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June 24, 2018
THE MODERATOR: We'll start with a statement from the coaches. Coach Van Horn, would you start, please.
COACH VAN HORN: Sure. Just what an honor to be here. Obviously just real proud of the players throughout the season for being so resilient and just pulling for each other. It's been fun to watch, fun to be a part of. The whole College World Series experience has been incredible.
Congratulations to Coach Casey and his team, had an opportunity to watch them a few times here as well as throughout the season. Just really intrigued how a team went throughout the season, lost only five, six, seven games all year, pretty much duplicated it again this year.
So I try to catch them on TV when I could. Their games come on a little later than ours, catch them at night. Knew they were going to be here, hoping we'd have an opportunity once we got here watched them play and told Pat that I figured that they would fight their way through like they did. And I think it's going to be a great series.
THE MODERATOR: Pat.
COACH CASEY: First of all, it's an honor to be here and represent Oregon State University and congratulations to Arkansas, Dave and his club. They're outstanding. They've been terrific from start to finish.
I think anytime you knock off the defending champion, it says something about your club. We know this is going to be a heck of a series. Proud of our guys and the way they've handled themselves as a team, the things we've built and knowing a lot of those kids won't be here next year makes it even more special.
Like I say, whenever I come here every year, anybody that has an opportunity to play in the College World Series in my opinion gets to play in the greatest sporting event in our country I know speaking on behalf of myself the rest of the staff, Oregon State University and our players, it's truly a thrill to be here.
THE MODERATOR: Let me introduce the players up here. Blaine Knight, junior pitcher from Arkansas. Carson Shaddy, senior second baseman from Fayetteville where he played for the Purple Bulldogs. Nick Madrigal, the junior second baseman, the Beavers, from Elk Grove, California, and Adley Rutschman, sophomore catcher for the Beavers from Sherwood, Oregon.
Questions for the student-athletes.
Q. Nick, many people, many people say that baseball is a game of failure and that to be successful you need to regularly overcome obstacles. What advice can you give to an aspiring D-I athlete on overcoming adversity to ultimately find yourself in Omaha?
NICK MADRIGAL: There's always going to be people, negative people in the world, whether you're in baseball or other sports or in life.
For me, at a young age, I set goals, and there's a lot of people along the way that told me I was too small or couldn't do things. But I was so determined to reach my goals and not worry about anything anyone else said and I worked every single day for those goals. And I still have goals to this point. I wouldn't worry about what other people think out there. If you want something bad enough, you're not going to worry about the other people. I think if you set goals and work for them, I think everything else will kind of take care of itself.
Q. Adley, growing up in Sherwood, you've seen what Pat's been able to grow over there. Were you in first or second grade when they last went? Just to be on this stage, obviously of what your grandpas all taught you, and just being here, can you take yourself back to being a kid watching them on TV and now here you are?
ADLEY RUTSCHMAN: Growing up you watch the Oregon State program you figure out what it's all about, and from a young age I wanted to go to Oregon State. That's the only place I ever set a goal of going to.
And when I got the opportunity to play here, seeing what the previous teams had done, winning two national championships back to back and just to be able to get an opportunity to go here twice and now play for another national championship, I feel very fortunate just to be with the team that we have here and just the guys and the character that they all have around them. It's something special. And I'm just really excited to be a part of it.
Q. Blaine, what have you been able to see of Oregon State so far? What do you think of their lineup and have you gotten a glimpse of them here?
BLAINE KNIGHT: Yeah, I mean, they can obviously swing it really, really well. And top to bottom they're really solid. And I don't have a plan yet, but Coach Johnson, I'll get with him later this afternoon, get some stuff together.
But I'm really looking forward to it. They're all around a really solid team.
Q. What you've seen of the Arkansas pitching staff, have you had a chance to look at them since you've been here?
NICK MADRIGAL: We caught briefly, some of the games on TV. They're all around a really good team. They throw the ball in the zone, mix up different speeds. Haven't got into scouting reports yet. We'll probably do that later on today and go more in depth of different plans, what to look for.
But we've caught some games on TV briefly. It's going to make for a really good series. We're excited to get out there tomorrow. I'm sure the crowd is going to be buzzing like it has in the last couple of games, but, yeah, we're definitely excited to get it going.
ADLEY RUTSCHMAN: Just what Nick said. To get to this point, you know, it's not easy. I think it's a real testament to their team. Obviously they have a lot of great players on the team. They swing the bat well and they pitch well. I think everyone was just excited at this point to enjoy a great series and have the opportunity to play for the national championship.
Q. Nick, Adley said he grew up wanting to play for Oregon State. When did the Beavers kind of flash on your radar?
NICK MADRIGAL: You know, growing up, I've always -- my whole family has always been a baseball family. I've watched baseball from a really young age. I would honestly say not until probably freshman year of high school, probably eighth grade.
I had a friend, close friend that went to the same high school, Jake Rodriguez, he caught on the 2013 team. I looked up to him. He went to the same high school. He was the best player around. And when I saw him in a Beaver uniform, I kind of fell in love with it.
And once I got up to Corvallis for myself, yeah, I immediately knew that's the place that I wanted to be and the program I wanted to win for. So I would probably say not until eighth grade when I got on campus, checked out the facilities, talked to the coaches. I knew that's the place where I wanted to be.
Q. Pat, can you speak to the level of resolve it takes to win four straight elimination games, and can that serve you well going into the series, or either of the players?
NICK MADRIGAL: We really haven't thought too much about elimination games or being -- we've taken every single game -- we've approached the same all year long, no matter if we're in Omaha or regular season game. We've tried to go out there and be aggressive and not worry about how many games we have to win to get to this point or anything like that.
The coaches do a great job of telling us just to stay in the moment, take it one pitch at a time, play our game, and hopefully the rest will take care of itself.
And it has to this point. Moving forward, we're going to take it the same like we would any other game.
ADLEY RUTSCHMAN: Yeah, you know, when you lose the first game, seeing the task ahead, I think it's really important to just take everything one step at a time, one game at a time, one pitch at a time.
I mean, I think our team has a lot of great guys who have been here before who have overcome obstacles, and we really had to come together there to win those four games. And I'm just really proud of what our team's been able to accomplish so far.
Q. Carson, Blaine and Nick and Adley, Arkansas first, what have you learned about your team when you started in September with your fall ball and your intersquad games and building through everything and all the things you did during tough conference play postseason play to get to this point right now? Maybe reflect on your team, your style and what it means.
BLAINE KNIGHT: From early on, the fall, you could kind of tell the team's going to be special, especially put everything together. And we played like we're supposed to play.
And we really showed a true testament what this team was, especially we ran into Mississippi State when they were really hot and they swept us, and it didn't get us down. We bounced right back. Every time we got punched in the mouth we bounced back, truly a testament how good mentally this team is and how good we are.
CARSON SHADDY: Along the lines how mentally tough we are, we have a lot of older guys on this team and we have a bunch of expectations, and I think the older guys showed the younger guys expectations are just opinions and only thing that matters is what we do in the dugout and on the field.
I think that's driven us, and I truly believe that. And the talent shows. We've got guys on the lineup the whole lineup 1 through 9 that can do it. And then the guys on the mound are three studs and our bullpen as well.
It's been a really good season. We're really happy to be here and we're looking forward to the matchup against Oregon State.
NICK MADRIGAL: I think ever since day one we knew we were returning a lot of the same core group of guys from last year that went through everything we did.
We're excited to get together. We knew we had a lot of freshman coming in that could help us out a lot. We have to give them a lot of credit. Like Kevin Abel pitching yesterday, that's probably one of the biggest starts of his career and he did awesome for us.
And we really bonded, we brought in the freshmen, tried to tell them to relax and play the same game. They're at Oregon State for a reason. And we've known from day one that they could help us out. And this team's really, really closely bonded, from the first day I stepped on campus with the seniors I had from my freshman year, it seems like a family atmosphere. That's the way Oregon State is. And we're excited from day one about this season and hopefully we can keep it rolling. But we have a lot of great guys on the team.
ADLEY RUTSCHMAN: Coming in day one we had a lot of the same guys as last year, but with the new freshmen group a lot of different personalities coming in, you don't know how it's going to mesh and you know sometimes the freshmen guys, new guys will have to step up in different situations and see how they respond. And I think that I think our older guys did a great job of accepting all the new guys and guys like Kevin Abel, Christian Chamberlain, and all the guys have really had to step up in the College World Series, have really made huge strides from the beginning of the season.
And I think that they've done a really great job of stepping up mentally and even when they're not feeling great, they don't have their stuff. And I think that just as a team we're really closely bonded, and that's probably the biggest reason that they've been able to step up.
Q. You guys have played a lot of games in a short period of time. How are you holding up physically and mentally?
ADLEY RUTSCHMAN: The first game was pretty hot one for us. And we weren't able to win that. But just kind of moving forward you got a lot more games in the losers's bracket, and you kind of have to stick with the same mentality, whether the weather affects you or not, feeling sore or tired. We've got guys pitching on very little rest and coming up back-to-back days and whatnot.
So just trying to keep that focus on the end goal and what we're really working towards, and it's a short season right now. And, I mean, very few games left. So I think guys realize that it's all or nothing from this point and we're just kind of focusing on ourselves and what we need to do.
NICK MADRIGAL: During the offseason, we didn't wake up at 6.00 a.m. every other day and out there all day at practice just to be tired at the end of the season where we want to be. So we've put in all the work during the offseason to this point.
There's no time to be tired. I'm sure not everyone is feeling completely healthy or whatever it may be. But the coaches have got their message across to us if you're going out there and you're not -- so you're probably not playing as hard as you can, but, yeah, you know we're feeling good right now.
We're excited for the matchup, and we're going to take it one step at a time.
Q. Carson and Blaine, you guys are used to playing four and five games a week, but you've had a lot of downtime here. How have you managed that, and is there any anticipation for getting into a normal week this week?
CARSON SHADDY: You know, yeah, for sure we've had a lot of downtime. We really just try to get our bodies right. That's the most important thing. We've got a big three games coming up. And we've spent a lot of time in the hotel watching games, we watched their games last night and the night before, and just kind of taking it easy.
BLAINE KNIGHT: To piggyback off what Carson said, we've had downtime, mainly just recovering and getting our bodies ready to go for this series coming up because we know it's not going to be easy and it's going to take every bit of energy we've got.
Q. Carson, when growing up I'm sure one of your goals was to play in the Little World Series, then the State Championship for your high school. Then when you set foot on campus, your goal was to get to Omaha. As you take a step back, has it sunk in that you are living a dream that so many guys share but few get to experience this week?
CARSON SHADDY: Yeah, it's kind of incredible just what you're saying. There's just a very few amount of guys that get a chance to play for a national title.
And, you know, the whole high school scene is a little bit more attainable. And lucky enough I got to play for a state championship and we won my senior year.
And when you come to school, that's definitely the main goal. If you're a D-I athlete and you don't have that goal, then you probably shouldn't be playing.
But now that we're actually in the conversation to put that banner up in 2018, it's pretty incredible. And, again, we're really excited.
Q. Carson and Blaine, curious if you guys could speak to how Casey Martin's speed can change a game?
BLAINE KNIGHT: I mean, Marty is really -- he's an incredible athlete. You saw the ball he hit the other night. That was a little chopper back in the middle and he beat it out and it ended up being an RBI for us, gave us another run, a little more cushion. His speed plays in really well, and I think it helps him defensively as well. He moves really well over third base and is able to make some really tough plays look easy.
CARSON SHADDY: It's kind of funny. I think anytime you can get all the Arkansas football players all over Twitter saying how fast that kid is, that's a true testament to how fast he really is. That kid is the best athlete I've ever been around. That's scary. He's just a freshman. Seems like he's always in the right place at the right time doing the right thing.
And his speed, and like you said, it's just absolutely incredible. He's the fastest guy I've ever seen and played with for sure.
Q. Carson, just from where this team was a couple years ago, where you guys finished not making the tournament, just what's happened, what's allowed you guys to go in just two years to be on this stage now?
CARSON SHADDY: Yeah, you know, after the 2015 season when we came to Omaha, the 2016 season, I think we were a little bit on our high horse and we might not have worked as hard as we needed to and whatnot, and some of the things that didn't go back and go our way.
But just coming back after that and going through the worst has really put a lot of pressure on us to perform at our best, and I think that's what happened the last two years to try to climb back where we need to be and to get back into the NCAA Tournament.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you. Congratulations. Questions for the coaches.
Q. Coach Van Horn, your program will be competing for the national championship for the second time this week. You've coached many talented times like Dallas Keuchel who never had the opportunity that your team had this week. Could you describe your emotions knowing that you have the chance to win the national championship for your squad this year while also representing so many former players who helped build your program.
COACH VAN HORN: I haven't sat down and thought about how I feel yet. Once summer moves on, win or lose, I'll reflect a little bit. It's special to be sitting up here -- I mentioned it at the beginning -- there's a lot of former players that have gone through our program over the years that have made it to Omaha but haven't had an opportunity to play for a championship. It means a lot to them.
It means a lot to our players, obviously. But just reflecting, that would be something that I'll do down the road, just excited to be here and just want to make sure that when the first pitch is thrown tomorrow, that our guys are locked in, ready to go.
Q. Pat, Adley had a phenomenal season and here at the College World Series he's doing even better, arguably. Is there anything in particular in his game that you think has helped him reach this next level, and at what point during the season or here did you see it all click for him?
COACH CASEY: I think one of the keys was that he played football last year. And when you don't play fall baseball and you're playing football, it makes it kind of tough to develop some of the things when you come, in he's been a multi-sport athlete in high school. I think the big key for him is just getting to the point where he was just a baseball player.
Q. Dave, can you talk about managing -- not expectations -- but managing all the downtime you've had over the last couple of weeks not playing a whole lot of games? Has there been anything you've tried to do to get yourself out of the hotel, anything you've planned for the team to try to get them out and get their mind off of just sitting around?
COACH VAN HORN: You know, the end of the season was for us -- our last series was at Georgia, Thursday through Saturday. We go straight from Georgia to the SEC Tournament.
Bottom line, we were on the road for like 11 or 12 days straight. We went back, got to play at home a couple weeks in a row. We almost needed a little downtime, to be honest with you. And what we've done is practice has been shorter. Just an hour, hour and 15 minutes, working on some things, swinging the bats, taking some ground balls. Not trying to reinvent everything.
As far as hanging around the hotel, I think the guys have figured out how to stay busy. There's a lot going on. They can go eat. We trust them.
We haven't gone over the top. We're not following them around. We give them a curfew. And, again, it's like I told them, if I've got to follow you around here, then we shouldn't be here. And I don't think we would have been here.
So I think we've had some guys that like to go fishing. They're going to go again today. So whatever keeps you loose, and some of the guys I see them out walking around. I've seen a bunch of the guys at the games. We've been fortunate that we had to play three games instead of five or four or whatever it took.
And so I just think it's been good for us at this time of the year to be able to just give these guys some time off. I mean, we didn't even practice yesterday. And I think when I told them that on the bus, they were relieved.
Because if we're feeling it, then we know they're feeling it. I guess there hasn't been a special plan or a lot of team events. We have a lot of parents here that are taking up that time, which has been great.
Q. Dave, Blaine Kinsley's impact, have you all lifted here, and what have you seen with the team as far as strength, and I can see Blaine Knight has bulked up a lot?
COACH VAN HORN: For people who are seeing Blaine Knight for the first time, they're probably going are you being facetious there or are you being serious? Our strength and conditioning coach has done a tremendous job with our program. It's his first season here, Blaine Kinsley, and I feel like I've got another coach.
He's earned the players' respect. They know he's looking out for them, but he's also getting after them. We've maintained our strength throughout the season. I can't say that that's always the case.
We have guys that like to work out and lift. To answer your question, yes, we've worked out three or four times. Usually the way we've been handling it, an example, we'll work out for an hour and 15 minutes at Creighton, then we'll go into their weight room across the street.
And they all have their individual workouts and trying to maintain the strength that they have. It's a long season. So it's been a great thing having Blaine in our program this year.
Q. Through the course of the year, what kind of advanced scouting have you been able to pick up on the other, seeing games on TV, doing stuff here, what kind of analysis have you had of the other teams? And to Coach Casey, can you tell us what your pitching plans might be?
COACH CASEY: We don't do a lot of advanced scouting on teams in the other leagues because you wouldn't know. I mean, I've seen them play on TV, like Dave was saying, the luxury of so many games being televised now. It's fun and enjoyable for me, anyway, to watch other guys go through the stress of coaching a game while I'm sitting on the couch and you're sitting there, saying, that club's pretty good, look at Dave, he's got a guy at second now with two outs.
So even when you got here, I never thought about another team in the other bracket because you had to get through the bracket. So I haven't done any of that.
As far as our pitching, we're going to practice today at 1:00, let's see, 1:30, and everybody knows that we've played five games and we're going to find out who feels good. And we've got a couple different options, that's for sure.
But we're not in sequence, because we got in the loser's bracket, and therefore we can't stack it up the way we want to stack it up.
COACH VAN HORN: Obviously a couple days back, when it came down to Mississippi State and Oregon State, we know everything we need to know about Mississippi State.
So just watched them a couple of times in person, six, seven innings each game. Just kind of looking for tendencies or pretty much things I already knew. Just seeing if that was the way I was seeing it on TV. And you can look over stats and if a team strikes out a lot or if they take a lot of pitches or sac bunt certain situations, what pitches are they sitting on, you just try to do the best you can.
Sometimes you can watch it on TV and you can pick up a little bit more in certain areas maybe on the pitching part of it. Coach Johnson's done the best he can to tune into their hitters and try to figure out a way to get them out. Because the top five hitters, there's no better top five in the country.
So if you call that advanced scouting, I don't know. We all have our services that we might get all the spray charts and all of that stuff. But sometimes it's just about putting your eyes on guys and trying to figure it out.
Q. Coach Casey, you've been in this position before. It's your sixth College World Series as a head coach at Oregon State. And it's your third time to play for the national championship in the finals. From your years in the dugout, does having that previous experience in these high-profile games help your team prepare for this week?
COACH CASEY: Well, I hope so. The one thing about these players, like Adley was saying, he was in first or second grade when we played for the title a while back. So you hope that you have experience in the game and you hope that being there helps them have some comfort that may be what you're trying to guide them can get them to where they want to go.
Ultimately, I think Dave and I would say the same thing at this time of the year: You know, our regimen of preparing them to play is complete and they've got to play the game as how they play the game. Probably not going to get a whole lot better today.
So therefore I think it becomes what they've regimented themselves to do. And I hope any experience that I have can help guide them.
Q. Pat, to follow up on the question earlier about your pitching staff, having been through a year previously where you went through the loser's bracket to reach the finals, can you speak to how difficult it is to keep that group fresh and how it maybe compares to this year where, other than yesterday, your starters haven't worked a lot. And obviously Heimlich has only thrown five innings and is on four days' rest tomorrow if you used him?
COACH CASEY: The last time we did this thing was so much different because our starters gave us great starts and then it was the decision as to, hey, can you throw, you threw seven and two-thirds against Rice.
Now we haven't got one quality start out of our two best guys in four starts for them. And so therefore -- I'm being up front -- that's puzzling to me. I'm not positive how we got to that point to where we can continue to play when the freshman gives us the big start that we've had.
And so we just gotta talk to those guys today and figure -- there's people that started, Christian Chamberlain started the game before. And Luke and Fehm started a bunch. I don't know that there's one that couldn't start the game, but it comes down to those that feels like he could go five or give us five at that point in time. I think when you get to the loser's bracket and your opponent, they went in succession, you really can't concern yourself with anything other than who is the best option.
Q. Dave, mostly you on this one but also, Pat, if you want to chime in a little bit as well. Oregon State has 109 of 127 games in the last two years. Just could you just comment to the level of accomplishment that is?
COACH VAN HORN: Are you asking me? Okay. I'll start out from my perspective. I mean, it's incredible. Like I said, they play in a great conference. West Coast players, very skilled players. And to win that many ballgames, it's almost amazing to me, because I think I know how hard it is to win.
And it's not easy. And we talk about it all the time. How are they doing it? And it's not like they're in Houston where they can just run down the street and grab players. They're going all over the place and they're doing it with kids from their region, and, I mean, hats off to them.
It's been incredible to watch from the outside.
COACH CASEY: I think we ran into a good group of kids and the ball bounces your way. Last year, I think it was, we won 15, 16-run games. You've got to have the good fortune on your side and last year certainly a lot of -- like I said one-run game after one-run game.
Those guys, pretty good group of guys. Play hard, like to play the game. All the things that got both clubs here. And ultimately nobody cares how many games you win unless you win the last one. So, anyway, it's a good group of young men.
Q. Dave, you have a chance to be the fifth different SEC program to win a national championship I think in 10 years. When you play a full schedule and leave like that, what's that do to prepare you for June, what's it do to prepare you for a moment like this?
COACH VAN HORN: It definitely prepares you. We talk about it all the time. This year, this is my 16th year in the SEC. And it was the deepest league span. There were no weekends off. You have Mississippi State this close to getting to the championship series and they came in fourth or place in the Western Division.
It was just one weekend after another. And there was never a break. Kentucky had as much talent, was as good as anybody going into the conference going into the season, going into league play and it didn't go good for them.
And it makes you resilient, number one. It teaches you how to prepare for what's about to happen every weekend. And if you don't show up or if you have a bad weekend, you'll get hammered.
And that's kind of what happened to us at Mississippi State. We didn't play very good. And they were in last place at the time and they beat us three straight in less than 24 hours because we had to move Sunday's game to Saturday due to weather coming in. We limped out of there.
But it definitely prepares you for just about anything that's coming your way. And obviously we haven't seen some of these pitchers or whatever and that's really, that's the only difference because you don't see the arm sometimes but you've seen something like them.
But as far as just the game itself and the competition, it definitely gets you ready.
Q. Pat, what's been the key to the success that you guys have had hitting with two outs pretty much throughout the entire NCAA Tournament?
COACH CASEY: I don't know the answer to that specifically. I know we've done a really good job of it. I would prefer that they would start that a little sooner before we get two outs. Maybe we can score a few more runs.
But I don't know, just things got rolling, we kind of had a thing going. And we certainly -- we were handled last night after the one inning. Their arm dominated us.
So we gotta do a much better job, but we've certainly been good with two outs.
Q. Dave, seems like all the Cornhusker fans we run into here say I'm pulling for Dave Van Horn, what do you think about the response you get from them when you come back here?
COACH VAN HORN: Their response has been great. Seems like it's gotten better through time. When we came here in '04, I didn't know what to expect. I didn't know if they were still mad at me for leaving or what because it was just a couple years out. But ever since in '09 it got better. And '12 it was good and seemed like the longer we had been here the more we got to talk to some of the former fans or some of the -- I guess they're still -- they've been fans forever, but just to talk to the Husker fans.
They've been tremendous to me and my family. I've said it many a time, the five years I spent here were huge. I mean, we took that program from basically last place in the Big 12 and everybody kind of thought, hey, you're just a football school, to very respectable, and then at the end we were the best team the last couple of years.
And it was really hard to leave, to be honest with you, just because of all the success. And there was only one place I would go, and that was Arkansas.
So I'm thankful that they've been so kind.
Q. What's the sense of pride that you have that you're back here on this stage where maybe '05, '06, '07 people said that's fun, that's cute, that's flukey, but now people expect Oregon State to be here?
COACH CASEY: I think that's a tribute to our players and our program over the years. I think coaches are much more excited for their players than they are for themselves, because that's what you do every day.
It would be like being a teacher and you go -- you want to see guys move on and people move on and be successful. That's the way it is here. You know guys come to college to play in the College World Series, get an education, do those things, and ultimately if they can do that and experience that, makes you feel good.
So I have a lot of pride in the guys that I get to represent.
Q. Coach, just wanted to ask you about every time we talk with the players after the game they say how much of a family this ballclub is. And it seems like Beaver Nation is a part of that family, traveling almost 1400 miles here. Can you talk about how important it is to have those guys support your team?
COACH CASEY: I think it's really important and the great state of Oregon has embraced us, and that's been going on for a long time, the sport of baseball.
And we are extremely thankful for those guys who traveled that far, take the time, it's always tough when you lose in Omaha how people feel. But they've been here. They've been here in force, they've been strong, they've stayed with us. I think it's very important with that family atmosphere we created there and they're a big part of that.
Q. Dave, I think you first brought Arkansas here in '04 and Pat has broke through a year later. Wonder if you guys can look back: What did the first trip to Omaha do to -- did it change things? Expectations? Exposure? Maybe internally? An added drive? What did you notice that was different after coming to Omaha for the first time?
COACH VAN HORN: Well, when we got back in 2004 it was my second year at Arkansas. And they hadn't been in 15 years. So it was big for our program, and it helped -- it kicked our program -- it kick started a little bit. Helped us probably get some recruits.
It just felt like that was the year a lot of things went our way. In 2004, we were picked 11th in the SEC out of 12 teams. We won the league.
That's how crazy it was. It was just one of those years. I thank God all the time for that year, let me tell you that.
I mean, our program, when we got here in '04, it just took off. We started getting the guys, we started getting guys out of Oklahoma and Missouri and Texas. And obviously the kids out of the state of Arkansas. And we were pretty good when we were here in '09. We had Dallas Keuchel and Drew Smyly who was just starting to pitch and a couple of other Big Leaguers on that team and at that time we didn't know what type of careers they would have.
Looking back, it's like Pat said, it's so rewarding to see what your players are doing, and then 12 we were good we just couldn't hit. We could really pitch. We were one game away from getting to the championship series. We lost two tight games, one-run game and two-run game to South Carolina.
Then in '15, we just managed to get here. And then this year we felt like it was different. But when you get to Omaha for the first time in a long time with your program, you just appreciate it. And there's no doubt that it really, really jump started us.
COACH CASEY: For us, it changed everything. People may not know that the conference didn't become a whole until 1999. So baseball in the Northwest didn't exist for the rest of the world. The Pac-6, the Arizona two schools, UCLA, USC, Stanford, Cal, they didn't want to come together.
So we did in '99. That was the president's decision. And we had no opportunity -- we were 38-14 or something and had swept UCLA in nonconference in '98. Swept Arizona in nonconference, went to USC and won one of three, so we're 7-2 against the South and we don't even go to Regional because we couldn't RPI out. It didn't exist.
When we went to the World Series in '05, it changed absolutely everything. People didn't believe that baseball existed outside of certain areas of the country. If you're in the SEC, they believe baseball, every team there, is worthy of being World Series champion. And that was the same way in the 6, the 6 Pac. Up north, they'd throw us a bone every once in a while let us play them.
It changed everything. It changed the way kids came to the north. It changed our stadium, our fan base, everything for us.
Q. I'm wondering what you've seen of Arkansas, what you've seen of their pitching, the fact they're set up on normal rotation on regular rest. And Steven Kwan, he played last night, went to play defense, is he good to go?
COACH CASEY: What I've seen of Arkansas is what everybody else has seen, pretty darned good. I don't know if I've seen a more complete team pitching defense, speed, power. People think we've got power.
I think we've hit 60 home runs. I think they hit 98. Just a terrific team, well-coached, discipline, you name it. There's not any weakness they have on their team.
As far as Steven Kwan, don't know. You know, last night I probably allowed my trust in the players get to me because he wanted to get an at-bat and go into the game and he was 100 percent and it was probably against my better judgment that I allowed that to happen. And so thank God nothing was hit to him.
He said he was 100 percent last night, that's all I can tell you. He ran up the tunnel and hit before the game. So we'll see, we'll see how he does in practice. I sure hope he's healthy. I sure hope he can play. He's a heck of a player. He's a big part of our club. And we'd certainly like to have him in the lineup.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you. Congratulations.
FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports