CWS Baseball Highlights/Postgame: Louisville 5, Auburn 3

Butch Thompson
Butch Thompson

The Auburn Tigers fell to Louisville 5-3 at the College World Series in Omaha, NE., on Wednesday afternoon. The loss ended Auburn’s season. Look inside for game highlights, play-by-play, postgame comments, quotes and more.

Play by Play

Louisville starters: 7/cf Dunn; 43/1b Wyatt; 2/ss Fitzgerald; 13/3b
Binelas; 20/lf Snider; 9/dh Oriente; 1/rf Campbell; 16/2b Lavey;
32/c Davis; 15/p Miller;
Auburn starters: 1/lf Ward; 9/2b Bliss; 24/dh Davis; 17/ss Holland;
41/rf Williams; 4/1b Woley; 10/3b Julien; 6/c Scheffler; 16/cf
Howell; 8/p Horn;
Louisville 1st – Dunn struck out looking (1-2 FBFK). Wyatt grounded
out to 2b (1-2 FKB). Fitzgerald homered to left center, RBI (1-0
B). Binelas struck out looking (0-2 SFK). 1 run, 1 hit, 0 errors, 0
L O B .
Auburn 1st – Ward struck out swinging (1-2 FFBS). Bliss singled to
right field (0-0). Davis grounded out to 1b unassisted (0-1 F);
Bliss advanced to second. Bliss advanced to third on a wild pitch.
Holland walked (3-0 BBBB). Williams grounded out to p (2-0 BB). 0
runs, 1 hit, 0 errors, 2 LOB.
Louisville 2nd – Snider struck out swinging (2-2 BSFBFS). Oriente
singled through the left side (1-0 B). Oriente failed pickoff
attempt. Campbell fouled out to c (3-2 FSFFFBBB). Lavey fouled out
to 1b (0-0). 0 runs, 1 hit, 0 errors, 1 LOB.
Auburn 2nd – Woley grounded out to ss (0-0). Julien singled to center
field (3-2 KBBBKFFFF). Scheffler doubled to right field (2-2 KSBB);
Julien advanced to third. Howell grounded out to 2b, RBI (0-0);
Scheffler advanced to third; Julien scored. Ward grounded out to 2b
(0-1 F). 1 run, 2 hits, 0 errors, 1 LOB.
Louisville 3rd – Davis walked (3-2 BBFBFFFFFFB). Dunn fouled out to
1b (1-0 B). Wyatt grounded out to 2b (0-0); Davis advanced to
second. Fitzgerald popped up to cf (1-1 BS). 0 runs, 0 hits, 0
errors, 1 LOB.
Auburn 3rd – Bliss struck out swinging, out at first c to 1b (1-2
SKFBFFFS). Davis grounded out to ss (0-0). Holland singled to right
field (1-2 FSB). Holland failed pickoff attempt. Holland failed
pickoff attempt. Holland stole second. Louisville challenges
safe/out on SB attempt at 2B. After review, he’s safe. Williams
singled to right field (1-0 B); Holland advanced to third, out at
home rf to c. 0 runs, 2 hits, 0 errors, 1 LOB.
Louisville 4th – Binelas singled to center field (2-2 SFBB). Snider
walked (3-1 BFBBB); Binelas advanced to second. Oriente out at
first p to 2b, SAC, bunt (1-0 B); Snider advanced to second;
Binelas advanced to third. Campbell walked (3-1 BBBFB). Anderson to
p for Horn. Lavey walked, RBI (3-1 BFBBB); Campbell advanced to
second; Snider advanced to third; Binelas scored. Davis struck out
swinging (2-2 FBSFBS). Dunn reached on a fielding error by 2b,
advanced to second on a throwing error by 2b (0-2 KK); Lavey
advanced to second, advanced to third on the throw; Campbell
scored, unearned; Snider scored, unearned. Wyatt popped up to cf
(2-2 BFBS). 3 runs, 1 hit, 2 errors, 2 LOB.
Auburn 4th – Woley struck out swinging (1-2 KFBS). Julien walked (3-2
BBKFBB). Scheffler reached on a fielder’s choice to shortstop (1-1
KB); Julien out at second ss to 2b. Scheffler failed pickoff
attempt. Howell popped up to rf (0-2 KS). 0 runs, 0 hits, 0 errors,
1 LOB.
Louisville 5th – Play at end of 4th inning reviewed, and confirmed as
a catch by the RF. Rain delay starts at 2:55 pm. Game suspended 32
minutes later at 3:27 pm before top of 5 until 6/19. Game resumed
on 6/19 at 11:06 am. Fitts to p for Anderson. Fitzgerald singled to
left center (1-0 B). Fitzgerald failed pickoff attempt. Fitzgerald
failed pickoff attempt. Binelas struck out swinging (1-2 KSBFS).
Snider popped up to cf (0-0). Fitzgerald failed pickoff attempt.
Oriente struck out looking (0-2 KKK). 0 runs, 1 hit, 0 errors, 1
L O B .
Auburn 5th – Elliott to p for Miller. Ward struck out looking (1-2
KBSK). Bliss popped up to cf (2-2 KBKFFB). Davis doubled to left
center (0-1 S). Holland struck out looking (3-2 BKBBSK). 0 runs, 1
hit, 0 errors, 1 LOB.
Louisville 6th – Campbell popped up to ss up the middle (0-1 S).
Lavey popped up to rf (0-0). Davis grounded out to 2b (0-2 KFF). 0
runs, 0 hits, 0 errors, 0 LOB.
Auburn 6th – Williams struck out swinging (1-2 KFBS). Woley popped up
to rf (0-0). Julien walked (3-2 BBFSBB). Scheffler popped up to 2b
up the middle (0-1 K). 0 runs, 0 hits, 0 errors, 1 LOB.
Louisville 7th – Dunn singled up the middle (3-2 KBFFBB). Dunn failed
pickoff attempt. Dunn failed pickoff attempt. Dunn failed pickoff
attempt. Dunn failed pickoff attempt. Wyatt popped up to cf to
right center (2-1 FBB). Dunn failed pickoff attempt. Dunn failed
pickoff attempt. Fitzgerald reached on a fielder’s choice to third
base (0-1 K); Dunn out at second 3b to 2b. Binelas popped up to cf
(0-1 S). 0 runs, 1 hit, 0 errors, 1 LOB.
Auburn 7th – McAvene to p for Elliott. Howell grounded out to ss (1-2
FBK). Ward struck out swinging (2-2 BKFFBS). Bliss singled up the
middle (0-2 KS). Davis doubled to right center, RBI (0-0); Bliss
scored. Holland struck out swinging (2-2 KSBBS). 1 run, 2 hits, 0
errors, 1 LOB.
Louisville 8th – Snider walked (3-2 BSBBFB). Snider failed pickoff
attempt. Oriente singled up the middle (1-0 B); Snider advanced to
third. Leonard pinch ran for Oriente. Campbell singled to left
field, RBI (1-0 B); Leonard advanced to second; Snider scored.
Leonard failed pickoff attempt. Lavey fouled out to c, bunt (3-1
BBBK). Watson to p for Fitts. Leonard out at second p to 2b, picked
off. Safe/out call at 2nd is reviewed, and upheld. Campbell failed
pickoff attempt. Campbell failed pickoff attempt. Davis struck out
swinging (2-2 BBFKFS). 1 run, 2 hits, 0 errors, 1 LOB.
Auburn 8th – Williams walked (3-0 BBBB). Woley grounded into double
play 2b to ss to 1b (2-2 KBBS); Williams out on the play. Julien
singled to center field (1-2 KSFB). Scheffler singled through the
left side (0-0); Julien advanced to second. Howell singled through
the left side (0-0); Scheffler advanced to second; Julien advanced
to third. Ward struck out swinging (3-2 BBSSBS). 0 runs, 3 hits, 0
errors, 3 LOB.
Louisville 9th – Dunn struck out swinging (2-2 KFFBBS). Wyatt flied
out to ss (0-0). Fitzgerald popped up to rf (0-0). 0 runs, 0 hits,
0 errors, 0 LOB.
Auburn 9th – Kirian to p for McAvene. Bliss grounded out to 2b (2-2
KFFBB). Louisville challenges safe/out at 1st base. Call is upheld.
Davis homered to center field, RBI (0-1 S). Davis’ HR is reviewed
to see if it’s a double or homer. Call is upheld. Holland popped up
to ss (0-1 S). Williams doubled down the rf line (3-2 BBKSB). Woley
struck out swinging (2-2 BKKBFFS). 1 run, 2 hits, 0 errors, 1 LOB.

Auburn Quotes

BUTCH THOMPSON: Just congratulations to Louisville
and Dan McDonnell. Their program did a great job
today, and thank you to the NCAA, Omaha, Exchange
Club that hosted us this week.
Definitely my players and our staff have worked so hard
the entire year, and so many of our fans, getting to hear
them, it’s been an enjoyable, entertaining, great week
and an unbelievable experience to see our program
continue to grow and go step by step.
Hate that it ends today. I think our players, just right up
to the end, you could see that our guys are pretty
resilient and continued to fight. I’m proud of that.
Now they don’t get to play anymore. I’d like to have
another day to keep competing. So I’ll miss that with
this group, because every group is different every
single year, and not to get to compete with them again
— probably could have played a little more sound.
Another timely hit or two would have been good. I
know we had 13 hits in the ballgame today, and a lot of
it just started with the resilience. We just had trouble
getting the leadoff man on I think basically to the eighth
inning that wiped away and it was two outs and nobody
on and we get some consecutive hits there and just
fight right to the end.
I think Conor, since we come back from the delay
overnight, split two gaps and hit a ball out, just a
special three at-bats for him.
All the way around, every one of our players, if anything
negative would come toward Auburn baseball and the
program, it should be directed right square at my chest
and not any person, for me being with them every day,
from our support staff, from our players, from anybody
that I’ve watched work this year, to help this ballclub, I’ll
fight and protect. If anything of us being in a better
position and trying to make the program better, every
negative connotation should be directed right toward
myself.
Q. Conor, you start the day today down three runs
and seemed like early on, maybe, hard time getting
things going, but this team just kept competing.
What was the mood and the mindset, and did you
guys feel like you still had that belief all the way
through? It seemed like you did.

CONOR DAVIS: Yeah, no, I think the biggest thing for
us was — I mean, it’s been our consistent mindset all
year. We’ve had the battle-back mindset that we’re
going to grind, we’re going to fight until the last out.
Last night kind of refreshed us and restarted us today,
and we came back out, and I know that Coach had
already said that we couldn’t get anything going with
our leadoff hitters and stuff like that, but even then you
can see down in the ninth inning, we were battling with
two outs, that’s a testimony to how our season was.
We just battled even when it came down to the very
last out.
Q. With the bases loaded in the eighth inning, feels
like you guys were starting to string some pretty
good at-bats together. How deflating was it to not
get a run out of that situation?
STEVEN WILLIAMS: Yeah, it was pretty deflating, but
at the same time, like Conor said, all year long we
faced a ton of adversity throughout our games, and
we’ve always battled back and we’ve always responded
well. So at the same time, we didn’t really try to
change anything. We tried to go back out in the ninth,
get a shutdown inning, get back in here and have some
good at-bats and see what happens.
Q. Could you guys just reflect on this run and
getting this program here? How much does this
mean to you guys as individuals to be part of this
group that got this team back to Omaha?
CONOR DAVIS: Yeah, it’s a pretty special group.
Coach Thompson was talking to us a couple days ago
and said this is maybe the most different group we’ve
had, and he said, you know what, we’re going to go
with it, and we’ve been going with it all year.
But I think it’s just a testimony to Coach Thompson, the
type of man he is and the leadership role he’s brought
to Auburn baseball. Two years ago I ended my
freshman year in a regional in Tallahassee, and last
year a super regional in Florida. Just to get here and
to make a mark like we have, it’s been 22 years and
we’ve been working really hard. I just can’t wait to see
where the program goes with Coach Thompson at its
head. So it’s very exciting to see for the future.
STEVEN WILLIAMS: Yeah, like Conor said, it’s a great
feeling to make it to Omaha since — I think ’97 it was,
and it’s a testimony to all the hard work that we’ve put
in and Coach Thompson and the staff he’s put together
here at Auburn, and I think we’ll be back sooner than
later.
Q. Coach, I asked the players this, but to have to go
into the ninth inning still chasing three, given the
opportunity you guys had in the eighth, did that
feel like a crushing blow, just too much to save it?
Did it feel like that was a big turning point in the
result of the game?
BUTCH THOMPSON: I mean, I don’t know how your
brain works compared to mine. I’ve never met you, but
I wanted four more guys to come to the plate that
inning. Judd had struck out three times, and he’s kind
of a catalyst. He’s kind of our heartbeat. I thought
Bliss had really had a good at-bat before with two outs
and nobody on, he gets on and then Conor splits the
gap. That’s how we got our third run, I believe.
So I just wanted to keep passing it down. You kind of
know who’s swinging it good and who’s not, but you’re
like, man, if we can just get — the command wasn’t the
best right there for their pitcher, and you’re just trying to
keep passing on, even see if they can sharp right
there, if we can just pass it down, keeps us moving.
Yeah, when every inning ends, it hurts me. Does that
make sense? Trying to score every inning of a
ballgame. So it always punches me in the gut because
you reset from there.

But none more than the other. 5-2 has actually been
our score here in the postseason, unfortunately. We’ve
been coming back from a couple of big 5-2, and of
course I didn’t want that fifth run to score, but when I
saw it, I’m like, maybe we’ve got one more magical run
in us, and it didn’t happen today.
But, sure, that was a moment, and we didn’t get
anything out of it. We got three consecutive hits. If you
look, we got 13 hits versus their seven there, and you
wind up scoring less runs, so that’s what I meant.
We just didn’t — they were much more opportunistic.
They walked four guys, we walked five guys, but they
sure got more done, especially that fourth inning in the
rain yesterday. That was three walks, and then we
didn’t dominate a routine play in the rain. I still go back
to that being a big moment in the ballgame because
this was part of that game.
Q. You talked about the rain. Just what was that
like yesterday, and how tough was that for you
guys out there?
BUTCH THOMPSON: Same for both. You just play —
you’re trusting umpires to make the best decision for
our student-athletes, period. I hope that’s what we’re
doing, not for anything else.
Q. The way Edouard bounced back and had four
really good at-bats today, what was his state of
mind heading into this thing, and how proud are
you of him?
BUTCH THOMPSON: Yeah, very proud. Steven
Williams is still swinging it great. He ends this year,
and he squared up a bunch of balls, last ball down the
right field corner. He’s been doing that.
Julien’s 10-pitch at-bat yesterday, first inning, first at
bat or second inning, whatever he hit, he had a 10-
pitch at-bat and then a single up the middle. He’s okay.
You know why? Because he plays for Auburn. And if
you listen, I think that was the loudest ovation I heard
yesterday.
So I compliment my fans, and we’re trying to build a
baseball base of fans. It’s going great, and how they
responded yesterday, I was just like, yes, because they
lifted him up before that first at-bat. That’s what it’s all
about. That’s how I know from — when things are
being built the right way and people are getting behind
our players the right way. It’s not surfing the internet,
it’s actually seeing organically what’s happening with
our crowd and the connection to our best players.

Louisville Quotes

DAN McDONNELL: It was a hard-fought game, so I
give a lot of credit to Butch Thompson, that coaching
staff and Auburn baseball. Got a lot of respect for
Butch and those guys. I coached against him for many
years. We were assistants in the same league, and
always had the most respect for him, knowing that he’s
doing it the right way.
And I think how hard his kids fought today says a lot
about their program. They just didn’t make it easy, and
it was a hard-fought game.
I’m really proud of our guys because I thought our
bullpen did what we needed them to do. Offensively
we’ve put together some rallies. We’re close. We
haven’t exploded yet; that’s the exciting thing. But we
played defense, and when you pitch and you make
some plays the way we did, some diving plays in the
outfield, some great plays in the infield — we played
well enough to win.
And as I’ve learned, it’s not easy winning out here, and
they don’t give you anything. You’ve got to earn it. So
I’m really proud of these guys right here and their
teammates for how hard they fought.
Q. Drew, Coach kind of talked about the defense
piece of it, and thinking back to yesterday, a long
time ago, you had that — I think it was the third
inning you threw that guy out at the plate and made
a diving catch. How much of a big part of the
success do you think that defense piece has been
for you guys?
DREW CAMPBELL: I think defense has brought us a
long way this year. Last year we had a pretty — we did
pretty good defensively, and I think this year we
definitely stepped it up, and it’s been a huge part of
why we are where we are.
Q. Tyler, yesterday just to hit that first-inning home
run kind of set the tone in an elimination game.
How important do you think that was to settle you
in?
TYLER FITZGERALD: Yeah, I think it was really, really
important. It’s something I wanted to do as a 3-hole
hitter, is get our lineup started early, and something I
wasn’t able to do the game before. So just to get the
momentum in our favor, top of the first inning was huge
for us and just set the tone early on.
Q. Tyler, you’re here in 2017 when Nick made his
start. Obviously that was the game you guys lost,
but Nick has been great for you guys all year. How
much have you seen change from Nick from that
freshman year to now?
TYLER FITZGERALD: Just maturity. Nick is a great
pitcher, and he’s been able to handle ups and downs
tremendously his whole career. You know, if he has a
rough start, he’s going to come back even stronger.
But he’s had a great postseason so far, and we expect
him to come out here and throw well tomorrow, and
we’re really confident in him.
Q. Adam, it was almost like a start. Can you kind
of take us through your morning, what Coach
Williams — or when he told you, and then your
couple innings?
ADAM ELLIOTT: Yeah, well, I kind of treated it like I
was coming out of the bullpen. I didn’t really find out I
was pitching until about 10 minutes before I started
stretching, so I tried to treat it like I was coming out of
the bullpen.
Me and Coach Williams talked, and I had warmed up
about 10 minutes before the first pitch, and I treated it
like I was coming straight out of the bullpen. Henry
caught me, and we just went straight into the game.
Q. Did you feel like you kind of set the tone for the
day? What was kind of the overall mood for you
guys heading into this thing after having to sit
around for a while?

ADAM ELLIOTT: Yeah, Coach Mac talked about it. He
talked about how the bullpen kind of set the tone,
because Bobby only got to go four innings. So, yeah,
going out there, the first pitch, I was just trying to throw
strikes, keep the ball in the zone and just kind of let our
defense work and kind of get the game going.
Q. Just kind of the backs to the wall mentality you
came out with today, how do you take the
momentum now into the rest of the week?
TYLER FITZGERALD: We love each other, and these
are our brothers, and we’re just playing for the guy next
to us. Just because we win one game we’re not going
to change anything. Knowing if we lose a game we’re
done just makes it play harder. Just fighting for each
other.
ADAM ELLIOTT: Yeah, I agree with that. I mean, going
into today, I was big on kind of bringing the energy and
just trying to get this team going. I mean, it’s obviously
an elimination game, it’s going to be tough, but
obviously if we go out there every day and we bring the
energy and play like we’re supposed to, we’ll be okay.
DREW CAMPBELL: Yeah, I feel like losing one game,
nobody wants to — you don’t want to come out and lose
at all, so being down already, it shouldn’t matter to us,
we just need to go out there and play some more
baseball.
Q. Drew, after the game, obviously you guys are
happy, celebrated a little bit. It wasn’t this over-the
top celebration. What does that say about this
team’s focus?
DREW CAMPBELL: I mean, we’re looking for the next
game. Like we’re not done yet.
Q. Dan, Adam, kind of when he went on, he treated
it as coming out of the bullpen, but those were two
huge zeros for you guys.
DAN McDONNELL: No doubt. We obviously started
talking about it yesterday during the rain delay. You
could go to Nick Bennett because it’s like a start, and
you’ve got five innings. You’d be happy if he gave you
five innings and you win the game.
But then you look at the rest of the week and you’re
like, man, we just burned up two starters in one game.
And we trust our bullpen. And I asked Coach Williams.
He said Adam Elliott was the guy. Elliott has got that
toughness about him. He’s like a — he’s a position
player, so he’ll love hearing me say that about him.
He’s been a two-way player in his career. He’s just had
some back issues, so we didn’t let him swing this year.
But he’s just got that ballplayer mentality, and I just like
the way how Coach Williams, no sense telling him last
night, no sense telling him at breakfast this morning,
don’t get him all worked out, wait until about an hour or
so before the game. Not that we’re trying to keep a
secret from anybody. I think I had told other people we
were going to go with Elliott, but just letting him know in
obviously plenty of time where he wouldn’t overextend
himself early, and we’ve got to trust our bullpen.
Having the extra day, I guess, we played Sunday and
here we are Wednesday, we felt like we had a full fresh
bullpen, and we were champing to get to McAvene.
We probably could have got another inning out of
Elliott, but just felt like we got a fresh McAvene, let’s not
take a chance. Looking back, we probably could have
left Elliott in there for one more.
Q. You mentioned McAvene. Everything he’s gone
through the last two weeks, he didn’t come until
2017. What was it like to see him get that bases
loaded strikeout, and did you ever think about
taking him out before the last batter?

DAN McDONNELL: No, they had a right-handed hitter
on deck, they have some — I won’t say unusual splits,
but some of their righties hit better against righties and
their lefties hit better against lefties, which is a sign of
just good program, good hitters. We wanted to give
Michael one more batter there, and obviously all the
emotion it took that inning not having pitched in the last
couple weeks, we thought that was plenty, and let’s
give the ball to Kirian because Kirian has closed.
It’s been one of our advantages this year. We felt like
all along we’ve had two closers, and we needed one
when we lost McAvene in the regionals, and Kirian has
always stepped up and did a nice job.
For me, for head coaches, you’re looking at these
stories as knowing he got hurt in his freshman year, he
doesn’t get to come to Omaha with us. You don’t want
to leave Omaha without him pitching, now you don’t
want to leave Omaha without Nick Bennett pitching,
either, so you’re sitting there going, all right, we’ve
obviously got to win one of these first two games
because that guy deserves to pitch. He pitched in
Omaha as a freshman, gave us a really good start
against TCU, and knowing he’s champing at the bit, we
feel like we’re in a good spot now because we have
Nick Bennett, Luke Smith, guys that started in the
regionals, and we obviously need guys to step up in
the position we’re in.
Q. With the suspended game, it obviously
condenses your schedule a little bit, throws you off
schedule with the pitching staff, taking Bobby out
early, but how do you approach your continued run
in this tournament even though it kind of throws a
little extra adversity at you despite the fact that
you’re also in the losers’ bracket?
DAN McDONNELL: Yeah, we kind of — the weather is
something we cannot control, and we talk about
toughness all the time, and for us it was — my message
to the team when we found out the game was not
going to resume last night, let’s look at it this way:
We’re going to show up on Wednesday and play a
game, or we could have finished the game Tuesday
night and we’d be practicing on Wednesday. Which
would you rather do? Well, obviously the kids want to
play the game.
I love to practice, and they know that. I just love
practice because it’s just — it’s usually easier to win a
practice. But the kids would much rather play the
game. So I just spun it as a positive, like, look, we’ve
got a chance to play this game three or four days in a
row now, which is what they want to do, and they’re
going to do at the next level, many of them.
I mean, you want it to be easy and you’d like to be 2-0,
and yeah, every coach would choose that, but that’s
just not the way it is. We talk a lot about what’s real,
what’s real. What’s real is we’re 1-1 and we’ve got Nick
Bennett to start with a really good bullpen, a really
good team, and if we’re fortunate, we’ve got Luke
Smith to start with a really good bullpen and a really
good team.
You know, it’s where we’re at, and guys like Reid,
Bobby, these are strong, healthy kids that they’re
champing at the bit to hopefully get another chance to
run out there and pitch with this uniform on again this
season.
Q. Dan, you talked last night to us about the two
defensive plays that Drew made, but he came up
with a big hit today, as well, to get you the extra
run, and what he’s done in this game but also in
the tournament.
DAN McDONNELL: He’s played really good the last
month or so, and one of the reasons he was drafted,
he’s a good player. He’s played center field for us, he’s
played right field. And people who know our park, our
center field and right field, you’ve got to be good
defensively, man. It’s big in that gap, and with the sun
and the wind. He’s played really good.
We say it all the time, you look at the bottom of the
lineup, if it’s Campbell, Lavey and Davis, it’s .293, .293,
.283, some good hitters, really good hitters. I’m mad at
myself that I kept the bunt on probably in the 3-1
situation and should have let Lavey swing away right
there. But I was most pleased that for a guy who
doesn’t get the bunt down to know how frustrated I am
because I coach the bunting and we work on that a lot,
man, he ran out there and made a huge double play
that inning and then he made the huge slow roller play
on their speedy second baseman in the ninth. So
Lavey stole Campbell’s shirt, kind of our MVP award, at
the end of the game. I flipped it to Lavey because,
looking back on the complete game, our defense was
huge today.
Q. You guys haven’t had a lot of success in the
College World Series over your time, but these
guys didn’t overly celebrate today. It wasn’t some
kind of crazy celebration on the field. Does that
talk about the focus of this group even though their
backs are against the wall?
DAN McDONNELL: No doubt, and for this group, the
juniors and seniors, they won the first game two years
ago, and really felt like, man, we’ve got a chance to win
a national championship, and we ran into Brady Singer
and a really good Florida team, and they were better
than us, and obviously they went on to win the whole
thing that year.
So we’ve got a lot of respect for these two teams that
are playing right behind us, and looking forward to the
opportunity that we get to compete again with one of
them.
You know, like I said, we talk about toughness, and
playing with an edge, and I thought our guys really
showed that yesterday and today being in the
elimination game.
We addressed it when we lost in the regionals. I mean,
we talked about you’re allowed to lose one game in the
regionals, one in the supers, one in the first round, and
one in the Championship Series. So you’re actually
allowed to lose four times in the postseason. Teams
have done it before, so when we lost in the regional,
I’m hoping that losing in Omaha just reminded them,
hey, it’s part of it, you don’t have to be perfect. Yeah,
there’s going to be teams that run the table and they’re
perfect, but I think Oregon State lost last year and
Coastal Carolina lost one in their year. It happens. So
hopefully our kids still believe, and I think they do. I
think they’re showing that.
But again, one game at a time. We’re going to be
playing a really good team tomorrow night.
Q. Dan, I imagine Nick is going to be the guy on the
mound tomorrow. Just from where he came, he
had a really good freshman year, but he was the
one with that loss against TCU. From there to now,
how much has Nick grown on the mound?
DAN McDONNELL: I think — of course these guys have
followed us so closely, Nick Bennett is a competitor. I
mean, that’s the thing, for a freshman to be starting in
the College World Series and be a weekend starter for
the University of Louisville, I think guys love playing
behind him because you know he’s going to compete.
He might beat him. He’s not perfect. But man, he’s
going to compete.
And what he did in the regional, he won Game 1, we
got sent into the losers’ bracket, and he demanded that
ball on Monday. I mean, it was after the Sunday game,
he came by the office, and then Sunday night he sent a
text, and then Monday morning at breakfast he walked
up to the office. I mean, he was adamant: Coach, give
me the ball today.
And Coach Williams is smart, and he’s all about arm
care and said, okay, he could be throwing a bullpen on
a day like today, so we’ll let him get the start. We only
pitched him two innings, of course, and then we took
him out. But I just think it lifted us up. I say Willis Reed
moment, that’s maybe a little different. I’m showing my
age. These young guys don’t — but you know Willis
Reed. That’s us. And not that he was hurt, but when a
guy like that steps up and says, just give me the ball
and I’ll run out there and give you everything I’ve got,
man, it lifts everybody else up.
For me in the big picture, I’m so glad Nick Bennett gets
to start here in Omaha, and Zeke Pinkham gets to
catch him because those two guys have been a good
tandem for three years now.

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