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June 15, 2018
THE MODERATOR: We're joined by David Van Horn and David Pierce, Kevin O'Sullivan and Tim Tadlock Dave. Will you start with an overview of your ballclub.
COACH VAN HORN: First off, what an honor to be here. As you get older, I think you appreciate it so much more. Maybe even try to enjoy it a little more and take in all that's going on. Had the opportunity to -- we played all three of these guys this year. Awfully talented ballclubs, and so we know how tough our bracket is.
As far as our season, it's been a great season for our club. We've stayed healthy. We've had a little sickness and little problems here and there, but didn't have the major injury that can take out one of your top guys. And that's why I think I'm sitting here now we kept our lineup intact, and our pitching staff for the most part was injury free, and it enabled us to continue to be consistent, and that's to think about playing in the SEC and highest level of Division I baseball.
You're going to have some down time, but if you can stay healthy, you've got a shot. Offensively we've had a good year. One of the better balanced lineups I've had. Maybe the best I've had at times.
And then pitching-wise, stayed with the same rotation pretty much the whole season. Tweaked it a little bit maybe in Game 3. Bullpen has kind of evolved. And our closer, Matt Cronin, was really good all year. He did get mono, and it probably cost us a game or two in the middle of the SEC play because we couldn't finish games off because we didn't have him.
But we got him back and he's been throwing the ball extremely well. So, again, really excited to be here and back in Omaha and have a chance to play against these guys.
COACH PIERCE: Again, thanks for some of the thoughts that Dave said, and it's a privilege to be up here with these three great programs. And you look around, and in 2003 I was with Rice and we had an opportunity to start the season as the number one ranked team in the country, and I just credit Sully here because that's tough to do when you go out and you have to represent a national championship and then maintain that number one spot.
So that's a tribute to him and his program, coaching staff and players. I look at Tim and how quickly he's turned that program around at Texas Tech and third time in Omaha in five years. And Dave has been a staple for winning and doing things the right way. It's a privilege for Texas to having an opportunity to compete with these three and of course the other four in the other bracket.
So we're very privileged to be here. And then you look at our ballclub, some of the things that have happened throughout the course of the year. We started out pretty slow.
We went to an SEC school at LSU in Week 2, didn't look like a very good ballclub. We came out of there and got beat up by Pac-12 team with Stanford at home, lost three out of four. And had to go play Dave and them in a double mid-week on a Tuesday/Wednesday, following Stanford.
So we were searching, trying to figure out who we were, who we are. And we're 99 coming out of that.
So I really just attribute it to our players, the way they continue to play and didn't make excuses. They had to make some changes defensively. Kind of got guys in the right spot.
So defensively it's kind of been our stamp all year. We've got a young man, engineering major, playing first base for us. When you look at Jake, he doesn't look like your prototypical first baseman. What he does, he makes everybody else around him better.
And we're very solid on the left side of the infield with two sophomores that have played every day for two years in Ryan Reynolds and David Hamilton.
And then moving Kody from third base to second and getting Ryan back to third has been very comforting for him and us.
And Kody has really became a very solid second baseman and also has had an incredible offensive year.
We just got a lot of moving pieces that have made that defense work, and DJ Petrinsky has been a solid rock behind home plate for us.
Then you look at our pitching staff. We didn't start well on the mound with our starting pitching, and those guys have started to come around and pitch like we thought they would at the beginning of the year.
But our bullpen is something that's been a work in progress since day one. And when you look at a guy like Andy McGuire that's 23 years old that was out of baseball for two years and Josh Sawyer who is kind of a matchup guy for us that's also been out of baseball because of injuries for two years, and a young man by the name of Parker Joe Robinson, that trio has solidified our bullpen much more and built the confidence and the defense has built confidence off them.
And offensively we're just finding ways to score. It's not like we've been incredibly -- an incredible offensive group who has found some ways to score, but I just think it's been a heck of a run for our kids.
When we got to the Regional, we played a very good A&M team and a very good Indiana team. And I thought our kids really responded well.
And then you never even thought that Tennessee Tech was going to take two from Ole Miss in Oxford, and they did a wonderful job just playing the game. And they're very, very talented. They came to us and we had to play well to win that Super.
So just a tribute to our kids, our coaching staff, and we really feel very comfortable being in this field, and we're glad we're back in Omaha.
COACH O'SULLIVAN: I want to congratulate the other coaches and programs that had a chance to get to Omaha again and obviously watched all the Super Regionals. All four of us went to Game 3, so very challenging, very competitive.
So obviously we'll be battle tested up to this point. As far as try to echo something Dave said earlier, I think the more times you come out here, the more you appreciate it because you know how difficult it is. Six of the eight Supers went to Game 3s, I think it's our third straight year we had to go to a Game 3 in a Super.
So we know how difficult it is to get to this point. And we're certainly not taking that for granted.
As far as our team's concerned, you know, we were very consistent throughout the year. We hit a little stumbling block towards the end of the year swept out at Mississippi State and won one game in the SEC Tournament and came home.
As far as our team's concerned, proud of our seniors. JJ Schwartz and Nick Horvath, opportunity to be at Omaha now this fourth consecutive year. Our juniors have been three years in a row. Our sophomores have been twice.
And obviously now our freshmen and transfers have had an opportunity to get to Omaha. It's been kind of a neat thing.
I think our team the strength of our team right now as it's been for the last few years is our starting pitching. Brady Singer has been as good a competitor as we've ever had in this program right there with Alex Faedo and Logan Shore and Hudson Randall and a bunch of other guys, and Jackson Kowar has developed into a heck of a pitcher for us. Ended up going with sandwich pick with Kansas City, and ironically Brady and Jackson both taken by Kansas City. Neat to see.
Third starter Tyler Dyson for about half the year, and we had two freshmen named Jack Leftwich and Tommy Toledo have stepped up and solidified that role, and Jordan Butler has had a huge contribution to our bullpen this year. And then obviously at the end we got Michael Byrne back who has been an All-American closer for two years in a row.
Offensively we're hoping to get JJ Schwartz back this weekend. He took batting practice first time on Tuesday and looked fine.
Whether he's going to be able to play first or catch I'm not quite sure yet. And obviously it's still day to day. And Jonathan India, our first baseman All-American year, 20 home runs for good two-thirds of the year hit about .400. And he's a first-round pick with Cincinnati. Heck of a career for us and heck of a year obviously.
Deacon Liput, shortstop since day one this year, and we've got a junior named Blake Reese who has done a terrific job at second base.
I guess one of the newcomers that's kind of put a huge lift in our offense is a young man from Tennessee named Wil Dalton, 19, 20 home runs and solidified the middle of the lineup. In left field we have Austin Langworthy who has gotten hot here the last two, three weeks of the year, nice job at the plate.
Another junior that's going to come back senior year, named Nelson Maldonado, filled the DH role the entire year.
This is probably one of the years we've not shuffled the lineup as much as we may have in the past and then maybe has given us a little bit more consistency at the plate.
But like I said, going back to what I originally said, really proud of our two seniors, JJ Schwartz and Nick Horvath, have the opportunity to get to Omaha four years in a row is not easy, and we're excited to be here.
COACH TADLOCK: First of all, much rather talk with you guys than to you. I'm not much on opening statements. All these guys got all the respect in the world for all their programs and their universities and the way they go about their business.
We went up to Fayetteville this year. We've seen two of the three in person. We've got our work cut out for us. I think Dave sat his best two hitters he said that day and they put it on us pretty good.
Coach Pierce came in and he came in to Lubbock. He says he's trying to figure out way to score runs. The last time I checked, they hit a lot of balls over the fence, and Sully's teams are always a handful. You always know you're going to face a guy that probably should be in professional baseball.
I was looking back at the 2016, just our report on their pitchers, and Brady Singer is on the second page. And Alex Faedo was front and center.
And so you know he's got some guys down there on the second page that are just waiting to step in there and really do what they do each and every year.
As far as our season goes, it's been a lot of fun. We got a fun group. Really excited for each guy on our team and their moms and dads and their families.
To go to Omaha from Lubbock, Texas, you need families that understand what you're trying to do. And we're fortunate to have that.
And really I don't do good reflecting. Most of you guys in the room know that. But there's some special people with our group, with our families, moms and dads, I'd like to name every one of them and thank every one of them. We don't get to see them all the time as far as this time of year, we get really busy but when you sit down and have those conversations, you gotta have people that believe in what you're doing, and we've had that.
I kind of echo what Sully was saying as far as our lineup goes, our lineup hasn't changed since we started postseason play. We got a bunch of guys that like to play. And obviously it's going to be a dogfight playing all these guys.
Each and every day we're really probably just trying to survive. I mean, that's what we've been trying to do as far as in the Regional. Played three games in the Regional and then last weekend it was all we wanted on Monday.
I think we saw a guy that's probably got a chance to go in the first round on Sunday. And you're going holy cow, if they got that on Monday, it could be a long day.
And thank goodness they didn't. But it was quite an accomplishment for our group. You go back and you look at our Super Regional games, I think probably not the way you actually want to draw it up, but the guys had the fortitude and the resiliency to get here, and anything can happen once you get here. Glad to be here.
THE MODERATOR: Questions?
Q. Coach O'Sullivan, two things, you said JJ was day to day. Do you plan on playing him on Sunday? And can you also talk about what he's meant to your program these last four years?
COACH O'SULLIVAN: Well, I can't really answer that quite yet. I mean, obviously it was positive he took batting practice on Tuesday. But these decisions are not made by me; they're made by JJ, his family and the trainer, to be honest with you. I'm not involved with those decisions. It's not like I walk up to him each and every day and ask him if he's ready. He'll come to me when he's ready. I have my fingers crossed, but obviously up to him.
As far as what he's meant to my program, second in all-time RBIs, and like a lot of our kids, they have an opportunity to sign professionally out of high school.
Very grateful that he decided to come to school. I think he's made his mark. He's going to be remembered as one of the greatest Gators to ever put on the uniform for us.
Turned out to be this is my 11th year at Florida, he's our team captain, which we've never done before. So he's kind of started a tradition that way. And his family has been terrific.
Kind of a neat story. His sister caught the last out on the softball team when they won the World Series in Oklahoma City. And obviously JJ had the opportunity to do that last year as well. So kind of a neat story with their family.
So sum it all up, he means the world to us, and he's had a tremendous career.
Q. Tim and Dave on the ends, Kevin, if you want to weigh in for sure. Coach Pierce, I think it's more of an extended thing for you outside of this room. But with this being the first College World Series since the passing of Augie Garrido, I wonder if the two of you on the end, having coached in the same conference as him one time in your career, could share an enduring memory or something a moment from your interactions with him that was impactful for you?
COACH TADLOCK: Oh, probably the thing that comes to mind more than anything is just the conversations you have with Augie before series or during the series.
He was always very much like a grandfather, I think, to all of us. A lot of wisdom there. 2010, during the opening ceremony, they were honoring him. He was getting some type of award. Got to share really neat moment with him in the dugout over there, and we were out here in '10, not with Tech obviously -- and he's a special man. He's very good to all of us, did so much for the game of baseball.
And they mentioned last night they've been doing the opening ceremony since '98, and I was thinking, heck, Augie probably went to 20 of those before they even started doing that. (Laughter).
He just did so much for all of us. And you think about the last time they went to hire Garman a couple of guys up here he definitely helped our families as far as that goes, and that doesn't go unnoticed.
He's just a special guy. But I think really probably the neatest thing in that deal was just the one-on-one conversations you had with him. And something that always to me -- I mean, we were all at baseball games throughout every summer, and every time you would be at one, you're trying to find the next guy.
And at the end of each summer, a lot of us end up in Long Beach. And what reminds me about Augie more than anything is he was right there in the background. I think he's still right there in the background right now watching all of us.
I think he's still one of the biggest college baseball fans. But when we would go out there, you talk to his assistants, they would say he's right down the road, right, we're going to go eat dinner with him. I feel he's right down the road with him right now.
COACH VAN HORN: First time I had a conversation face to face, it was in Nebraska, my first year there, we still played at Buck Beltzer Stadium. And we had worked out I think on a Thursday, early, and it was kind of cold.
And then I kind of stayed around and when Texas got there and tried to spy on him a little bit, watch him practice. (Laughter).
Trying to win.
COACH PIERCE: I'm not surprised.
COACH VAN HORN: It wasn't illegal. Anyway, but in the middle of their practice I decided, you know, go on out and say hi to him, and he was in left field. And we had a really good conversation.
Because, I'll be honest with you, that first year at Nebraska some of the coaches in the league, they weren't real friendly with us. We didn't know what we were doing.
And it was probably the middle of the season. And he told me that -- he talked about the weather a little bit, how he hated it and went on and on.
But just said that we were doing a good job and that he watched us practice a little bit and he knew we were going to be good by the way we practiced, and I told him I appreciated it.
We became pretty good friends. We talked on the phone off and on and throughout the time I was in Lincoln. And then I moved to Arkansas. Obviously we weren't in the same league anymore. We kept in touch and see him at the conventions and hang out with him a little bit. He just always had a great story.
People that didn't know him personally, they didn't know what he was all about. He was very friendly. Really intelligent. And like Tim said, he just really -- he was all about college baseball, and the man knew how to motivate a team and he knew how to win, obviously.
Q. Coach O'Sullivan and Van Horn, the SEC had the experimental roles this year, expanded replay and earpiece, what did you think? What did you like or didn't like? And would you like to see it all expanded to the NCAA postseason?
COACH O'SULLIVAN: I liked it. I mean, obviously the bottom line is just trying to get the call right. Couple things probably need to be tweaked. It does slow the game down. Probably need to have somebody maybe other than the umpires making the final decision on the call and having maybe a central command center.
As far as the earpiece is concerned, we didn't use it this year. We'll probably use it next year. I think the biggest thing with the earpiece, not using it this year, is obviously having JJ behind the plate, he was older, but obviously in postseason you can't use it. So you have to be creative that way.
The only other thing I see about the earpiece thing is it does slow the game down because you can tell your catcher to go out and talk to the pitcher as things kind of get maybe looking like they're going to get out of control or the game or innings is going to get away from you a little bit. So you can have multiple, multiple pitching coach visits to the mound, basically tell the catcher what to tell the pitcher. I think that part probably needs to be tweaked a little bit.
COACH PIERCE: I'll start with the earpiece. We used it. We have a catcher we let him call a lot of his pitches. We made some hopefully educated suggestions to him. The pitcher always had the right to shake us off. But we let Grant call them for the most part. I stand next to our pitching coach, Coach Johnson, hear the suggestions and chime in a little bit here and there.
I know Coach Johnson really likes the earpiece, being able to communicate, and not even to the point of saying fastball, slider, changeup or location, just to be able to communicate a little bit with the catcher. And like Sully said, you don't want the catcher running out there -- maybe there would have to be a rule where the catcher can only visit so much.
But we definitely like it. As far as the expanded reviews, I'm a big fan of it. I think it saved a lot of controversy. I think in our league that -- I mean the problems to me usually have been plays at first base, those are the ones that were overturned. And they changed some innings.
So I would like to see that worked on over the next couple of years.
Q. Coach Van Horn, how would you describe the rivalry Arkansas has with Texas, and even though you aren't in the same conference over 20 years, is Texas still the number one rival for Arkansas?
COACH VAN HORN: I would say maybe for adults over 50 they might be. (Laughter) our players, you know, they want to beat LSU and Florida and Mississippi and could go on and on. But I think a lot of our fan base, they still see it that way.
And like I said, we played the University of Texas on a Tuesday and Wednesday, that's early in the season. The weather was okay. We had nice crowds, big crowds. If we played them on a weekend, we'd have SEC crowds because that's the way a lot of the fans feel about it.
And when I say SEC crowd, anywhere from 9- to 12,000 a game. Probably not even -- doesn't matter what the weather's like.
So that's the way I see it. I don't see them as our rival obviously. But it's just a storied program, and they beat up on a lot of people back in the Southwest Conference days. And so a lot of people like beating Texas back then.
Q. David, I want to ask you about David Hamilton, what he's meant for your program to have his steadiness at shortstop?
COACH PIERCE: Local kid from San Marcos, came in as a freshman, and we didn't have much depth. Looked around, we had a couple of older guys we considered playing shortstop. At that point I just felt like if we're still questionable when I go with the younger player and allow him to grow into the position last year, and so he played 62 of our 63 games every day there.
He's pretty impressive. The thing about David that you see on the highlight reel is the range and the ability not to panic when he gets to a ball. But the thing I'm most impressed with him is that how well he's handled the routine play. And he's done a very good job of just being consistent day in, day out.
All hitters get frustrated about their offense. And it's pretty nice to see a defender understand and handle his offense. But really his frustrations come from when he doesn't play great defense.
So he's just been a rock for us. And then this year he's just grown more and more into the position. So anytime you have a shortstop that plays every single day for you for the past 100-plus games, that gives you some security.
Q. I'd like to get as much input as possible on this one, but this is the iPhone generation. Kids are bouncing around, doing all sorts of different things. I'm curious if players' attention spans are shorter than they used to be, and if so, as coaches, what do you do about it?
COACH TADLOCK: I'm not touching that one. (Laughter) I'm not touching that. I mean, you do what you gotta do as far as all that goes.
I don't know the answer to that. I'm not a technology guy down here. So I'll let them answer it.
COACH O'SULLIVAN: Thanks, Tim. (Laughter).
I just think like anything in life you have to evolve and you have to change. I think the ability to motivate and reach kids, because they're all different, I think that's our responsibility; that if we're going to try to do things the same way and try to cookie cut how we're going to treat each kid or how we're going to try to reach each kid, then obviously we're not going to be doing as successfully as we want to be.
So I think every generation changes. The stories back in the day were I walked to school five miles with no shoes on. I think that goes on for generations to generation.
I think with the technology that's out there now, you know, you don't want to be a dinosaur. You've got to be able to adapt, simple as that, from a coaching aspect.
COACH PIERCE: I don't think it's just the teenagers, my wife's attention span has gotten shorter. And I think that is a society thing. Fortunately I don't hang out with our players so I don't know if they're on the cell phone or not, but in our clubhouse, when we're in meetings, when we travel, we don't allow players to use telephones. When we're having team meals, it's our time. It's the way it is. As Sully said, we've got to evolve with what's happening and communication.
I would say back in the day when you had tarp duty and you would call the entire team. That was a pain. Now you've got one message, one button, and everybody understands that there's -- we don't have tarps, but the communication has really expedited because of it. But we haven't had any issues. Honestly, I don't think we've had any issues.
COACH TADLOCK: Like they all basically said, you have to adapt, and that is called group me. We call that group me. (Laughter) I think kids' attention spans, you ask that question, I think it's all the same. And I think kids are the same.
Like Sully said, you have to adapt with the times. We have to adjust our personalities a little bit for some kids.
I can tell you some kids that are in my lineup and the way they act, when they make an action and they're talking to themselves, and some that don't say anything, when they walk by me, and it drives me crazy, and I just have to be quiet, because I need that guy, get on base next time he's up.
You have to work with these guys realize what makes them go. And technology -- and each team has their rules, check the phone at the door or pregame, the other team taking batting practice, go up to the locker room, get on their phones. Some teams don't. Some teams do. Probably just depends on how it's going, how your team's playing. But it's all good.
Q. Coach O'Sullivan you face Blaine Knight twice this season. What are your thoughts on him? And, Coach Pierce, as you prepare to face him likely this season, what are your thoughts?
COACH O'SULLIVAN: He's pretty good. I had the wrong scouting report when we played him the first time at our place. And I remember, I don't know, he might have been up to maybe close to 80 punch-outs after the fourth inning. I remember JJ Schwartz dumped a 3-2 breaking ball in there for a called strike. That's not what we told our players before the game. JJ had some choice words about the scouting report. (Laughter).
So we had to flip the switch. Obviously he pitched great. I can't remember all the guys he beat on Friday nights in our league, but he was phenomenal. He beat Brady Singer, our number one. He beat a bunch of guys on Friday night this year.
And obviously we had an opportunity to see him in the SEC Tournament, and we didn't have much more luck there against him. He's very competitive. He throws both sides of the plate. Two different breaking balls. He holds runners. His stuff holds up for the whole game.
He's a true Friday night guy. And I'm glad he's leaving after this year, to be honest with you. (Laughter).
COACH PIERCE: Just quickly I'll say of course we haven't faced him yet, but anybody that's 12-0 in the SEC and nonconference play, the schedule that they've played, that tells you a lot about him.
But the thing is when you face a guy like Blaine, you're looking at a guy that not only has stuff but has plus command with four pitches. And so it's hard to eliminate a pitch and sit on something and look from one side of the plate because he can do so much.
He's a tough challenge. And he really handles himself well, even in some adverse situations, where it seems like nothing really bothers him.
So he'll be a tough challenge I would think if they throw him. But, yeah, he's good.
Q. Dave, how much has your Arkansas team changed, improved as you saw Texas in March?
COACH VAN HORN: I think we've changed a lot as far as probably just the confidence of our team. And we know pretty much what we are going to get every day. The lineup hasn't changed much. Maybe the batting order we flipped, we lead off Eric Cole, hit 2, 3, 4 hole for us. And we did that I guess maybe 25 games ago. And it seemed like it got better. I've had three different lead-off guys when we finally went back with Eric.
As far as the middle of the lineup, it's pretty much the same. We've had some guys that have -- that are playing better down the stretch than they did maybe 20 games ago, which has been big for us.
Probably the biggest change is that we figured out our bullpen a little bit and who could come in and do what in certain situations and do it again the next time, the next time, because it was a little bit iffy early.
Other than that, I don't think there's been a lot of changes. Just the fact that they know it better and we know what to expect. And I think we've been able to make moves a little better and maybe match up a little better than we could early in the season. We learned our players a little bit.
Q. Sometimes the park can play big in the outfield, can you talk about your outfielders, how they chase down balls, the arms to the cutoffs, and lots of times there's big plays at bags? What are your thoughts on your fielders in the outfield?
COACH VAN HORN: My centerfielder, I've had good defensive players, not as fast as some of them, but his jumps and reads are incredible, Dominic Fletcher. And Eric Cole plays right field. He was the centerfielder in high school. Had some issues with his ankles and feet. He's fouled balls off of both of them. He's a switch hitter. Bone bruises and all kinds of issues. Knocked down his feet a little bit, but he gets good jumps on the ball.
Left fielder is a freshman Heston Kjerstad, good job defensively. Struggled a little the last couple of weeks, lost a ball in high sky. He overran a ball that was slicing back by him and kind of an in between daylight and dark, a little tough to see, but gets pretty good jumps on the ball.
I would say we have a little bit better average outfield and combined average speed. So I feel good about our outfield play.
COACH PIERCE: I think we run well, our centerfielder, Tate Shaw, is probably a leftfielder, but we play him in centerfield, similar to Fletcher with Arkansas, because he's not our fastest outfielder of the three. He's our best guy that takes control of the outfielders and really works well with the middle guys. But Tate has kind of a football mentality. And he likes that leadership role. So I like him in the middle.
Duke Ellis is a centerfielder playing right field. And Duke can really go get them. He looks like a centerfielder. And he may end up going back there next year. But really athletic.
And then Masen Hibbeler is a middle infielder that played shortstop coming in, played second early in the year. But he's really just converted to that position really well. He's an infielder playing left field. And he can really run. But he also adds another dimension with his arm, because he throws well from there.
COACH O'SULLIVAN: Starting at center, Nick Horvath, he's about as good as we've had. We've had some good ones. Not as fast as Buddy Reed, but jumps are phenomenal. Not as fast as Matt den Dekker we had back in 2010, '11, in that range. But very accurate arm. He made that one play last year against LSU going right centerfield and threw a strike the second, kind of slowed the offense down I think in the eighth inning there, but tremendous, tremendous jumps and very accurate arm.
Left field, Austin Langworthy, just steady eddy kind of, makes his plays, doesn't make many mistakes, really good baseball player, knows how to run the bases, always gives you good at-bats and doesn't miss cut-off, really good player.
And Wil Dalton, centerfielder playing right, 6.6 runner, really interesting athlete. Reminds me as Harrison Bader, if you remember him. Rangy, wiry, strong kid that can really run. And accurate arm as well. He had a chance to play centerfield next year after Nick leaves.
COACH TADLOCK: Let's see. Cody Farhat plays center field out of Plano, Texas. High school football player, baseball player.
I think he was drafted late by Cleveland. He's a junior. He has the ability to play a shallow centerfield, which should help here.
He can really go get the ball in the gaps, very instinctive. Probably been on a few highlight plays. Probably more so last year than this year. Won a couple of series we felt like last year like literally taking home runs away.
Probably wouldn't have had that ability by the way without lowering our outfield fence and putting a pad on it. So that's kind of cool. We wanted to create that in our ballpark. We didn't want people to be able to leave their seat. And he created some excitement there in our own ballpark.
Very tough kid. Hits down at the bottom of the order. He's been in and out of the lineup. Last year he was out of the lineup for the first probably 15, 20 games, kind of in and out, and we bring him in late and you give him two innings, he would take a hit away. We are, What are we doing? Let's stick him out in center. We had a kid, Tanner Gardner, was playing center field, and we told Cody we gave him a start, Wally Pipp him, everybody knows you're better than him. Sure enough he did. As far as a defender. Tanner can really hit.
Cody can throw. I'd say he's probably got a 55-60 arm on a 80 scale. And on both our corners, we've got former high school shortstops, Grant Little plays left. A kid out of Midland Christian High School, great family.
When we committed him as a sophomore, he reminded a couple of us on our staff as Derek Jeter. That kind of body and that swing and that hand-eye coordination. Just happened to be a deal -- going into his freshman year he had a deal happen where he wasn't getting blood to a bone on his throwing arm.
So we stuck him in left field. He's probably a guy, when he goes out, probably goes out and either plays second base, shortstop or center field, I would think.
A guy that's got a chance to hit. He hits four for us. He's probably a lead-off two-hole-type hitter. Moving forward as far as in pro baseball.
He's got a 60 arm. I mean, it's a good arm. He's very -- it's handy having a shortstop playing out there because they know about cut-off men and where to throw the ball. And so he's really the total package out there.
Not very many college baseball teams will have that type of baseball player playing left field. And we've played him at shortstop on Friday night against David. And really thought we had a chance to get better when we did it.
We tried it. Tried Michael Davis at second base. Michael's our shortstop now. And really just trying to figure out what was our best lineup at the time, best defense. And it only lasted a day.
And so I think we got beat on Friday. That kind of brings you back, hey, let's get Michael back out there at short. And Michael can really throw and likes to throw.
But Grant really likes to play baseball. Cody is the same way. I think they call that area out there the no-fly zone. That might come back to get me.
And our right fielder is out of Bonaire, Georgia, our lead-off hitter. He's been there every day since day one. He's a freshman, draft-eligible sophomore. Impact runner. He can tell you he's going and go. He can tell you he's bunting and bunt. He played second base for 48 games. And somewhere in there we stuck him in right field, said go play right field, and really didn't know what we were getting.
And he's made some plays that with his feet that we wouldn't have made otherwise. He's a legitimate 70 runner.
And he's an impact player. I mean, there's not many freshmen that have come in say, hey, I'll hit lead-off and get on base 50 percent of the time, I'll steal you a base when you need to. He will try to do too much out there, believe me. He's still got a little infielder in him. The guy goes maybe in the hole and throws it and he shouldn't. He'll do that from time to time.
So if you get word to him between now and Sunday to hit the cut-off man, that would be great. He's a great kid. I mean, he's a guy I'm telling you that he can make an offense go. He can make any offense go.
He's a lot of fun to watch hit. I know he hits some balls last week against Duke where they're going, How did he do that? I mean, he's got hand-eye coordination I'm not sure I've seen since maybe a kid named Jose Pitrone (phonetic) back in 1994 and most of '92, and you didn't see him play. Junior college guy, got about 19 hits in one year and still hanging around baseball. Not a lot of guys like Gabe Holt. You start grading the arm and defense, he's a special player. And so in the last game we played I think he missed a couple of balls by the way.
And here's the deal: He let one go over him. He drifted, and the next play he's going to make it. It's a line drive hit right at him. And we all know that's the toughest one.
He's going to go in and dive and catch it, well the ballpark was playing hot that day. Ball hopped the wall. While he's sprinting in towards home plate and everyone is, hey, what are we doing here.
One thing you know about Gabe is if that happens, he's a baseball player. He's going to go to the plate and he's going to do everything he can to say: Look, guys, I got this. He sure did, drove in a big run later on.
Q. Is Brady Singer going to start for you on Sunday? And if the question is yes, Tim, can you talk about going up against him?
COACH O'SULLIVAN: Yeah, he's starting. He'll start.
COACH TADLOCK: Like I said, in '16, he was on the back page. I have no idea -- I mean, we're running out Dave Martin and Gingery, those are the same guys pretty much other than Gingery. And I've had a chance to see Brady throw a few times.
Every time you get a chance to see a guy with that kind of tools and that kind of skill, that's kind of honed his craft, you want to watch him.
So anytime he's been -- we've been able to catch him on Friday night or when they play on Thursday or whatever the case might be, you try to tune in. Coach O'Sullivan, he said the kid's a great competitor. But I think the neatest thing, he's a guy that again he's gone from the tools he had, walking in there, to now Kevin's basically taking him and he's honed his craft and the skills there.
And there's a lot of guys sitting in the minor leagues, it's really a great testimony for college baseball. There's a lot of guys with tools that don't have the skill. And this guy's been with him for three years, and now he's got the skill.
And he might have walked in there with the skill, but he didn't pitch against us. But it looks like to me that Kevin and his staff have done a great job of taking that young man and really developing him. As far as our team goes it's going to be a handful. You know he's going to attack the strike zone with the fastball and you know he's got that breaking ball and you know he's going to hold runners.
The one thing I did see the other day is he did miss a bunt. And maybe we should bunt every time. Bunt it right back to him. Our guys would look at me like I was crazy. If I said, hey, guys, just bunt it right back to the mound -- he missed one the other day -- they'd go, Coach, we don't bunt much. (Laughter).
But I really have a lot of respect for Sully and what he's done with that young man and all those guys that have walked in there. You start talking about guys that go -- kids think they're drafted high when they go in the first, between the fifth and the tenth.
And you take a guy that -- I don't know where Brady went out of high school, probably first-rounder, with me saying that, first- or second-rounder, but you start talking about guys that go from the fifth on, hey, go to college, develop the skill and look what happens.
He was, what, the 18th pick in the whole deal? That's a great testament to what a bunch of college baseball coaches are doing. And we look forward to the challenge.
I mean, anytime you get to face a guy like that, you better just step in there and dig in and get after it.
Q. Tim, could you talk a little bit about Josh Jung, what he's meant in the middle of the lineup and third base?
COACH TADLOCK: He has two outstanding parents. Dad is a high school coach in San Antonio. They believed in our staff, believed in what we are doing. And as far as what Josh has done for us, very similar to what Eric Gutierrez did in 2013, he walked in and said I'll be in the cage, anybody want to hit.
After week one of summer school, guys are going, hey, did you go hit with that guy? And they're going, yeah, you can go tomorrow; he's going to be in there a while.
And just an outstanding worker, outstanding young man. He's got a great passion for developing his skill. He understands he has tools. He's got strength. But you're talking about a young man that's gone from having some tools to -- he's developed some skill. He can separate balls and strikes and he's got some power. He can play third base. Could probably -- on a lot of college baseball teams, he's probably a shortstop.
And we've been fortunate enough to have him over there. But probably the biggest thing is the makeup. He brings -- he's a guy that, each and every day off day, NCAA telling you have to have an off day or coaches telling you hey you guys take a day, he's going to hit.
And that's going to carry over for him and it's obviously going to carry over to some of his teammates. And they found out literally within the first week there was three different people went to hit with him. They're like I can't do it that long. He's going to hit too long.
So again we're fortunate and thankful that the family believed in our staff and our university.
Q. David, how do you think you've developed since your last trip here as a coach in 2008 and how do you think that helped you get here in 2018.
COACH PIERCE: I was fortunate my first year at Rice it was 2003 when we won the national championship. When I walked in I was absorbing a team and a program that got eliminated in '02 and they knew how to win in '03. We were in that predicament of the number one team in the country the entire year in trying to defend that.
So that was really neat. But I think for me as personally to be able to recruit and get another batch of players that came in in '6, '7, '8 and really perform well here, it was a lot of our development of postseason baseball. Not only in Omaha, but just understanding what it takes to win.
So I've been able to at least give some information and some stories to our team that you think the University of Texas and you think that we're returning so many players that have been in Omaha, but Texas hasn't been here since '14. And we only have myself and Josh Sawyer are the only two on the team that have been here.
So to be able to relate that to our team and just allow them to see how special it is and understand their accomplishments, it doesn't matter if you're the number one team in the country or if you're the 13th national seed, to get here is really special. And I think at this point you've got eight teams that feel like they have an opportunity -- we all have an opportunity, but eight teams feel like they have a chance if they play well to continue and to advance.
And for us, that's something that we have to flip the page coming out of a very emotional Super and to not just be satisfied to participate but to give it everything we have.
And the stage is different, though. It's definitely different. Playing in a very intense Super Regional, 7500 people at home. But they're at home and most of those they're rooting for you. And so it's just going to be great to watch our team go out there and have this opportunity under this just humongous stage and competing against these great teams.
Q. College basketball has really struggled on what to do about the draft. One and done. Not one and done. Some other way.
Could it learn something from baseball or are the two situations so different there's not really any correlation to be found?
COACH VAN HORN: He said if you wanted to chime in on that. (Laughter) I don't know if I want to chime in on that.
There's a fine line there because you're talking about telling a young man coming out of high school example we can't pay you.
I'd like to see kids at a minimum go to school for two years college baseball we usually get to keep them for three. I've had really good players we kept them for two that were draft eligible and they signed for multimillion dollars.
I had someone from the Boston Globe call me after Andrew Benintendi signed and asked me, Coach, how hard did you try to talk him out of not signing and I started laughing. He said what are you laughing about. I said are you kidding me I wanted him to sign, I didn't need to deal with that pressure of him coming back turning down X amount of money. My point being it was a no-brainer. But I don't know what college basketball could learn from us. It's a lot different, I think. There's only a few maybe compared to we have a lot of kids that we're dealing with go through all these programs that kids are turning down 500, $800,000, which is a lot of money to a lot of people. So I would call that a no comment, I guess.
COACH PIERCE: I just think it's unfortunate that they don't get the college experience for more than a year. And most of the time they don't want to leave, but because of the predicament and the money that's offered to them, they have no choice. And so for us we deal with that a little bit on the front end. Jameson Taillon however many years ago was coming to Rice as the number two pick in the draft and he had no choice but to sign just because of the money.
But at least there's still options. And the development that's taking place in college baseball and how quickly guys are going through the system now is really benefitting us.
But I think it's very unfortunate that college basketball freshmen don't have the opportunity to continue because of the system. And because of that, they don't get the full experience of college.
COACH O'SULLIVAN: I don't know. These are all personal opinions. But coming out of high school, you have a decision to make: You want to sign professionally, want to go to college. I think everybody should be required to go three years unless they're draft-eligible after a sophomore year to stay on academic track.
To go to college for a year and to use that as leverage to go play professionally, you know, I don't think that's what the student-athlete experience should be. That's just my personal opinion.
I think if you make the decision with your family that you're going to go to college, well, we should probably get three of the four years knocked out academically as opposed to using it as leverage to move on to the next level. That's just my opinion.
COACH TADLOCK: I would agree with that statement. I think it's a three-year deal when you start talking about baseball. We've got four draft eligible sophomores on our team now. I think it could benefit all four of them to be in school another year.
I think the experience you get in college baseball is a lot better in that backfield on a rookie ball field. And you start comparing it to the NBA, though, it's two different animals. You think of Zhaire Smith at Texas Tech this year. Mo Bamba in Austin, those were two guys in our league in basketball.
I have a tough time telling those two young men don't go play in the NBA. Dave and I both, we sat in junior college a long time and encouraged guys to sign professionally if the money was right. Because it could make a difference in their life, wouldn't you agree with that. But we also encouraged them to go play in a four-year school after one year because it was what was best for them. So in each case, each individual, basketball or baseball, you gotta look that young man in the eye and their family and do what's best for them. Not what's best for you. And that's where you get in a tough bind saying here's the answer because it could be different for each family.
So I mean Zhaire Smith, no one knew who that kid was coming out of Garland, Texas -- they didn't have the NBA draft, did they? It's in a couple of weeks on the 20th or something. I just saw Coach Beard a couple days ago, he said it was the 20th. It's going to make a difference in a person's life. But the unfortunate part is the degree they get, I mean, that's the degree you get makes a big difference in your life over a lifetime. I mean, it was a dozen years ago it would make two and a half million dollars difference in your lifetime.
That's a dozen years ago. I'd hate to see what it is now. That's a baseball player. And so you start talking about it again I think you gotta look at each individual and say what's best for this family, what's best for this young man. Some guys aren't going to finish their degree. The truth is.
And so what does that guy need to do? Well, put some money in the bank and go play in the NBA. But some baseball players are going to finish their degree. They're going to need their degree and they're going to need that degree to separate themselves later on down the road.
So I have a hard time answering it blanket answer. But if you put Mo Bamba in front of me I'd say go take the money. If you put a college sophomore in front of me that's drafted in the, not in the first round, has the potential to be a first-rounder, hey, he probably ought to stay in school because we can do the same thing for you that they can do.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you.
FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports