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June 14, 2019

Tim Corbin

Dan McDonnell

Chris Lemonis

Butch Thompson

Omaha, Nebraska

THE MODERATOR: Welcome to Omaha, once again. These four guys, ready to get going on Sunday. Tim, give us an opening statement, please.

TIM CORBIN: Well, welcome. We're certainly glad to be back here again, especially with some familiar faces, too, with Dan and Lem and Butch and having played them during the course of the year. But certainly a good field. To get here is very difficult, as we all know. We got through our regional and played a very difficult super regional, but from the standpoint of the year, we've been consistent in how we've managed our conference and how we've managed the games in between.

This year we have a little bit of an older group. We retained seven seniors from last year's team, and certainly that's been helpful in the harmony of the group and the locker room off the field and so on.

I'm just glad that we could bring this particular group this year to get in this environment and play in it and try to enjoy the first few days and then get down to competition on Sunday.

THE MODERATOR: Next, Dan McDonnell. Dan?

DAN McDONNELL: Thanks. Honored and excited to be here. This never gets old, and we know how difficult it is to get here. There's so much parity in college baseball that it's a great accomplishment. Really proud of our players, our coaching staff, our support staff. We win with a lot of great people at the University of Louisville. I'm really proud and happy for them.

Also want to congratulate the other seven teams here. As I said, it's just not easy to get to Omaha. This is a goal that we set out at the beginning of the year, and even before the season started, so it's just a lot of hard work that goes behind this, and honored to be here. Obviously I got one of my best friends here to my left, and this guy to my right, we've coached against each other for many, many years. Something we've always said, if we had to play each other, we'd much rather play each other in Omaha. That is just not fun going against these guys in a regional or a super regional because the goal is to get to Omaha, and you hate knocking off somebody that you're friends with or you respect so much. So here we are, about to play each other.

THE MODERATOR: Mississippi State coach Chris Lemonis. Chris?

CHRIS LEMONIS: Well, we're excited. I say we. We're excited to be back. I know our kids have been super excited, our fans, our coaches. Probably a different unique situation where you have a team that was here last year and a new coach. Our kids have been really focused on getting back here. I know every team in the country has, but our group, after the loss they had last year, it's been a piece they've talked about, and it is so hard to get here. It's a veteran group. We have some guys who played here. Our group has played, some of our seniors have played in four super regional and two Omaha experiences, so for them it's been a fun ride but with a lot of different head coaches during that time.

I'm happy to be here with those guys. I feel like we've got a talented group. They've been real consistent over the year. We're pretty much an older pitching staff, and we have some nice pieces in the bullpen, and then a lineup of some older guys. I know the Jake Mangums and the Ethan Smalls, they're excited to play here and play in front of these great crowds in the city of Omaha. It's a special place, and I've had an opportunity to be here a couple times as an assistant and the first time as a head coach.

It's awesome to be here with your -- he said I was one of his best friends, I say best friend. He's the godparent of my kid and everything else. We have a huge Citadel group coming, so you can imagine all our teammates and everything will be a part of it, and it's a neat thing.

I felt the pressure because he was in Omaha before we ever played our super regional game, so I was sitting here there, man, I don't want to blow this. I'd love to go out there and be with one of my teammates. It's a neat thing. It's a good group. I'm sure we'll have a lot of Mississippi State fans in the city, and we're looking forward to them all getting here.

DAN McDONNELL: If I'd have said best friend I'd have had all the other pals in our group getting all over me, so I said one of my best friends.

CHRIS LEMONIS: I'm just giving you a hard time.

THE MODERATOR: Butch Thompson, head coach at Auburn.

BUTCH THOMPSON: Thankful to be here. Thankful to represent a great University in Auburn University that has not been in this tournament since 1997, and on behalf of our 51 guys that have went on to play in the Major Leagues and everybody that's put our uniform on and that's either coached it to try to make it better or put an effort into playing and every fan that has invested and supported us, this is for you.

We took a different road to get here. This is our third full year with the majority of our staff, and to be able to be here has been a tough one, a tough journey, but a rewarding one for sure. The difference in these three men that I respect so, so much is we've won five games on the road in this postseason. We've had moments of adversity both on and off the field, but the journey has been sweeter. We've been trying to knock this door down for three years, and finally felt like the hinges were loose enough and the door knob was about to break off and took one final swing at it to make it happen.

I echo what these men say, especially Dan, how hard it is to reach this pinnacle, and being in that room the other day with those coaches for our coaches' meeting, just there's some moments along the way, even though being here before as an assistant in this beautiful new stadium and the old one, but to come back here as a head coach is really a special thing, and it's a different feeling. These men have been part of the journey of trying to get a roster together so that we'd be competitive against these teams. It's been something to shoot for. When you think of iron sharpens iron, I think of these three men to the right of helping you try to do what they did and then leading the way. So I thank you guys for giving us something to chase.

But nonetheless, this is a huge moment for Auburn, and we're glad to represent. We're the underdog. We are a great team to root for for any people in Omaha trying to adopt a ballclub, with being the first time. It's a neat story, and Gregg Olson is one of our greatest players that chose Auburn from being right here in Omaha, Nebraska. So maybe that's another good reason to pull for us, too.

THE MODERATOR: Can we get your starting pitchers?

TIM CORBIN: Jake Fellows.

DAN McDONNELL: Sophomore left-handed pitcher Reid Detmers.



Q. Tim, the seasons of each of these guys, each of these programs are defined whether or not you get to Omaha. Now that you're at Omaha, how do you -- do you reset the expectations? How do you keep the guys from just being appreciative that they got here as opposed to being hungry to get further into the bracket? How do you balance those things?
TIM CORBIN: Well, I just think it's completely different than what you've gone through. It's a championship season, so it doesn't resemble what you've done up to this point. Some ways when you get here, you take a deep breath because it's such a struggle, as Dan and Butch alluded to in terms of getting here. But then once you get here, then you just kind of redefine what you do, and I think it's just about trying to play the best baseball you can in this environment. The game doesn't change. The outside, the ancillary components of the tournament change a little bit, but it still just becomes baseball.

But where we're taking a group of guys that haven't been here before is unique in some ways, but everyone gets here at some point for the first time, and it's just really about settling in and just trying to center yourselves mentally and physically to play good baseball.

Q. Butch, you recruited a lot of these guys on this Mississippi State team and specifically about Ethan Small, you saw him in high school and hard-throwing guy coming out of high school, he had the UCL injury and he's come back and become a little bit different pitcher over the last few years. What have you seen in his development from those high school days and his freshman year when he was pitching to this point?
BUTCH THOMPSON: As soon as we finished our game at North Carolina, you just -- if you get so entrenched in what you're doing right there in the moment, you don't even know what's ahead. I'm like, I don't care who we play, just so we get here. And then of course out of 297 schools, of course we're playing Mississippi State. Of course that's who we're playing.

But Ethan is special to me. His family is special. A lot of those guys, skeleton and Jake Mangum and just all the way around the field, a lot of those relievers. I wouldn't be the head coach -- I may not be sitting here if it weren't for Mississippi State. This thing really turns into people at the end of the day, and I remember sitting in Ethan Small's home and not knowing he would have an invisible fastball like he does where hitters would just choose to swing at it even if it's elevated above the strike zone and all these gifts and layers that he's built in to make him one of the most special seasons we've seen in college baseball.

But Ethan is one to talk about keeping the answers short, but it's really a whole collection of people that you care about. I was thankful and proud that Chris was able to get this job because, one, I knew he'd do a great job, and I thought he would be genuine with it, and I thought he would lead the program in a great way because I care what happens, growing up, being born and raised 45 minutes away from Dudy Noble field. I'm proud that you're the coach at Mississippi State. I do cherish every relationship that I have on that side, including John Cohen, who's been a mentor for me and has developed me and has invested in me is probably the right word to say. But I think Chris would say -- hopefully we have a different rhythm with our ballclub. Hopefully we're a different ballclub. I don't know what this week will do with this time in between, but when I first saw it, I went like, are you kidding me, and then as the time has went on, I've gotten to a deeper level. I went from level 1 to level 2, and I said, this is one of the neatest things ever, to get to play Mississippi State in Omaha.

CHRIS LEMONIS: Before I forget, I want to say thank you for recruiting him. (Laughter).

Q. Thoughts on your defense? The park plays big. Thoughts on your defense, shortstop, second base and thoughts on your arms and the outfield?
TIM CORBIN: Yeah, they're okay. I don't know, it's three pretty good solid outfielders. I think we've got pretty good defensive skills. We played pretty good defense all year for the most part. Percentage wise statistically I think we're .981, but I'm always looking for better.

I think when you get out here, it's so spacious, you just want to be able to cover the ground, and like Dan, we play on turf, so it's just managing the grass and dirt for the first time and the ball speeds. But no, I think we've handled ourselves pretty well from that standpoint, the arms in the outfield. I can't say the enemy is standing right next to me, so I don't want to say that. But no, it's fine. Our defense has been pretty good.

DAN McDONNELL: Yeah, like Tim, we play on a turf field, but we feel Jim Patterson Stadium is a good-sized college park. There are some small ones out there, but I think for our outfielders, our center fielder Lucas Dunn is comfortable roaming in a big space. Our right fielder Drew Campbell I think plays in one of the more challenging right field ballparks in all of college baseball. So we definitely don't feel like when we get out here that this field is too big for us.

But as Tim mentioned, being from a turf field, we take pride with good infielders, good defense, and the leagues that we're in, we played at NC State and we played at Clemson and we played in the Durham Bulls park when we played Duke. So a really tough ACC league with natural surfaces.

We've been pretty solid, pretty good defensively all year.

CHRIS LEMONIS: You know, one of our strengths is our outfield, so I think we've got some veteran guys out there with Jake in center and Elijah and Rowdey that have played outfield and they played here last year, so I think they're familiar with it, and they run. They're able to run over some ground, and they've been working for it all week telling me what to do. I'm the outfield coach, also. And then our infield defense, we're excited to get out there and take ground balls today to see how the infield is playing, but we've been a solid defensive club all year.

BUTCH THOMPSON: We're still a work in progress. I think 18 of our players are new; we don't have a senior on scholarship in our program right now, so Steven Williams is a catcher that's now a sophomore and has really grown as an outfielder. Kason Howell is a true freshman in center field for us. Judd Ward has been our most dynamic outfielder in left field. We have a monster very similar to Tim has, and I love having a left fielder with a good arm, and he probably has eight or nine assists now from the outfield and has played a really good outfield, is our lead-off hitter, kind of the heart and soul. Everybody has got a guy like that on their ballclub that makes them go.

We're athletic in the middle of the infield. One is a junior, Will Holland, our shortstop, who can get to a ton of balls, has a great arm. Just athletic is a word I would use. I think he's still growing and will continue to grow as he enters professional baseball. Ryan Bliss is a true freshman at second base that has probably learned a lot. It's been great for him to play under Will this year. But has just played super as a freshman, has been able to play every day. He's the only player on our team that started every day this year, and he's a true freshman.

Rankin Woley has a little experience from here two years ago, has settled in at first base for us who played at LSU under Coach Mainieri. Third baseman is Edouard Julien, and for the most part he's knocked in more than he's let in this year. He's growing. He was our DH, worked into third base. I've been so proud of the work that he's put in to be able to get on the field and stay there every day. So he's grown and will continue to do so.

Matt Scheffler, first-year catcher, is a junior. Has just done a serviceable job and has probably caught more -- we have caught one catch for this year, and you can imagine this time of year how much mileage that is on a guy. But a great athlete, a great servant for our pitching staff, and solid but yet still a work in progress.

Q. For each of you, you all understand the demands of your profession. Can you imagine coaching at the age of 75, and if you can't win this whole thing, does a little piece of you hope Mike Martin does?
BUTCH THOMPSON: Yes. I just -- I was in his regional two years ago, and you can imagine -- for me being around for a while, but yet being a head coach for the first time, and my first regional, of course, I'm going to play Mike Martin in the finals of a regional. It's really neat, have to pinch myself, that experience. But I came away with you start thinking about the 40 wins for 40 years. My brain really can't wrap around it in a world that I feel like that we live in, for that model of consistency.

But my takeaway was how good he was as a person, how he treated me. I had not gotten to experience that before, how good of a human being that he was. So I answered yes quickly and easily, but it's really because of how he's treated me and how he makes others feel and what he's done for our game. All of it's good.

CHRIS LEMONIS: There's no way I'm coaching at 75, so to put that out there.

But there's been so many great coaches that have walked before us, to get the game where it's supposed to be, and he may be the greatest. Just the wins and everything else. I've had an opportunity as an assistant coach to coach against him, and every time we go to Florida State your eyes are wide, and just like Butch said, you're treated like gold by Coach. And so yes, I mean, it's a neat story. I mean, just watching him go through and even before we got the regional seeds, our staff was going, we don't want Florida State, we don't want Florida State, because you knew they were going to make a great run, which they have done. They're very talented, and he has done an unbelievable job with them.

DAN McDONNELL: I remember Chris and I were assistants at the Citadel and we went down and played at Florida State during the regular season. We got sent to the regional one year, which was not fun. But I just -- I get a lot of respect for coaches and look back as to how did they treat you when you were an assistant, and I just remember how well he treated us.

Five years ago I had my first conference call with the ACC coaches on the phone. I don't get star-struck too much, but every coach called out their name and what school they were from, and I'm just sitting there in my office sounding bold and confident, and I'm thinking, wow, man, there are some legends in the game in this league. You'd better be ready to compete.

Over the five years, it's been a real joy just coaching against them because you know if you beat him, he's going to be so complimentary, and if he beats you, he's going to be so gracious and never to make you feel bad. It's one of the neatest handshakes you can have after a game, win or lose. You can tell it's a genuine, sweet, kind person, and I think the older we get, the more we realize we can be successful because we're pretty good with X's and O's and we can recruit and work hard, but there's a lot more factors that go into being successful, and you learn from a guy like 11, as we call him in the ACC, how you treat people, and it goes a long way.

TIM CORBIN: All of them and I think that's the part that we all see and you respect so much. It will never be done again. It will never be done again. He's coached generations of players and adapted with each generation like no other, which is so difficult to do. You think of today's kid versus -- and it's not even the kids, it's just what surrounds the kids in order to change their behaviors. He's always adapted. He's a fantastic guy. He got to coach Mike Yastrzemski, Sr., and then I got to coach Mike Yastrzemski, Sr.'s, son and we played against Florida State in that super regional there in Tallahassee, and I'll never forget how he treated him in that entire situation.

He's a gem. He's real. We're going to miss him. It's almost like when you're sitting next to him, you feel like he can't go anywhere. He's still vibrant and sharp, mind works quick. He's sharper than most. It's going to be unique not to have him around.

Q. Tim, Chris and Butch, SEC has four teams here, and they've had at least three three years in a row. What does that say about the depth and strength of the conference, and what kind of benefit do you get from playing that schedule every year in the regular season?
TIM CORBIN: Well, I don't want to beat on the SEC chest here, but I think it's a difficult conference. I think in a lot of ways, it doesn't really matter if you're an SEC team how you get here. Once you get here, any one of those teams can perform at the end, kind of like we did. I think when I look at Butch's team, we're similar to them in a lot of ways. In 2014 we experienced a lot of ups and downs. But I think at the end of it, it hardened us, and I think if you can just survive the regular season and survive that tournament and then get into the postseason, then it's like new life. You just -- you have this team that just went through some tough spots, but it's hardened you and callused your kids' brains in order to survive these moments right here. It's a tough, tough conference, we're fortunate to be in it, and it's a great proving ground for getting into this tournament.

CHRIS LEMONIS: My first year in the SEC, and I probably recruited against it for 24, 25 years, and I'd always, oh, it's just a bunch of -- a couple good teams or whatever it is, and then when you go through it as a coach, I think the second day on the job, they handed me the schedule, and when you look and you go to Arkansas and you go to Mississippi, you start -- it gives you a headache thinking of all the teams that you have to play.

And in our world, it was fun, but it was also -- it's a gauntlet is what we've called it in our clubhouse. It does, like Tim said, it hardens your kids. You play in great environments. You have some real highs and you have some real lows because in our league it's not over until the last out, so you're hanging on all the time trying to get that last out in these great environments. But I think it makes us better at the end, and our group is definitely better at the end because of the experiences we've had playing in the SEC.

BUTCH THOMPSON: Same, nothing really to add. With our 18 new players, this was a quick introduction. Depth is a word that just comes into my mind that I feel like all 14 schools that represent our conference is fully invested, fully invested in this sport, committed. But I just thought we had to go to college station, we had to go to Nashville, we had to go to Starkville, we had to go to Columbia. We had to make the trips that put us in some compromising positions, and sometimes we got our heart broke and sometimes we found a way to squeak one out.

That is just a great preparation to make a run.

Q. Dan, obviously your offense isn't built on power. You didn't have a home run last week in your super regional. Because the ballpark plays so large, do you feel like the way your offense is run kind of allows you guys to carry that over into this week?
DAN McDONNELL: We hope so. We've never been one to live and die off the home run anyway because I talked about the dimensions of our ballpark a little earlier. We just want to be balanced. We want to run the bases the right way. We want to put the ball in play. We want to put pressure on defenses. I think we're more into doubles and situations like that than we are the home run. I get it, man, the home run is a sexy part of our game right now, but it's a good feeling knowing you don't live and die by it, and I think we've shown that in the postseason and just got a good lineup with balance up and down the order, and whenever I speak at baseball clinics or conventions or things like that, it's just about scoring runs. However you can score runs, I don't know if anybody really cares. Stick your chest out and say we did it this way or that way. It's just you've got to get that guy to cross home plate.

Q. Tim, Erik Bakich has taken Michigan back to the College World Series. You saw him up close and personal. How quickly did you see his coaching potential, and from your perspective, what kind of makes him stand out?
TIM CORBIN: Yeah, Erik is fantastic coach. I think like Dan with Lem, when you're around certain people that are assisting you along the way, you feel at some point in time when they're going to break away, they're going to be ready for it, and they're going to be good at what they do, and like Lem, Erik was that guy. He's just one of the more energetic, passionate people that I've been around, and through the time that he was at Vanderbilt, I look at Vanderbilt's success early, and a lot of it had to do with his recruiting, his energy for what was going on inside the program, and just his care level. His care level is through the roof for everything, for himself, for his family, for baseball, and he just -- he's just a great personality and a very good mentor for the kids.

I think like Dan, when you get your buddy here and a guy you coached with, you're watching those other games besides your own and your attention is on your own regional and super regional, but at the same time you want it so bad for guys that you care a lot about and are so emotional about it. So when he got his team here, we were just very emotional about it, my wife and I, because we care so much about he and Jiffy. But he's here for the right reasons. It's not a surprise at all to me. His passion for what he's doing is 10 out of 10 scale.

Q. This is for anyone who wants to answer but really the three SEC coaches because you've seen him. Arkansas being back here after what happened last year with the foul ball that didn't get caught, just curious from where you guys sit, what did you think when you saw that, and how do you think that now that they're back here, positive or negative? Does it haunt them? Is it a motivator? How would you think from a coaching psychology perspective that that would work on them?
BUTCH THOMPSON: Yeah, I'm equipped to answer that one. I think anything can happen to you. It's a lot like life. You can have any moments that you never forget that happen to you, but it doesn't have to define you. We're almost here last year. We are the last team, I believe, not to qualify for Omaha, being the last game late on a Monday night and the ball hitting a glove and the ball falling over the fence and extra innings not to be able to get here.

I saw Gabe Gross, one of our assistant coaches, just start running, and then I saw each team member kind of follow suit, kind of follow the leader, so to speak, to be with Steven Williams in right field. That was a moment that we lost, and that was a moment that I'm like, for me personally, all right, I thought that was our -- its own moment, and it was the most heartbreaking loss I've ever been through.

Now fast forward to this year, and we're really down and out. We're playing the No. 3 national seed and the ACC Coach of the Year, a great ballclub that had clubbed us twice in the regular season and we're done, and a great pitcher on the mound that's out there to finish a ballgame. Of course Steven Williams is going to be the one that hits the walk-off home run because that's how life does if you don't roll over and let it define you. It can be a moment that you can build up. And of course at North Carolina throws the last pitch to record the last out of the ballgame is Cody Greenhill, a great competitor who gave up the home run to Langworthy 365 days earlier. That's what happens.

In the last three weeks we've lost a ballgame on a wild pitch past ball where two runners scored. I just think it depends on when you can get a group of guys to not be scared to lay it all out there, to just -- let's hook it up and let's go. When you're matched athletically so much, we're one of those clubs where it could just go either way, but if we're not scared to compete, if we're not scared of the outcome, we might be right there sitting for a special moment.

But perseverance is kind of the word we've used in our program, and anything that happens to these young men, all of these things -- the reason why we're here and the reason why we're doing this for these student-athletes is for them to grow into men. It's to make them -- this is supposed to be an educational experience like none other, to make them kind of find their greatness and their purpose and really their identity in life. I'm proud of our group, but hey, if you're competing, some things are going to happen if you're in the frame. If you never get in the frame, you're probably going to avoid ever having to have heartbreak. But if you're in the frame, you'd better be ready for whatever comes about.

CHRIS LEMONIS: I don't know if I can answer it much better than that. I mean, and especially with their experience of last year. But it's heartbreaking. Even as the coach or the player of other teams, you don't want to see any player have to go through that, and I think that was across the board, and I didn't know the player, but I had just gotten the job and was watching it in Starkville and was watching that, and I remember thinking, man, it's heartbreaking for you. I know Dave, and we've played that team, and they are motivated. I think they'd use it as a motivator for them, and I think they were really good against us.

In our world one of the reasons our kids have so much success when they leave is they have the ability to take a punch, and I think in baseball different than any other sport is our failure rate is so high in our sport. From my best player to my worst player, everybody has been in a slump, everybody has had a bad game, everybody has gone 0 for 4, and they've all been there at some point, but I think that's the piece that Butch said; I think he hit it right on the head.

TIM CORBIN: No one is immune from those moments. It happens to everyone. Yeah, that equipped them for this. They're certainly a dangerous team. I think that in and of itself was a component to Arkansas's success moving forward.

Q. Tim, a little bit of a follow-up, but Arkansas has only got three position starters back from the team, and Fletcher in center is the only guy playing the same spot. How impressed are you knowing their program and Dave like you do that they make it back here with so much roster turnover in their starting lineup?
TIM CORBIN: Yeah, there's roster turnover, but when you're on the other side, you're not looking at Arkansas that way. I'm looking at Arkansas like Goodheart, that's a guy that steps right into their lineup and almost hits .400. I look at that roster much like I looked at them last year. Just that's Arkansas, they're going to have a good team. Dave is always going to have good players. Tony did such a nice job in recruiting for them before he left to Tennessee. I just thought that with their change in assistants they were going to continue down the same path and have good players. I don't look at their roster as a lot of new kids, I just look at them as, wow, this is Arkansas again, dangerous, skilled, hit. They've got a fifth-year senior who plays first base that looks like he's 40 years old and hits balls all over the yard. I mean, I'm not buying it. They're good at Arkansas.

Q. Chris, when you see Auburn get shut out against North Carolina and then explode for 13 runs in the first inning, how do you prepare for a team that has that kind of tenacity?
CHRIS LEMONIS: Well, we played them earlier in the year, and this time of year everybody is good and everybody is playing well. So watching that game we were all sitting in our offices and that was a long first inning, so it was a -- we had one like that in Missouri a couple years ago that when we didn't have any pitching left and I know in Butch's world, getting that big lead was huge. We know we're just facing a great opponent, an opponent that's familiar with us and we're familiar with them, and it'll be a great game to be able to go out there and compete. But we do know we're playing a hot team that's coming in playing well.

Q. Tim, you played Louisville earlier in the year. I'm curious your thoughts on the balance they have offensively from the top of the lineup to the bottom because the bottom is hitting really well recently, as well.
TIM CORBIN: I can answer that just like I'd answer the Arkansas question. Louisville is Louisville. When you look at Dan's teams, always plenty of speed. You get to that point of the season when we play them, it's in May, and I always follow him from afar, but I never look at them statistically, and every time I look at the stats, I go, holy cow, they're running just as much as they did last year, and we certainly don't see their weekend pitching, but we're very familiar with it, and they don't see ours but they're very familiar with theirs and ours.

But no, it's much like what we've seen in the past. I mean, we just play them the one time, but very observant of what he does. I say this about Dan, too, and he wouldn't want me to say this, but he's texting my wife when they get done, they get done before anyone, and he's texting my wife to make her feel good during our super regional, which was kind of him, and just telling her to hang in there.

You know, it's more than -- I know our teams will just be playing one another, but we've become very close through the years, and if he continues texting her during our game, I guess it's good and bad. It's good that he's distracted, it's bad that there's something going on that I don't know about. (Laughter).

Q. Butch, you mentioned the ups and downs of emotions of playing Mississippi State and growing 45 minutes from Dudy Noble, but have you heard from back home? Have people been texting you just about this week, preparing for playing a team you spent time with?
BUTCH THOMPSON: Yeah, just the shortest way to answer the question for me, to me it's relationships. I've been in this league 18 years, thankfully, so that's not a brag statement to say how many years you've been in the league. I'd hope at the end of the day for me that it's just about relationships, and I'm going deeper. I'm going to Jim Ellis, who I think is in the room, I see back there, who means the world to me. Everett, to keep us safe on that bus, as scary as it was to ride with him (laughter) --

CHRIS LEMONIS: It's still scary. We love E, though.

BUTCH THOMPSON: But this is about relationships, and you've just got them and they're deep and they're special. I have to say there's so many deep relationships that are all rooting against us Sunday, but I hear from Mississippi State folks when we have success, because it's sincere relationships. And I think what we're figuring out through a lot of this stuff is just as you get to a good place, this stuff is bigger than ball. There are things that are, and relationships at the end of the day are more than, and I cherish every one of those real deep relationships that I have at Mississippi State. I could just keep naming names, Joe Dier, who rushed me to the hospital one time when I was having kidney stones. I love him for life. Just all this experiences when you live with people for a long period of time that sometimes these relationships are bigger than ball.

CHRIS LEMONIS: Can I add into that, too? When we were sitting there yesterday for media and they pull up, they're following us, and we're all sitting there ready to go trying to get out of there, and Butch gets out of the car and I'm like, I've got to give Coach Butch a hug. So my whole team, even the ballplayers, there's a tremendous amount of respect, and I think you recruited a lot of them, maybe J.T. was the only one not there, but Butch -- they had to get off the bus and make a point to go see Coach Butch, and I just thought it was a special piece in this game of the relationship side.

Q. Tim, I think the Wall Street Journal reported that high school players were drafted at a declining rate over the last seven years, and I just wonder from your perspective why you think that is, more college players being drafted?
TIM CORBIN: I think the front offices of Major League teams have changed a little bit. I say a little bit, probably a lot of bit, in the last 10 years. They're more collegiate in nature, and because of that, they've probably taken an approach to drafting college kids because they think they're more trustworthy, when you're 21, 22 years of age and you've experienced college or the ACC or the SEC or the Big 12 for a point in time and you've been successful at it, then there's a trust factor that goes into spending money on a young man, and they've got business to do, and if they're going to make an investment, their investment is more towards a nice stock of trustworthy stock, and I think that's what's happened.

Q. Dan, we heard Chris talking about y'all's relationship a little bit there, and I know you've been a head coach before, but to sit back and watch his journey and to watch what he's done with Mississippi State this year, now there's a chance that he'll be in the opposite dugout to you at some point in this tournament, what emotions go through you to see the success he had throughout the year and what emotions will go through you if you get that chance and you guys are in opposing dugouts?
DAN McDONNELL: Like Tim mentioned about Erik, you know you wouldn't be where you're at with the success without great people around you and got the chance to coach with Chris at the Citadel and at Louisville. So people I knew down at Mississippi State when he got the job, I just said, hey, man, you got a star, and I don't know if all your fans realize that, but they will soon. We know inside of college baseball usually who the stars are. Sometimes we don't, but I was very clear this guy is a star, and no doubt he would run in there and do great things. As these guys mentioned, you're playing, you're trying to help your team advance, but your eyes are on the other games, as well, and the relationships you have and the people you're pulling for, and don't let Tim fool you now, my wife Julie Ann is good friends with Maggie, and we meet up in the Cape and we have dinner, and I think the longer we do this, our wives go through this -- the good and bad, the highs and the lows.

So just so proud of him because we played together. We coached together. We were in each other's weddings. It's family. I mean, it's -- his daughters and my sons, they act like family. Our wives are best friends. So it's really neat, and you don't ever want to coach -- I got to coach against him when he was at Indiana, and it wasn't a lot of fun. But as I said, you know if you're going to have to cross paths, this is the place to do it as opposed to the earlier stages.

Just so much respect for him, so it's fun. It's fun the older I get and the more relationships I have just following other programs out there. And it's not that you're ever really rooting against the other team because there's a good chance you probably know that coach and you know how hard he's worked. But there are those special relationships, and I think for Chris and I, it's been a celebration of the Citadel just because that's where we came from, a small military school in Charleston, South Carolina. I often wonder how his players think, this guy went to a military school? Just with his personality and how jolly he is. But as I've often said, man, it's a fierce competitor, so don't let the smile and the jokes fool you. When it comes time to compete, what I've always loved about him and probably the whole group I played with at the Citadel, man, we were some competitive kids with a chip on our shoulder.

This is a proud moment for not just the two of us but for all those Citadel guys we played with, all those guys we coached, all the alumni of a really neat, neat institution.

Q. Dan, after the super regional win, you said that you want to come here and be better prepared. So what have you learned in your past experiences here, and where did you want to be more prepared this time?
DAN McDONNELL: Oh, man, I remember I learned a lot from Mike Bianco in my six years with him at Ole Miss. Are you allowed to root for both schools, Ole Miss and Mississippi State? I know there's probably not a lot of people that do, but I do, so that's an unusual combination where I'm rooting for him and rooting for Chris. I just remember him giving me advice from Skip Bertman just about how overwhelming it could be. So the first time we went in '07 I called Mike and he gives me the Skip Bertman lesson and I preach it to my players, and I probably preached it every year, but I go back and you go, man, I don't know if I did a good enough job myself because it's overwhelming, there's so much going on. You want to be respectful and you appreciate the love that everybody is giving you. But you've got to manage your time wisely. So I met with our team Sunday and challenged them of the challenges ahead, and let's stay prepared, let's stay focused, so I just try to day in and day out -- I've probably done less interviews this year, which is a little disappointing because the kids laugh because usually when I do interviews with people that don't know me, I get called Coach McConnell or some off name of my last name and the kids just have a blast with them. The players love -- any time I can pick on a coach they just love it, so they call me Donnie McDonnell. So that's the one thing I miss of doing these interviews with coaches that don't know me because they get my name wrong. But just trying to stay balanced and keep the main thing the main thing. We all got here because we played great baseball and we just want to prepare to play great baseball, and however that is, each coach has their own way of doing that. I just want to be myself and keep doing the things that we've been doing to this point.

Q. You mentioned with this team being so young, 18 new players, how have they handled this Omaha experience so far? Anything surprise you? Are they handling it better than you expected, or have you had to corral them in a little bit?
DAN McDONNELL: Well, it's been six years since I've been here as an assistant for John Cohen, and the layers, the Major League game last night, there's been a lot added in the last six years, the depth of what -- distractions is a word. But these kids deserve this. I'm just thankful that every one of these student athletes that play for these great schools get to experience this, and especially our guys, to go through it.

To me, whether you believe in momentum or not, when you have a good rhythm going, you want to keep it going. At some way -- I just try to apply the bell curve to everything, so as soon as we leave the super regional, we're just easing back into meetings and lifting and then try to build back up. We actually had hitters facing pitchers yesterday, so that was the top of our curve, and now we're coming back down.

But from being here a couple of times, I think the first couple of times, I don't think I enjoyed my trip here. We're going to find a way to win this championship, and you're not going to have any fun. You've just got to stay driven. We'll see how this plays out because I want them to enjoy this experience. This city, the NCAA, everybody is invested and worked so hard to keep putting this together to make this one of the most unique championships that we host with the NCAA that I want our guys to enjoy every second that they're here and still love to try to go out and compete and play as well as we can when they start on Sunday.

Q. Chris, Jared Liebelt is a guy who didn't even pitch in the College World Series last year, struggling with command, struggling to throw strikes. How aware were you of his struggles last year when he got to Mississippi State and how important has his turnaround been for your bullpen?
CHRIS LEMONIS: Yeah, his has been a really neat journey, and just -- we say sometimes with JuCo players, you usually get one good year out of them, and we've gotten one good year out of Jared. He's come in, and with him and Scott Foxhall, our pitching coach, they just had a really good plan from day one. I think Jared said, and I didn't realize this at the time, but he went out last summer and did nothing. So I don't know if that's a great recipe. But for him, it was mentally to get away from the game. He just felt like he had to get away from it. It had been a really tough year, and he had never not had success. So for the ability to come back, start from scratch in the fall, and they had built a really great relationship, and fox hall has come in and said, this guy is really good. He just built on days and just stacked them up. He's been one of our most reliable guys all year long.

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