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June 16, 2018

Gary Henderson

Ethan Small

Hunter Stovall

Luke Alexander

Omaha, Nebraska

Mississippi State - 1, Washington - 0

THE MODERATOR: We're joined by Mississippi State coach Gary Henderson as well as student-athletes Luke Alexander, Ethan Small and Hunter Stovall. Coach, an overview.

COACH HENDERSON: An overview: Outstanding game to watch. I guess if you're a fan you watched both you're probably appreciative of the effort out there at 2:44, considerably less than the first game today.

Also tremendous rarity in college baseball -- 1-0. A lot of really, really good performances. Hats off to Joe DeMers and Levi Jordan, two, obviously, extremely talented kids that played really well tonight for the Huskies.

Really proud of our guys. Stovy did a really good job all the way around, three hits. And obviously Luke Alexander had a tremendous night, tremendous at short and obviously with the three hits and coming up when it mattered.

Couldn't have asked for anything more from our pitching staff, obviously highlighted by Ethan Small's performance -- seven innings of shutout baseball, no walks. Our staff gave up four hits through the first eight innings. That's impressive, really proud of those kids and our effort. And made pitches when it really mattered and when the game was tight, obviously.

Three kids came in out of the pen and got guys out. So I'm really proud of our group. And to bounce back after the disappointment of the bunt there in the ninth and to show up and make solid contact was really impressive. Really proud of our kids. Really proud.

Q. Luke, what did you hit? Looked like you had to reach down to pull something up and knock it over?
LUKE ALEXANDER: It was a slider, outer half.

Q. Were you looking?
LUKE ALEXANDER: I knew with a guy on first and second that he was going to start me off with a slider. And he did. And then he threw a fastball on the outer half. An 0-2, I knew he was going to come out with a slider.

Q. Did you track the ball all the way?
LUKE ALEXANDER: I did. (Laughter).

Q. Ethan, when you're having to wait around a little extra, during a game like that, how did you get yourself prepared for it? Was it difficult to have maybe your expected routine thrown off a little bit? And once you got out there what was that experience like in that kind of pitcher's duel?
ETHAN SMALL: Before the game all I was doing was working on hydrating. These chairs are extremely comfortable. So I had a good time doing that. We were watching the game. It wasn't really anything different. We've gone through this situation before. We played some long games, too. And it was just finding the rhythm early was the big key for me.

Q. Luke, you've had some pretty big hits this year in key situations. What is it that makes you comfortable at the plate in that kind of spot?
LUKE ALEXANDER: I think playing for three years now, you kind of experience things like that. And being my junior year, I think it's just when you get in the box you kind of just relax.

And when you're younger, you kind of tense up. And me being a junior, I think is really -- just seeing the game for so long has really helped me.

Q. Luke, the ball you hit to left field, the one before, did you hit that even better than the one that was in the ninth or did it feel like you got all of it?
LUKE ALEXANDER: Honestly, I thought I hit it out at first. I know it's a huge ballpark. It was a slider. I hit it just a little bit on the end of the bat. But I think I hit the one to right a little bit better.

Q. With that, when you hit the one to right, having that last time, did you think, uh-ho, maybe it will stay in or did you think you had it in over his head?
LUKE ALEXANDER: Honestly I had no clue. I knew it wasn't as high as the other one. I think it cut through the wind and got over his head.

Q. Hunter, this is the third walk-off of the postseason, seventh of the season overall for you all. Does it sort of give definition to what your team has been all year that when it comes time to do it you find a way.
HUNTER STOVALL: We've been through a lot this year. When situations like that come up, we as a staff, I mean as a whole team, have full confidence in whoever is at the plate that it's going to happen just because Coach Henderson has made us be dogs, be grinders. So we get in the box and we have absolutely full confidence that we're going to get this done.

Q. Ethan, what happened on the balk in the third? I couldn't see the movement?
ETHAN SMALL: It was a small flinch. Props to the umpire for catching that. I was gripping a curveball. L.A. breaks for daylight and I didn't have the grip I needed and I just kind of moved my knee a little bit.

Q. After that you hit the guy to load the bases. How did you approach the last at-bat to get the ground ball?
ETHAN SMALL: To me that was an opportunity for a double play. And I knew if I executed the pitch, I would get him to do it.

Q. Hunter and Luke, what was it like staying so busy with the way Ethan was bouncing balls to you all night -- number of assists and put-outs? For Hunter especially, who taught you that one-handed catch and throw?
HUNTER STOVALL: Talking about the bare hand? Honestly it was, the ball was hit pretty hard and I was coming to the bag and I wasn't there yet. So it was almost -- I don't know what I was looking at, but I was looking at, like, the bag to make sure I got my foot on it. And I looked up and the ball was coming, so it was kind of like reaction.

But, yeah, it's fun playing behind Ethan just because you know he's going to get a lot of ground balls, and of course me and L.A., we love fielding ground balls.

ETHAN SMALL: I love watching you field ground balls.

LUKE ALEXANDER: I just think playing behind Ethan he gets a lot of ground balls. As an infielder that's your dream. You want to catch ground balls, throw them to first and get them out of the inning.

Q. Luke, can you compare this at all to what you did against Ole Miss earlier this year?
LUKE ALEXANDER: Growing up as a baseball fan, loving baseball, you always want to get here. And to do it here at Omaha, I think it trumps the two walk-offs against Ole Miss.

THE MODERATOR: Congratulations. Questions for Coach.

Q. You guys have won a lot of close games, especially in the Regionals and Super Regionals, a lot of walk-offs, late runs, stuff like that. Are you more excited to grab the win or more concerned that it took another ninth-inning, late-inning play to get it done?
COACH HENDERSON: No, there's no concern about it. None. Really pleased that we won. Really pleased with our kids. We're starting to get to a spot where I'm not even worried at all about the popped-up bunt, that type of a moment.

And coaches know that at times it can take the air out of you or get sidetracked, you can feel sorry, self pity, all those types of things. But we just don't go there at this point. It makes you feel really good to be with a group of people that are like that. So we're really pleased to win the game, really proud of our kids.

Q. As good as Joe DeMers was for them today, you guys had ten hits out there. Seemed like your offense kept coming. What did you see from your hitters today?
COACH HENDERSON: Well, you know, he's good. He threw a lot of balls at the bottom of the strike zone on both sides of the plate. He made it really tough. I thought the secondary stuff was solid, not dominant. I thought the fastball at times was dominant, not in the velo, obviously, but the command in the back and forth. And I'm in the dugout; I'm not behind home plate. But he's pretty good.

I thought we hit several balls on the nose that were caught. It's a tough ballpark to score in at times. But I was impressed with our kids and happy with the approach.

Q. Luke had his struggles in May, hit a lot of balls hard but didn't get a lot of hits for it. How did he maintain some consistency in his approach through that time to be as good as he's been in the postseason?
COACH HENDERSON: I think the first thing you gotta do is you gotta learn how to deal in a mature fashion with failure in our game. If you can't do that it's going to be really hard no matter what position you're playing or what skill you're trying to get better at.

So, yeah, he did, he went through a spot where he hit a bunch of balls on the nose and didn't hit some balls on the nose and didn't get any hits there for a while or didn't get very many hits for a while.

I think the biggest thing the people around him including himself you stay positive and you keep working on the basic things and eventually it turns for you and it did for him and he's doing well. He's doing real well for us.

Q. When Ethan took the ball off the calf, what did he tell you when you came out to talk to him?
COACH HENDERSON: He didn't say much out there. And I was concerned because I think he's plenty tough. Most of the time guys will give you some communication, they'll say something. But he was pretty tight-lipped. I was a little concerned that thing might have been knotted up or hit him lower than I hoped it hit him.

Threw the two warm-ups. The first one was pretty tight; he got around it a little bit. I thought the second one was much looser. He lost the tension at release, I thought. And you just go back in, you see what happens. See if he's able to continue or not.

But it was pretty solid contact right there. Kids don't understand that they can hit it back faster than you can move. That's just a proven fact. And sometimes it happens and when it does sometimes it shocks them. But he responded really well.

Q. What was your read of the ball off Luke's bat there?
COACH HENDERSON: I was extremely hopeful at that time that it might get over his head and the Dogs would win. That was -- we had talked; it wasn't like a long conversation. But we certainly were aware that they had come in with a guy at second and they weren't playing for -- with one out and coming in and trying to catch a fly ball and eliminate a sac fly. Pretty aware of that.

I'm not sure that L.A. was aware of that, but we certainly were there. And excited about the opportunity, or potential opportunity to maybe get something over somebody's head.


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