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May 21, 2019

Chris Pollard

Michael Rothenberg

Kennie Taylor

Durham, North Carolina

Duke - 10, Notre Dame - 6

THE MODERATOR: We're joined by Duke head coach Chris Pollard and players Michael Rothenberg and Kennie Taylor. Coach, an opening statement.

COACH POLLARD: So, I mean, plain and simple, I'm incredibly proud of our team. We had a tough fourth and fifth inning there. Credit Notre Dame. We got up; they didn't go away. They kept chipping their way back in the baseball game. We knew they were very offensive and they were capable of scoring runs in bunches.

And then we had the injury, and it was clear to me that it affected our team. It affected our team emotionally. We got on our heels a little bit. And credit Notre Dame. They were in a position to take advantage of that. I thought we did a great job of regrouping. This guy played a terrific game behind the plate. Had a huge swing in the first and his performance behind the plate really allowed our pitching staff to settle back in and regain some confidence.

I told our team, of all of the bright spots, Matt Dockman coming in and pitching well, Thomas Girard coming in getting the extended save. What won us the ball game was Wil Hoyle going in at shortstop and playing as tough as he did. He had to make a really tough play on one of the fastest players in our league in Myers to get us off the field. He never flinched. And he made a couple of other really good plays and had some good at-bats, and I'm very, very proud of his performance, the way he stepped up tonight.


Q. Chris, you prioritized taking advantage of other teams making mistakes. They had 12 walks, a hit batter, a bunch of errors that led to a lot of Duke runs. Could you talk about your team's ability to exploit that?
COACH POLLARD: So we talked in our pregame meeting about the fact that Junker, who is a really good arm, but he had, in his previous start against Boston College, had lost fastball command and had struggled to execute his fastball for strikes.

So we talked in our pregame meeting about going up there trying to be in a really small zone. And if he showed any signs that he didn't have fastball command, we were going to take. We were going to really shrink up the zone. And we did that to load the bases. Got a great lead-off at the bat by Loperfido, got a great at-bat by Murray with one out after Kennie's infield single.

And sometimes when you shrink up the zone like that it's tough to stay aggressive. So Rothenberg goes up to the plate knowing that, hey, we're going to keep the zone really small because we're not going to help him out by expanding, but he was still able to be on time which I thought was a really mature at-bat.

And then as the game went on we were able to take advantage of some other free offense and turned it into runs. And I thought, again, we stayed aggressive. After we went through that little two-inning lull where we got on our heels and we did a good job of bouncing back and against Vail we were able to take advantage of some free offense also.

Q. Anything you could tell us about Murray?
COACH POLLARD: Not right now.

Q. Mike, coach just talked us through your first inning at-bat there. What did you see on that play? What were you looking to do?
MICHAEL ROTHENBERG: I saw a first pitch slider. I knew he was struggling for command with the fastball, like Coach talked about pregame. First-pitch slider, I was able to lay off. And then I knew he was going to try to get back in the zone with fastball, and he just kind of left it over the middle. And I knew if I was able to just stay loose in my hands, just my pre-pitch process and being able to stay loose, I knew I was able to get a good swing off. And that's what I did.

Q. Kennie, you had a couple of tough games, the team, plural, against Georgia Tech, but rebounded on Sunday's win. What's the key for Duke beating these guys Friday?
KENNIE TAYLOR: We need to have really good at-bats, string together (indiscernible), still have our pitchers go out there and have strong outings, being able to put zeros up on the board. When we get on, when we runs as an offense and being able to shut them down. And I also think that (indiscernible) it's -- it's like staying with our, like what Roth said about (indiscernible) today's at-bats, just staying with our pre-pitch process and everybody just being -- taking a pitch at a time and being in the moment. I think if we do that we'll be just fine.

Q. Michael, your second at-bat with the bases loaded when you hit the sac fly, were you surprised that they brought in a right-hander to turn you back left-handed? And were you thinking another grand slam maybe now?
MICHAEL ROTHENBERG: I was definitely surprised -- I would say surprised and probably excited. I knew they brought Boyle in, and he's known around the league as a guy that can be triple digits like we saw a bunch today. Again, I was just looking to be on time there because when a guy throws that hard you just let him apply the power and you just get a bat on the ball.

And I actually picked it up pretty well off the hand, another surprising part. But, yeah, I mean, I knew it was a hard pitch and if I could get my barrel on the ball it was going to go pretty far. And I was able to do that and drive in another run in there.

Q. Mike and Kennie also, Coach talked about the injury to Ethan and how it affected you guys. How did it affect you and how did you help regroup get the team going again?
MICHAEL ROTHENBERG: As a true freshman and when you start every game at shortstop, he's obviously a massive part of our team -- All-ACC freshman, he got the other week. He's huge. He's our cleanup hitter. He's a huge guy.

But as Coach said, Wil Hoyle being able to come in -- I just know all the work Wil puts in behind the scenes every day. He comes out just ready to grind. And he was rewarded today. He was able to work, really, two really good at-bats, get us two walks there in the late innings. And for him to come in and also make two great plays in the field, it was just a huge shot in the arm. And like Coach said, just being able to feed off that was huge for us.

KENNIE TAYLOR: Just to feed off what he said, I think Wil Hoyle has really had a really good next-man-up mentality throughout this year. He's played every time he's in the field, taking I-O or just taking balls during BP, he always takes it like -- as if he was a starter.

And I think that mentality really showed today where he wasn't afraid to charge balls that if he maybe tried to lay back on would have ate him up. It's a testament to his work ethic and what he's been putting in this season.

Q. Chris, how difficult is that for someone to come in, like Wil, who obviously was behind someone who has been pretty good for you this year?
COACH POLLARD: Yeah, and the first play he's got to make is against a guy that's as fast, home to first, as anybody in our league, and that's not hyperbole.

It's a credit to his competitive spirit. And both these guys said it and I would echo it, Wil Hoyle goes out and prepares every day like he's going to be in the lineup that day. And we talk about next-man-up mentality, and we talk about the fact that you never know when your number is going to be called, but you've got to be ready. And he was a great example of that today.

Q. Chris, let me ask you about Girard. You went to him early for a close; he threw 49 pitches. He got in a jam in the eighth -- bases loaded, one out, tying run at the plate, (indiscernible) hit a bomb in his previous bat. And he works his way out of that. Could you just address his performance tonight?
COACH POLLARD: So, I was hoping somebody was going to ask me about Girard because candidly he should have been all conference. And he's done that for us numerous times over the course of the season. He's come in in the seventh inning. He did it at Virginia Tech -- come in with one out in the seventh and got us two and two-thirds innings.

And I brought him into my office last night after our practice, we practiced at night. I'm super happy for Kennie Taylor; if anybody ever deserved to be a first-team All-ACC guy it's Kennie Taylor, and Ethan Murray certainly deserved to be on the all-freshman team. But I brought Thomas in last night and I said, you deserved to be an all-conference player.

If you look at his numbers, they'll stack up against any closer in this league. And we've asked him so many times to come in in the seventh and finish off a ball game or come into an inning where we're in trouble and get us out of it and then finish the game.

And he did it again tonight. And he has not blown a save all year. We ran him out there early and he pitched in some tie ballgames and picked up a couple of losses. But when it comes to nailing down a save, he's not missed an opportunity to save a baseball game this entire year. It's pretty incredible.

Q. I know you just saw a lot of Georgia Tech about 10 days ago, I guess. Now you get to play them again. And what's your approach this time? I know you said they were really clicking well on offense last weekend?
COACH POLLARD: I thought -- and I told Danny, number one, I think they're one of the best offenses in the country. And number two, when we were chatting before the game on Sunday, I said, not only are you guys good but you're clicking at a pace that I can't remember on offense, just everybody's humming at the same time.

So we got our hands full. And just glad to be in this position where when we tee it up against them on Friday, it's going to be a meaningful game. And I can't wait. Our guys, we talked about putting all of the other stuff aside, all of the worry about any postseason or anything like that aside and saying this is about Duke baseball competing for an ACC championship. And that's how we're going to approach this week.

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