebraska

Louisville - 8, Texas A&M - 4

THE MODERATOR: We're joined by Louisville.

COACH MCDONNELL: Well, very happy to be 1-0. It's the first time in the history of our program even though it's something we talk about often, you know the 1-0, 1-0 game, but we're mostly alluding to the regionals. So I'm obviously very happy, very proud of these guys. Knew Texas A&M was not going to fold. You put up a 5 spot with Brendan McKay, you know some teams will cave, they were not going to do that and battled back. Had a lot of great at-bats against them. Fortunately our bullpen stepped up, as it's done all year, and we trust our bullpen, and Brendan handed the ball over to Sam and Sam to Lincoln and then offensively we kept competing.

It wasn't the best game of the year, but we understand now as we've seen two on TV and played in one, these games aren't always the cleanest. There's too much competition. Everybody is playing too hard. It's not supposed to be smooth and easy. You just gotta grind it out. And I thought today our guys did a really good job of grinding it out.

Q. Colby, what is going through your mind when you're at the plate and there's two outs, how do you keep yourself in the zone?
COLBY FITCH: Really just thought about staying really short today, not trying to do too much with it. Like I say, I got down early in some counts on some really good pitches. And then just shortened up and try to do as less -- as least as possible and try to move the baseball.

Q. Brendan, how did you feel about your stuff today?
BRENDAN MCKAY: Early on it was working well. First hit of the game 11 or 12 pitches and probably 90 to 95 percent of them were quality pitches, and he was just making good swings to keep moving the count and keep working the count to get a pitch to where he could handle, and he finally got one he could handle a little more. And he got on base.

But outside of that I worked out of a lot of jams. It's hard to pitch effectively when you're in jams like that. But I think throughout your career you learn how to pitch and how to minimize, which worked today.

Q. Brendan, obviously you've had a lot going on this week with the draft and all these awards and interviews and all that kind of stuff. Was it nice for you just to be able to get out there and play baseball today? What was kind of your mindset and your comfort level out there?
BRENDAN MCKAY: Yeah, absolutely. Since the moment we landed here in Louisville on Thursday or in Omaha on Thursday it was kind of nice just running around, Coach Mack and I went to dinner with the Dick Howser Award Committee people and press conferences on Friday and Saturday, a rush of doing stuff. And today you wake up you've got that feeling in your heart, wow, you're going to play in Omaha again and finally play somebody else since last Saturday or what have it. So it was a good feeling to wake up and know we were playing today.

Q. Devin, just talk about the experience coming out in Game 1 and what the whole environment seemed like for you guys when you were taking the field?
DEVIN HAIRSTON: It was exciting for sure. I remember when the guy hit the double down the right field line for A&M, I'd never been in a stadium that was that loud before.

But you know it was just exciting. This is what we live for. This is what we've worked so hard for. And we got to kind of manage that excitement and turn it into focus, I guess, for nine innings or however many innings we have to play each game and make sure we get the job done.

Q. Devin, you guys have had a couple of teams try to come back and take away early leads from you this postseason, I think Radford did it and maybe one other team in the regionals as well. How do you maintain that focus? Like you said, you have this atmosphere added to it as well. So how did you guys do that today?
DEVIN HAIRSTON: I think we've had a lot of preparation for moments like that. You know, we practice hard, have controlled scrimmages all the time which kind of mimic the situations that we face in games like that. So I think we're just prepared and we have the confidence and we trust in all the preparation that we've had. And so when those moments do arise, we're prepared for them.

Q. Brendan, your at-bat in the second inning looked like they didn't want to give you anything to pull. Were you thinking you might be going the opposite field there?
BRENDAN MCKAY: First time through the order you're just trying to feel out the zone a little bit. I had an idea of the zone from throwing in the first inning. I kind of understood that zone wasn't giving much either way. And it was a fairly straight-up zone. So I was just looking for something that you could handle.

He spotted well and he kept the ball down in the zone. So I think somebody said I watched the replay and that ball was dotted on the black. I don't know how you hit it that well. And it's the game of baseball. People make perfect pitches and guys figure out a way to hit them. It's weird.

Q. Colby, what did you see behind the plate today from Lincoln and Sam in the bullpen, what made them so effective?
COLBY FITCH: They just came right at the guys. There was no dillydallying around with them. They kind of got the first pitch strikes the majority of the time and then after that they were allowed or they were able to kind of work the counts and work the hitters, and the way Coach Williams wanted them to, but I think for the majority of the time getting the first pitch and strike and work from there.

THE MODERATOR: Thank you. Questions for Coach.

Q. Dan, we talked so much about Brendan and Colby and some of these other guys this season, but what has Sam meant to this team? He did a great job out of the bullpen there.
COACH MCDONNELL: I thought Lincoln spoke well when he received the Stopper of the Year award. He congratulated the bullpen, because he recognizes how talented our bullpen is. And anytime you have a great closer, you gotta have a bridge to get to him. And something we take a lot of pride in.

I think Sam's been the X factor, a little under the radar. I think he just received a Third Team All-American. But when you look at the numbers, they're very impressive. And just sometimes when you're in that first out of the bullpen or middle relief role, it's just not as sexy, you don't get as much attention. But clearly Sam's been hot all year, and we feel, we trust them, but we also -- Wolf and Sparger and Elliott, the guys that didn't pitch today, it was a good feeling.

The question was asked are you going to take one of your starters and move them into the bullpen. And I don't blame teams for doing that. But I said no, we're not. We really like our bullpen; we're not going to mess with what we have going there. We trust those guys.

Q. Looked like the bottom half of your lineup was almost the tablesetters today. I guess how much of an impact did they have on your offensive output?
COACH MCDONNELL: I think all the teams that are here, it's what -- there's not a lot that separates you from teams that necessarily don't make it. But the top teams in the country really have good bottom of the half, the lineup.

I thought A&M did a good job, because we contained their first three hitters, and then it seemed like it was the second half. Right through the middle and the bottom, we struggled with. And all year, we got Josh Stowers sitting in the 8 hole. It's probably going to be a middle of the lineup hitter guy for us and Colin Lyman, a senior in the 7 spot.

So it's something that throughout the year it's the difference. Everybody is good 1 through 5 across the country. It's usually that 6 through 9 that can separate you from being a good club to a special club.

Q. Colby, top half of the order, who made the difference for you guys. Seems like it's someone different every single game who is really doing it for you. So what does the depth in your lineup mean coming into Omaha?
COACH MCDONNELL: You have to. In the regionals, there's three or four guys that are super hot. In the supers you get a couple guys that are really hot. If you live and die off a few players, unfortunately you're going to fail because the great hitters still only hit 70 percent of the time or maybe 40 percent at the most, but you have to have the balance up and down your lineup.

I said it before the season started, even losing Solak, Ray, Smith, Tiberi, all those hitters, it's still amazing we were still pretty old this year. We have a freshman in the 9 hole today. But we still have a lot of old guys in the lineup with the two seniors, Lyman and Taylor, and that big junior class, with Fitch, McKay and Hairston, they were up here, along with Ellis. And then you've got the sophomores in Mann and Stowers. So I think the age of the lineup definitely helps us.

Q. You mentioned just the significance of going 1-0 here in Omaha. Obviously 10 years ago, the win against Mississippi State, what do you remember just about that day, the events, the emotions and all that, and how does that kind of compare to today getting this win today?
COACH MCDONNELL: For me, we've got two wins in Omaha. And that he both have been on Sunday. They've both been on Father's Day. My dad was here in 2007 with my Uncle Rich. Even though he wasn't in the best shape, he was here, and I got great memories of that.

So today in my back pocket I kept the funeral card from my dad, it's an Irish blessing. My dad was a good Irishman and he loved life. I remember putting that in my back pocket thinking my dad would love this today. So Father's Day has been very good to the Cardinals.

Q. Last night when you watched the teams that jumped out to the lead and kind of -- I mean, they gave it away, they made mistakes, let things back in the game. Did you emphasize executing pitches executing the field knowing when you jumped out with that 5-0 lead?
COACH MCDONNELL: Was just aware teams are not packing it in. There's no way. They're just not packing it in. They're too confident and too talented, too much pride and too well coached. I was well aware after the 5-0 lead the way they were coming out swinging it, cut it to 5-2 and we had a hiccup that evening. We had first and second. We didn't get a bunt down. We had a guy picked off. We don't come away with a run and that just gave them momentum. So we talk about it. We address that stuff with our players, and the emphasis in the postseason is we're playing every pitch, every out, every inning as if it's our last.

And we don't say that by putting pressure on them, but it's about -- you heard Devin talk, it's just the focus, you just want them to stay focused. You don't want them taking their bat to the field. There's no time to feel sorry for themselves. So all the things coaches preach throughout the year, you just hope it really sinks in in the postseason and you have to play every pitch.

Q. What was the decision between putting Lavey in to pinch hit and Summers in to pinch run?
COACH MCDONNELL: You know, Fitz is a really good player, but I felt like their -- I don't mind ending the game with McKay on the field, McKay and Ellis, the two juniors. So it was an opportunity to get a young hitter in at-bat. Lavey is a good right-hand hitter. We planned to move Fitz to short next year and Lavey will fight his tail off to be the third baseman.

So as coaches these kids work really hard. You can't play them all. But when you get opportunities to play guys you want to play them. Summers is my senior baserunner, phenomenal defender in the outfield, phenomenal baserunner, and I said it on the postgame radio show, because people are listening to Sean, they can't visualize what's happening. But if you're in the stands and I don't take for granted Ryan Summers scoring on that ball. A lot of base runners won't score on that ball. That's what we call a one-out read.

We work on one-out reads every single day. The most important base running activity in all of baseball is the one-out read, when a guy gets a base hit, can you score from second?

And I just thought that run was huge. So for me I was glad to get a couple of guys on the field, and not only did we get them on the field but they helped us score run, and that just shows the trust that I have for our players and the depth that we have.


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