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June 7, 2013

Tournament Central

Virginia Head Coach Brian O’Connor Opening Statement:
“I’d first like to welcome everyone to Charlottesville and I’d like to congratulate coach (Cohen) and his team for making it to the Super Regional. We’d like to welcome the Mississippi State fans and administration and the media to Charlottesville. I think you’ll find that everybody here very hospitable. I think our fans will show great sportsmanship and it will be a great weekend of baseball here. Our team is looking for to this. We played great baseball last week and have been playing well all year long. I know we have a tremendous opponent this weekend in Mississippi State. They look like they have one heck of a team. They have great pitching and defense and are a very good offensive ball club. Also, we know how good their coach is. Coach Cohen is one of the great ones and it’s going to be a great weekend. Everyone knows what is at stake and everyone is grateful this time of year to be in the Super Regional and have this opportunity.”

Mississippi State Head Coach John Cohen opening statement:
“I just want to echo Coach O’Connor. It’s exciting to be here. We are excited to play in this tremendous facility against an incredible ball club. Our kids are hopefully going to get beyond this draft thing. Hopefully that will be in the rearview mirror for us. But we have a lot of great preparation this week and we know what is on the line here and when you get to the last 16, there are a lot of similarities between all the clubs. They are all well coached and being on the road, you have to get used to your surroundings in a hurry. Again, we’re excited. We want to play right now and look forward to a good weekend.”

Brian O’Connor on starting pitcher for game 1:
Brandon Waddell has been our Friday starter all year so he will start game 1 tomorrow.”

John Cohen on pitching beyond game 1:
“I don’t know beyond Kendall (Graveman). The neat thing about game 1 is that you have the ability to watch your opponent play. That will give us the chance to evaluate a little bit. Kendall is a senior. He pitched last week and we feel like his leadership gives us the best chance to get off to a good start.”

Cohen on the weekend pitching situation:
“Our biggest issue is who we use in relief versus who we are starting. It needs some consideration, but getting the opportunity to see a great Virginia team go against us gives us the opportunity to evaluate that lineup and who might match up well against their lineup.”

O’Connor on success against bullpens and challenge of Mississippi State bullpen:
“There’s no question that we faced a couple of clubs that had really good bullpens, but you look at the numbers for Mississippi State and their bullpen and they are pretty remarkable. And it’s not just one guy. They are using 6 or 8 that are really good and consistent. In all the games I’ve watched on television, they look like they can match up against anybody and they have talent. They’ve got guys with good arms, but they also have guys who can do things situationally. It’s impressive. I know that’s a big part of what got them here this year. It’s also a big part of where we fit in. We’ve had 21 comeback victories. On paper that looks like it is going to be tough to do. We’re also pretty proud of our bullpen and what they have done too. Really our teams have a lot of similarities.”

Cohen on Virginia’s hitting in late games:
“When you look at Virginia’s offensive numbers, they have old numbers, meaning before the changing of the bat numbers. They swing the bat well and can hit situationally. You watch them on tv and it’s not that they score runs, but they don’t strike out, they get on base, they make the pitcher work every at bat. It’s a real challenge for the pitching staff. We can’t give at bats away. Sometimes pitchers can get on a roll early in the count and getting early outs and getting soft contact. I think that’s one of the main things that Virginia does a great job with. Their offense does not give away at bats. That’s why they have great numbers and have won 50 ball games.”

Cohen on comparing Central Arkansas to Virginia:
“Central Arkansas has a great team but I think this is exponential here. Central Arkansas is a good club who is hitting .265, which is more in line with the new bat era. Virginia has incredible numbers. I think everything is heightened. Their lineup, their depth, and the way they approach at bats.”

O’Connor on Cogswell:
Branden Cogswell will be available this weekend. I’m not sure in what capacity, but he did swing the bat, take ground balls, and he was throwing. I’m just not quite sure what capacity he will play in. I think we’ll know a lot more in the next couple of days. When you’re coming back from a fractured middle finger, it can be touch and go and every day that passes and the more reps that he gets, the more consistent he will be and so that could play into what Nick Howard might be able to do on the mound.”

O’Connor on similarities between teams:
“You watch what they do offensively, they are very opportunistic offensively and they obviously have one extremely talented player in their lineup (Hunter Renfroe). But they look like an offensive club that does not just swing the entire time. They will put runners in motion; they will bunt when they need to. We’re very similar to that. They’ve got really good pitching and we’ve prided ourselves on that. It should be great baseball and we’ll see what it comes down to. A lot of times when you’re talking about teams of this caliber, it’s just that one player that might make the difference.”

O’Connor on what makes Virginia’s offense effective:
“I believe we have a lot of talent. When you look at Papi, Fisher, Downes, and McCarthy, you’re talking about four players that are really physical and athletic. They can all hit the ball out of the ballpark, but they can also do situational things too. I think that a lot of our guys have an advanced approach at the plate and are selective with what they are doing and know what they are trying to accomplish and I think there’s a whole collection really. I like our club because I think we can score runs from anywhere in our lineup. There are no given outs in our lineup. Last weekend, almost all our run production was from the bottom of our lineup. Certainly this weekend we will need production throughout the lineup in order to win this series.”

Cohen on 2-out runs:
“I like our offense and looking at teams in tournaments, you will find a lot of teams that get 2 out hits. It just seems to be the difference maker. I wish we could get those hits with 0 outs, but I think the nature of our offense is certainly more situational than Virginia’s. There’s more power, there’s more runs. They scored a ton of runs this year. We’ve been more of a defensive pitching team. Our pitching staff knows this is one of the best offensive clubs that we face this this year.”

O’Connor on the regional nature of this matchup:
“Never really thought of it, but I think it is a bit of a regional matchup. We take pride in having 60 percent of our players from this state and the surrounding states. The Bulldogs roster is very similar to that. We are talking about two clubs that recruit across the country that have built their foundation from their own states and right in their back yards.”

Cohen on draft being over:
“It’s like a football coach having the draft before their bowl games. I remember playing and during a game, someone told me I had been drafted by the Minnesota Twins. It has been a goal since these players were kids so it can be very distracting. We know our kids are mature enough to deal with these situations. In baseball, you have to be.”

O’Connor on players being drafted:
“I don’t think it will affect Kyle Crockett. He has been a team guy since he has gotten here. The clubs take him where he deserves to go and there’s not a whole lot you can do about it. I actually told him after he was drafted today that our clubs have worked so hard to get to this point. I’m excited for Kyle and everybody else, but they know what they have in front of them and they know the memories they can have if they advance on.”

Cohen on Virginia’s left handed lineup:
“Issue number one is always about commanding the pitch. Not only does Virginia have outstanding left-handed batting, they have outstanding right-handed batting and left-handed pitching. That’s a combination you rarely see in college baseball. That’s no accident. Winning 50 games is a pretty amazing feat. We’ve put together scouting reports and there will be a strategy. Hopefully our guys can execute.”

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