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June 23, 2017

Paul Mainieri

Josh Smith

Zack Hess

Alex Lange

Omaha, Nebraska

LSU - 3, Oregon State - 1

COACH MAINIERI: Obviously a phenomenal ballgame to watch. I'm sure it was a great game to play in. I know it was a great game to coach because you're going up against a top team, the number one team in the country. It's only got four losses. We beat an All-American today that was 14-0, first loss of the year. He's really outstanding.

But I like our guy, too, and I felt confident about Alex's ability to go out there today and pitch a gem. He usually does that. After less than stellar performance, which I think he would admit last week was. Alex never loses confidence. He just works and gets prepared and turns the page very quickly. This is why I think he's going to be an outstanding professional pitcher. He's got a short memory when things don't go well and then he goes out there the next game and just pitches his heart out. He was obviously the key to the ballgame.

We were lucky -- not lucky -- but we executed really well, got the two-run inning there against Thompson. I knew any run we could get was going to be valuable. It was probably going to be a low-scoring game. Josh gave us the extra run there later on with the home run. And the toughest call was when to pull Alex. I didn't want my Chicago Cubs friends being mad at me so we had to keep his pitch count within reason.

Hopefully Alex will have another game to pitch next week. So it's easy to pull them when you know you've got Zack Hess down there, and Zack came in like he has every time, just calm, cool, and lets it rip. And he threw a lot of strikes and overpowered them I thought at times and got the job done.

So it was obviously a great win for our team. We get to play another day. Should be a tremendous ballgame tomorrow that we're all looking forward to. And I have great respect for Pat and their program. They just do an amazing job. We look forward to a great competition tomorrow.

Q. Alex, big situation -- not many opportunities, but big situation with the bases loaded and KJ up. Monday he leaves the yard; today you strike him out. What was the approach at that at-bat and how did you want to get him out here in that situation?
ALEX LANGE: We needed to get out ahead. We threw a fast pitch fastball off the plate, got a strike called. Then we were going to the bread and butter with the breaking ball. Had a good take on the 0-1 pitch. We didn't want to go 2-1. Threw another heater in there, fouled it off. Sitting 1-2. Then go to your strikeout pitch. It was a good breaking ball. It's a good hitter, and he just missed.

But we've gotta do a better job of not trying to let that inning keep going with the looks we had to get to that point.

Q. Josh, two questions, in the second inning you guys got on Thompson pretty early after he looked pretty dominant. What did you see from him in that second inning and also on the solo home run?
JOSH SMITH: Yeah, the first at-bat he was pounding me in with his fastball, spun that pretty well. He came in with like two backfoot sliders, really good pitches, tried to foul them off, came in again with the fastball. I was kind of anticipating it and just ended up driving it through the middle. And then the home run, just sitting, first pitch fastball, like Micah told me, Coach Gibbs. It didn't work out for us, and from there Lange and Hess shut it down from there and it was easy to play behind those guys.

Q. Alex, if you would just tell us about the day pitching, it wasn't as hot as it's been the last couple of days. Did that help a little bit? Just talk about trying to stay out there as long as you could. I'm sure even when they took you out you still wanted to stay in and pitch. How good did you feel at the end?
ALEX LANGE: To the weather question, we're not allowed to talk about the weather. So I just like being out there. So, I mean, obviously it was a little better conditions than we had the last time with the mist and stuff. I felt great. I felt strong. I didn't think Coach was going to let me go out there part of the eighth, but he did. So I was trying to keep us deep in the ballgame, give Hess a break. He's been going almost every game. Try to keep his pitch count down as much as possible because he's going to be so big moving forward tomorrow and then if we're fortunate to make the championship series. He's going to have to be ready to go every day. Keep his pitch count down is going to be crucial. That was my mentality, just take this team as deep into the game as I can, and when it's time, hand it over to the monster.

Q. Alex, it looked like you were pretty emotional coming off the mound there. And got a nice reception, of course, from the LSU fans. What was the moment like for you?
ALEX LANGE: Pretty special. This team and this community, it's pretty special. You don't understand, it's hard to put into words if you've never seen a game at Alex Box Stadium or been around LSU athletics, the passion that fans put in to you, it's the best feeling ever. It's second to none. We wouldn't be up here if it wasn't for the fans and everything and how much they support our program.

It's the reason that you come to Baton Rouge to play baseball is because of the fans. So just taking that in is pretty awesome and something I'll remember forever for sure.

Q. Alex, you have obviously pitched in a lot of big games. Given what was at stake today, is this the most -- you haven't had a lot of time initially to digest it, but is this the most memorable game, the biggest game you've pitched in in three years at LSU?
ALEX LANGE: Coach says the next game is the biggest game. We've been here before, backs against the wall, elimination game in Omaha. This is my second time pitching in that situation. I had a sense of calmness about me this morning when I woke up and getting to the yard. I was expecting to be amped up and juiced up; I was calm and relaxed. I think that goes back to pitching in Alex Box Stadium in front of 12,000 people every Friday night. It prepares you for the situation. It wasn't a big shocker or big difference, but this is why I come to LSU, to play in these big games. And keeping your team in the ballgame and keeping the season alive is pretty awesome.

Q. Would you agree with your coach that calm is one of your traits?
ALEX LANGE: Yes and no. I mean --


ALEX LANGE: I think off the field I'm a very relaxed person, but when I get on the mound, for me, aggressiveness is better. And kind of using my emotion for me helps me perform better. When I'm on the mound, very aggressive. When I'm off the field, I like to be more laid back.

Q. Alex, were you worried in the third when Quan had that hit, did you think they were going to call it fair?
ALEX LANGE: I was hoping they would call it foul. When the ball's hit down the line -- I didn't think he hit it as good as he did, but he got the barrel there. Off the bat I thought he like fouled it off just like to the left of the dugout, but I must have just seen it wrong.

I'm looking, and you're talking to it, kind of like a golfer talks to a ball, I was like: Get foul, get foul. Then they called it foul. I thought it was foul. But coming back and what I heard in the dugout, it might have been fair. So I'm just glad they called a foul. Obviously that's a pretty big situation.

Q. Zack, are you ready to pitch the next several days, possibly?
ZACK HESS: Whatever my team needs me to do, then I'm fully ready to meet the challenge. I'm looking forward to tomorrow and seeing what this team can do against a good Oregon State team.

THE MODERATOR: Questions for Coach.

Q. Coach, your freshmen combined for six hits today, and that's been some of the start of the show on offense this week. What does it say about that group, about the way they've performed in their first trip here?
COACH MAINIERI: So much was made about the four players coming back for one more year after being drafted and we have a lot of veterans, but I knew we were going to count on younger players this year. And Josh and Zach Watson, Jake Slaughter, Zack Hess, Eric Walker, these guys are all true freshmen.

They've had great mentors on our team that have shown them the way. Kramer and Cole and Greg Deichmann and Alex and Jared and so forth.

They keep alluding to the fact that when we played Alex Box Stadium where there's 11, 12,000 people there, pretty intense SEC series. So if they were going to crack under the pressure, they would have done it long before now. Coming out here we had confidence they would do well. They really have done well.

Q. How do you feel about your pitching situation for tomorrow? Obviously Gilbert starts, but beyond that?
COACH MAINIERI: It's a sad thing, with Eric Walker. He's had a great year and been healthy all year and all of a sudden he's not able to pitch in the biggest games of the year that we need him to. So it's -- you don't have much choice.

You've got to roll with it and go out there. And, listen, Oregon State is not with one of their best pitchers either.

We're not going to make excuses about it. We're just going to ask for the next player to step up and get the job done. We're going to start Caleb Gilbert in the game tomorrow.

Caleb's pitched in a lot of games for us, pitched well down the stretch. I thought he pitched well the other night against Oregon State for about three innings. And I know Caleb will pump a lot of strikes. He has good stuff. I don't know how far he'll be able to go and somebody else will have to step out of the bullpen for us.

Q. You mentioned Walker. I didn't know, is he injured? And then the other thing looks like they're going to start Drew Rasmussen. He's got in one game. Do you know anything about the Oregon State guy or just comment about what he brings to the table?
COACH MAINIERI: What happened with Eric Walker, he didn't pitch in the Super Regional because we won it in two straight. So we had him pitch a little inner squad game on Tuesday. He threw extremely well. Threw about 70 pitches, the next day woke up with a tight sore forearm. Treated it all week.

Had it checked out with the doctors and so forth. And he was 100 percent ready to go. The other night when he pitched against Oregon State, he threw the two innings, went out there for the third inning, he was feeling some pain radiating from his forearm and into his tricep.

So I can't take any chances with him. He's shut down for the rest of the year. We're going to get him to a doctor when we get back to Baton Rouge and keep our fingers crossed that it's nothing too serious.

As far as Drew Rasmussen, I know he had to go through some surgery. He was outstanding coming out of high school. And he's on his way back. I know he hasn't pitched as many innings this year as he would have pitched if he would have not had to deal with the rehabilitation. But when he does throw, it's electric. I watched the inning he threw the other day against Fullerton. Man, the ball was jumping out of his hand.

So I think he started, what, two or three games for them so far this year; is that right? Most pitches he's throwing 60 or 70. We'll have to go and battle him hard. He's an awesome talent. And when he's healthy and when he's in shape, he's one of the best pitchers in the country. So I think he was drafted, what, 31st in the country -- I mean in the draft. So obviously a very talented pitcher and we'll have our work cut out for us.

Q. Contrast your team's play against Oregon State today compared to other day. Pitching, hitting, defense everything was pretty close to being what you want to see. I know you just played the game, didn't have a lot of time to analyze it.
COACH MAINIERI: I always feel we can play better. Had the bases loaded there at the end, couldn't get a hit. We had another second and third situation earlier, didn't get a hit, didn't get a couple bunts down, and had some bad luck on a hit and run with a great play by their catcher, I should say, not bad luck, but great play where he scooped the ball, threw the runner out at second base.

I felt like we could have played even better, but you always feel that way. If you played perfect, the game would never end; it would be a perpetual game.

But I knew that we were a much better team than we showed the first time against Oregon State, but you have to be careful about how you say that. In no way did I want to diminish what Oregon State accomplished the last game we played them. They played terrific. And they deserved to beat us.

But I know we had better showing in us. And we're going to need our bullpen tomorrow to step it up better than they did in the earlier game against Oregon State. But today, Lange and Hess were the story for us on the mound. And tomorrow hopefully Caleb will get us off to a good start and whoever we'll use out of the pen.

I know they're capable of pitching well. They've done it all year. So hopefully we'll get some great performances tomorrow.

Q. As a coach, what do you see from Zack Hess, right now almost unhittable? Actually, he's unhittable.
COACH MAINIERI: Well, he's a terrific kid. The players call him "Psycho." That doesn't define who he is. He's a very level-headed man, very intelligent. You bring him into the mound in a big situation, millions watching on television and 25,000 in the stadium. He's just a very, very cool customer.

But then he gets himself amped up and cuts it loose and he's throwing fastballs in the mid to high 80s -- mid to high 90s, excuse me. Everyone thinks he's just out of control but he's not. He has good command. He's got a very good breaking ball he commands as well.

And he's obviously a very strong competitor. He doesn't like to lose. He doesn't like to fail. And that attitude helps him be successful.

I love him. I've loved him from the day I met him in the recruiting process, and I always thought he'd be something special.

Q. What's it been about your freshmen, whether it's Josh Smith or Zach Watson, that they've taken to the stage so well while some of the veteran players seemed to struggle a little bit?
COACH MAINIERI: Baseball is a very humbling game. You've heard me say that about a thousand times this year. We need Kramer, Cole, Greg, we need all those veteran players to play, go out there and get it done tomorrow or our season's going to come to an end.

But fortunately when some players on the team don't get the hits or don't do the things that they typically will do, somebody else is there, whether it's a freshman or sophomore, like Duplantis, or whoever. Somebody's gotta step it up.

But we have very inordinately poised freshmen. And I think, as I mentioned earlier in this press conference, I think that comes from playing in so many big games in front of big crowds against tremendous teams in the SEC and nonconference as well.

So I don't think there's any stage that's too big for them. I think they're all very level-headed kids that are bright. They love the game. They take on to coaching. And they believe in themselves and they go out there and perform and it's a wonderful thing to see. Makes me feel pretty good about our future.


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