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May 30, 2019
THE MODERATOR: We'll start with Coach Foster.
JIM FOSTER: Thanks for having us. Looking forward to playing ball here. My guys are busy, busy guys and this is the slowest they have got it, so they're happy. Just graduated. We got a bunch of second lieutenants on the team. Proud of them. Get to see them play and do what they love for hopefully at least this weekend, if not more, that's what we're shooting for and just excited to be here.
We had a good series with Navy to get here. Well-played series. We have nine seniors, so we're kind of led by our upperclassmen. Leadership's spoken about quite a bit at Army West Point, and I think that that will come through on the field.
Very resilient group. Pleasure to coach, really a coach's dream to have these guys they do whatever you ask and they really sell out for you and in every area. Great guys, surrounded by extraordinary people at West Point and some day these guys are going to be those leaders for our country.
So it's an honor to coach them. Happy to be here. Hopefully we can play some good ball of the.
KEVIN O'SULLIVAN: Same thing. Excited to be here. I've known all three coaches here for an awfully long time, I remember playing Jim when he was the head coach at Rhode Island. Of course I've seen Dan and Tim on the road recruiting over the years and we're excited to be here.
As far as our team is concerned, it's a different group. We have got an awfully young team. Freshmen are no longer freshmen but we have started four or five freshmen in the lineup daily. We got a center fielder that graduated high school early. Came in in January. Actually have two players on our roster that graduated early and came in January because of the need.
Our starting pitching, Tyler Dyson started the year as our number one. He's been out for about six weeks. He's now healthy, but we'll probably throw him out of the bullpen because we haven't had a chance to extend him.
Kind of a freakish thing: Jack Leftwich, who came off a really strong freshman year, had a blister that he dealt with for six or seven weeks; he's finally healthy. Our bullpen has been young but it's improved as the season's gone on.
But we're excited to be here and we know it's a very difficult field. I was thinking about this this morning, I think what you're going to see this weekend is four really well-coached teams, teams that usually don't beat themselves. So they should be very competitive games.
DAN HEEFNER: Same as these guys, very excited to be here. Four great teams, and in all the regionals we have been to, this has been probably one of the best atmospheres we played in in the past. So I know our guys are excited about that. We have several guys that were on that team in 2016 that played here. So they experienced the environment here, which is really good.
As far as our team goes, similar to Sully in that we're a pretty new team. About half our team is new, but we do have quite a bit of experience on the starting rotation; two of our starters are four-year guys who have had a bunch of starts. Both of them started here in a regional, so they're going to be comfortable in this environment.
Probably a pretty balanced team for us, just as far as the starting pitching, defense. Offensively a little more balanced than we have been in the past. So we're really looking forward to playing, but it really comes down to when you have quality teams like this, you just got to -- who is going to play the best over these four days. So we're looking forward to competing against them.
TIM TADLOCK: Congratulations to everybody. It's good to meet Coach Foster today, and we found out these pairings on Monday on Memorial Day, and you're thinking about what the Army and all the military people do for our country, and obviously first and foremost his kids sound like they handle their business really well. We have got a few that do exactly what you tell them and we got a few that are a little ornery. But those guys, they're in it for a much bigger cause.
Sully and his team, they're always very competitive, as is Coach Heefner's team. He mentioned they were here in 2016, and these guys got really good players. It should be a really good tournament. Should be really good baseball. You guys and your teams will find out that people in Lubbock run this tournament really well, and it should be very seamless from top to bottom. There's a reason we are kind of where we are with our program, and that's why we got a lot of people that do their job really good across the board.
Our team's excited about playing. Big-12 Tournament didn't go the way we wanted it last week. Big dose of reality and so had a good few practices this week, and our guys seem to be excited about playing.
THE MODERATOR: We'll open it up to questions.
Q. For Coach O'Sullivan: I'm sure you've been asked about but what is it like for your team and your program simply to be traveling to a regional versus hosting at home?
KEVIN O'SULLIVAN: It's a little different. Trying to think off the top of my head now, I think we have been fortunate enough I think to host I think maybe, well, nine out of the 12 years we have been there. The first year went to Florida State. 2013 we went to Indiana and then obviously this year.
So but to be honest with you, we're just fortunate to be in, to be honest with you. I think we have had a fairly inconsistent year. We have showed some steady improvement as the season's gone on, but I think our kids are excited. It's a different part of the country that they're probably not used to visiting, so we're excited about being here and I know our players are, too.
Q. Obviously you guys being a 4 seed this year and a 4 seed last year and to be the host team in the first game, what kind of experience what can you take from that experience into this year?
JIM FOSTER: Last year we got a great game pitched by Tyler Giovinco, who is a senior this year. To get that experience, they made a big jump last year from my first year at Army to the second year. Winning a championship and getting to play in a regional was a little bit ahead of schedule. The class I have right now that are seniors really came together and showed a lot of development and leadership and set the tone. And we had a real good catcher last year named Jon Rosoff. Losing him was like losing three or four players this year. That was probably one of the biggest things we had to get over. He kind of made things go for us last year and really helped the pitching staff.
But those guys grew up a lot. Just being in a regional last year and playing and learning what you can do better and what you need to improve on, and you just try and handle it better the next time around.
So not sure who is pitching yet tomorrow. Let you know tonight, coach, and we'll see. We had a big travel day. We had an 18-hour trip to get here with all the delays and stuff. So I got to look at a few things when we get back, and we'll decide on that. But Gio might pitch tomorrow, we'll see.
Q. Coach Heefner, this is place is not an unfamiliar place to play for you guys. You played here last year and you won and you played here in the regional. How much do you kind of take away from that? How helpful is that in this regional?
DAN HEEFNER: It is helpful just for the guys to be familiar with it, but we only have a few guys who are here in the last regional and then, like I said, half our team is new this year. So there's a bunch of them where this is a new experience for them, but we do have some great leaders on our team and guys who have experienced it before. So that helps them.
Like I said, it's a fun environment and our guys really feed off of that. They love playing great programs and we have four of them in this regional. So it's going to be exciting.
Q. Coached Tadlock, obviously you want your team to be locked in no matter who they're playing, but is it a little easier as a 4 seed given with what they did last year to make sure the team is locked in for that first game and ready to go?
TIM TADLOCK: I think anybody that's playing this time of year, our guys would -- I mean, there's no doubt about it, you got to go earn the right to win and the respect for the people on the other side of the field, and the game's going to be -- you can pick anybody in this field and understand they're here for a reason.
Q. Coach O'Sullivan, does it feel like dÃƒÂ©jÃƒÂ vu? Obviously you got to play Dallas Baptist first, but just having Texas Tech kind of around you guys now being like what, three times in the past four years?
KEVIN O'SULLIVAN: We have seen the matchup a couple times. He got the first game last year, and obviously we were fortunate enough to win the second game. And I think we ended our season the year before in Omaha, Tim's team beat us. So I think India, it was his freshman year. He was the fifth overall pick last year, tried to stretch a single into a double, and it was a really good decision on his part, but they made a very accurate throw to second base, and that's how our season ended.
So I've known Tim for years. We have been on the recruiting trail for years. I didn't know really where to expect, if we got in, where we would go. I kind of thought maybe Atlanta with Georgia Tech or maybe somebody on the East Coast, but when this popped up, we were, here we are again.
I remember we were here, I think it was maybe '04 when I worked for Jack Leggett at Clemson. I was telling the story today, we had a kid by the name of Collin Mahoney on the mound, he was a converted catcher, and I think we had a four-run lead in the ninth. The wind was blowing straight out and we could not get the bullpen hot quick enough. We ended up losing the ballgame by a run. Gave up five runs on 15 pitches; it happened that quick. So I knew when we found out we were coming here, I checked the wind immediately. I think it's blowing 15 or 13 miles in from the south, southeast. So I think it's coming in from just the right of right-center field. So the field might play a little bit bigger tomorrow than it did maybe in 2004. So but we're excited to be here.
Q. Coach, a follow-up question for you: Do you remember how many guys you lost to the draft after last season?
KEVIN O'SULLIVAN: No. It was a lot. It was a lot.
Q. How has this year affected you, considering for a decade y'all been one of the top programs in the nation? You regularly go to Omaha. Have you had to adjust or change anything you do or has it affected you to -- the way this season has gone, to have more of a struggle than y'all are accustomed to?
KEVIN O'SULLIVAN: When you lose your No. 1 pitcher, it makes things different. Everybody has to move up one spot. And when you lose two of your three starters for a period time, it really puts a lot of pressure on your freshmen.
I think the biggest difference that we have had this year that we have now finally get to a point where we're somewhat healthy, is in the years past I've been able to protect all those freshmen arms and throw them more in the mid-week games and kind of protect them on the weekends. I remember Brady Singer I think he had like a 9.00 ERA his freshman year in the league, SEC, and his innings were limited. He had under 20 innings in the league, I mean, in SEC play. I think Jackson Kowar, who was a first rounder, he had less than five innings pitched his freshman year in the SEC play. We just have not been able to do that this year.
So when it's kind of gotten away from us, it's gotten away from us in a hurry. But they're building blocks. They're learning moments. They're certainly better than what we were in February, the freshmen arms. I keep thinking this week we practiced a lot obviously and scrimmaged just about every day and, I got about four of them they're probably about 10, 15 pounds away from all throwing 92, 95 and having good secondary stuff. It's when you throw 18-year-olds in SEC play and then some of the venues we play in, it's not easy. So when it's been bad, it's been bad. But we had to go on the road to Vanderbilt, LSU. Ole Miss is a very difficult place to play.
But we grew up and we had a great weekend in Columbia, Missouri against a very talented Missouri team that, quite honestly, if they were in this tournament, they could beat anybody if the draw was right.
So we have gotten better, but it's been a bit of a process and we have had to show a little bit more patience, to be honest with you.
Q. Coach Foster, could you just kind of speak to the speed you have on the base paths with Jacob and Andre and the help they give you.
JIM FOSTER: Jacob Hurtubise is our center fielder. He's a pest. He's on base a lot he goes, we go. He gets on base, he's putting the ball in play, bunting. He's tough with two strikes. He's just a pain in the butt for the other team when he's on base. He's a pretty good base runner, and when he learns to get real good jumps, he's going to be dangerous.
But he can move, he can run, I'm sure these guys all have guys in center field do the same thing. But for us it really stands out in the Patriot League. He just does a good job. He seems to rise to the occasion, him and Anthony Giachin, our third baseman, kind of make us go. Andre Walden is a juco transfer, he came in. The Army likes guys that do a post-grad year, and it shows they really want to serve, and they mature and grow up a little bit. And like Sully said, put 10, 15 pounds on them, and they're ready to go. So Andre is one of those guys and he's got great instincts. He knows how to get a jump. He can move pretty well.
So that's what we do, we pitch and play defense and run the bases and try and do all the little things, and we'll see who else can chip in offensively.
Q. Question for Coach Heefner: Coach, you guys looks like your program has had a whole bunch of success not only making regionals but getting to the championship game and games of regionals. What do you feel like the key will be to get over that hump? Because if I'm reading it correctly, you lost a lot of championship games the last few years.
DAN HEEFNER: We have been in four straight. We did win one, so we have been in one super regional. I think a key, and I think this is a key for most people, you've got to start it right. I think those first two games are big, all the times we have been in the regional championship game, we have worked our way back through the losers' bracket and pitching depth is an issue when you get to this time of year. So I think that's one thing we have to do is be better in Game 1 and 2. We have got two seniors who have been four-year starters for us. So we feel good about that, guys who started in regionals and had postseason experience. So I think that's a plus for us.
But yeah, that's been the goal to get over that hump and we have been there a number of times, and the guys are really hungry to do it.
Q. Coach Tadlock, have you decided on a Game 1 starter for Army?
TIM TADLOCK: I'll bet you know who it is: Micah Dallas.
Q. Coach O'Sullivan, Coach Heefner, if you guys mean saying who your starting pitchers will be tomorrow.
KEVIN O'SULLIVAN: We'll throw Tommy Mace.
DAN HEEFNER: We'll go MD Johnson.
Q. Tim, how did Dylan Neuse come out of the tournament in terms of that last at-bat, you said he might have tweaked a hamstring, how has he looked the last few days?
TIM TADLOCK: Well, he's day-to-day right now.
Q. How have you kind of seen Parker Kelly develop into that third baseman that you've been looking for from a defensive perspective?
TIM TADLOCK: Yeah, Parker has been a guy ever since he's been in high school he's a high school short stop over in Wichita Falls, and he's got good lateral movement, reads the ball off the bat good. He's a kid that likes to play defense, likes to play catch, and he's done a solid job over there. So I mean, he's got competition. That helps too, I would say.
Q. I know you mentioned Gio might be in the mix but who are the other guys you're looking at just to potentially start, especially with the game like this?
JIM FOSTER: I think Danny Burggraaf. We'll see how he's feeling. We had get him out here today and get him moving around and see how he's doing. I get asked about him.
We got Sam Messina, who might pitch. Cam Opp is another one that might pitch. We have three or four competitive starters and the bullpen's come along as the season's gone on here and they have done a nice job.
So I'll let Coach know here in a couple hours and we'll go from there.
Q. Coach Tadlock, you have an experienced team that has been here, been in this situation, been hosting a regional before. Do you feel like they still have those kind of nerves when you get to the postseason or they kind of level headed at this point?
TIM TADLOCK: Oh, I think everybody, before the game starts, if you don't have a few butterflies, you probably need to check your heart rate a little bit. I think that's a good thing. And I think once the ball goes up and you start playing catch and start playing, I would say that there's going to be moments in every game where you need to bring the heart rate back down, but for the most part it's, if you're a little bit nervous I guess that's okay. I mean that's, what are you going to do? I mean, so if they are, they are. I mean, we're still going to play.
Q. Coach Foster, you mentioned a moment ago that you had an 18-hour day yesterday. Can you give us a little more detail on that.
JIM FOSTER: Yeah, we left at five in the morning from West Point and the bus driver was really slow and we hit traffic going through New York City to LaGuardia, that took forever. The flight got -- we had to split the team up, half on Southwest and half on United and the group that was on Southwest went through Dallas, they rerouted to us Austin, we sat on the runway for awhile, and then we pulled up to a gate, we got off, we booked another flight for half the group and the other half drove here. So we got in about 11:30. Didn't get to watch much video or just -- it got away from us yesterday, so that's what I got to do today. It was a crazy travel day.
Q. With young men from West Point is that kind of a minor inconvenience compared to regular college kids?
JIM FOSTER: That's what's so great about them they just let it roll off, they don't even get upset or let it fluster them or -- there wasn't one complaint from them. That's why I like them so much. They don't complain about anything, they just do their thing. I guess West Point teaches you that, there's a lot of hurry up and wait and figuring out, you got to be patient and work your way up. So that's what they're doing and they know where they're at and they're just happy to be here, happy for the opportunity, excited to be still playing baseball and playing together.
THE MODERATOR: All right. Thank you.
FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports