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June 25, 2019

Erik Bakich

Jordan Brewer

Jack Blomgren

Omaha, Nebraska

Vanderbilt - 4, Michigan - 1

ERIK BAKICH: Well, I think it only seems fitting that our team would go to three games. That's just kind of been our MO here in all these rounds. Just seems like we're very comfortable in that spot. After the game, just sensed a calmness of our team, and they're excited to play tomorrow.

The big story line tonight was Kumar Rocker. He's as advertised. He's got a special breaking ball that's tough to see. You try to sit on a fastball, and he throws enough of those breaking balls for strikes. You try to sit on the breaking ball, and he gets you with a 95 mile-an-hour fastball.

I'm glad that the college game has players like that in it. The college game is better when guys like that come to school. And he was good tonight. He had our number. We had some chances that we didn't cash in. We didn't get the two-out RBIs tonight.

But I thought our guys that we pieced this game together with did a good job. They scored an unearned run as a byproduct of an error, we spike a couple of wild pitches that score two runs. But out side of that, the solo home run was really the one run that they had really got into.

But I thought the guys that -- the six guys that pitched did a fine job, outside of the two walks and the two spiked fastballs for runs, all the other guys -- five out of the six guys did pretty good. No issues with them. Feel good about Karl Kauffmann and Jeff Criswell for tomorrow, and, again, feel good about the makeup of our team responding after a tough night.

But, again, tip of the cap to Kumar Rocker.

Q. Jordan, what was kind of your assessment of Kumar and just what makes him so difficult to hit?
JORDAN BREWER: Yeah, like Coach said, he hides his curve ball really well. Once you sit on a curveball, he's coming with a 95-mile-per-hour fastball, either inside or outside. It's hard to see, and it comes out of his hand really well.

Q. Jack, obviously not the result you wanted tonight, but you get to come back tomorrow. How much confidence does it give you having those two guys out on the mound that Coach just mentioned, they've both just been nailed so far this postseason? How much confidence does that give you guys?
JACK BLOMGREN: I think our whole team always has confidence no matter what happens, and we've been resilient all year. Those two guys coming in tomorrow have been great all year, so we have so much confidence in them, and it's going to be about how bad -- which team wants it how bad.

Q. Erik, can you just talk about the decision to start Paige, and did you feel like you were at your best tomorrow if you had both Kauffman and Criswell available?
ERIK BAKICH: Well, we had a lot of confidence in Isaiah Paige. It wasn't just a random -- his numbers are good, and he fills up the strike zone with three pitches. He did a nice job tonight.

The impetus for the decision to start Paige was more the desire to have Jeff Criswell out of the pen in an extended role. We knew that if we got any kind of a lead in the middle innings, we were going to go right to Criswell, and instead of extending him in the start like we did at UCLA a couple of weeks ago coming off of pitching an inning the night before, we felt like he would better serve our team finishing the game off.

And so there was a lot of deliberation, but at the end of the day, it just kind of got to a point where we said: This really is a no-brainer. We need Jeff at the back end of the game.

It didn't work out that way. We never got the lead. But he would have been ready to go had we have. But, again, very -- feel very good about Isaiah Paige. For a redshirt freshman to go in there in that stage and fill up the strike zone with three pitches and show a lot of poise and command, I thought he did a nice job.

Q. Coach, you touched on it a little bit about being in this position in the regional and the super regional. Just talk about being in that must-win situation one more time this season.
ERIK BAKICH: Yeah, that's the one positive of the Big Ten tournament, the regional round, the super regional round and now this. We've been here -- we've had a lot of repetitions with these types of games. All the adversity that we've faced in the last month, month and a half, it's just callused our mind, and guys are very comfortable in these environments and in these spots.

I told the team, it seems very fitting that this is going to come down to Game 3. That seems like how it should be with the story line of this particular team, with team 153.

Q. Coach, you've got Kauffman coming back on four days' rest, I think. I assume that's something he hasn't done a lot of in his career, but have you talked to him about how he's feeling and how much do you expect to get out of him tomorrow? What's your state of mind about Kauffman heading into tomorrow?
ERIK BAKICH: I haven't talked to him, but I'm sure in a World Series final Game 3, he's feeling pretty good. I know he and Coach Fetter have had those conversations, and that's been the plan all along. He's starting on Friday against Texas Tech, and if it went to Wednesday, he was going to be ready to go.

The one thing about Karl, he's older, he's mature, he knows how to take care of his body, so he has done the things he needs to do from a workout standpoint and a recovery standpoint to get his body and himself ready to go on four days' rest and pitch on the fifth day.

Q. Erik, if you could talk about Jordan's injury and also what are your thoughts on who might bat leadoff tomorrow with Jordan looking like he's for sure out and if you're going to stick with Dominic in the DH spot?
ERIK BAKICH: Yeah, Nwogu felt his quad pull when he was running, and it was tough for him to put pressure on it, and the doc that evaluated him said he had a quad strain. So I would guess with the way he was coming off the field, that would be a tough assignment to be ready to go in 24 hours.

But, you know, we've been in this position multiple times in the year. Nwogu has been out, Franklin has been out, Brewer has been out. So we've had a lot of guys step up and get opportunities. Dom could be a guy that we could run back out there, but I'm probably leaning towards a guy like Riley Bertram who's been a spark throughout this postseason. A guy like Miles Lewis could do it and has done it all year. He's got 200-something at-bats and 16 doubles and had a lot of clutch hits.

I think what we'll do is watch a lot of film tonight and tomorrow and just see the matchup with Hickman and what seems to fit best, whether it's a right-hander like Miles Lewis or switch-hitter like Bertram or just a left-hander like Dominic and make a decision between one of those three guys.

Q. And then leadoff, would maybe Jack Blomgren go there? Have you given that much thought?
ERIK BAKICH: Yeah, I like the flow of our lineup, so I thought would be to just bump everybody up one. We've had Ako shift up a time or two, but I like the order and the way it goes. So we may just bump everybody up and whoever is DHing could hit in the 9 hole.

Q. Do you know much about Mason Hickman at that point, and was it a plus that you got Tyler Brown to throw 40 pitches against you?
ERIK BAKICH: I just remember Mason Hickman from the recruiting process. He's a Mount Julia kid; is that right? Hendersonville, that's right. Well, same thing.

But yeah, he was always three-pitch command. I was always very impressed with him in high school, and I obviously follow Vanderbilt very closely so follow all their games and all their success and saw how well he did when he pitched as kind of their fourth starter this year, and now that he's moved into the 3 hole of the rotation, he's got great numbers, and he does a really good job of pounding the zone with three pitches.

We'll have our work cut out for us tomorrow, that's for sure. I'm sure Tyler Brown will have no issues coming back tomorrow, even though he threw 40 pitches, just knowing that kid and what he's all about and his makeup and his story.

So I don't think 40 pitches is going to be a deterrent to come back tomorrow. But he's got really good stuff, as does their whole pitching staff.

Q. How much of your job over the next 24 hours is going to be sports psychologist, reading faces and are we going to be ready, or at this point in the season you don't worry about those things?
ERIK BAKICH: Well, I just read their faces in the dugout and they were smiling, and this is a bounce-back team. We've had so many bouts of adversity where we've been knocked down that tonight doesn't -- I didn't sense that they were totally bummed out and would kind of come into tomorrow still dragging their feet. They walked out of here with their head held high. They know once we hit the pillow tonight, this one is over, and are you kidding me, we've got a chance to play again tomorrow, and we'll just have to play better.

I thought we had chances today and I thought we could have competed a little bit better in certain spots, but we had some backwards K's, got caught guessing. But I would be shocked if we didn't come out tomorrow with our best energy and all the things that have allowed us to play well up to this point.

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