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June 28, 2018
Oregon State - 5, Arkansas - 0
THE MODERATOR: We're joined by Oregon State coach Pat Casey, student-athletes Kevin Abel, Trevor Larnach, Adley Rutschman.
Coach, an opening statement.
COACH CASEY: Well, I would just tell you what I told you the other night, and that is how proud I am of our club. And I said if we come in here and lost that game, I said I would say the same thing.
Arkansas was a fabulous club. The tournament was -- I thought all the teams here were outstanding. But what I will tell you is that the guys in the Oregon State locker room allowed myself and our coaching staff to push them to the limit many, many times, create an expectation that their successes would go beyond the baseball field and then go on in life and they'd create a brotherhood and a love for one another that wouldn't be broke.
They say that wise men plant trees that the shade you'll never see. These guys leave a legacy for the next guys that come in.
And I told them today, I said: This is the last time we'll ever put this uniform on together as a team. So when you hang it up, you make sure the guy who wears that number next time knows who you are.
Love these guys.
THE MODERATOR: Questions?
Q. Kevin, what was your expectation of yourself today? Did you come out figuring a certain amount of innings or pitches or anything like that?
KEVIN ABEL: My job was to go as far as I could, whether it was three innings, four innings, five innings, didn't matter. Just go out there and make pitches and get as many outs as I could and hand it over to the next guy.
Q. Adley, you've obviously caught Kevin all year. How did you think his stuff compared today to what you've seen all year, and what an incredible roll he was on here in Omaha, four games, four wins?
ADLEY RUTSCHMAN: Coming in as a freshman, it's tough. Pitching is a tough deal.
Kevin's always had unbelievable stuff. I think that just the strides he's made mentally are unbelievable. And that's the toughest part to improve in the game of baseball, was the mental side.
To see how he's progressed and the outing he had today was nothing short of amazing. I'm super proud of him. And I think he's going to do big things. It's just unbelievable. And I feel so fortunate to be able to catch him.
Q. Trevor, when you think back to where this team was in April, the start of Pac-12 play, to where you are now, just what kind of developments have you seen from this team over the last couple of months?
TREVOR LARNACH: Well, first, I just want to start by saying it all starts with Coach Casey and his staff. As soon as we got on campus, they really enforce the mentality that you need to win a national championship. They enforce it every single day. When we went through adversity, injuries, losses, just kept saying the same thing.
And we kept developing. We kept getting better. We kept winning. And we finally finished the job.
Q. Trevor, when you think back to where you guys were like 24 hours ago, you know, you're one strike away from having your season ended to where you are right now, I mean, has that sunk in yet, how incredible that turnaround is, and what's that feeling like?
TREVOR LARNACH: Toss-up of emotions, man, that's all I've got to say. Once that ball dropped, I said to myself: We're not done. And Cadyn put up one of the biggest battles I've ever seen this year and came through in the clutch, and I was fortunate enough to go up there and help us out. But winning this and everything we've gone through, every adversity, every single thing this year has put us through, well worth it.
And the relationship with these guys is even better.
Q. Kevin, you guys scored two in the first and one in the third, and I think the next two innings when you came out there, it was a shut-down inning. How important was it to keep the momentum in your dugout? I know it's always important, but today especially? And, Adley, if you could address that, you jumped on them early, how important was it to again sort of keep the momentum on your side in a game like this?
KEVIN ABEL: Comeback zeros are a big thing our staff emphasizes. We score a run, it's go get a zero and keep the momentum on our side, because odds are we're going to score again the next inning. Those are big. Get the lead-off guy, and that's usually a good start.
And just go out there and make pitches. And I was very appreciative that they decided to score early this game, you know? I know this team can really hit.
And we had some things not go our way the first couple of games. But, man, this team can hit. That's for sure. (Laughter).
ADLEY RUTSCHMAN: Yeah, I think after last night, I think our team felt pretty confident. Our team is always confident. But I think just having that momentum, I think our team kind of felt that. And coming into today, scoring early, I think you saw that, just that desire, that will to win from that first inning.
And it just stayed steady throughout the game. Kevin obviously put out a great outing for us. And just to keep those one-run innings, keep them going throughout the game, I think that was big. Especially that last one at the end. Huge. Huge AB by Zak Taylor.
Q. Adley, was that your football training at the end of the game? When was the last time you put that good of a hit on somebody?
ADLEY RUTSCHMAN: I was just trying to get Kevin to the ground safely. Obviously I'm going to put a little form into it, if I can. You know, gotta show the football side a little bit, even though I'm a washed-up vet.
But just it's the flood of emotions and you don't really remember it. And just fortunate to be able to do it.
KEVIN ABEL: Hasn't taken a hit like that since eighth grade. (Laughter.)
Q. Any one of the players can answer this. Just talk about the resilience of this team. You guys played a lot of elimination games here at the CWS. Do you play better when your backs are against the wall?
KEVIN ABEL: This team fights the same way every day, at practice and fall in Arizona and at the start of the season. Doesn't matter what day it is, they fight just as hard as they do, as we did today and yesterday.
I guess we played pretty well with our backs against the wall. It's not where we wanted to be, but we got it done. We always joke around and call these grinder grays, because they got us through. It's been a lot of fun.
Q. Trevor and Adley, last year obviously had to be a huge disappointment to be 56-4 and get so close to being in the championship game and not have it happen. Can you compare how you felt leaving Omaha last year to how you're going to feel leaving Omaha this year, for both of you?
TREVOR LARNACH: I said this probably 100 times, undescribable feeling. As soon as the last play was made, I just got goosebumps. Came in and ran and probably jumped the highest I've ever jumped.
But that was a jump of joy. And last year left a salty taste in our mouth, and every single person on the team probably remembers that. And ever since then, we started breaking on the finish, to finish the job. And we sure did finish.
ADLEY RUTSCHMAN: That's exactly right. Last year coming up, having the season we had last year, was phenomenal. But to come up short, there's that missing piece at the end that you can never get back and you don't know if you're ever going to make it back to Omaha.
This place is a special place, but to be able to come through the losers bracket, play eight games, maximum amount here, having everyone step up at the right time when we needed them to, I mean, it just makes everything so much better. Because it's a real testament to the guys on our team.
We've got a lot of good baseball players on our team, but they're better people.
Q. Kevin, other than getting tackled by him, working with Adley, what is it like for you to have a catcher like that, as polished as he is behind the plate and also just watching the run support he puts up and the offensive ability he has, too?
KEVIN ABEL: It's very, very nice to have. A guy gets on base, and it's like go ahead and steal. Do us a favor.
But he steals strikes better than anyone. He probably stole about 25 for me tonight. And he was phenomenal. Kept the ball in front of him. He's just unreal.
He's very calm. He's really matured himself, just being able to come calm us down and talk to us and help us through tough situations, and then he just rakes, he hits the ball, doesn't matter who it is, what side of the plate, he just hits.
He's been a big spark for us this year. I've never seen anything like that. So it's awesome.
Q. Can you tell us, Kevin, two-part question, number one, how many times have you gone nine innings in your career?
KEVIN ABEL: Zero.
Q. That's what I thought. Second part. Can you take us through your outing a little bit. It's hard to tell from the press box, did you have a little trouble with your breaking ball at times and what did you do to combat that?
KEVIN ABEL: I didn't really have the curveball at the start of the game and we didn't even call it really innings three through six, six or seven. But just fastball command and the changeup off of it. Overlaying the two.
But I guess curveball came around at the end, and I went up to Yeskie and said I want to throw an 0-0 curveball to Martin because I wanted to keep the feel for it, because he hadn't thrown in a while, figured he was hitting fastball, and he swung really, really hard just missed it. That was good. That's when it turned around for me, just kept feeding them in there, and they kept working.
Q. Adley, do you have a dissenting view?
ADLEY RUTSCHMAN: This guy went nine innings, complete shutout in the biggest game of the year, and he said he didn't have his best stuff. I'm just baffled right now. Shows how good he's going to be. He's a great pitcher.
THE MODERATOR: Questions for Coach.
Q. You've obviously won national championships before and been here several times. Can you remember having two players like Kevin and Adley who it seemed every time they took the field or took the mound had a huge performance night after night after night?
COACH CASEY: It was pretty special. I mean, Kevin was halfway through the year, we were pulling our hair trying to get him in the zone because his stuff was so good.
I remember we're down in Arizona and he had a tough outing. We just kept telling him how good he could be. And mentally he made some adjustments. I don't recall everything that happened. I can tell you Jonah Nickerson was a warrior here in 2006. I know he shut out Rice and he got us our first win ever in the College World Series in 2006 against Georgia.
So I remember that pretty good. Mitch Canham was the catcher, ended up being a first-rounder. But what they did here was, it will be remembered for a long time.
Q. I know there's a couple weekends in April that were tough. But where did the strength come from on this team to power through that and close the regular season as well as you did and finish here in Omaha?
COACH CASEY: I think the character of our club. We stubbed our toe pretty good there at Utah and Arizona and lost 4-6. We just didn't buy into the fact that we weren't going to be great.
We came out and worked every day, talked about getting better. Everybody had to get better. I had to get better. The coaching staff had to get better. The players had to get better. We just weren't going to take no for an answer.
These guys, the leadership on this club is off the chart. I mean, you have people that push one another, enjoy playing with one another. And to see guys mature from the time they're here and become leaders is pretty cool.
Q. Just revisiting that battery between Abel and Rutsch, seeing them out there today, you'll have them again next year. When you think about the future of this team and the future of this program and how much they've matured this year, how excited and hopeful are you just knowing that you're going to have them going forward?
COACH CASEY: There's some really good players that didn't get to play much this year because we had a class that was older juniors, and then we had Michael and Novy and those guys that were seniors. Some really good players. Christian Chamberlain showed you he was 92, 95 the other night in the World Series. He doesn't even know what he's doing yet. This guy's going to be electric some day.
And Fehm didn't have a good World Series, but he won a lot of games at Oregon State in three years. He was a Freshman All-American. Preston Jones is going to be a good player.
Just there's a lot of good guys there. There really are. Kevin Abel is a Friday night guy, no question about it. Got a chance to be a first round guy.
And some other guys in the back end that didn't get a chance either. Some really good arms in there as well.
Q. You talked about this so many times, but how much do you think the way the last season ended did fuel this run? And does it make any sweeter when you come that close to falling short to then clear that last hurdle?
COACH CASEY: I think so. And I think the fuel started these guys' freshman year in '16 when we weren't in the tournament. I sat there and looked at those guys and I said: There's only one way to respond that, man, we make a decision.
And those guys were committed to that. We came back last year and had the greatest season ever. Came here, played a really good LSU club and didn't get it done. And that didn't keep us from saying let's do it again.
I don't know what the record is this year. I think we won 55 games or something, won 56 last year. Maybe that's 111.
It's like, I don't know, we've won a lot of games in the last two years. And it's all -- I know it's a clich√É¬© people use all the time that people use about the character and the guys. But it's really true. There's nothing that's going to come from anything if everybody is invested in one another.
Once those guys realize that, they realize that I've got a guy to fall back on -- take a guy -- we bring Grenier and Madrigal in, and I had a scout come on say one of those guys are going to leave because they both want to play shortstop.
My job is to make them want to play the game together and become the best they want. Give them a lot of credit. And Kevin Abel coming knowing we had a lot of starters coming back.
Things like that. It's a bond they build. It's something that I don't think I could coach if I couldn't motivate young men to know that there's more to this than just laying underneath the bar and getting in the cage. The bar, meaning the weightlifting.
Q. When did you realize that this junior class could be as special as it's been?
COACH CASEY: When they all showed up on campus when they were freshmen. We knew how good Nick was and Grenier and those guys and I knew that Larnach was -- I told the radio guy I think Trevor Larnach hit .143 his freshman year, and I said he's going to put up Michael Conforto numbers. And he goes, guy grounds into double play about every other day, I said, I know, but he's going to mature. He's going to put up Michael Conforto numbers.
I can't tell you how hard he worked to become that guy. Then there's pieces of the puzzle that people don't -- everybody talks about how talented we are. What about Zak Taylor? What about Steven Kwan, nobody recruited, and he became a big part. How about not having Kwanny tonight. And Novak, he's just a guy that I said you're way too smart to be plowing fields, come play baseball for me I'll get you an education.
His dad said, we're just a truck driver. I said, that's why he comes. And now Novy became a huge part of this, graduated. And Jack Anderson walked on and wanted to leave after his freshman year because he didn't think he could ever play here.
Those are the stories, too, behind the scenes that are pretty good. You have to give a lot of credit to the guys that are the superstars that treat them like superstars.
Q. After the way last night's game ended, what was the confidence level going into tonight?
COACH CASEY: The same way it was when we went into Game 2. I just believed in our club. Obviously I think the momentum -- I really believe the team that -- if you win the first game and you lose the second game, the pressure is on the team that won the first game.
We had the same scenario against North Carolina where we lost the first game of the series, came back, we lost the first game of the championship series, down 5-0. Billy Rowe, who is one of our undergraduate coaches, hits a three-run homer, we're off to the races the next night.
I felt so good about the momentum that we had and felt that the pressure was on them. And I felt that tonight. I felt like the pressure was on Arkansas and not us.
I can't tell you I knew we were going to win. I can tell you I knew we were going to play.
Q. When did you know Kevin Abel was locked in tonight, and when did you realize that he was going to go nine innings?
COACH CASEY: I never would have dreamed that he was going to go nine innings. I said -- last night I talked to Nate, and I said, Nate, if this guy gets us four innings, why would we not -- well, I don't want him to come in if we're behind. If this is our best option to start. We had nobody else on this club had started a game other than Gambrell.
If we're going to get him for five, let's make it the first five, and then we can piece it together. Luke wanted to throw an inning. Obviously Mully could throw an inning, too. Gambrell could throw an inning, and Pearce could throw an inning.
And then Abel just kept coming in saying, This is the easiest I've ever thrown. He said, The ball's just coming out of my hand. I'm relaxed. Loose. I have no stress.
I said all right. And in the seventh I said to Nate, we gotta get -- I think it's the sixth (indiscernible) bullpen, this is probably it for him. He wouldn't have any of it. If somebody gets on, we're going to pull. When was the last baserunner they had?
Q. The last 20 --
COACH CASEY: I just looked at the guy and I said, I know I should be taking you out of the game, but how can I do that?
Because that club, Arkansas, is very good offensively. They're a very good team. And I give Dave a ton of credit because he does such a great job.
But Kevin Abel locked them up. He absolutely locked them up. He says his breaking ball wasn't working. He threw a couple of breaking balls that were filthy. But his change is the second pitch and it has so much movement on it. I think that's why he feels so good. You throw a changeup, no pressure.
I just let it ride, and he took it home.
THE MODERATOR: Congratulations.
FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports