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June 14, 2013
BILL COUSINS:Â First of all, welcome everybody to our first news conference.Â These are the Sunday coaches.
Starting at the far end Paul Mainieri from LSU, SEC Champions and they beat Oklahoma 2 games to none in the Super Regional.Â Mike Fox, head coach at NorthCarolina, the No. 1 national seed, they play N.C. State Sunday afternoon, the Chapel Hill Regional Champions, and 2‑1 was their Super Regional against SouthCarolina at Chapel Hill.
Elliott Avent, the NorthCarolina State head coach plays UNC at 2:00 o'clock.Â This is their second College World Series, they won the Raleigh Regional, and beat Rice twice in Raleigh in a Super Regional.
And then John Savage, head coach at UCLA.Â The Bruins 44‑17 on the season, playing is LSU on Sunday night.Â This is the fourth College World Series for UCLA.Â They won their regional at home and then went to Fullerton and won two straight in the Super Regional.
First of all, coaches, welcome, and let's start with an overview, first, Paul, would you start with an overview?
COACH MAINIERI:Â Sure, Of course the understatement of the day by any coach would be how happy we are to be here, but we really are.Â We haven't been here for three years and it seemed like an eternity.Â We're just really proud of the season we've had thus far; our kids have played remarkable all year.Â I feel like we have a pretty balanced team, and consequently each day has been a different type of game.Â Sometimes it's been high scoring, sometimes low scoring.Â But our pitching and defense has been pretty consistent, so generally speaking we've been in most of the ballgames and found a way to win most of them, fortunately.
The great thing about our team this year is it's just one of those teams that the chemistry is so outstanding.Â I don't know if the chemistry comes because of our winning or the winning is because of our chemistry, but it's been a great group of kids to work with.Â I'm so thrilled for our seniors that they had an opportunity to get here before their career ended.
We heard so much all year that this would be the first senior class to not make it to Omaha since the incoming freshman of 1982.Â So that was a legacy we didn't want these kids to have, and, fortunately, in our last try we were able to get them here to Omaha.
I'm thrilled to compete against these three gentlemen to my left, because I will tell you that I have the greatest respect for all three of them.Â You know, these guys have all run tremendous programs.Â I've had personal history with all of them, and obviously, we're going to try to beat each other out there on the field, but there will be a lot of hopefully mutual respect between the teams that are out there playing.Â So it should be a great series.Â We're really looking forward to it, and, obviously, we're really happy to be here.
BILL COUSINS:Â Mike?
COACH FOX:Â Well, could you all have sat Elliott and I any closer together?Â We're touching knees, and by the end of this we're going to be holding hands.Â I don't know (laughing).
We're obviously very excited to be here as well.Â I'm sure you're going to hear that from all eight coaches today.Â As all of us up here know, and I think everybody knows, it's extremely difficult to get here.Â The parity in college baseball is at the highest level that it's ever been, and all the games in the Super Regionals and the regionals that were played throughout the country were evidence of that, just very close, hard‑fought games.
Our season has been a lot like Paul's at LSU, and we had high expectations coming in and those are always tough to deal with.Â But we managed through it, and down the stretch had some really tough, hard‑fought games in our league and then obviously in the ACC Tournament and regionals and Super Regionals.Â So we feel very fortunate we were just able to navigate through those and come out on top.
I feel the same way about our seniors.Â We had one in particular, Cody Stubbs, a transfer, who especially thrilled that he's going to end his career playing in the College World Series, and, again, it's just exciting to be here this early.Â It never gets old; will never get old.
And I concur with Paul that I think all of us college coaches have a unique bond, and I think that's always neat to see, and I hope it always stays that way.Â I feel the same way about the coaches here and the other four coaches in the other bracket.Â It's an honor to be here, and we appreciate everything that's been done for the players.
COACH AVENT:Â Paul, you said you hadn't been here in three years, right?Â Mike, you haven't been here in two years and, Savage, you haven't been here since last year.Â Well, N.C. State hasn't been here in 45 years, so I don't know if that makes me more excited to be here than them.Â I doubt it.Â But we are very grateful and very happy to be here.
Just, I've heard all of the stories, and I came here and did a clinic one time in like 1992 with Joe Arnold and Eddie Cardieri, and did a clinic; and as a matter of fact, they took me to a couple of horse races, I think.Â I was broke back then, and Joe and Eddie sniffed it out and took me under their wing, and I swore I'd never come back here unless I had a team to bring with me.Â I'm just so grateful to be representing N.C. State.Â So happy to be here.Â All the stories I've heard have already come true with how you're treated, the city of Omaha and just everything.
I'd like to just book end on what Mike and Paul said about their relationships.Â First person I saw‑‑ coach I saw was Paul Mainieri.Â Paul Mainieri was head coach at Air Force, and I was at NewMexico State, and I knew he was a recruiter back then because we woke up in 80Â° weather and Paul Mainieri talked me into coming and playing in snow at Air Force.Â That is what kind of recruiter he is, and we always talked about we'd meet here in the College World Series one day.
John Savage was an assistant at Nevada, Reno, and Mike and I have had a few battles over the last few years.Â So the relationships are special.Â Glad to be sitting on this podium with these gentlemen, and like Mike said, the guys in the other bracket.
Our ballclub has been a resilient one.Â Lot of injuries early.Â They persevered.Â You have to be resilient in this game.Â It's the only way you can get by.Â It toughens you up if you can weather some storms and they did.Â Very proud of this ballclub.Â They represent so many players from N.C. State through the years that had a chance to get here and didn't quite make it.Â So we feel like we're here representing so many people, and we're very, very proud to be here.
COACH SAVAGE:Â It's great to be back, it's good to see familiar faces.Â Certainly like to thank the city of Omaha for putting on, I think, the best NCAA Tournament out there in any sport.Â For families and young boys that feel that they're going to be college players, this is college baseball heaven, and I know Paul and Mike and Elliott, I think feel the same way.
It's an honor to be here.Â I think we're one of those teams that people are a little surprised that we are here.Â We had a very good team last year.Â We lost a lot of players.Â We think we earned this trip.Â We went through one of the most difficult roads, which was Cal State Fullerton, which, my assistant at UCLA, Rick Vanderhook, did an unbelievable job and won over 50 games, which was a very impressive run.
So we feel fortunate, but we also feel like we've earned this trip.Â Like Elliott, it's the 16 teams that go to the super regionals and those three‑game series is just a complete grind.Â It's almost a relief when you get through that series and have an opportunity to go compete again against some great coaches, great programs, and a great venue.Â So we're excited to be here and looking forward to Sunday.
BILL COUSINS:Â We'll open it up for questions.
Q.Â Mike and Elliott, is this a good thing you guys are playing each other right off the bat?
BILL COUSINS:Â Elliott, you start, please.
COACH AVENT:Â Yeah, it's a good thing, because if we weren't here playing each other, we'd be out recruiting, so, yeah, this is a really good thing.
But, yeah I talked to Ray Tanner last night for a while and Ray was like, yeah, I had to go there a couple times to play Clemson.Â I know what that's like.Â But you know what?Â I think we kind of like playing each other.Â It's a great rivalry.Â It's intense, but, I mean it's not hated.Â It's not as hated as people think.Â The games have been so good, and they've been clean games, and both teams can really, really play.Â It's a huge competition.Â They've got the best of us the last time, and so, you know it will be okay.
COACH FOX:Â I agree with Elliott.
COACH AVENT:Â For the first time ever.
COACH FOX:Â For the first time ever.Â I mean, yes.Â It has to be good.Â It's good for our league, good for the state of NorthCarolina.Â It should be exciting.Â It's funny how it all kind of worked out, but it's no fun playing N.C. State when Carlos Rodon is on the mound.Â I hope we can get that out there right now, because I know that question's coming at some point.
Q.Â Coach Fox, Coach Avent, and Coach Savage, could you just discuss the field this year?Â Coach Coach Avent, you talked about being here for the first time in a long time, and some of you are very familiar to this venue.Â What's that say?Â You touched on the parity of college baseball, but what's that say when teams that haven't been here for so long can get here and is the field even more wide open because so many people are pouring resources into college baseball?
COACH SAVAGE:Â Well, certainly there's parity throughout college baseball.Â I think there are so many programs and athletic departments that are stepping up with their facilities, the resources for their players, their coaches, their assistant coaches, it's great to see.Â You look at the power conferences, and everybody knows who they are, and any team could come out of those conferences at any time.Â But certainly you see some other conferences that come in and go to a regional and have a legitimate chance.
So I think it's great.Â There is great college baseball that is being spread throughout the country.Â You saw ESPN with the "Bases Loaded" segment that they had.Â I thought that was exciting going from game to game.Â It really felt like an NCAA Tournament.Â Rather than sit on one game, I thought they did a great job with that and there are just a lot of good players and a lot of good coaches and they're everywhere.
You know, 25, 30 years ago maybe they're at USC and Texas and that's it.Â Now they're really spread throughout the country, and it's really a compliment to all of these guys that they can recruit, they can develop, and certainly build a program that they can bring to Omaha and be proud of.
COACH AVENT:Â I heard someone just talking about the final eight teams here.Â And I heard someone mention, I don't know the accuracy of it, but the winning percentage of the eight teams here may be the highest ever in Omaha, and I don't know that.Â I just heard somebody mention that the other night.
But we talk about it all year long as a team.Â There is so much parity, as John said, in college baseball and college sports.Â So, everybody follows March Madness, and everybody follows not 64 teams, but we talk about it with us and think it mirrors basketball.Â There are probably over 100 teams that could easily be in the top 64 when the selection show picks the teams.Â And of those 64, maybe 40 could get to the Sweet Sixteen or the final 16; and of the 16 teams that played last weekend, I'm certain we all feel that any of the other eight teams could be here instead of us.
Our guys played well, as John said, against a great Fullerton team.Â I know what we did against Rice.Â That was unbelievable.Â Two one‑run games, and we had to come from behind in both of them.Â So, Rice could be sitting here as easily as N.C. State.Â So it's so much parity, and you have to play well at the right time.Â But just very proud of our ballclub once again and proud of college athletics as college baseball has grown throughout the country to become such a spectacle, and obviously, Omaha has been a great‑‑ had a great deal to do with that.
COACH FOX:Â Certainly I would agree with both of them.Â I think the number of teams that have the opportunity to get to the College World Series has grown significantly.Â So I think when the college season starts there are a number of teams and programs and coaches who are saying we have a chance to get there.Â It used to be a small number, and now it's a much larger number, and that is evidenced by certainly Kent State and Stony Brook last year, and new teams that are here this year.Â And I think you're going to continue to see that going forward.
To answer part of your question, I think the field is always wide open when you get here.Â I know people pick favorites in each bracket, but you've seen in the past that anybody can win this thing once you get out here, I think.
Q.Â Coach Fox and Coach Avent.Â Coach Fox, I don't want to ruin your day or anything, but from your perspective, have you seen Carlos Rodon at his best this year?Â I guess your overall thoughts on him, and N.C. State.Â And Coach, your thoughts on Kent Emanuel and what you saw from NorthCarolina?Â And by the way, don't play 17 innings.
COACH FOX:Â Well, Carlos seemed way too much ahead of his time that he's been at N.C. State.Â And I think he's pitched as well probably down the stretch at any time in his career, just completely under control.Â When he's got command above his fastball and that breaking ball, he's as good as I've seen in all my time in college baseball.Â He just continues to get better and better, and it's an extremely difficult task facing him.Â He's really, really good.Â And I think the people out here who have not seen him are going to enjoy watching him pitch if they're not pulling for either team or one team.
COACH AVENT:Â Kent Emanuel, he's been Mike's guy all year probably the last few years.Â You'd like to say he's crafty, but yet his stuff is so good, usually crafty is for a little lesser stuff.Â But he's got command of three big‑time pitches.Â That changeup can really keep you off balance at times and next thing you know you get it in your head and he busts that fastball in and you just sit there and freeze.
But he's smart, he's competitive, and holds runners very well, which part of our deal is team speed.Â So that is something that he controls a little bit.Â He's one of the best pitchers in college baseball and should be quite a match‑up.
Q.Â My question is though, it has to do with the mental game part.Â John, you were here last year as Elliott mentioned, and Mike, a couple years ago, and Paul three years ago.Â Now Elliott, as you mentioned, 45 years, okay, so the question is, how do you create TD Ameritrade Park as a home‑field advantage as quickly as you can?
COACH SAVAGE:Â Well, I think it's always nice to be able to say that you played on a field before the next tournament.Â So is it an advantage, no?Â But is it familiarity?Â A little bit.Â We only played three games last year, so it's not like we were here for five or six.Â I don't think anyone will have a home‑field advantage.Â Certainly some people will have more fans and that will create a little bit.Â But I really think it gets back down to yourself, and your team, your dugout, the way you approach it.
We played Arizona here last year which we're very familiar with, and they play in in a similar ballpark.Â Irvine's ball park is similar to this, Long Beach State, Blair Field and Hi Corbett in Arizona is big and it can play big, especially when you've got prevailing winds and all of that.Â But it gets back down to baseball, 90 feet, throwing strikes, not walking people, playing good defense.Â I think anybody would say the same thing.
It's just, if you play well, you have an opportunity.Â You just have to prepare your team would be the best answer for me to give you, and really just make sure distractions don't leak into your team and that you stay focused on the task.
COACH MAINIERI:Â Well, you know, we're going to have an awful lot of fans here, I know that, and everybody will think it's a home‑field advantage for us from that standpoint, and certainly we love to play in front of our people.Â But I think the coach speak that John just mentioned is absolutely right on.Â All these teams are so good that I don't believe there is a home‑field advantage for anybody.Â It just comes down to who plays better that day.Â That is the bottom line.
It's making pitches, making plays, getting big hits.Â We're just thrilled to play in a beautiful ballpark.Â I'm glad to see the inside of this ballpark.Â I know that John and Mike have been here since it opened, and Elliott and I have not.Â But at the same time, it's still just a baseball game.Â We had the experience this year of going to a new ballpark that was pretty awesome as well, Texas A&M, and we had pretty good success over there.Â So I think there is something that is neat about going to a place for the first time.Â So I don't know if home‑field advantage is the right term to use for anybody.
Q.Â Paul, what have you learned from scouting and looking at Adam Plutko, and John, same question about Aaron Nola, what do you expect from those two guys Sunday night?
COACH MAINIERI:Â Well, you know, you can't help but admire that young man.Â If you looked up the word bulldog in the dictionary, there would be a picture of their pitcher.Â He's a three‑time Pac‑12, all conference pitcher, and he's done that for a reason.Â I know John from his days at Southern Cal as a pitching coach, and starting the program back up at Irvine and what he's done at UCLA has been absolutely remarkable.Â Their pitching has been the hallmark of the program at UCLA.Â A couple years back we had a great match‑up when Trevor Bauer pitched against Anthony Ranaudo in the winner's bracket game.Â Bauer got the best of us that night.
So we're going to have another great match‑up between Nola and Plutko and I can't wait.Â We're going to have a great seat.
COACH SAVAGE:Â Well, he's an All‑American.Â He's got a power arm, great movement to his fastball, he's got a power breaking ball and he throws a ton of strikes.Â He doesn't give up hits.Â I was looking at the All‑American thing this morning on Baseball America, and we faced everybody except for him.Â And we faced Gray, we faced Lorenzen, Eshelman, Berg on our team.Â But there are two other guys on there, so he's one of the best in the country.Â There is no doubt about it.Â From being a sophomore, to have not lost this time of the year to go through the Southeastern Conference and to pitch on the road like he has and against opponents that he has.Â He's going to be as good as anybody that we've faced all year.
They've done a terrific job of playing catch this season.Â So they've got a strong formula, not only clearly with the offensive side, but the pitching and defense is as good as we've seen all season, and that's going to be a very tough guy to face, but certainly we respect him.Â We know he's good, and, like Paul said, it's baseball, so we've got to go out and compete against him.
Q.Â You said how happy you are to be here since you haven't been here before, just a couple of reactions from your players?Â Any reaction when they saw this place or is there some wow factor here?
COACH AVENT:Â Our players, I don't know if I've seen a wow factor, but I think the smile got a little wide ore their face.Â You know what I'm saying?Â They smiled since we got on the charter in Raleigh, and I think it just grew as we got here, and everything we've done from a couple of restaurants we've eaten at and the hospitality.
Last night, for me, I was up in my hotel room looking down I saw red shirts.Â I looked, and it was two of my players playing a pick‑up wiffle ball game on the lawn with a little league team from Colorado.Â They were pretty intense.Â They played for like an hour.Â I watched ten minutes from my room and went down and watched the last five innings, and I discovered it's going to help me, because I discovered one of my hitters is a better left‑handed hitter than he is right‑handed hitter, because he was hitting left‑handed Wiffle Ball, so we may make a change now Sunday for that game.Â But just some of the things.
Somebody took a picture of some of our guys out riding bikes with baskets like Dorothy on the Wizard of Oz, but trying to look tough in the picture, you know what I'm saying?Â The smile, and the wow factor may come more from me than it has from my players, but they're having the time of their life?
COACH MAINIERI:Â Do I have to answer that question?
COACH AVENT:Â You have to follow that.
COACH MAINIERI:Â I really don't know.Â Our kids have seen an awful lot of big time college baseball, and big crowds and beautiful stadiums, so this is the mecca.Â This is the pinnacle of college baseball to be in Omaha now and to be at this beautiful new ballpark.Â So I think they're somewhat more reserved, probably, in the way they see things.Â We actually haven't been in the stadium.Â All we did is drive by it on the way to the hotel.Â We practice later today.Â I'm sure once we walk into the stadium, the eyes will get a little bit bigger, and they'll try to absorb it all.Â But at this point, I don't really have any other comment to make about it.
Q.Â Paul, I know you talked about getting the players here, but there is so much pressure at LSU, how did you feel this year to finally get here?Â I know it's not something that, as you talked about, that you wanted the players to have to deal with not getting here.Â How important was it for you and do you feel like there is a little bit of relief knowing that you've gotten here?
COACH MAINIERI:Â Finally, finally got here, okay?Â It's been a whole three years.Â Hey, that's what you sign up for at LSU.Â Nobody pulled the wool over my eyes when I took this job at LSU.Â I knew what I was getting into, and that is the standard.Â If you're afraid, you don't go to LSU, I can tell you that right now as a player or as a coach.Â We won the championship in '09, and I think the first question in the post‑game press conference can you repeat next year?Â So that is what you're used to around there.
So many times I've been asked the question about losing last year to Stony Brook and not getting here, and if that was motivation for our team this year, and I'm going to tell you the same answer I've said across the board, no, it wasn't a motivation at all.
Stony Brook came into Baton Rouge last year and outplayed us.Â They were better than we were, they deserved it, they earned it, and they belonged here and they played better than we did.Â I tipped my hat to their kids and their coaching staff because they took it to us.
But what we took from last year's team, 2012, really was not the emphasis of the ending as much as it was how well we had played throughout the year, despite having some weaknesses that we were well aware of.Â But we gained a lot of confidence from the 2012 season; and going into this year, we felt like we had a chance.Â We were very fortunate we had a couple of seniors return in Mason Katz and Raph Rhymes in the heart of our order, then we added a few pieces, Alex Bergman, Mark Laird, et cetera, that really stepped in and made a big difference for our team.
When we got, I said all along, that I just hoped and prayed that we could be in the same position in 2013 that we were in 2012, and that was one game away from Omaha, and hopefully we'll play better on that day than we did the year before, and we did.Â We beat Oklahoma 11‑1, and earned our trip here to Omaha.
I think, Eddie, there is a word I could probably use, yeah, we were maybe a little relieved to get here.Â But, you know, there is no more pressure in one game than in another when you're coaching at LSU.Â Every game feels like it's a championship game of some tournament.Â They expect you to win every game when you're there.
So you just have to learn how to manage that kind of expectation, and I think we've done okay in our time there.
Q.Â Could you just go over the journey of David Berg from walk‑on to star, and what was he like as a walk on, and what were the circumstances of him walking on?
COACH SAVAGE:Â He was an average high school pitcher that they turned kind of side‑arm, low‑three‑quarter side arm his senior year at Bishop Amat, Coach Nieto and Coach Beck decided to do that.Â Still nobody recruited him.Â He went to the CIF Championship game, Coach Bruce or one of our assistants saw him, liked him.Â We had him on campus.Â We had no money at the time.Â We told him we were going to give him an opportunity to be in our program and make his way.
I visited with him for about 45 minutes, and he was just, I could tell.Â I could tell he was going to be good.Â I didn't know he was going to be this good, but it was a competitive awareness, locked‑in guy, academic, and it was impressive, and I felt good about it.
I went out and saw him.Â He was chasing foul balls.Â It was a summer game, and he was chasing foul balls all over the place.Â I mean, he was pitching the second game, and I watched him the entire first game.Â He was just‑‑ I mean, nobody was into that game except for him, and he wasn't playing it.Â So he showed me a lot of aptitude, really a lot of teammate, solid characteristics.
You know, we brought him in, and last year we lacked depth.Â We needed help.Â He pitched over 50 games and was‑‑ he's really a set‑up guy.Â I think in professional baseball, he's going to be a set‑up guy.Â He just doesn't have that big stuff that they look for in closers.Â But he's been‑‑ I think over close to 100 appearances in two years.
He's competitive, he's resilient.Â He comes at you every day, and it's just been one of those great college stories.Â A walk‑on that made the team, team USA for probably two summers now, and really just a great college baseball story, and it gives, I think a feel for any young guy out there that feels like he's not wanted.Â This is late.Â We got him in July of his senior year, and we all know that's later than late.Â It was just a credit to him that he took advantage of the opportunity, and he became what he is today.
Q.Â John, Paul alluded to there are probably going to be a few LSU fans there Sunday night.Â You were there in '98 with USC.Â You saw in 2010.Â Is there anything do you to prepare your guys for that and/or do you think they can feed off of the fact that there will be a loud, raucous crowd for the other team?
COACH SAVAGE:Â Well, they got the best fans in college baseball.Â I think anybody would say that.Â They've got the biggest support, one of the most beautiful stadiums in the country.Â They treat their players very well.Â It's great.Â I think it's great that LSU is here.Â It means a lot to college baseball.Â For the fans, there are no other fans like LSU fans that at least I've been on the other side in '98, 2000, when Brad Hawpe hit the home run against Mark Prior at Rosenblatt, and then again in 2010 when Paul and his team came out for the regionals.Â They travel anywhere, anytime.
And it's just, like I said, a privilege to play against them, and I think it's great for college baseball that they support their program as well as they do.
Q.Â This is not a new issue, but what would be your response to a proposal restricting pitch counts to say 120 pitches, for instance, and four days between starts or three days between appearances or whatever?
BILL COUSINS: Â Mike, why don't you answer that?
COACH FOX:Â I'd rather not (laughing).Â Oh, gosh.Â I would be against that proposal.Â Was that your question?Â I would be against that.Â I don't think it's necessary because I think there are college coaches throughout the country who know what they're doing and have the best interests of their players at heart, both on and off the field and after they're playing at their particular University.Â That's been my take on my 15 years at this level and my prior years at Division III.Â I do not think that's necessary.
COACH AVENT:Â It's a tough question.Â I understand why you're asking it, and there was something said a couple weeks ago, so I understand the question.Â But tough to answer.Â I just kind of concur with Mike that I would be against it.Â As college coaches, we know what we're doing.Â It may not always seem like that.
It's not always about a certain pitch count as well, it's about the weather and time in between innings, and a long inning and some tough innings.Â Did he get out of jams, was he cruising?Â How did he get to a certain count?Â And coaches like to win, there is no question about it.Â They win for their players, they win for their former players.
But I don't think any coach is going to put a kid out there in jeopardy no matter what's on the line.Â I think we can have discussions and talk about some things, but I certainly don't think it's necessary.
Q.Â TD plays a lot different than Rosenblatt, it's a big ballpark.Â I'd like know, and everybody else here, about defense.Â I think that's going to be critical in the games as far as maybe talking about your arms in the outfield and how you play the inner‑diamond catcher short, second baseman, centerfielder as far as your defensive philosophies, for all the coaches?
COACH MAINIERI:Â Well, the park obviously plays a lot different than Rosenblatt did.Â It's not sitting up on a hill where the wind is galing out all the time.Â So pitching and defense will be paramount, being able to manufacture runs.Â Fortunately, for all of us, the game has changed whether we're playing it at TD Ameritrade or Alex Box Stadium or whatever field these guys are playing at.Â The game has changed.Â That is just the way it is.Â There are not a lot of home runs anymore.Â You have to play pitch and play defense.
All these teams are here because they pitch and play defense.Â If you can't hold the other team down, you're not going to make it to Omaha, and you've got to be able to find a way to manufacture some runs.
So I don't think the adjustment is going to be that big for any of us.Â Now I haven't coached a game in TD Ameritrade Park yet, but I may be wrong about this, but I think the field is probably going to play similar to the way the field at hoover, Alabama plays, where we play the SEC Tournament.Â It's a spacious park.Â There are not many home runs hit, and it comes down to the fundamentals of the game.
COACH FOX:Â Well, I certainly would agree with that.Â The history here of the teams that have made it here, whether it was Rosenblatt or here, they were always one of the top pitching teams and defensive teams in the country, and the statistics bore that out.Â Paul's exactly right.Â The game has changed, and you have to decide early on if you want to try to play for a run or if you just want to try to get ahead.
I think here, especially, having a really good outfield and trying to keep balls out of the gap, because if you hit the ball in the gap here and a guy can run at all, it most certainly is a double.Â But potentially a triple.Â Maybe scouting reports, maybe the wind, having a centerfielder which obviously can run, which everybody does nowadays, and being able to cut those balls off and keep them to either singles or doubles is very important.
But you have to pitch out here and not walk people, there is no question about that.
COACH AVENT:Â I obviously haven't played a game out here, but I've just tried to get as much research as I could done.Â I understand it is a different park.Â It plays very, very spacious in the outfield.Â Sometimes if you have fast outfielders that you feel can go back and get the ball, much like Paul Blair when he played for the Orioles.Â You'll play them shallow and try to cut off the base, and catch some singles and line drives that might fall in and maybe throw a guy out at the plate.
It can change the way you play things according to your team speed and team defense.Â But as Paul said, it makes the game come down more to fundamentals.Â Obviously, there is no team here that is not fundamentally sound.
So it's going to be baseball at its best, and maybe old time baseball at its best.Â You're going to have to win a game with very, very few mistakes.
COACH SAVAGE:Â I agree with all of them.Â It needs to be a detailed game, a clean game if you're going to have a chance to win.Â If you are sloppy defensively or base running or not throwing strikes, then more likely you're going to have a difficult time.Â So it's definitely different.Â We all know that.Â The game has changed.Â We know that.Â But you're looking at LSU numbers, and I don't know, you know?Â Some of those numbers still look somewhat familiar as they looked a couple years back.
So there are some offensive players that are still out there, there is no doubt.Â And there is some physicalness to some teams that are still here.Â So we're not one of them.Â We hit .250 as a team, and we better be sharp or else the three‑run homer is not around the corner like it used to be.
It's a detailed game, and I think everybody will be able to realize that after you play a few games on this field.
Q.Â Paul, I guess a lot of people get fixated on Mason Katz and Alex Bregman, but you look at JaCoby Jones, and he was maybe a guy hitting at .245 in early March.Â When did the light kind of come on for him, and what's been the biggest difference for him from an offensive standpoint?Â What's allowed him to raise his average about 50 points?
COACH MAINIERI:Â It's hard to say for sure.Â We always saw the potential in JaCoby, of course.Â He's always had bat speed and great physicalness to him.Â Just when he chases bad balls, he gets himself out.Â When he lays off bad pitches and gets a good pitch to hit, he generally can do something with it, and it's usually good stuff.
This past weekend, he was phenomenal.Â Honestly, he may not admit this, but I think the draft kind of took a little pressure off him after he was finally selected.Â He was picked in the third round.Â Everybody thought he'd be a first rounder going into the year, didn't have that kind of year.Â Fell to the third round, but the third round is still something pretty special.
After the draft was over, I just saw him become a lot more relaxed and carefree, and having fun.Â He single‑handedly carried us offensively this week.Â He hit the big triple off Gray in the 8th inning to get our winning rally started.Â Once the ball was in the gap, I knew it would be a triple with his speed, and of course he came home, and then the next day, a four‑hit game.
So, fortunately for us, he's played great defense all year and done other things to help us win.Â We've just been waiting for the bat to come around.Â Just lately, his confidence has grown, and he's laying off bad pitches and becoming a much, much more difficult out.
Q.Â John, can you talk about maybe Alex Bregman as a freshman, and the great year he's having?Â Does he remind you of anyone in the caliber of year he's having or someone you maybe coached or played with?
COACH SAVAGE:Â Yeah, he's as good a freshman hitter as I've seen.Â He kind of reminds me of Kobernus and Renda a little bit, guys that are at Cal a couple years back.Â Whenever you're a right‑handed hitter, to be that good and to be able to handle all sorts of different pitches is just really a credit to his hand‑eye, his flatness of his bat path, the guy can just hit, just flat hit.
You know, you don't see that many right‑handed hitters that can do that and handle power and right‑handed arms and left‑handed arms.Â I mean, just watching tape and video of games and at‑bats, the guy‑‑ it's still a little bit of a mystery for me still on how to really get him out, because he's got plate coverage, uses the whole field, I'm sure, when he's going well.
It's just amazing for a freshman to step into an atmosphere like that and to be able to handle that.Â Mentally as well, let alone physically.Â He's as good a freshman hitter as I've seen in a long time, just in terms of average, and there is a little power, and he can run.Â I mean, he's a special, special player.Â You know, we know that.
Q.Â The game has changed and you've been able to adapt your rosters to it.Â My question is do you enjoy the way the game is played?Â You called it old‑time baseball, or do you feel there need to be some tweaks made with the baseball talk that's going around?
COACH SAVAGE:Â In regards to what we do, it's been pretty good.Â Offensively, and certainly on the west, runs are down, home runs are down.Â I mean, there are teams that don't have any home runs.Â They have like ten home runs, 15 home runs, and we're talking good teams.Â We're talking Omaha‑type teams.Â You know, if you're looking for home runs, then it's not, you know, you probably don't like it.Â But if you're looking for like Elliott said, well‑pitched games, defensive games, you've got to have runners, of course, to create havoc on the offense.
There are a lot of different ways now you need to manufacture runs other than just bang.Â We gave up eight home runs at LSU in '98 in one game when I was at USC.Â So things have changed.
Hopefully, you won't hit eight Sunday, Paul, but if do you, we're in trouble.
But, you know, I think the games at a very high interest right now.Â Fan support, so the games are quicker, which is always good for fans and fan interest, so I think in a lot of ways it's in a great stage of college baseball era, but the game certainly has changed clearly offensively.
COACH AVENT:Â Yeah, I think it comes down to what John said at the end on one aspect.Â We'll adjust to whatever.Â Coach es are going to adjust, but obviously, it's the popularity of the game.Â The more popular college baseball is, then the better it is for us as coaches, better stadiums will be built, fan base is easier to recruit, more kids will turn down the Major League draft to come play in college, so you have a better product.
So to me, it's all about the popularity of the game, and I don't think the game has been more popular than it is.
It's kind of like the football debate.Â Do you want to go see a 10‑0 football game or a 47‑41, Boise State against Nevada Reno, maybe.Â So it's whatever you're into.Â But as long as the popularity of the game hasn't been hurt, I think the coaches will be okay.
The only person that you might want to ask that question to and get a different answer is the bat companies.Â What they have to go through in tweaking these bats is probably a great expense for them.
So my biggest question, and we all want to play on an even field.Â We all play in different sized ballparks, you all mentioned that, here what we're playing on today.Â But like John said, playing in a different ballpark isn't going to change whether we can beat UCLA or UCLA can beat us.Â It comes down to fundamentals and making pitches and timely hitting.
But they're going to put the stickers on these bats, and they're going to certify our bats, which I think is an awesome idea.Â It's just I'd like to see it taken a step further, maybe certify the bats in the beginning of the year before we start this trek to get to this great place.
So I would say as far as coaches, we're okay with it.Â But as long as the fans are okay are and they keep coming out in droves, I'm sure we're okay.
COACH FOX:Â Well, I'm probably a little on the fence with your question simply because the last two years have been quite different for us.Â The new bats came in last year, and we weren't very good offensively, and I didn't know whether that was the new bat or whether we weren't very good offensively.Â So I wasn't quite sure.Â Then we get beat in a regional on a home run, a number 8 hitter who hit one all year.Â Then this year with the same bat of course, the same specs, we're better offensively and there have been more home runs.
So I've seen sort of two different seasons with it, but I would agree it's hard to argue right now with the popularity of our game.Â We've made some changes in it, we've tweaked it some, and the roster limits and the scholarship limits, and the bats, and we keep making changes in it, and yet the game just continues to grow.Â I think we'd all agree that's ultimately the most important thing.
COACH MAINIERI:Â Well, I don't know what else I can add except I feel the same way that these guys do as far as I think college baseball is more popular than it's ever been.Â But I just worry that it goes in the other direction.Â Because whether we want to admit it or not, we still are fighting for the fan bases and the support.Â I think what we have in Baton Rouge is a little bit of an aberration when you look across the country.Â Maybe not even at some of these programs, but in places where they're really trying to grow the game.
We're going to get 11,000 people a game, because people in Baton Rouge are used to high‑level, college baseball at a competitive level for the National Championship, and they just want to win.Â But at other places where they're trying to grow the game, you want to make it entertaining as well.
If I'm not mistaken, I think UNC and ourselves are the only teams that are hitting .300 as a team, and we're hitting about .306, if I'm not mistaken.Â I think that's skewed a little bit too far in the direction of pitching and defense.Â You know, there needs to be a good balance.
I thought in '98 when LSU hit eight home runs, the bats were probably too lively.Â In fact, I know they were.Â That was skewed way too much in the other direction.Â But I feel like we've gone too far in the other direction.
My personal feeling was in 2010, they had the bats right and they changed them again, but that was just my personal feeling.Â I like to see offense.Â I like to see the ability to come from behind with late‑inning home runs.Â I think that's a niche that made college baseball very exciting, and I'd just hate for us to lose that.Â I don't know what the answer is now, because I don't think the bats are going to change back, and we love the bats we use.Â But just across the board you'd like to see a little bit more offense.Â So anything that can get a little more offense into the game, I'd be in favor of.
BILL COUSINS:Â Thank you very much, and good luck on Sunday.
FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports