Story Links

Virginia Head Coach Brian O’Connor

Opening Statement:
“I want to start it off by first welcoming Coach Golloway and the Oklahoma Sooners to Charlottesville. We feel very fortunate to be hosting the first Super Regional ever in our baseball program’s history. We are very proud of that. I hope the Oklahoma Sooners will find Charlottesville to be a very hospitable place and I know you all will be treated right here. We are ecstatic about playing in the super regional with the chance to go to Omaha. I thought we played really good, consistent baseball last weekend and this weekend will be a great best two out of three. Oklahoma has a very good baseball team this year. Their program is rich and tradition and as Sonny [Golloway] said earlier, the winner that comes out of this [Super] Regional will do very well in Omaha, so we are looking forward to it.”

On learning about the team through Regionals:
“I don’t know that I learned anything new. This team, it’s been well documented, has been a veteran group that has handled adversity well, last year and through this year. The emotion and the intensity in our dugout on Monday were like something I haven’t witnessed as the coach here at Virginia. Most people would have assumed, and I was asked a lot of questions, whether the team was tight or felt this pressure after losing the first title game to St. John’s. They didn’t show that to me at all. It was a very loose, confident group that they’d come into the dugout after executing offensively and their teammates were into the game, they were into the game. They just carried themselves with an attitude that they weren’t going to be denied. All of the sudden you could be in the eighth inning and give up a couple hits, give up a homerun, and all that could be for naught. As Sonny said, you’re going to fail at times. Outside of the emotion and intensity that they showed in that Monday game – the biggest game of the year – we pretty much did what we have done all season long.”

On dealing with the pressures associated with hosting:
“I think that the way that we prepare them everyday prepares them for these kinds of situations. We run our program. It is very hard-nosed. Our players compete. They compete in practice. They practice hard. I’d say there is a tremendous amount of accountability in our program, coaches holding players accountable but most importantly players holding each other accountable. I think when you have that and you have some talent and you have veteran players like we have, I don’t think they panic and they handle those situations really well. That’s what I’m seeing. One would assume there would be pressure on both teams this weekend. We are both trying to accomplish the same thing this weekend – we are both trying to get to Omaha. I don’t know if it is more because you are playing in your ballpark or not. I’m sure there are going to be almost 5,000 Virginia fans this weekend who want it as badly as we do. Our team will play for the right reasons and we will play loose and hopefully things will work out.”

Oklahoma Head Coach Sunny Golloway
Opening Statement:
“On behalf of the University of Oklahoma and our student athletes that represent our great baseball program, we are really excited to be here. It’s our first time to be in Charlottesville. My wife’s name is Charlotte, so I’m hoping that will be a great advantage to us. As we flew in and our coaches, families, administration, all of our support staff, and our student athletes – we have been very impressed. It’s a beautiful area. It’s a beautiful ballpark. The campus is first class. Hopefully we are one of those programs that we look for things behind the scenes and programs that sweat the details. I know this: in 18 years of NCAA coaching and being a part of the 1992,’ 94, and ’95 College World Series teams and our 1994 National Championship team that you have to sweat the details. It’s funny because everywhere I turn in this stadium I see that the details have been sweated and it’s real easy to see for apparent reasons why Coach O’Connor and Virginia Cavaliers have had success here recently. I was telling Coach that last year as a baseball family, my son, Kallen, ten years is here with us back in the back. He is a big fan and we watched last year the Regionals and Super Regionals and one of the teams that we followed was Virginia all the way through it. We talked about how at Ole Miss they lost that first game and how they battled back. I think we built our program on being mentally tough and we have been matched up with a program that we think really mirrors our and hopefully they think will mirror theirs. I think that would be a real compliment to both programs, the head coaches, the coaching staffs and the student athletes that do represent those programs. There are only 16 teams still playing at eight sites, so as coach said, this is a step in their program’s history that I’m sure will become a rich history in hosting a Super Regional. We are really glad to be able to be playing in it this time and I really feel after scouting and knowing our team we are going to have a champion come out of the Charlottesville Super Regional that is going to represent this Super Regional in a first-class manner and have a great chance at a National Championship.”

On getting it done in the Regional:
“I like the way they learned. We had nine players drafted last year; we had seven juniors. And we had six players drafted in the first 11 rounds so we had to replace a lot of the student athletes representing our program. One of the things we teach is just pitch-by-pitch, inning-by-inning. We don’t get caught up in tomorrow’s game. We don’t get caught up in the ninth inning. We are going to play this inning, we are going to play this pitch, and we are going to focus on right now. Our guys had to do that to come through our regional. The teams that were in ours… weren’t just going to go away. There were some tremendous battles with Oral Roberts actually hitting a walk-off homerun against Cal-Berkley and a one-run ten-inning ballgame against us and I think it was well-noted North Carolina’s games with ours. If you get caught thinking about next inning or next game, you probably aren’t going to find victory at that moment, so the mental toughness of our student-athletes has really come through. It was a turning point early in the season against Texas A&M. We faced Luxe, the sixth pick in the country, and he defeated us in a really well-played baseball game on Friday. We had to go 13 innings to find victory on the road on Saturday and then we won in pretty good fashion, just in how you take care of a baseball game, on Sunday. Mental toughness has really come to the forefront for us and that’s what’s really paying off for us right now. We have really kept them tight. I don’t like that, I think the players do. Our mental toughness has really come through, as has the mental toughness of our opponent in the [Super] Regional here.”

On the dimensions of Davenport Field:
“That was my biggest concern. We like to look at the ballpark. We like to understand our environment and of course in the Midwest the wind comes into play an awful lot, as do the elements of the ballpark. We were anxious to get here and to actually practice on this field because if you get one report that the ball’s not going anywhere and look at another report and I see St. John’s hitting three in a game, it looked like the ball was flying. I wanted to see what our guys were going to do. I think the ballpark plays pretty fair to what we have at home because it was the same student athletes that I have coached all year standing in the box today and it’s still batting practice, but I am able to be a good barometer for what they do in BP at home and what they did in BP here and I think it’s a fair ballpark and I think it’s a true ballpark. I think you have to earn things in this ballpark.”

On impressions of Danny Hultzen:
“We had a couple of guys in our conference and in the past that when we have scouted him we think match up an awful lot like what we see. The change up is a big league pitch. We understand that. There has to be some tremendous deception regarding that pitch the way that he has some guys offering at that pitch and really getting beat in the middle of a swing. That’s when you know it’s a great change up. He’s a competitor. I thought reading Coach O’Connor’s comment was right on for where I would be. The fact is everyone’s saying he isn’t throwing the ball or he hasn’t pitched as well, but the guy is finding victory. This time of year it’s about finding victory. That’s what it’s about. Go out there and find a way to help your team win and he has done exactly that. For a number one guy, for a Friday night guy, for an ace, whichever you want to call him, he’s doing his job so we recognize that it is going to be a tall task and we recognize that we are going to have to compete and collectively, nine guys are going to have to go out there and not have any soft at-bats. They are going to have to be tough at-bats from the get-go. If we go out there and we make him earn the outs, I will be proud of our hitters and I will know we’ve done our job. That will give us our best chance.”

On comparing this year’s team to the 2009 squad:
“We had veterans. We had First-Team All Big-12 in center field, shortstop, we had the player of the year behind the plate in J.T. Wisen. Fourth, fifth, and seventh round picks. We have sophomores in each of those positions that played behind those starters last year. They learned from those guys but they don’t have the experience that those First-Team All-Big 12 or high-round drafts or player of the years had. We also had to revamp our whole starting pitching. We do not have one returning starter out of the group, even though Rocha will go tomorrow, Rocha has been in and out of our bullpen and in and out of our rotation in three years. I think that is the biggest difference. We don’t have the experience I think Virginia has with the run they made going to the College World Series. We were a national seed that was upset by a very hot Arkansas at the time and that happens to you sometimes. You understand that and you don’t have to like it – you just have to live with it all summer. I think the most important thing is that our guys understand that what really is experience. We have a shortstop that has started sixty-plus games. That’s a lot. We recognize that sometimes there’s a tremendous amount of pressure on you when you’re playing at home and we’ve felt that in the past, being a national seed last year and not getting through it and then our first round being in Norman. I said during the Big 12 tournament we weren’t sure. We were battling hard and hoping to get to host and earn it and we were just talking. I like to talk to the seniors and make notes for future reference. It had nothing to do with this year – I made sure they understood that — things we can be better at as coaches. One of the things they made very clear to me was, ‘Coach, we’re road warriors. We are really good on the road.’ I had some seniors who really wanted to go on the road first round and I was like, ‘it’s a reward, it’s an accomplishment. You’re not going to say no to that of course.’ But they were tight, hard fought contests because there is pressure at home to win. Everyone expects you to win. One thing I have always made very clear to our student athletes is these young men have a right to fail like anyone else in life and they are going to at times. I think if they are relieved of that pressure, then they can go out and play baseball the way it’s supposed to, with relaxed intensity. If the student-athletes competing this weekend do not understand that, we aren’t going to see the great, great plays that they are capable of making. I promise you, I want to see those great plays, as I’m sure Coach O’Connor does. That’s what we’re about. We coach student-athletes this year, next year, and future years to come. To see those great plays and to talk about them in ten years is a special thing for all of us, so the right and ability to fail and to go out and play is what’s allowed our young guys to go out and replace the veterans we had last year and get back deep in the NCAA Tournament.”

Print Friendly Version