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June 21, 2021

Jay Johnson

Omaha, Nebraska, USA

Arizona Wildcats

Postgame Press Conference

Stanford - 14, Arizona - 5

COACH JOHNSON: Tough day today obviously. Tip your hat to Stanford. They were ready to play. They hit everything. And you know 24 hours or 36 hours of disappointment here is not going to change the accomplishments of our team. I'm very proud of them. First outright conference championship team at the University of Arizona in 29 years. 45 wins, national seed. Hosted Regional, Super Regional, be champions at both of those.

And lost to two really good opponents here in terms of Vanderbilt and a really tough game the other night. I was proud of the way we competed in that.

Today, they were just better. Like I said, we left a lot of pitches up and over the plate and they hit everything.

Q. What was the gist of your message to the team in the dugout after the game?

COACH JOHNSON: Yeah, we're going to wrap up here when we get back to the hotel to do that justice. The NCAA wants you to move along, out of respect for the teams coming in. There wasn't really enough time to do that and adequately do that. So we'll go back to the hotel and talk about some things.

I'll keep most of that between us. But I'm really proud of them. I mean, I really believed we could be here. I believed we could be a championship team, and we were. And, again, it's one thing to think you have that, talk about doing it, say you're going to do it and actually go out and do it.

And I'm really proud of these guys. Great baseball team, made up of great competitors and great character and so it's going to be tough. This is a tough group to say goodbye too. And we'll have some of them back, but collectively pretty special. And we're going to make sure we know that how we feel, how I feel about them.

Q. What kind of growth did you see out of this team, especially in the second half of the season into the postseason?

COACH JOHNSON: Tremendous growth and good question. I think this year felt like two years into one. A lot of the main players in 2020, when we felt like we had a team that could get here and it was shut down by COVID, returned with the exception of two, and so this was like two years in the making.

With that being said, I do think we improved. I think they handled the whole COVID thing extremely well. We had a really productive or as productive as you could have summer, productive fall.

Lost two of the first three games of the season. Made some adjustments and really got better as the year went on. I mean to only lose I think two series the entire year in the conference that we play in and the schedule that we play is a great accomplishment.

But I thought we got better as we went. And in my opinion here nothing really changed. We just ran into two worthy opponents where the margin between winning and losing that game Saturday night against Vanderbilt was incredibly small, and they put themselves on the right side of that. And today we just got beat by a good team.

But I thought we grew. I thought some guys really made some steps forward. I think some guys played their ways into professional opportunities. Guys played their way into being elite college players. And all in all just a great team. So very proud of them.

Q. You mentioned that a lot of pitches were kept up. Was that what you were seeing from Garrett? Was he just not able to keep the ball down?

COACH JOHNSON: Yeah, I think they had a really good plan against him. And he made some mistakes. And those are big, strong, physical guys. At least in terms of the Pac-12, the two most physical teams made it here in us and them.

And we knew Williams was going to be tough. He made it hard on us in the regular season matchup. And there wasn't a lot of margin for error. Tip my hat to Garrett to getting out of the jam in the first with no runs and then got a 1-2-3 second. But then as we were moving forward, it was just -- he would leave a ball up and they'd make him pay.

He hasn't done that. He's had a phenomenal season for us. We won nine of the ten starts he had in Pac-12 play. All he does is win, at least that's what it feels like. So today was kind of an anomaly. And I'll tip my hat to Stanford. Those guys got some grown-man swings off on mistake pitches.

Q. Alex Williams had some success against you guys up at Palo Alto. What was the plan coming in today to try to be more effective against him? And how do you feel it went early there?

COACH JOHNSON: Great question. The plan was last time we looked like we were trying to do too much with him. He has good movement on his fastball, where you feel like it's going to be on your barrel and then it moves off. Has a really, really plus change-up. I don't know where he sits as a draft prospect, but for me that's one of the best pitchers we've seen the entire season and should be talked about as a draft prospect.

But it was really staying on the ball. Really hitting the ball where it was pitched, because if you try to do too much, that's where he's going to beat you with his run on his fastball and then softening you up with the change-up.

And we just hit too many fly balls early in the game. It was very abnormal, out of character. I don't know if that was just that he had some ride and it was getting underneath, our guys didn't stay in plan. I'll have to look at that a little bit closer.

We did start to put together some at-bats against him. Five runs in six innings, but I mean at one time they had more hits than outs in like the fifth inning. You're not going to win in Omaha when that's the case.

Q. Coach, even with the tough loss, was there anything that you saw from the game that you liked from your players and what they were doing?

COACH JOHNSON: When it was 10-0, it was going to be hard to come back and win that game against that quality of team. And we just met in the dugout and just said, hey, like not that I don't care if we win, but let's be realistic about what's going on here. There's no way a group of this good of character that are this good of competitors is going to go out like this.

And then we immediately scored two. And then scored three. And it was 10-5. Now you're thinking with our offense, you know, the daytime, if we can get some zeros up, might have a chance to claw back in it. I was really proud of them for that. We just couldn't keep them off the board, in the ballpark, off the barrel of the bat. And it made it really difficult to get any solid momentum in coming back.

Q. If Chandler Murphy had excelled in exactly the type of situation you brought him into today many times this season, what was missing from his arsenal today do you think?

COACH JOHNSON: I think just, again, he got a lot of the plate with his pitches and they were right at the mid-thigh or the belt. And when you're looking at -- I'm going down their list -- of Eddie Park, Tawa, Jones, Huff, Robinson -- all those guys had multiple hits. Drew Browser three hits. Adam Crampton had two hits. And Tommy Troy hit one into orbit.

I just think we missed over the plate too much. I'd have to go back and watch it to say, but it was a lot of the same with Garrett. Those guys are quality pitchers and have been good for us. They're two of the biggest reasons we're in Omaha right now. But they made mistakes and Stanford was on it today.

Q. How important was it late in the game to get in as many of the guys as possible to add to the experience?

COACH JOHNSON: Well, all of them deserve it. I think we got all but one player in the game. We just needed one more guy to get on base. We hit into a double play in the late innings that kind of hurt that.

But I love every one of these guys. This is a special team. I mean, every single one of them, the 27 that are here, a lot of guys that aren't here, they've poured everything they had into our program.

And going back to the last 15 games of 2019, the start of the COVID year and this year, they've been incredibly successful. And it speaks to the quality of players that we have that they were and the quality of people that they are and will continue to be.

So I wanted to get as many of them as an opportunity as I could. Like I said, we fell one guy short, which I'm disappointed about that. But it wasn't my plan going in today to, hey, let's make sure we get everybody in the game. Unfortunately, the game turned out to be that way.

Q. What does it say about Donta that presumably his last two at-bats as a Wildcat were line drives to the shortstop and second baseman?

COACH JOHNSON: Yeah, it's well documented with you how I feel about him. If there's a recruit, a young player at home and wants to play baseball at Arizona, look at No. 23. And as a person, as a player. They don't make them like that very often.

And I would assume somebody's going to give him a professional opportunity. If people are paying attention, they should. I just kind of glanced up at the board and I saw a stat he only swung and missed at two pitches that were over 93 miles an hour the entire season. That screams Major League hitter to me.

So he's a special one. And one we're going to miss. And his on-the-field contribution was amazing. I thought it was awesome that he was a named first-team All-American the other day. He certainly deserved it. And the only thing he's better at than playing baseball is he's a first-class and quality human being.

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