May 30, 2013
BLOOMINGTON, Ind. -
Indiana University Attendees
Head Coach Tracy Smith
Assistant Coach Ty Neal
SMITH: First of all, thanks everyone for coming out. We are excited to be selected to host one of the 16 regionals. It is something that we talked about when we were talking about the opening of Bart Kaufman Field. I think it's just a special time not only for our program, but for Indiana University and Bloomington at large because if you remember, when we talked about that, this is something that would be very special for the community. First and foremost, we are very thrilled to showcase what we think is one of the finest venues in the country.
Competitively, we read the reviews of the regionals and I think Big Ten baseball and such doesn't get some of the respect it deserves nationally, but I think this is going to shape up to be a tremendous regional. I look at it and one thing that jumped out to me right away is that the three other teams participating in this regional participated in regionals last year. The only team that was not in a regional was Indiana University, so I think certainly from that standpoint it's an advantage for them. They have the experience. The good thing about that is that this is a veteran ball club. If you've followed our season to this point with the way we concluded on the road with Ohio State and certainly a very competitive Big Ten Tournament, we've been in tournament mode for the last two weeks. I think that certainly is going to bode well for us, but we're tremendously excited to be in this position. We're thrilled. I've had several people and other kids too who not only want to enjoy the moment, but we want to win as well.
NEAL: Thank you again for having me up here. Obviously, we are very excited to be here. This is why you get into college athletics, to play in the postseason. To be able to do that in front of our home crowd and in front of our families is exciting. These guys have worked extremely hard and have taken care of each other. We are tickled to death to potentially play in a Super Regional after this.
On changing mentality to prepare for the postseason:
BASIL: Like (Coach Smith) said, we've been in postseason mode for the past two weeks, and our goal is to play the best baseball that we can. Just like the past two weeks at Ohio State and the Big Ten Tournament, it was do or die time, and we played a lot of our best baseball in those moments. Each time we accomplish one of our goals on that goal board this season, it's just another check mark along the way. Our main focus is just controlling how we play baseball, so that's our goal in this regional and we want to get to the super regional and beyond. We know that if we play our best baseball, we have the opportunity to reach the rest of the goals on that board.
Thoughts on hosting a regional in front of a home crowd:
DeNATO: It's very exciting. It's the very first time any of us have been in this type of situation before. It's also perfect timing since we have this new field and a successful year so far. It's perfect timing and very exciting.
BASIL: For me, it's a pretty humbling experience coming in as a freshman and going through some of the teams that we have had. Sophomore year was a bit of a disappointment with such a talented team and not making the Big Ten Tournament. To get to this point in my final season and host a regional, it's really everything I wanted in a career here. To be able to do this in the new stadium is great for the program and we all know that. We are definitely very proud of that.
After playing in the 2009 regional, how will it your approach be different to play at home this postseason?
SMITH: I've said this before, and I mean no disrespect to what we were trying to accomplish in 2009, but I almost thought after the 2009 tournament, which we were playing fantastic baseball and the media reports were saying Indiana was the sleeper team to get to the World Series and so on and so forth. I think the sense or feeling that I had, but there was a collective sigh of relief amongst the players to just get to the regional. There was so much focus on getting to the regional, there was not an emphasis on winning the regional. I think that is the difference with this team. If you watched even the celebration and response of this team, it wasn't this jubilance or these guys jumping around and going crazy in 2009, it was like Mike (Basil) said, "check" now we are in the tournament and on to our next goal. It's not fake, these guys are very even keeled. I think it's an overall attitude. Talent-wise, that 2009 team was very talented with several draft picks, three first round draft picks, but I just think the mindset with this team is that we are not satisfied. I can tell you for a fact this mindset is different than in 2009. These guys expect to win and they want to win. And they feel like they have a lot of season left to play. You are probably wondering why is Ty next to me, and everybody gives the attention to our hitters, but we have one of the top pitching teams in the country. So rather than me answering questions about pitching, I let him speak to that stuff.
NEAL: We obviously had a very talented pitching staff in 2009, but I think they had a bit of focus turned toward their professional careers. But the big difference now is this staff's work ethic is off the charts. I respect every guy on this staff more than any of the guys I have coached in college baseball. They do a great job of holding each other accountable. Starters know if the relief guys are not taking care of business on their off days. They take care of each other and make sure things are taken care of. They are so competitive, and every guy wants the baseball. They want to throw strikes, they want to pound the zone, they want to compete for their team. It's been a blessing and obviously it's been a great year and I think we're good enough to have a great year.
On the decision to start Aaron Slegers in regional opener:
NEAL: Coach Smith and I have discussed it. It was really for an opportunity to match up game one of the regional. Joey matches up with some of the left handed hitting teams and better base running teams. Slegers is a strike thrower and Valparaiso has more right handed hitters, not as much speed as the other two clubs. For us, it was a no-brainer. Another thing, he's earned it. He's a strike thrower and we know we are going to be in the baseball game every time he is on the mound. I don't think we can go wrong with either guy, but obviously we feel Aaron is just a better matchup for this first game.
On representing Big Ten baseball and northern schools in the NCAA postseason:
SMITH: I have had several coaches from the Big Ten reach out, and this is a very close-knit group of coaches and we pull for each other. I know how I felt last year when I saw Kent State and Stony Brook advancing through the NCAA Tournament. Again, no disrespect for the southern programs and the ones that traditionally do it. You root for the underdog and like it or not, it seems like northern baseball is always the underdog. The one thing walking back from the plane at the Big Ten Championship is that (Nebraska head coach) Darrin Erstad said to me `take this thing all the way home.' He wasn't saying that to make me feel good or make himself feel good after a tough loss, he genuinely said that.
We talked about this with the team. I told them that if they think for one minute that if you want to make less effort on a ground ball or something like that...we are playing for more than us. A lot of people are going to be watching.
I read a review last night of the tournament, and saw that Florida is taking some heat in the media for making the tournament. Their strength of schedule is off the charts and if you ask me personally, I think they should be in. But I have seen where people are paying close attention to how they do and saying if the northern teams knock them out, should they have taken another northern team instead of taking another team from a traditional power conference. I think we are going to be evaluated at the end of the day on a much larger scale. And we are happy to carry the torch. We have been doing it all season and we will gladly continue it.
On what the team learned about itself in tournament play at the Big Ten Tournament:
BASIL: This has been the mentality of the team throughout the year but we know that we are never out of the game. Our pitching has kept us in every single baseball game we have played this season. We know that we have the strong bats in our lineup that if we are down by two runs in the bottom of the ninth with no runners on base that the game is not over. We have done it before and comeback in situations like that and we have all the confidence in the world that we can do it again. I think that is the mentality that we carry into this, that if things are going the way that we want through the first eight innings that doesn't mean that they can't go right in the last inning and we can get the job done. We have a lot of confidence in our team and know that we have the ability to control what goes on in the game."
DeNATO: This is probably the most competitive team that we have had in three years. I think coming from the perspective that because of the bats we have in our lineup, its puts a lot less stress on the pitching staff and starters. We can give up three or four runs and know that we are still giving our team a chance to win the game. This is the most competitive team and most confident team that I have been on and I think we will be fine.
On the focus to not be satisfied to just be here:
DeNATO: Going back to our `Goals Board', our final goal is to make it to the College World Series so every weekend whenever we check one of those goals off the list, it is on to the next one. We are never satisfied. This weekend, we are playing to move on, we are not satisfied to just make it to the regional.
Austin Peay Attendees
Head Coach Gary McClure
McCLURE: "We're really pleased to be here. We're looking forward to playing. The ballpark is great. We really like it and we're glad for Indiana. We're excited about the regional and we were glad we were sent here. I think it's a good regional. We're just really looking forward to getting started. These guys have done a great job this year, and we're looking to play well here."
On what has helped build this program to where it is today:
McCLURE: "We've worked really hard. We made a commitment to getting to the next level. We have always had a pretty good program. We won our league in 2003, '04, '05 and again in '07, and now we have hit a really nice streak of getting a regional each year as well. I just sat down with my coaches and said `this is what we need to do, so let's go get after it.' I think we can get into a regional. I think we can win a regional. We want to get to Omaha. And let me tell you, I've got three great assistants, two are fulltime. They do a heck of a job recruiting, and that's where it all starts. We're just getting better players, higher quality players and really good student-athletes. It's starting to pay off."
Philosophy change or approach to that recruiting:
McCLURE: "We strive for excellence, and we have done well, like I said in 2003, '04, '05, '07, but we had a great year in '07. We went to Vanderbilt. We almost beat them, and they were the No. 1 seed. David Price was on the mound, and Sean Kelly was on the mound. He's in the big leagues after one year in the minor leagues. We won our first NCAA postseason game that year. We had been before, but had never won any games. We won our first game and ended up having two or three guys getting up to the big leagues. After that, we got that taste and realized what we could do, and from that point on, we put our head down, nose to the grindstone and told them we have to get after recruiting. We have to go wherever we have to go. If we can't beat somebody in-state with the best player, we have to go somewhere and find a player like that. We are not going to settle for the third-best player. We've done that, and now we are starting to get the best players."
Any emphasis on recruiting junior college players?
McCLURE: "No, it's been probably less overall. We did bring (Craig) Massoni in from a JUCO, and last year we did bring in a few junior college guys, more so than in the past. Next year, our 2013 class has 12 freshmen coming in. We like the freshmen. It just kind of happened that way with how our roster was made up and what we had to do to get back here again."
How success has helped the bullpen's confidence in games:
ROGERS: "I think as an entire bullpen, we feel pretty confident. I think the key has been that once we get to the sixth inning, everyone knows their goals and who is going in in what situations. That helps a lot. I like how everyone has a distinct role and just goes out there with a lot of confidence."
What has helped the team get on this 15-game, nation leading win-streak?
HANKINS: "We've just gelled really well together. Our bullpen has been really strong. We have found ways to win and bear down and getting one more run than the other team. We have just been playing really well together."
How playing in last year's Oregon regional fuel your confidence in this weekend's regional:
HARPER: "I'd say two years ago at Georgia Tech when we had five freshmen who have played a lot, those freshman came in and played like seniors. And last year, it was a lot of the same thing, and it's just a lot of guys who like going out and competing. The bigger the stage, the better we seem to play, and I think that we can do that again this weekend."
Will the artificial turf change the approach in certain situations?
McCLURE: "No, not really. And we've been fortunate enough that several guys played on this surface last year and a few games this season. We have had some experience on it and we had a chance to do a little infield work on our football turf field here and there on some bad days, so that helps as well. But, no we won't change anything. We are the team we are. We want to pitch it, we want to play defense and we will do whatever we have to do to score runs, whether we swing away or bunt. If we have to or steal a bag, we have to steal a bag. The game will dictate what we do offensively by the style of game it is, and the score of the game will obviously play a role. We're going to strive ahead like we have been doing."
The impact of the addition of Craig Massoni:
McCLURE: "Well, Craig is a special kid. He's been huge. I'd be lying if I said he wasn't. We lost a kid named Greg Bachman last year who was phenomenal. He was a four-year starter for us hitting behind Jordan (Hankins) in our four-hole and put up unbelievable numbers, you know very comparable to Craig. To have another kid come in and be able to do that same thing and be able to hit behind Jordan again has been huge for the success of this club. They still pitch around Jordan sometimes, but usually they pay when they do because Craig does a great job at the plate. The thing about Craig is that he hits for power, but he's very selective at the plate. A lot of times guys like that aren't, but that's why he has such a high average. He's a great guy for our team because of his spirit. He's loose, he's funny and he makes everybody around him better."
Head Coach Kevin O'Sullivan
O'SULLIVAN: We're excited to be here obviously. It's been an up and down year for us. We feel like we are fortunate to be in the tournament and we look forward to taking advantage of the opportunity. The facility is beautiful. The field played really well today and it was everything and more from what I expected. It's a great field and we are looking forward to playing this weekend.
As a young team, how has this team developed and matured as the season has gone along:
O'SULLIVAN: Team wise, I think our pitching has been pretty good all year long. I think offensively, we have been young, but I feel like we've improved. We have a much better feel of our identity as a team offensively and we've gotten healthy too. I think missing Richie (Martin), he broke his finger in like the third week of the year against Miami, and losing him for six weeks certainly put us in a tough situation, so getting him back was big. I think we've just continued to improve this season offensively, but I think pitching and defense has been pretty good all year long.
On playing on a turf field as a shortstop:
DENT: It plays perfect, there's really no bad hops, all hops are true. So it's nice.
On what it would mean to give them team what it needs from a starting pitcher:
CRAWFORD: I feel confident. I had a good start against Georgia so I feel like I have a lot of momentum coming into this start. So it will be great to come out and give the team a good start heading into the postseason.
On what the focus has been since his last start a few weeks ago:
CRAWFORD: I gave my arm a lot of rest and have been working on some things in between. I feel good.
On what was told to the outfielders about the short left field wall at Bart Kaufman Field:
O'SULLIVAN: Not a whole lot, we are just trying to put some hits together to be honest with you. I was pleased with how we took (batting practice) today. The ball seems like it jumps out, especially in left with the low wall out there. We've had some good practices. We have scrimmaged just about every day. Jonathon (Crawford) threw last Friday about five innings and threw the ball good. He's looked as good as he has since he's been here.
"We talked about the Georgia start, it was as good of a game as he had probably this whole year and he followed that up with a really good outing in the intersquad. I feel good with him on the mound right now and obviously we've got some options otherwise pitching wise, so we'll see.
On what having an ace pitcher this time of year does for a potential postseason run:
O'SULLIVAN: I think the tournament is set up that way. Two guys get hot as starters and your offense gets going a little bit, anything can happen. You are five wins away from getting back to Omaha. There are always some funny things that happen in this tournament. To run Jonathon (Crawford) out there tomorrow with they way he's been throwing the last few times out, I feel really good.
On how this young team has progressed and matured this season:
DENT: At the beginning, we struggled a little bit, but then we found our identity like coach said and started really to come together. We turned things around and started playing really well and won like seven games in a row there. So that got our confidence up and everyone kind of relaxed and started playing their own game.
On how the tough SEC schedule prepared the team for the postseason:
DENT: I think it prepares us very well. We played one of the hardest schedules in the nation for a reason and that's to prepare us for the tournament and make it back to Omaha. If you want to be the best you have to play the best and beat the best. That's what we do.
On what to expect from Austin Peay:
O'SULLIVAN: They're older, they've got some experience. They are very offensive minded. They've got a left fielder that can run, their shortstop's got some stolen bases. They're two corner infielders have 26 home runs combined, we have 27 as a team. The catcher has been in their program for three years, he looks like a leader on the field. They've got a closer that has 21 saves. They are a two seed in this regional for a reason. I think they've won 15 straight and I think that is the longest winning streak in the country coming in. They are probably playing the best that have all year long.
On the advantage of the three teams having postseason experience a year ago where Indiana did not play in the postseason last year:
O'SULLIVAN: Experience is always a plus on your side. As far as Indiana's concerned, we played them in a three-game set earlier this year, they're good. It's a very good team offensively, they've got some good starting pitching. They have a guy at the end of the game. They are playing great right now. They obviously played really well in their conference tournament. But as far as our team with experience, we don't have a whole lot of guys that have played in postseason, we have a bunch of guys that haven't. Last year is last year, this is a totally different club than we have had in the last four or five years. We have leaned on some of those older kids to kind of prepare these guys on what to expect. But, the bottom line is we just have to go out and play.
Head Coach Tracy Woodson
First of all, we are very excited to be here in Bloomington. I just wanted to make sure I addressed what it's going to be like to be back to the tournament again this year. It's going to be extremely different. We have a little bit of seniority now. We've got the jitters gone after being in the tournament for the first time in 44 years last season. I think you're going to see a much more confident team. I think that's what did us in last year. It was the butterflies, the 22-inning game before us with Kentucky and Kent State and not starting until 11 p.m. I'm hoping the storms stay away and we don't get pushed back, because I think sitting around really hurt us last year. Overall, we are excited to be here and we feel like we have a chance to win some games here.
What is coming together as of late that has helped with recent success?
Well, we've had a ton of injuries. It's something we need to address next year. We've had four hamstring injuries, two back surgeries from two players who aren't even here, so we are missing still a good nucleus of our team that would be here. When you play a pretty good schedule for us, we went to Long Beach State, we went to Arizona State, we went to South Florida, it helps. Beating Arizona State when they were No. 9 in the country gave us confidence. We left that and won nine more in a row. We went to UIC and played a three-game series in 38-degree weather in May or April and got swept and then went on to win seven straight. You take away those three losses, and we've played pretty good baseball.
Difference in this team's preparation for the tournament compared to last season:
A lot more loose. Last year we played in Gary, so a lot of guys were staying in apartments and dorms. We got out yesterday and we get here and it's actually on the road. We were halfway on the road last year and it kind of screwed us up a little bit. Not knowing what time to meet for the bus. Instead, we just come down to the lobby. We've got lunch at this time, we've got dinner, we've got practice, we've got our game, so we're in a much more familiar territory now with how we are on the road schedule wise. The guys are very loose. I can tell when guys are very uptight and stuff, and we have guys with a lot of confidence. We have got guys who can play the game. I'm hoping you're going to see something better than a four seed this weekend.
On adjustments needed to face Indiana pitcher Aaron Slegers instead of Joey DeNato this weekend:
From a hitting standpoint, the biggest thing we have noticed is that he throws with his right arm instead of his left. We're just going to focus on that. A little bit taller of a guy. Once we get that first at bat taken care of, I think we will be fine.
How to approach Indiana's lineup tomorrow:
It's going to interesting to see, because I thought Arizona State was one of the best offensive teams in my seven years here. They can swing it. I know Indiana can hit, and we have recruited a couple of these kids. I wanted Dustin DeMuth out of LaPort. We saw Sam Travis in high school a number of times and we knew we didn't have a chance with him. He wanted to go to Big Ten. You can't do anything about that. We know this team can hit. We have to try and limit the number of runs, and we have to manufacture runs ourselves. When we went to the (Horizon League) tournament, we beat the three best arms in our league that we faced. We beat three number one pitchers, so we feel confident that we can score runs.
What the team is doing well as of late that has helped them into this weekend?
I think the biggest thing is that earlier in the year, we would lack one thing and do the other. Down the stretch and really through the conference tournament, if we didn't do one, we picked up the other. Each facet of our game was picking up the other facet, so we were just able to compete and be a balanced team and win in true team fashion instead of just pitching dominantly or hitting dominantly.
On facing a lineup like Indiana:
It's a good lineup. It's the Big Ten Champions, but at the same time it's not going to change what type of pitching I am going to do or we as a pitching staff are going to do. We just need to hit our spots and focus on our game plan and not let any of the outside circumstances affect us.
On playing on artificial turf:
We actually have two teams in our conference that had the artificial dirt. One is brand new just like this place, the other a little older and beat down a bit. This is a nice field. You're not going to get the bad hops. I'd say we're pretty used to it. Last year we played on three or four different fields with artificial turf, so I don't think it will be a factor.
Will artificial turf play a major role for northern schools in college baseball?
Yeah, we're looking for a million dollar donor right now at Valpo. It's just part of the game. To get games in up there, you have to have it. I was on conference calls on the committee this year for the Midwest when they were making selections, and the Kansas and Southern Illinois coaches were on it and I didn't realize how many games they lost due to rain. We play when it's 35 degrees and we can get our tarp on the infield. It may be wet in the outfield, but we play. To have that turf, you're going to get more games in and it's needed especially in the Midwest.
If small ball has always been a philosophy of this team:
WOODSON: Not necessarily. We play just 10 miles south of Lake Michigan, and when it's cold the wind blows in at 25 mph. We would have more than eight homeruns as a team. I looked at size. Indiana is going to be a lot bigger than us in a lot of spots, but if we played on this field and the wind was blowing like this, we would have a number of homeruns as well. We can hit the ball, but if you come up there and watch games when it's 35-40 degrees and the wind is blowing in, you're going to have to manufacture runs or you're not going to win games. I think that helps us in the sense of when games get close. I'm hoping Indiana's had a lot of 12-2 games and have not been in that situation, because we can play that way, but if the wind's blowing out tomorrow night, we can hit the ball just as much as they can.