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June 19, 2021

Jay Johnson

Omaha, Nebraska, USA

Arizona Wildcats

Postgame Press Conference

Vanderbilt - 7, Arizona - 6 (12 innings)

THE MODERATOR: We'll begin with an opening statement from Coach and go to questions.

COACH JOHNSON: Great college baseball game. Two really good teams with really good players. Credit to Vanderbilt. Put a few more quality at-bats together. Continued to put pressure on us. Felt like we were on the ropes every inning doing everything we could to get out of it. Just came up a little bit short. Disappointed for our players, but we'll be ready to go on Monday.

Q. Vanderbilt came into the College World Series as defending national champion and stole the headlines, if you will, with their great pitching. As a result, all the pressure was on them. Did this help you guys in terms of playing loose and playing your best brand of baseball?

COACH JOHNSON: I don't think the opponent had anything to do with our feel or our approach. I think we have mature players, players that have had success, players that know what it takes to have success, players that know what their best character is. And I thought we came out very well and in character.

Sometimes the game is hard when you're playing a good opponent and a good pitcher like we did tonight with their starter and a few guys out of the bullpen.

And then they put a lot of pressure on you with the speed and athleticism throughout that lineup and force you into a fast-catch situation. I'm comfortable with how we competed. There's nothing relative to that that I have any disappointment about.

Q. Specifically in regard to the offensive approach tonight, you guys had one walk and 19 strikeouts. Do you think the guys were maybe pressing or trying to do too much up there a little bit?

COACH JOHNSON: No, somebody's going to give that dude $7 million here in a couple of weeks. So, no.

Q. Can you go through the decision to go with Preston as your first reliever as opposed to maybe Riley or going with a lefty, maybe?

COACH JOHNSON: We liked what Chase had done against Bradfield and Young the first couple times through the order. And he was the most similar. And obviously being a fifth-year guy, we thought he'd be poised and come in and throw strikes and pitch down in the zone. And he left the fastball right over the middle of the plate and Young hit it.

Q. It was well documented going into this game that you guys were going against a prolific pitcher in Kumar Rocker. That being said, how crucial was it for Chase Silseth to come out and match Rocker pitch for pitch, keeping you guys well within the game and giving yourselves a chance to win at the end?

COACH JOHNSON: Chase did a great job tonight. I think he ran out of gas at 105. That was his pitch count. Competed extremely hard. And we didn't make it easy on him. I don't think it went as an error but we should have made that play in the first inning in the outfield, which he had to make more pitches there to get out of an inning with a runner in scoring position.

I thought he competed great. I'm very pleased with what Chase did, and I think he showed his character, his ability tonight in terms of how he executed and made it hard on them.

Q. This situation there at the end, what's the strategy as far as the middle infielders? Did you think about putting them at double-play depth, or is it always infield in when it's that score and the bases loaded?

COACH JOHNSON: The problem is the runner at third. They have a very fast team all the way through the order. If it's hit slowly, we're not going to have a chance to turn it. Nik's got to be able to come in and be able to get the force at home to keep the game going.

Just credit Gonzalez. He got inside it and threw it just enough to punch it through there. We wanted to give ourselves a chance to win. And so we were playing to win.

Q. Did you think that during those middle innings where when Rocker was getting the groove that looking back that maybe if you had been able to get another run in that first inning that things would have been different? What was he doing that got him settled in?

COACH JOHNSON: Well, I think, again, credit to our guys for coming out ready and in plan. And then he kind of kicked it into another gear. Breaking ball got a little bit sharper. Actually held had his velocity pretty well. And, yeah, I mean, when you gotta get started when it's up there at 96 and 97, he can make you chase.

As detailed as we put work into it, as good as our guys have been at that, he kind of found another gear. And so you tip your hat to him and it's why he's going to be a very valued commodity and why he gets the attention that he gets.

Q. Right toward the end of Chase's outing there was a walk on a pitch that seemed to be a strike. Did it look like a strike from your vantage point in the dugout?

A. Yes.

Q. The last time you did this, you had a lot of experience, you were in the loser's bracket, playing elimination games. What can you draw on from that time that maybe you can use to help your team this time?

COACH JOHNSON: I think it's a baseball game against Stanford and Arizona on Monday. And we want to win that game. And we want to play our best in that game to give us an opportunity to win that game.

I think if you look too much further beyond that, it complicates Monday. And these guys love playing together and we want to continue to play together. And we want to keep going. I think we have enough pitching to work our way back through it. But it doesn't matter. The only thing that matters is Monday. And so everything will be about Monday.

Q. Enrique Bradfield Jr. came into this game leading the nation in stolen bases at 46. How great of an emphasis was it in the game plan to keep Bradfield from reaching base, considering when he gets on he steals bases at a very high rate?

COACH JOHNSON: They're tough to play. And he was 1-for-4, walked twice. So he was on base three times. Didn't steal any bases, but he really makes you adjust what you're doing. And there's very few game-changing players with that kind of dynamic in college baseball.

So, as I said yesterday, he's incredibly disruptive. I'm happy we were able to keep him from stealing bases. I think it would have been nice to keep him and a couple other guys off base a little bit more. But they did just enough offensively where it seemed like we were on the ropes every inning. The game was almost over in the ninth or the tenth there where we had the bases loaded and one out, and got the strikeout, ground ball to get out of it.

The lead-off guy was on seemed like the last three, four innings for them.

Again, I thought our guys competed well. I thought they got a string of quality at-bats one more time than we did and that's why they are who they are.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports

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