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June 24, 2017
LSU - 6, Oregon State - 1
THE MODERATOR: We're joined by LSU.
COACH MAINIERI: We're obviously very thrilled to be staying in Omaha, staying in Omaha for a few more days. It's a lot of steak to still be eaten in this town. I wish I could tell you that I went to bed last night and dreamt that Caleb Gilbert would give us seven shutout innings on one hit ball, and that Pap was going to launch one out each side of the plate and Beau was going to tommyhawk a 97-mile-an-hour fastball into the stands, but I'd be lying if I told you that.
But it shows the depth of our team, the quality of our players that Caleb can fill in a role for Eric Walker and go out there and pitch like he did and that these two guys could get the big blows for us.
I thought when Pap hit that three-run homer in the third inning, loosened our team up totally. I feel like we're playing so much better each passing day. We're so much more used to the field and the environment. It might as well be ten people in the stands instead of 25,000, because our players are just playing loose and confident and rearing to go.
And we're just thrilled to be in the championship series. I think this is the seventh time in school history, if I'm not mistaken. Bill Franques would tell us. Our sports information director, Bill Franques, inspired our team. He told us the story of the 1989 LSU Tigers going to play at Texas A&M. If I'm not mistaken, Texas A&M was 58-5, and LSU had to beat them twice in the same day to make it to Omaha, and they did. We faced an unbeatable team these last two games. They've had an amazing game, one for the ages.
And to lose four games the entire season and we beat them two days in a row, it's hard to predict those things to happen, but that's why you have to play the games, and our kids embraced the challenge. We've got a lot of pride in our program. And they rose to the occasion, and consequently we get to play somebody in the national championship series. It should be a lot of fun.
THE MODERATOR: Questions for the student-athletes.
Q. Caleb, I know you just came off the field, but you've had a season -- you've been up, you've been down. To pitch a game like this, I would say you want to pitch your best game in this kind of situation, can you put that into words in some way?
CALEB GILBERT: It's a surreal feeling to be able to pitch your team when the back's against the wall elimination game into the College World Series final.
But I just had all the faith in the world in my teammates and my coaching staff and just really went out there and pitched my game, tried to attack early with a heater and get ahead and just trust my defense behind me.
They had some phenomenal plays.
Q. Michael, we go back as far as '99 to find -- haven't seen someone homer from both sides of the plate in the College World Series. Could you take us through those at-bats and also what something like that means to you as a ballplayer, a memory you'll be able to take with you forever?
MICHAEL PAPIERSKI: Definitely feels good to get this win and to go to the College World Series finals. I put some good swings on fastballs today. And after that the wind helped a little bit. But that wasn't the highlight of the game. It was Caleb Gilbert. He went out there and, like Coach said, went seven innings strong, made one mistake at the end, but he was unbelievable today. And Hess came in and did what he always does.
Q. Beau, Michael -- Coach talked about the team loosening up and feeling more confident, I guess, with each day out here. What was kind of the moment that turned it in that direction after you come out and you lose that game to Oregon State and everything goes wrong, what kind of got it going right again?
BEAU JORDAN: It all started in the first inning with Gilbert going out there, punching out two guys and looking. And Pat came to the dugout, and he shared some team -- the strike zone with the umpire, and Josh worked a really big two-out walk. And, I mean, I came up with one of my own. And then Pap comes up and just destroys the ball, and that just got things going. And it was a very big momentum switch in the dugout, and it was great.
Q. Talk about Kramer Robertson's play on the field and at the plate today. He was absolutely amazing today.
CALEB GILBERT: Yeah, he was great. Started off the game with a base hit. Got all the juices flowing in the dugout. All the confidence in the world in him, especially making that amazing play up the middle and trusting him every time you see a ball on the ground he has my back and he's going to deliver. So it was a great game by him.
BEAU JORDAN: I mean, Kramer is going to do Kramer, and if he's on or off the field, he just brings intensity. He wears his emotions on his sleeve. I think this team needs that.
I love playing with him. And like Gilbert said, if he's behind you at shortstop, you know he's going to make every play. When he's hitting he does the same thing, he brings the intensity.
MICHAEL PAPIERSKI: I like his blond hair. It definitely makes everyone laugh, and he gets a lot of attention for that blond hair that he has now. I'm pretty sure he'll look better with short hair.
But, no, he's a great baseball player. He plays hard. Works hard. Keeps his mouth shut for the most part. And you know what, he's just a great leader for our team.
Q. Beau, which felt better, the two-out double or the solo home run with the way the double kind of set the table?
BEAU JORDAN: I would say definitely the double. Being early in the game and just Pap following it up with a big home run, just got -- got things going. And once things started getting going, we didn't stop. And Gilbert just went back out, put zeros back on the board. That was huge for the offense as well, to get us back in the dugout, and kept us going.
Q. Caleb, you went out and tossed a couple of games against Oregon State earlier this week. What did you take from that outing and to today's start, how did that help you?
CALEB GILBERT: First and foremost, they were a scrappy team, the lineup, always going out there and trying to put the ball in play. But also trying to lengthen, I guess, the count. Just get deep in counts.
I knew going into this game and watching the Alex game I had to get a first pitch strike in there. When I got ahead, just make them pay for it. But then also just that first pitch out, or the first out of the inning, I think all the way up until the last inning of this game we got the lead-off hitter out in every inning, so that was huge. Especially took away their style of play, which was a bunt-heavy offense, and kind of leaned on their pitching staff and try to produce.
Q. Michael, had you ever homered from both sides of the plate at any level?
MICHAEL PAPIERSKI: I have not. That was the first time.
Q. Caleb, your first six strikeouts were all looking. How were you able to execute in those situations and get them frozen?
CALEB GILBERT: All just fastballs away. Just pounding the zone. And the ump was giving me a little bit here and there. But a couple of balls off and just really taking advantage of it and taking advantage of them being so patient.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you. Questions for Coach.
Q. You know as well as anyone being the coach of LSU that great seasons are judged by winning the championship. But to get to this point after you guys got bit -- this is a positive question here -- to get to this point after getting beat like you did on Monday, to beat them twice, how do you rank this achievement, do you think, with some of the others you've been associated with?
COACH MAINIERI: Honestly, I think I told you after we got beat 13-1 it only counts as one loss. Sometimes games get out of hand. You're saving certain pitchers from your bullpen. You're not going to spend them once the game looks like it's going to be such an uphill battle, and sometimes games get out of hand. The other team gets on a roll or we make a few mistakes. So we just didn't place too much emphasis in the fact that we lost by 12 runs in that game.
We felt we could play with Oregon State. No disrespect to them. We thought they had a great team. I've said that every step of the way. But I felt we had a good team as well. We just needed to play up to our ability and have the kids start loosen up and have some fun. We did. We got great pitching performance yesterday from Alex and finished by Hess and today the same thing, Gilbert followed by Hess.
If you pitch well, you've got a chance to win. It's that simple.
Q. It seems like Michael has come on really strong here in the second half of the season. Was there any kind of adjustment that he made with his approach or his mechanics or something that helped him get going like this?
COACH MAINIERI: You know, you probably should ask of that Micah Gibbs, our hitting coach. I know Micah has worked closely with Pat. When Pat got here three years ago, he had a good eye at the plate. We tried to get him more aggressive. It was like he was going up there looking for walks. He walked a lot of times this year, drew a lot of base on balls, and that's what he did, he drew them. Didn't look for them. He was a tough hitter, just fouled off pitches and ended up getting some walks. But Pap has potential to be a good hitter. Watch him with batting practice; he launches balls every day into the stands.
And I think at some point this year he just got more and more confident. You add in the experience level. I don't know if it was any one thing mechanical. It was probably a better question to ask him or Micah than I because I didn't work with him. Micah Gibbs did all the work with him.
I just try to get him into the mental frame of mind of aggressiveness. Let me say this. It couldn't happen to a better young kid. He's a wonderful young man. As soon as he got on campus, he worked as hard as anybody. The first friend he made on the team was Alex Bregman. He gravitated towards Alex, and he was inseparable. And Alex taught him how to practice and how to put in the time.
And he did. Even when he was hitting under .200 in the year, you never saw him get discouraged because he did a workman's-like job behind the plate. He knew where the value to our team was.
As he hit in the second half of the season, it's obviously made us a better team.
Q. Were you hesitant at all to bring Hess in the game today after pitching yesterday?
COACH MAINIERI: Well, Hess only threw 23 pitches yesterday. And I don't know how many he finished with today. Does anybody know?
THE MODERATOR: 24.
COACH MAINIERI: 24 today. He's a big, strong guy. He told me he felt great, could give me whatever he needed.
But Alan and I talked about it it was probably going to be a maximum of two innings. We might have used PochÃ© out of the bullpen today for an inning if necessary.
But we had them kind of lined up, Newman and PochÃ© and Nick Bush. But we didn't need any of those guys.
And once we got to the eighth inning, I felt that was time for Zack again. And he didn't quite have the electric fastball today, and he's going to need a day off tomorrow, certainly.
But he knew he was ready to go, and I thought he gutted it out and did a great job for us today.
Q. Were you surprised at all by the starter that Oregon State trotted out there? Coach Casey said they were kind of between a couple of guys. So were you prepared for the one that they started against you?
COACH MAINIERI: Yeah, quite frankly, it surprised us. You know, we had received word that Rasmussen was going to pitch, and that's where we were preparing our guys for.
And then less an hour before the game we were told they were pitching the other kid. Honestly, it kind of angered our players, to be honest with you. They thought they were trying to pull something on us. And our players were bound and determined to take advantage of who they did pitch. Fehm pitched a great game against us this week. I'm not trying to discredit him. They were having problems with shadows. And when you face a pitcher that changes speeds like he does, it gave them a lot of trouble. Today, because the game started at 2:00, it was bright sunshine, no shadows. Our players just felt much more confident. But I haven't talked to Pat about it. I don't know what his logic was or what his motivation was, but it kind of upset our guys a little bit, to be honest with you.
Q. Shutting down Quan and Madrigal at the top of their lineup seemed to be key the past couple of days. What was the plan of attack against those two guys?
COACH MAINIERI: You're right, that was the key to both these games. Those two kids are pests, and I say that in a very complimentary way. You'd love to have those guys on your team.
But we changed our defensive strategy. I don't know if you noticed what we did. We knew Quan wanted to bunt. I put Josh Smith in almost like softball, down his throat to discourage him to prevent him from bunting down the third baseline, and then Jake Slaughter played in to discourage him from bunting, but he was never going to come in and play the bunt, he was just going to cover first base.
And I played Cole Freeman in almost like infield in. And if the ball was bunted on the right side, it was either going to be the pitcher or Cole Freeman fielding the ball and making the throw to Slaughter at first base. Last year when we played Florida we played that way against Buddy Reed and just tried to dare them to hit one by. Now, Quan did hit the last one by him, but Cole made a couple of nice plays yesterday and today, one each day, I think, on balls to his left.
So when you face a player like that, to gain something, you have to give something up. But I figured even if Cole had range on balls that Quan hit, he probably would still beat the ball out because he runs 3.6, he ran 3.6 on the bunt the other day.
I figured if it's hit pretty much right at him, we're going to make the play anyway. And this way we can discourage him from bunting.
He showed bunt a couple times in these two games but never tried to actually attempt a bunt, maybe it was because of the alignment. And then the two-hole hitter, he's a good hitter. We were very fortunate. I think he drew a couple of walks yesterday. Did he get on base at all today?
Q. One walk.
COACH MAINIERI: One walk. To me, the key of stopping Oregon State was to keep those two guys off base as much as possible. It's not taking anything away from the rest of their team. They had a very good lineup. But they're not as scary when those two guys are off the bases.
Q. Following up on what you were just talking about, you've coached a lot of great teams. You've played against a lot of great teams. What was kind of the challenge of playing against Oregon State these last few games like, and how do you put what they did this season in context?
COACH MAINIERI: It's unbelievable what they did this year. To lose four games out of 60 when they came here, whatever their record was, you don't do that accidentally.
I've had a couple of teams that I think -- well, we had one team in '13, I think, we came here, 57-9 or something. And I don't remember what our '15 team was. I had a team at Notre Dame that had single digit losses in the regular season.
It's hard to do that. It's like once in a blue moon something like that happens. And it's pretty much to think of them that they're invincible, that they don't have any weaknesses. And they don't. They have a very balanced team. They pitched great. Great defense. Offensively, they had table-setters, power guys. They had it all. But you still have to go out and play the games.
Honestly, when Bill Franques told me about the games at Texas A&M in 1989, he gave us some inspiration, some history that can inspire and you give you some confidence.
They were an outstanding ballclub, one of the best, just like our team was in '13. But we didn't win it out here either. You still have to play the games. We felt if we played up to our potential, we could compete with them.
Q. Coach, Kramer obviously got off to a slow start out here. He hit a couple of balls hard yesterday. And did you feel that kind of carried over to today, and how much difference does it make to get him on base a bunch like he was today?
COACH MAINIERI: I think the only one that gets mad when Kramer gets hits is Cole Freeman, because I make him bunt a lot when Kramer gets on.
But you could see that Kramer, like you mentioned, he hit a couple of balls hard yesterday. And I think the game before that, or the game before that, he hit another one or two hard.
He's not a home run hitter. When you hit balls hard, there's a chance they're going to get caught, because they're not going over the outfield fence.
Can't have bad luck if it's going over the outfield fence. This is the difference of Kramer Robertson today and maybe three or four years ago. He's so much more mature. That he knows that's part of the game. In the old days he would have hit a ball hard right at somebody and it would have wrecked him for the rest of the game.
But he understands that he, much like Papierski did earlier in the year when he wasn't hitting he was playing a critical position defensively, Kramer still played great defense for us.
I know he had a couple of errors the other day, but whenever he hasn't hit, he's still gone out there with a lot of pride and played good defense. I think that's another thing Bregman taught him.
When Bregman was a sophomore, he had a terrible slump during the month of April, yet he played the best defense he ever played at shortstop for us and he showed a maturity I think that rubbed off to Kramer. Now that Bregman is gone, Kramer learned from him.
He's still a great leader on our team and played hard and done a lot of other things even if he doesn't get hits. I did send him a text message last night after the game and I said, Hey, did you know you have 84 hits this year? Trying to remind him that he's had a great year and he's gotten a lot of hits. And he texted me back and said, I did not realize that. I said that's the second-most hits on our team. I just wanted to remind you that you're a really good hitter.
Sometimes even those young kids have to be reminded that they're doing some really good things. So I guess now he's got 87.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you.
FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports