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June 28, 2010

Blake Cooper

Bobby Haney

Ray Tanner

Christian Walker


South Carolina – 7
UCLA - 1

THE MODERATOR: Now joined by members of the University of South Carolina baseball team, Christian Walker, Bobby Haney and Blake Cooper, along with head coach Ray Tanner, who will now make an opening statement.
COACH TANNER: We got a great start tonight offensively. We pushed across some runs early. And they made a couple of mistakes. And we had a couple of hits stuck in there. We really didn't hit Cole that hard early, but we were able to get a couple balls to drop and scored some runs.
And this guy sitting to my left just gave us an outstanding performance. Just made pitch after pitch after pitch, and we hung in there and kept scoring a few more runs.
Just a tremendous night for us. I thought our guys did a tremendous job against Cole. What a tremendous arm he has. Great pitcher. And we were able to get a few hits and score a few runs.
And I just can't say enough good things about our effort. We had a tremendous game tonight against one of the best pitchers in the country.

Q. Ray, just Cooper's performance on three days' rest, can you put it in perspective? He seemed, until the 9th, to be completely dominating.
COACH TANNER: Well, you know, the first day here we had the rain delay. And he was in the mid-60s. So I think that has helped him a little bit, the fact that he didn't run too many pitches out there in the opener.
But we met this morning and talked it over, Cooper and I did. I certainly wanted to pitch him today. But I encouraged him to take another day, if he felt that it would be in his best interests.
And he just looked at me for a few minutes and said, I'll be as good today as I'll be tomorrow. What's the difference? I said, It's another day's rest. And he said, It ain't going to matter to me. I'll do the best I can do today and tomorrow. I said, So be it. And that's sort of what happened.
But Cooper realized the maturity he has, he realized early on that he didn't have the giddy-up he needed on his fastball. And he needed his changeup, slider, curveball, the two-seamer was sinking, got some ground balls. He just tried to pitch. And he was outstanding.

Q. Blake, this is twice now you've had to kind of talk your way into a start on three days' rest. What have you said? He kind of mentioned it there, but what have you said? And also if you could lay out maybe stuff-wise what percentage were you at tonight?
BLAKE COOPER: Well, Coach Calvi came to my room last night, asked if I was good to go, and I said, Yeah, I'm going. Coach Tanner called me to the room this morning and he said would I want another day off. Like he said, I really didn't think another day was going to matter at this point.
I felt fine warming up today. I could tell I wasn't going to have enough giddy-up on my fastball like Coach Tanner said. And I really wanted to rely on the sink and being able to throw curveballs and sliders and strikes, and I was able to do that early in the count, get some ground balls out and get some big strikeouts when I needed them.

Q. Bobby and Christian, could you just talk about the start you guys got off against Cole and how much did that maybe improve your confidence?
BOBBY HANEY: It obviously feels good to get a couple of runs in the beginning of the game. Obviously off a great pitcher, boosted our confidence a lot. And we just went from there and Coop led the way.
CHRISTIAN WALKER: And we didn't get the runs the way we wanted with a couple of bloop singles we got. We just got the momentum early, and that's what we needed in a game like this.

Q. Blake, obviously you don't need any extra motivation when you're pitching for a national championship. But do you take something extra out to you on to the mound when all the talk kind of centers around UCLA's pitching and specifically Cole being a former first-round draft pick, all that kind of stuff? Does that add to what you bring to the mound?
BLAKE COOPER: I really don't think so. I just want to do what I've been doing all year, go out and give my team a chance to win. And I was able to do that today and do a little extra. I was able to get into the 9th and luckily, like Walker said, get some early insurance runs. And we got a few more later in the game, and I was able to get the job done late.

Q. Ray, you're one win away from the first national championship ever at South Carolina in a major sport, as you well know. You know the Gamecock fans have been waiting for a long time for this opportunity to come to be. Will you be able to sleep tonight?
COACH TANNER: It will probably be like the other nights. A little bit here, a little bit there. But we're not thinking about that, really. That's too much to think about. I just told the guys, you know, we're going to do the things we've done all year. It's just another game for us tomorrow.
And we'll try to put it together and try to win a game. And that's really going to be the focus.

Q. Ray, I feel like we kind of went down this road with Roth's start the other night. What did you expect, for Blake to go eight? Were you thinking five, six? Did you have a number in mind? And, also, where do you go with pitching tomorrow? Do you think about bringing Mike back?
COACH TANNER: I've been around Coop for a long time. And I felt comfortable he was going to get to the middle of that game, regardless of what kind of stuff he had, whether it was going to be a 4-4 game or whatever the situation was. He was going to be in the mix.
And Coach Calvi turned to me in the 5th and said, We want to get a couple of guys loose? And I said, It would be good, but we don't need them for a few innings yet.
So Coop he maxes out his ability. If you play a little defense behind him he always keeps you there. I thought he was extra special tonight, just because -- I don't know if the wind really helped him that much with his sinker, but he got some balls running.
He ran a couple balls, fastballs that didn't have a lot of velocity that just ran, ran in and out of that zone. It was hard for those guys to square him up. And we've been on the other side of that a few times, and it's not easy.
But he was just really good. Just like a couple of our guys, Roth and Dyson battled for us, and Coop before. They compete, and they try to keep you in a position to win a game.

Q. Tomorrow?
COACH TANNER: I'm not 100 percent sure. Coach Calvi and I will do our normal routine and chat it up a little bit and philoso-phy along the way. I think it will probably be a left-hander.

Q. Coach, talk about the job at the bottom third of the order did tonight, Scott's triple in the second inning, Bobby had the two-run single?
COACH TANNER: Bobby and I were talking a little bit walking up the stairs, that I told him, I said, You haven't been to too many press conferences, so don't say too much.
But, you know, Bobby and Scott take a lot of pride in their offense. It hasn't been numbers-wise the years that they would really like to have had. But they've contributed on a number of occasions for us.
And you know Wingo hits a ball, the guy dives for it and Bobby swinging early in the count, hits some balls hard and using the other side of the field. But those guys don't take the approach that we're hitting 8th and 9th and it doesn't matter. They try to help us, and tonight they came up big for us. I thought Bobby's approach was really, really good tonight.

Q. Bobby, you've been around Scott a long time. He had kind of a rough night in the early innings. What did you say to him between innings or while you guys were on the field?
BOBBY HANEY: I told him to shake it off and relax and just play his game. And he picked up with the bat in the other end for us, and Coop picked us up, too. So it was good from there.

Q. Christian, when you're getting those kind of hits off of a star pitcher like that, do you see him change at all? Was his mindset or the way he attacked you guys different later in the game than he was in the beginning?
CHRISTIAN WALKER: We saw more off-speed stuff later in the game, but that's common with a lot of guys. He made some good pitches tonight. Early in the game we didn't really barrel a lot of balls up. I know he did his job, got some balls to fall for us, and gave us a little confidence and momentum going into the late innings.

Q. Bobby and Christian, Coach Savage for UCLA said he felt like early in the ball game it was kind of apparent it was your night, because everything you hit seemed to find a place to fall and things seemed to be going for you. Did you get a sense early when some of the hits that you had, the check swing that plated your first, that this was going to be your night? Did you get a sense of that early?
CHRISTIAN WALKER: You don't really think about that too early in the game, oh, this is our night, we're going to win this game. You just gotta play what you know how to play, play hard and hope the ball goes your way.
BOBBY HANEY: Yeah, you just feed off of that and see what happens from there, pretty much.

Q. Bobby, could you talk about what it's like from your vantage point to watch what Blake did tonight as far as not overpowering hitters but just kind of dominating with control and keeping them off balance, kind of what it's like to watch him do his thing what he did tonight?
BOBBY HANEY: Unbelievable. Obviously got to be on your toes out there, but Coop likes to get a lot of ground balls and tonight a lot of Ks also. But we love playing behind him and have tremendous respect for him.

Q. Blake, how much did it help you getting that early lead?
BLAKE COOPER: It feels great. The 1st inning, we went out and swung the bat. I mean, we got a couple of duck snorts, like Coach Tanner would say. But it feels good to get an early lead. And it's always good to swing the bat. That's why you swing the bat and maybe you get a couple of bleeders through the infield. And we were able to do that tonight.

Q. For the hitters, we've heard a lot about the three aces for UCLA. How much confidence do you all have going against maybe one or two of them? And for Blake, how many pitches do you have in your arm for tomorrow?
BOBBY HANEY: Yeah, they've got a great staff. And we'll be ready tomorrow, swing the bats again, and just gotta take the same approach like it's another game and see what happens.
CHRISTIAN WALKER: Well, I mean, we haven't been able to watch that much of them. So we hear a lot about their great arms. And it's obvious. I mean, the kid, he threw well today. Made a lot of nice pitches. The ball just fell for us, and that's baseball.

Q. Ray, you've talked a couple of weeks here about the great job the pitching has done here in Omaha. How much credit does Kyle Enders get? And the same question for Blake, too. Obviously you've thrown a lot of pitches to Kyle. Talk about the relationship that you and he have.
COACH TANNER: Our pitching staff, if you're going to get a chance to come here, you have to have a pretty good team. You have to be balanced and be complete. But you're not going to be successful if you don't have a pretty good pitching staff.
And our guys have done a good job the entire season. We talked about it before. We stay in games we have a chance to win. We don't score a lot of runs at times, but we stay in position to win because of what our pitchers do for us. And it's been the trend out here, they keep us going. They keep us going.
And I don't think our hitters feel that much pressure. You know, maybe we should be -- not to score a few more but we feel like we'll have a chance because our pitchers will put us in that position.
The second part of your question, Kyle Enders, I've said many times, he's an unheralded part of our team. He blends into the woodwork. It's his demeanor. He's not very boisterous, a very quiet young man, but he's an outstanding backstop. He throws out runners, pitchers aren't afraid to throw balls in the dirt ahead in the count. They have a lot of respect for what he does back there. And it's a key component of having a good pitching staff to have a guy back there like Kyle Enders.
BLAKE COOPER: Not only is Kyle a great catcher, he's a great person. I've been here four years and he works his rear end off in the bullpen throughout the season and off-season. It's been a privilege for me to throw to him. He's a great catcher and a great friend. And I contribute most of my success to Kyle.

Q. Blake, Coach Tanner's talked about all the work you put in in the summer and off-season. Could you talk about how tonight's performance kind of validates what you did in the off-season?
BLAKE COOPER: I mean, last year I knew I was a little bit overweight. The coaches came to me and for me I knew I had to do something about it to have a chance to have a year like I did this year.
And our strength and conditioning coach got me in the weight room this summer and I worked out hard and was able to lose some weight. And I feel like it's been a great key to my success this year and being able to last as long as I did throughout the year and maintain velocity and maintain my composure on the mound.

Q. Coach, you talk about not being able to maybe get a full night's rest. I heard last night you guys had a fire alarm at 1:30. Talk about what that did to you, and were you able to talk the guys back down or anything like that?
COACH TANNER: I didn't know what was going on there. Believe it or not, I had fallen asleep almost about the time that alarm went off. And I want to say it was like 1:38 and we got back in after 2:00. And I didn't say much about it. I didn't want our guys to feel like they were sluggish.
We got them out of bed this morning for breakfast and kind of kept the same routine. You have bumps along the way. You have some adversity. And you use it to make it stronger. You don't use it to make excuses.
So I had forgotten about all that until you mentioned it. It might happen again tonight. I might pull it tonight, keep the same routine, we'll go back out there and do it.

Q. Bobby, can you talk about your at-bat in the third? It looks like it's going to be a huge inning, bases loaded, nobody out. You come to the plate. Two outs. Two in scoring position. What was your approach?
BOBBY HANEY: Just be aggressive early in the count. I think I fouled off a fastball, and Cole was slowing sliders, slider in, and it was a strike. I swung the bat trying to get a decent part of the bat on it. And I guess it was good enough. So fortunate for that.

Q. Blake, did it ever cross your mind that this might be, although with you you never know, but this might be your last performance, just go out there and give it my one last shot to try to bring South Carolina a national championship?
BLAKE COOPER: I believe I've been thinking that since the post-season started. You know, when it's the regional won a regional. Went through a Super Regional. And I kept the same mentality. First game against Oklahoma, I thought it might be my last time. And the second time I went out there, I came out of the game and I was actually in the locker room, and Walker came in there and he said, Hey, man, we're going to win this game for you.
And we was able to do that late in the game. And I finally got my last start tonight and it was a big one for me.

Q. Ray, just wanted to ask you this season going into the year you had a lot of question marks. You had a lot of young kids, like Christian, that were super talented but you didn't know how they would perform as freshmen, Matt Price a freshman, now you're one game away from winning the national championship. When did you first realize that, you know, maybe this group could have what it takes to do what's not been done before here?
COACH TANNER: I don't think it was early on. But I think early on we recognized that we probably could match up on the mound against a lot of people and keep games in check. I didn't know how the offense would materialize. I thought we'd pick the ball up pretty good. There was still a lot of questions.
And we started showing some consistency, where we would play okay, maybe lose a game but we'd bounce back.
And I got a little bit more optimistic and confident that this team can win. And maybe from probably the third series in the league I started to see the intangibles show up a little bit, the characteristics of makeup and guys that will battle with two strikes and try to go the other way.
And the enthusiasm in the dugout, and the team-first attitude. You talk about all those things as a coach, but you don't necessarily get them because you talk about them. That starts with the players. And that's where it ends. You can motivate. You can talk all you want to as a coach. But if your players do not take that ownership, it's not going to work.
And these guys have done that. Wingo has sort of a tough night in the field. Hey, we're all over him in the dugout. I mean, the camaraderie, they were cheering for him every time he made a play after that. And what do you do? You beat the guy up or you laugh with him.
I think it helps us. I think it's been important to these guys. And it will win some games in the balance. You can't win enough that way, but I think it will win some games in the balance.
THE MODERATOR: Gentlemen, thank you very much. Congratulations on the victory and good luck tomorrow night.

End of FastScripts

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