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June 26, 2010

Sam Dyson

Witt Merrifield

Matt Price

Ray Tanner

Christian Walker


South Carolina - 4
Clemson - 3

THE MODERATOR: Joined now by South Carolina players Sam Dyson, Whit Merrifield, Christian Walker, Matt Price and Head Coach Ray Tanner. Opening statement, Coach.
COACH TANNER: Heck of a ball game, no question about it. You know, two teams that are extremely familiar with each other. The numbers were almost identical. We left about the same number they did on base. Had about the same number of hits. Guys competing all over the place.
Pitchers battling hard, making plays. And we came up with a couple of two-out hits there in the 8th. And Enders tried to give us a little bit of insurance, but boy ran that ball down the alley. And it's one of those games that's very common when we play Clemson. And we're very fortunate to be able to continue to play.
I'm proud of these guys up here and our team. We've just battled and tried to stay in the position all night long. It's very difficult to do against a team as talented and as good as Clemson is.
Like I said, a very evenly matched game. And we get a chance to play now in the national championship.

Q. Christian, talk about the roller coaster ride you had tonight. You had the double play in the first and the home run. Then the ball gets past you, the tying run score and you make the defensive game to end the ball game. Talk about your night.
CHRISTIAN WALKER: It was up and down all night. But that's baseball. You just gotta roll with it and flushing and move on. It's good to have the confidence because you know somebody behind you is going to pick you up. That's what we have on the team. We got a bunch of role players to go out and win the games for you.

Q. Whit, can you describe your emotions tonight, knowing what your coach just said, that you guys are playing for a national title, what that means to you and this team?
WHIT MERRIFIELD: As we said from the beginning, it's nice to get to Omaha. But we didn't want to just get here. We wanted to do something here. And we're in the position now to do something that this program has never accomplished before. And we know we gotta play well to beat UCLA.
And we're looking forward to having two more good games and hopefully scrapping two more wins.

Q. Coach and Matt, for Matt first, in the 7th inning, you're tied up at 2. And Matt comes in and I believe Schaus got a single at left and first and third, and then their man Kyle Parker came up and he punched him out. Pretty big play of the game, I think, maybe the play of the game to keep him from going ahead. First Matt, just talk about that at-bat and coming back from giving up a single. And then, Coach, if you'd talk a little bit about Matt's role.
MATT PRICE: I know I didn't make my pitches against Kyle Parker. He's a great hitter, 20 bombs. I just had to locate my pitches, and he chased a couple that were in. So I got the strikeout. And that was it.
COACH TANNER: All you can ask of your players is to battle their hearts out, try to play smart baseball. And we've done that for a long time. We make some mistakes. We have a base running gap or two.
And Christian should have probably blocked that ball up that got passed him. But he's trying to make a play at the same time. And Matt's gotta make pitches against one of the better hitters in the country.
There's so much going on. What's even more incredible, I still see Marzilli falling over the pitcher's mound down there. He said to me after the game, "Who put that mound there all of a sudden?" Then you've got Kyle Parker waiting in the wings. And if that ball gets past Christian over there, he's sitting there waiting again.
It's incredible. Just the whole night seemed like so many things happened in that game. And as I said, it was incredibly even. Sam was terrific. He just battled his heart out. And Matt gave us everything that he had left in the tank. Just a great win for us.

Q. It was gigantic.
COACH TANNER: It was, it was huge. And he's obviously done an incredible amount of damage when he's been at the plate this year. Looked like just a tremendous pitch on the inside half.

Q. Ray, we've talked about pitching all year with this team. But what they did in the last three days against two really good offenses, what's that mean?
COACH TANNER: Well, we've been a team that's been able to do that throughout. Coach Calvi has worked extremely hard. He's a tireless worker on scouting reports. He's on the phone constantly. He's watching tape. He's looking for an opportunity to find a location of a particular hitter. Hot guys. Cool guys.
Pitchers have to go out and execute. But they understand that. And they know how hard he prepares. If they can make some pitches, that we can stay in some games. But we've got a lot of good guys. We've got some talented pitchers.
And tonight I was just -- I was impressed with what Sam and Matt did. Even if we had been less fortunate, to win tonight, what great performances, competitive efforts. I mean, it doesn't get any better than that.

Q. Anybody that wants to answer this, but you had to win this the hard way to get there. Unfortunately, elimination games. What does that mean about the grit of this team. And, Whit, if you could tell us how you're still conscious after that collision out there.
WHIT MERRIFIELD: Well, I feel like this is the kind of team that we are. We're a very resilient team. We're a team that doesn't like to lose a lot. And we've done things the hard way all year. I think in the Regional, we fought back from every single game. And this whole season it summed it up for us.
We got here, we lost the first game. We said, you know, we've been doing things the hard way all year, why not keep doing it?
But as far as the play goes, you know, it was kind of a bonehead play on my part. I should have caught it from the get-go. I called it a little too late. Scott didn't hear anything, so he just kept going after the ball.
I went to slide in, and the next thing I knew I was -- my breath was gone. But I'm fine now, and after the game, I got to talk to Erin Andrews and she called me pretty. So it wasn't a total loss.

Q. Sam, if you could, kind of talk us through how you were feeling physically and did you feel like you performed as well as you could on three days' rest?
SAM DYSON: I feel I performed up to my capabilities today, I guess, after a certain period of rest. I battled the whole way through and pretty much just knew I had to make pitches whenever I had an opportunity to. Some of them went my way. Some of them didn't. But luckily, we were in a situation where we weren't down in the game.

Q. Sam, you're throwing from a different side, different style and all. But did you take anything from what Roth did last night to Clemson and were you able to apply that today?
SAM DYSON: We pitched a lot. Other than that, he's a totally different beast than I am. So my mindset was a little different than his. I'm asking the same thing, if I could do what Roth did. I don't think I pitch the same way he does. But I knew I could go out there and make my pitches, and that's what happened.

Q. Ray, Sam and Matt, talk about the job that the USC pitchers did against Schaus, Parker and Hinson, two games back and 3 for 21. Seems like shutting those guys down was a key component to winning these two games.
COACH TANNER: If those numbers are accurate, that's impressive, because as a coach, you're holding your breath when those guys come to the plate time and time again. They're tremendous players.
And some of those guys have stolen bases as well, home runs, doubles. To be able to get them out gave us an opportunity to win. There's no question about it. We kept them at bay to a great extent. And that was probably the key for us having an opportunity to win.
SAM DYSON: I mean, obviously I don't think any of us keep the stats in our head from game to game. But I guess if they were 3 for 21, they were 3 for 21.
WHIT MERRIFIELD: Yeah, that sums it up.

Q. Ray, could you just talk about the feeling of having your backs against the wall since dropping that first game Sunday, even being down to your last strike, how you get to take a deep breath and restart this thing on equal footing with the other team?
COACH TANNER: That's what I thought about when we got the last out in the 9th inning. A couple of days ago we were down to one strike, planning a trip back home. And now just a couple days later we're going to have an opportunity to play for a national championship. That's incredible.
But it's a never-say-die team. We've battled. We try to get an opportunity from the middle to the end. That's who we've been and we keep competing. It's hard to explain.
But I'm very happy to be a part of this group. We have a lot of fun but we play hard as well. And you have to do that in baseball day in, day out, handle the adversity. There's going to be some good times but there's also going to be a lot of adversity. And our guys have done a great job of handling the pitfalls of this game and getting back up and trying to recover and salvage the day.

Q. Coach, with Sam and Matt coming back on short rest, it sure looked like there wasn't any drop-off in the stuff. Curious in your perspective on what made those guys successful tonight.
COACH TANNER: I agree with you. And I'm impressed by what these guys have been able to do. I'm convinced that it's because of their conditioning and the way they prepare on days they don't pitch. I'm convinced that that's one reason why these guys have been out there all year and they don't miss any turns and they take the ball. And we're not a coaching staff that pushes it on them. We ask them: What have you got? Do you want to wait another day? And we go with what they tell us. But they prepare extremely hard.
I just said to Sam, we've got some requirements tomorrow, but maybe we should take some time. And he said, no, we gotta come out with some things we need to do.
And I think that's why they were able to compete like that. Because as I was sitting there watching, and he was going out on three days, Matt had thrown a lot here, I didn't see a drop-off. Those guys were competing and their stuff was good.

Q. Ray, I know it's kind of early to think about, but do you start setting up your pitching staff for the championship series, would Blake be available Monday?
COACH TANNER: I don't know. Coach Calvi and I have a routine going that we get together at 1:30 in the morning. It seems to be a good routine. Everybody's asleep and we sit there for a little while and chat it up and visit. So that's what we'll do again tonight and try to figure it out a little bit.

Q. Ray, the UCLA coach announced after their game today they're going to start Gerrit Cole on Monday. Did you see him pitch out here and what are your impressions if you have seen him pitch?
COACH TANNER: Well, I heard some of his pitches and it was going through the zone so fast I didn't see a lot of them. He's a tremendous pitcher. He's a power guy. He's probably -- I guess, going into the World Series, their team ERA was under 3. Now it's just a little above 3, but they're the second in the country. They've got tremendous arms, no question about it. We were told in the scouting report that they'll pitch and they'll make it very difficult on you. But they won't score a lot of runs.
That hasn't held true here either. They're scoring runs. They're in a national championship and deserve to be. So it's going to be a very difficult assignment for us. But we get to play.

Q. Coach, have your past experiences, almost an identical situation in '02, anything that you may have gleaned out of that, learned out of that, that you might do a little bit differently or kind of play a little bit differently or just go play ball?
COACH TANNER: Well, I mean, in 2002, when we took the same path, it was a one-game shootout. It was the year prior to the best of three. And now we didn't get a day off either in 2002. So we get a day off now and it's a best of three.
I guess if I could figure anything out, it would be how to stay out of that loser's bracket in the beginning. That seems to be a problem. But we're excited to be where we are. These guys -- like Whit said, this is who we are. It's tough. It's grueling. It's very difficult.
But it is who we are. We battle and try to win some games the hard way and come from behind and it hasn't worked out all the time for us, but we won some big games. Now there's only two teams left.

Q. Whit, can you follow up on how it got to be where Erin Andrews is calling you pretty and what was that exchange was all about, and what that was all about, please?
WHIT MERRIFIELD: Well, she asked me after the game what happened. And I told her that I just collided. And my lip and nose were bleeding. She asked if I lost any teeth. I said, no, thank goodness, I didn't lose any teeth. She said, well, good, because you're too pretty to lose any teeth. I said, oh, okay. So that was pretty cool.

Q. Ray and the players, I know that this is kind of exciting to beat Clemson and everything. But will it be difficult to flush this and concentrate on playing the championship series, and for Whit, to get your mind off Erin Andrews?
WHIT MERRIFIELD: Well, it's not every day you get to play for a national championship. We've played Clemson five times this year. And I don't think it's going to be a problem for anyone to flush this one and get ready for UCLA.
So as far as the whole Erin Andrews thing goes, I met Julianne Hough and I met Erin Andrews. So as far as the women standpoint, it's been a victory for me this year.
COACH TANNER: Some guys are motivated for other reasons to stay this long.

Q. Christian, talk about your two at-bats, first the home run and then the single there, what did you see and also your single that came with the two outs, what sort of a pitch were you looking for in that situation?
CHRISTIAN WALKER: The home run, the pitch before it was a changeup. I just got it off the end. So I had a feeling he wasn't coming with any fastballs. He threw me a changeup. And it hung back over the middle of the plate. I was trying to sit back inside there and I guess I got lucky and hit it to the right part of the field.
Then the single, I know they walked Jackie before me. So I knew I had something to prove and kind of wanted to, I guess, prove myself in that situation and show them that I can get the job done.
THE MODERATOR: Guys, thank you very much.

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