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June 22, 2021

Brian O'Connor

Omaha, Nebraska, USA

Virginia Cavaliers

Postgame Press Conference

Mississippi State - 6, Virginia - 5

Q. What's the message to the team after a game like this? I know you guys have had your backs against the wall before. How do you rally quickly and get ready for Thursday?

COACH O'CONNOR: The message was that certainly it was a tough loss. But Mississippi State won the game. We didn't do enough, we didn't finish the game certainly on the mound. And we had opportunities to extend our lead numerous times in the middle of the game and we just didn't do it. And that's a credit to Mississippi State.

And it was important, I told our guys that they didn't think about this game as we lost the game. They won it. And it's important that they think of it that way.

Sometimes when you have a guy that's going out there he's got a no-hitter, he's pitching a great ball game, you're up 4-0 going into the last two innings, and they take the lead, you know, sometimes you can think about that, we lost it, but all the credit goes to Mississippi State. They had key players rise up and get big clutch hits and clutch at-bats. And so they won the ball game.

So that was my message -- as well as that I'm proud of this team. They have bounced back every time that they've been challenged. And so we've been in this position before. And so we have an opportunity to come back out here in this great stadium two days from now and represent Virginia baseball the right way. And I know that they'll be ready for that because I know the character that they have.

Q. Until he gave up the home run in the eighth Griff had basically been unhittable. What are your thoughts on his performance and continuing his run of postseason?

COACH O'CONNOR: Well, he was terrific. He was in complete control of the game. To Mississippi State's credit, they hit some balls hard. He had eight strikeouts.

There were some balls that were put in play that were squared up to outfielders, but he was terrific. I mean, he responded like we had hoped that he would. And it's just unfortunate for him that we just couldn't finish it off because he was spectacular tonight. And it's too bad that it ended the way it did for him.

Q. How do you just manage the -- you mentioned they've been down before like this, but this is a little bit of a different kind of loss. How do you manage the roller coaster of emotions at the end over the next couple of days?

COACH O'CONNOR: We'll start to manage it tomorrow. Tonight we'll get back. We'll have some dinner. And get a good night's rest. We'll practice tomorrow. And we'll talk about it. But what this team has showed week after week, with their ability to step up and keep fighting is impressive.

So I've got complete confidence that they will be ready to play and believe that we'll do the job. We might not win the game, but I know they'll be ready to play and I know they'll compete every pitch and give it the best they can. If we do that, we have a shot. And then we'll see what happens from there.

Q. When Allen gets up in the eighth, at that point he was 0-for-3, struck out twice, but with a player that talented are you kind of holding your breath the whole time?

COACH O'CONNOR: You know, I'm telling Stephen when he comes in the ball game, he's got to make pitches down in the zone. You're looking for a ground ball. Obviously he's a tremendous player, right. The kind of player that you could sit there and say, you don't want him to beat you. But you also don't want to -- you also don't want to walk him because his run takes the lead.

So you want to make him earn it. And to his credit he did. He put a great swing on the ball. We didn't execute. And he made us pay for it. And that's what great players do.

And that said, we're the home team. We still have two shots at it. It's the, ultimately it's the sixth run that ended up being the one that was the dagger that we just couldn't come back from.

Q. You went to Messinger first out of the bullpen, you've got a ton of options. What was the logic with him first?

COACH O'CONNOR: Well, I thought he was fresh. He's done the job for us all year. Went right to him. The bases were clean after the home run. Just felt like, okay, he goes out there and gets two outs, and then my plan was to go to Stephen Schoch in the ninth inning. They did a nice job with two strikes against him. The lead-off hitter hit a double into the left-center gap. And so I just felt like that could be the ball game there. And Stephen Schoch had told me, I watched him throw two days ago. I thought he looked sharp. He told me two days ago, against Tennessee, that he was ready to go. And he told me that again tonight.

And the guy's been our guy all year long. And he just couldn't hold them, just couldn't get the job done. So I've got a ton of confidence in both of those guys, a ton of confidence in Mess. I knew at some point tonight he'd be in the ball game.

Q. After a strong performance in the Super Regionals and Regionals, Devin has struggled a little bit at the plate. What's your message to him to kind of get him out of that funk here in Omaha?

COACH O'CONNOR: I think he's pressing a little bit. He's done so many great things for us. He one of the guys that is the reason we're here. And he's just -- he's a great player. He's done some terrific things. He's probably pressing a little bit and he wants to do more. And sometimes that has the reverse effect. So, listen, he'll keep battling. And I know the character of him. I know it will come back his way.

Q. In a lot of great pitching performances, when a guy's pitch count gets up, once an inning starts with a walk or something like that, you often see him come out of the game. Does a no-hitter cause you to rethink that at all? Obviously could have got a ground ball double play or something like that.

COACH O'CONNOR: No, no, it didn't. I didn't think about taking him out of the game at that time after the walk. I thought it was a really good pitch that he made. And it was really close. But I didn't think about taking him out until the home run, and I just felt like he did his job and it was a clean time to bring Zach Messinger in. But, no, I didn't consider taking him out after the walk.

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