Opening Statement I guess I’ll have to talk about the main story and that’s the guy on my left. His performance today was as good as what I’ve seen maybe in 28 years of coaching. The importance of it, the fact that he was down in the bullpen for most of the game, the fact that he’s never pitched a game that long since he’s been at Vanderbilt. He pitched two over the minimum. There’s not much more you can say about it. It was a good day of baseball for us. At times, it was a struggle from the get-go, but I thought once we got through the first game, the kids loosened up. I thought the momentum was over on our side of the field at least for the second part of the game. I felt the momentum was in our dugout. It doesn’t get that way unless you have a stopper on the mound. He clearly did that to a very good ballclub, so my hat’s off to him. He’s truly deserving of what he did.
On Goodenow’s performance I think the first couple of innings he seemed to just go out there and throw his offspeed pitches for strikes. He looked comfortable. He had good rhythm going. He was coming off the field with our catcher, and in the third, fourth and fifth I didn’t even at one time say anything to D.J. about how far you think he can go. I just felt like he was going to go as far as he would like, and I’m sure there was a point there where adrenaline takes over, because I’m sure he was sore. You get around 100 pitches and you’ve thrown maybe 50 or 60 in the bullpen in the first game. It’s an amazing feat. Amazing.
On whether the team played looser on Sunday I talked to the kids yesterday about how certain heroes are made this time of year. The most unlikely guys on the team sometimes step forward, not that Richie’s that type of guy because Richie’s about as low-maintenance a kid as I’ve ever coached. His parents always thank me for his opportunities which are sometimes slim, sometimes none. And then, he’s the most low-maintenance kid in the world. And I talked to him about a kid named Greg Ellena back in ’86 at Miami who was the College World Series MVP. Here he played for three years and then all of the sudden he turned up on the last weekend of the year to have the weekend of his life, and I said that can happen to anyone as long as you prepare for it mentally and visually. Richie’s one of those kids who’s always been ready to pitch. He’s always ready to compete. He’s pitched remarkable innings for us in the years that he’s been here. Now my main goal for him is to get him to graduate school so we can get him back here because I would love to see him continue in this program.
On the decision to start Goodenow I felt like he was our best chance because he was a slow-down guy. I felt like they’re a good-hitting fastball team, and I think they were ready for Sonny. They were geared up for Sonny. They have very, very dangerous left-handed hitters, and I felt like he could neutralize those guys. I felt like on the carpet, if he could sink the ball and we could work the ball into the turf then it would slow the ball down and we could play some defense, because I’m very confident in how we play defense. He did that, and he got his share of bottom-of-the-ball fly balls too. I just felt like we needed to send him out there as long as we could. Everyone raised their hand to be ready to pitch, but the mere fact that he pitched a complete game saves us in a lot of different ways.
On Monday’s starter Not really sure right now. I think we get back to the hotel and spread ourselves out a little bit and look at things and then make a decision. We do have a left-hander available. Richie said he wanted to continue pitching again, so that was possible. I think we have a couple options to go to. Grayson Garvin, obviously, is one of them.
On whether Taylor Hill or Sonny Gray can pitch in relief I know Taylor is. Sonny always thinks he’s ready to go. I think you have to be smart about what we do with him. He threw a significant amount of pitches yesterday. You get to this time of year, and you want to do whatever you can to stay competitive in a ballgame and win a ballgame. At the same time, you want to be smart and cautious.
On the difference between Saturday and Sunday I don’t really think we played tight. I just felt we were a little flat for whatever reason. I can’t really put my finger on it and I’m sure the kids can’t either, and we were all frustrated by it. I told them today before the game that there were three things I wanted them to. And the first thing I mentioned to them was I wanted them to play with some spirit, play free, play loose and have some fun. Because if you’re going to go down or you’re going to win, just enjoy yourself. I felt the dugout was very good. I thought the kids were outstanding, they were loose. Coach Holliday was very instrumental in keeping them loose. D.J. was funny in the dugout and kept them loose to. I think when you’ve got that type of emotion in there, particularly after the sixth, seventh inning of the Illinois State game, I felt like it was a turnabout on how we felt.
On playing Louisville for the championship We’ve been through this road before, and they have too. Every year’s different. The situation’s different. I feel good about the fact that we’re comfortable here on this surface, and the kids have played in tough atmospheres before. It’s a good atmosphere. The fans are into it. You can feel momentum coming on, but that’s the SEC too. I think that’s the plus of playing in the SEC is you play in front of tough, tough crowds, and there are momentum swings that occur from a base hit that just move right up into the stands and right back onto the field. You’ve got to overcome them, and I know their crowd will be into it, but I have great faith in the kids. I like their spirit. I like the way they come back.
On the fifth inning That was our best inning of the day. That was what really propelled the energy to another level for us.
On who might pitch for Louisville At this point, I don’t think it matters for either side who pitches. It’s just one of those things where you’ve seen everything to this point. We’ve played 62 games. We’ve seen everything from the time we started. We went to Japan and saw some of the best pitching in the world. They’re left-handed and right-handed and I know the kids are sick of scouting reports. Right now we just say, ‘there’s a righty going today.’ Not to minimize anyone, but I don’t at this point it matters for either side.
On his performance I was just trying to stay prepared. D.J. does a great job with all the pitchers, just talking about routine and just being prepared for anything you get, so I guess so.
On whether this was a dream game I mean, I’m not quite sure about that. I just wanted to help my team win and we accomplished that. Hopefully we’ll get them on Monday.
On pitching with a big lead It definitely helps when the offense gets it going, and as pitchers, we always try to pitch it like a 1-0 lead anyway. It really didn’t affect me in any way. I just tried to pitch out there, every inning the same.
On how he feels after throwing a shutout A little bit tired, but just ready to go for tomorrow. Pretty much just exhausted. We’ll see how the arm feels tomorrow and maybe come back and pitch an inning or too.
On whether he’d like to be a permanent starter Today felt good, but whatever the team needs me to do, whether it’s one hitter, one inning or nine innings. That’s pretty much what I’m in for.
On when Goodenow looked like had something special going He looked good from the get-go. He’s been feeling good preparing every game the same way, every day. Fifth, sixth, seventh inning, when he got it going, he kept it going. We felt confident in him getting his ground balls. I don’t know what innings it were when he had those two double plays, but that was probably the seal right there when we knew he was going to go all the way.
On what Goodenow’s performance did for the team From a pitching perspective, as coach said, it saved a lot of our pitchers because we ran pretty thin from the three games we played before. Hitting-wise, we’ve got a good hitting team. It’s just we’ve been a little down. Our pitching and defense has always helped us throughout the year, but getting the bats going today gives us big confidence, especially against a good team like Louisville. They are a good team hitting and defense and pitching. We hope it just carries into tomorrow, and we know it will.
On his home run against Illinois State and RBI single against Louisville The first game, I don’t know why they wanted to go with the righty. I don’t understand that, but I was looking for a curveball from that guy. I figured they had been showing a lot of offspeed pitches to me, and he kept coming with the fastball. He actually threw the first two or three right down the middle. I missed them, and I figured he’s just going to come after me. I put a good swing on it and it carried out. Against the lefty, I knew he was going to probably stay away with the slider, show a fastball, and then go back with a slider away. With coach Holliday teaching us, it’s called split-rhythm. We look for a fastball away, stuff like that, and if he throws an offspeed pitch, we’ll be on time with it. And that’s what he did. He threw a slider and I was able to get it through the four-hole.
On matching up with lefties Yeah. It’s been a struggle this year obviously with lefties. They come in throwing the slider, but working with all the coaches, it’s progressing. Now I take on the challenge, I’m more confident and more comfortable every day with it.
On the importance of having a big inning From a morale standpoint, I think it picks us up because it gives us confidence. We did a lot of two-out hitting today, we did a lot of clutch hitting. We got guys on base, we scored them. I think that’s going to carry into tomorrow. That helps us tremendously with our confidence, and just keep swinging the bats the way we are.
On his expectations for the final It’s who wants it more. Both teams are going to come out and swing the bats, both teams are going to pitch and both teams are going to play defense. It’s going to come down to heart tomorrow and who wants it more, and the better team’s going to win.