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May 24, 2018

Brian O'Connor

Derek Casey

Bennett Sousa

Jake McCarthy

Durham, North Carolina

Virginia - 4, NC State - 2.

BRIAN O'CONNOR: I'll be short and let these guys talk because they've certainly earned it over their careers. I'm just really, really proud of our guys. When we lost the game to Florida State, a tough 11-inning ballgame, we knew coming down here that our fate was in our own hands, and we needed to come out and win this tournament to have a chance to play next week, and we didn't do that.

But I think -- I'm amazed all the time when you get an opportunity to work with 18- to 23-year-old young men what they're made of and their character, and I think today was a great example of what these guys and their teammates are made of.

The game wasn't going to have an impact on anything other than what they stand for and the type of people they are, and certainly Derek and Bennett made a statement today for what they're made of and the quality of their pitching ability and who they are as people, and certainly our offensive ballclub did, as well.

Really, really proud of these guys. I talked to a good friend of mine last night, and he reminded me about all the teams that finish a season with a loss, and myself, Coach Kuhn and Coach Mac have been coaches here for 15 years, and today we had an opportunity to end the season with a win, and the only other time in 15 years we did that was in 2015 when we won the national championship.

So unfortunately most of the time it does end with a loss, but certainly these guys rose up and played a great baseball game against a tremendous opponent. I really, really like NC State's baseball team, especially offensively. They've got a special offensive club, and I think that speaks to how these two guys pitched and how tough they pitched them. I think these guys showed what they're certainly capable of doing beyond here.

Q. Derek, what was your mindset coming into this game knowing what it meant, and what you felt coming off the mound for the last time?
DEREK CASEY: Yeah, I mean, there was a lot of emotion going into it. I mean, like Coach said, we needed to win that first game against Florida State to give us a chance to move on, and that didn't happen, so I mean, we kind of knew it was the last game. We were just going to give it everything we had. When Coach K came out for that mound visit right before the last batter, he said, This is your last college batter so try to make it good. But sure enough, I gave up a double down the line. But at least we got the win.

Q. Bennett, after that eighth inning you seemed really emotional. What was that like getting the save there to finish it off?
BENNETT SOUSA: The only thing on my mind after the eighth inning was we've got to win this game now. I think it's just -- you know, all these guys, we worked so hard in the fall and throughout the spring, and like Coach said, to end on a win, even though it's not where we wanted to be, you know, I think it just shows how tough this team actually is and how we kept fighting the entire season, and even though things didn't go our way, these guys are tough guys.

Q. Jake, this has been really a bittersweet year for you. You missed so much time with the injury. What did it mean to you to get back on the field and play at the level that you have, because hitting .329 and have been a big addition to the lineup?
JAKE McCARTHY: Yeah, well, like an example, today didn't really mean much for us going forward. Our season was going to end anyway today. But going out and the way we played and the way we approached it as a team, knowing that it was going to be our last game and we could have easily just thrown in the towel, I think that's kind of why it was so important to me to get back.

It means a lot wearing this uniform and going out with all these guys who are my friends. Days like this I'll remember. Going out and competing is just what I wanted to do, and I was probably out for a little longer than I hoped for, but being able to get back for these 10 days or whatever I was playing has meant the world to me. I'll remember today for the rest of my life. It was -- I had a lot of fun today, and I'm sure all these guys did, too.

Q. Derek, you mentioned the emotions that you had going off the mound for the last time. You could see on the ACC feed that they had going on, you could see everybody kind of walking up to you at the very end there. What were the emotions like from the players around you, as well, just kind of embracing you for that last start?
DEREK CASEY: Yeah, I mean, basically what Jake just said, too. 10, 20 years from now, I don't know if you're always going to remember the wins or losses, you're going to remember the relationships you had with your teammates. I think that's what I was realizing in that moment, that this could possibly be the last time I see some of these guys for a while or play on the field with them. So that's what I was feeling.

Q. Jake, just to follow up, this is now your brother's home ballpark; have you talked with him this week about coming back here and any exchange with him while they're on the road this week?
JAKE McCARTHY: I was at his apartment the other day. He's out of town, so I tried to trash it, but my dad wouldn't let me. I'll try to leave him a gift or something. But besides that, no, not really.

Q. Coach, just looking back at the season, how do you kind of put it into perspective? Obviously you guys had adversity that's been well-documented and a lot of one-run losses. I'm sure you probably -- you probably could envision a lot of ways this could have played out differently, but are you satisfied overall with the way this played out?
BRIAN O'CONNOR: No. You know, certainly the competitor in all of us sitting up here in no way are we satisfied with how it played out. The level of our expectation, the players that are wearing the uniform and the coaches that are running the team, we have high expectations, and when that doesn't happen, certainly we're frustrated at times, disappointed, trying to always figure things out.

That said, we talked a lot about -- as a team as we moved along through this that we were never out of an opportunity to continue to play on. You know, those one-run games, if you flip half of those the other way, we're playing next week, and we didn't do that, and there was a lot of reasons behind that. But I'm proud of these guys. They kept battling. It was not easy. There were -- you look at the lineup changes throughout this year, I don't know how many different guys we played in left field. We played a shortstop that played every day there pretty much the whole year and did a really nice job in the lead-off spot when Jake went down. There were a lot of good, positive things that came from this year. Certainly the wins weren't enough and they weren't to the level of our expectation.

Most importantly I think what it does is it shows everybody that's involved with our baseball program, our players, our coaches, our support staff, our administration, our fans, our donors, and anybody else in college baseball, this is the case for any team, this thing is really, really hard to do. And we had a 14-year run of going to the NCAA tournament. You can count -- you know this stat. You can count the amount of programs in this country on one hand that have done that the last 14 years.

And so, you know, maybe there's a little bit of something to this that is a lesson to everybody that it doesn't just happen. Right, you don't just have good players. It doesn't just happen every year. You've got to be good. You've got to execute. You've got to continue to recruit. You've got to stay healthy. Sometimes you've got to get a little bit of luck, right. And there's a lot of people in this country, as you know, that really, really care about their college baseball programs, and I know that there's 14 of them in this league that care. And so it's tough, and it's a -- sometimes a readjustment, right, can be a good thing. So I'm going to choose to look at it as a positive, that it gives us an opportunity to step back for a couple of months and maybe make some adjustments for us to move forward.

Q. You talked about making an adjustment. What does that entail? Do you have meetings? Do you talk about things that maybe led to where you are right now?
BRIAN O'CONNOR: Yeah, I don't know for sure what it entails yet. You know, I'll spend the next five -- we'll have a team meeting tomorrow and I'll spend the next five days, I'll have an hour, a block of time for each player that we'll sit down and we'll have a conversation, and most of those will be with players that will be returning, and talked to them about the path moving forward. And I'll also really rely on these guys because they wore the uniform, they had the experience, and ask them questions and try to learn from them for us to continue to get better.

So I'm not -- listen, our program is in an outstanding position. We've got an administration that is 100 percent fully committed to our baseball program. Not only did we do a $19 million stadium addition during this year, before this year, we're doing more after this year. Our recruiting is in tremendous shape. We've got an outstanding recruiting class that is coming in to Virginia, and we've got some really talented young players.

And so, you know, this thing is tough, and our guys will learn from it, and we'll get better, and I'm thankful for these guys that have had the opportunity to play here.

Q. Will you watch the NCAA tournament at all just to see what kind of goes on? Do you follow it at all?
BRIAN O'CONNOR: I don't know. I'll follow my friends. I mean, I'm certainly a fan of baseball. You know, there's a lot of work that needs to be done, right, and so that's going to be at the forefront of my thoughts, but certainly I've got an 11 year old boy that loves college baseball, so I'm sure I'll be watching some games with him. I'm a fan of college baseball. I hope our teams in this league play as deep as they can into this tournament.

Q. I know you're a competitive guy. Just being in this spot, how much is this going to fuel you moving forward as you try to get this thing turned around a little bit?
BRIAN O'CONNOR: You know, I'm going to be very, very careful about saying getting it turned around. That's what I'm talking about. I think sometimes we can get out of whack a little bit, right. I don't want to certainly disrespect what these guys have accomplished and who they are and what great players they are.

You know, like I said, we'll continue to assess. There is nothing wrong at all with the University of Virginia baseball program. I can assure you of that.

But certainly we'll continue to try to make it the best that we possibly can.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports

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