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June 24, 2021

Brian O'Connor

Omaha, Nebraska, USA

Virginia Cavaliers

Postgame Press Conference

Texas - 6, Virginia - 2

COACH O'CONNOR: I'd just like to thank everyone for sticking with us. I know it's late, especially out on the East Coast. So, thanks for hanging with us.

I just want to say certainly Texas has a terrific ballclub. You can see why they're the No. 2 overall seed. They're very talented in many different ways. So just about this team, you know, this is as special a team as we've had in this uniform at this university.

What they persevered through, the resiliency that they have shown the last two months, but specifically over the last two weeks, is just remarkable. I told them that all the teams that we have at Virginia are all special in their own way, but this one is at the top.

Certainly when you win a national championship, that's pretty special. But this team, what they were able to accomplish, based on the position that they were in two months ago and then the position they were in over the last two weeks with their backs against the wall six times -- we just ran into a great club.

When you get here in Omaha, you have to play clean. You have to play clean games. And we weren't clean tonight. And Texas took advantage of that. And, so, just incredibly proud of the way that our young men represented our university and this baseball program. Complete class. Competitors, guys that just continued to fight and stand up when their teammates needed them the most.

I told the team after the game that this is going to hurt. It's going to hurt for a while. It should hurt. When you put the time into it and care so much like these young men do about their team and the success they want to have, it's going to hurt.

But I told them that after they get over the pain of the season being over and losing, they'll realize what they did and the lessons that they learn from what they endured through this season. It will help them next year for the ones that are back and then it's going to help them for the rest of their lives. And that's what this experience is about and I'm proud as heck of them.

Q. You mentioned this team being maybe the most special you've had at Virginia. What is it about this group that made them so special and such a joy to coach?

COACH O'CONNOR: Well, it starts from the beginning. There was high expectations on this team. I think preseason this team was ranked in the top 20. There was a lot of expectation. And out of the gate we didn't play up to our capability. They knew it. We all knew it. We were trying to work through it. We were all trying to figure it out.

And just what I'll remember about them is they just stood up and competed and were not going to be denied of this opportunity to play in June. And many teams at times fold when that happens. And they just wouldn't let it happen. They kept grinding.

And the next guy that's going to follow me up here, Chris Newell, I'm so incredibly proud of him and many others. But to see the way that he performed down the stretch for us and see the way he performed in Omaha, the emergence of him, his future is so bright. And to see somebody that just didn't -- he kept fighting and he didn't quit on himself.

Griff McGarry is another great example. It's just all of those situations where guys, they could have packed it in. And they didn't. And that speaks to the character that they have and what they're made of. And in baseball that will serve them well. And they'll have successful careers after this year. And I know they'll be terrific fathers and make great contributions to society because of what they stood up and did this year.

Q. The team not only got back to the NCAA Tournament, you made it back to Omaha this year. Given the history of the program and all your previous teams had done, how important was it for the program going forward to do what you did this year as you look to the future?

COACH O'CONNOR: Well, sure. It's important to be back in the NCAA Tournament and very important to get to Omaha for the future. But for me, it was about this group. It was this team's experience. It was guys that will never wear this uniform again. It was their last opportunity to achieve something that is really, really great. And I'm just happy for them -- happy for them that they did what they did, had the experience of playing in Omaha, to compete for a national championship. And they're winners.

Now, the ripple effect of that, obviously, is when you make it to Omaha, it continues to -- unfortunately it's this way -- but it validates the elite level of your program. And that's what these kids did. That's the add-on for this.

I wish it wasn't that way because there were many years we were playing in the NCAA Tournament and No. 1 seeds couldn't break through to get to Omaha. You felt like you needed to get here to validate the level of your program that you're a great college baseball program. And fortunately we did that again. And just proud of these guys that they had this experience.

Q. How much do you think having to play the full five games that first weekend and the full three games against Dallas Baptist, how much did that maybe start to catch up with your pitching staff, especially your bullpen these last couple of games?

COACH O'CONNOR: I think that's a great observation. I was concerned about it, right? But knew that guys would fight and we'd have guys that would step up. We had to do some extraordinary things the last two weekends to be here.

And I don't want to take anything away from any team, what Mississippi State did or Texas did. They're great clubs. But I just felt like some of our guys were on fumes for what they've had to do down the stretch run, not our position players, but some of our arms.

I think about Blake Bales and he had a fantastic year for us and didn't appear here in Omaha and didn't appear in the Super Regional. And Schoch was a little banged up, some other guys that it kind of took the toll on them.

But that said, I still felt like we certainly had enough to contend for the national championship. But I think it kind of wore them down a little bit, for sure.

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