Opening Statement Well, I don't where to start really. From an emotional standpoint, I'm just really, really happy for the kids. The kids and the coaches who put so much time into this and coming into an environment which is very difficult and to get through this thing, through the backdoor actually, to lose to them and come back and have to beat Illinois State again and beat Louisville again and then get to the championship game. They're a very, very good team. I'd have to say that besides UCLA they've probably the best team that we've played. What we saw out there was just a gut check. There were a lot of emotional swings, some good, some not so good. We just pitched very well, we played great defense and we just hung in there. And it's a credit to what we've gone through all year; we've gone through this several times. I remember telling them, these games will come back to help us from the standpoint of confidence. We'll have been there before, we'll know how to win them, but the defense on both sides of the ball, no one probably deserved to lose. The catch over the fence early, the play that Brian Harris made was outstanding. He got every inch he possibly could off the ground to catch that ball, and the guy on my left, what he did coming back another day, and Grayson Garvin. It's just fun to see a kid that was injured early and then has continually gotten better and better and better as the season has progressed, and that was a huge game for him. Huge for his confidence, huge for us. Just happy, happy for the kids.
On shaking off past disappointments with the victory Well it helps. You get to the final stage, and you knock on the door and you want to bust through the door at some point. It's very frustrating, but we'd been there and I thought going into this tournament if we could just get by Illinois State, I felt the kids played very, very loose as I said yesterday with the second Louisville game. I really felt coming into today, I had a good feeling and I think a lot of the kids did too. Now that was a tight ballgame, but there was a feeling that I thought we would win it. It wasn't easy, but I just felt everyone was on board and their confidence was starting to grow. That was one of those games where there were going to be some people in scoring position but no one was getting in. Royse, I mean, he's out there pitching on fumes and what he did in that one inning to go through the middle part of our order with the bases loaded, that's very, very tough to do with three good hitters, so credit him too. But just a good battle, a lot of punches exchanged and people got off the mat and kept on fighting.
On Grayson Garvin's outing He was very, very effective and throwing a lot of strikes. Even when he came in, when he hit (Arnold) to start the game, he looked very at ease. I told D.J., once he gets the first out, things will start rolling. He was very, very comfortable. I'm very proud of him. He's come such a long way.
On the resilience of this year's team We're plenty talented. We're plenty talented mentally. We're plenty talented right in the chest. That overcomes anything that we do physically. Yeah, we've had some very good physical teams. In 2007, we put three, four Major Leaguers on the field. But it doesn't matter. We've got kids who are playing for Vanderbilt, kids who want to win and kids who know what a gut check is. And that talent right there in college baseball is huge. You just saw it. I'll take that talent any day.
On Goodenow and Garvin's performances in elimination games It's heroic. Two very, very important games against a team, these guys are very tough to navigate. I'm not speaking for Dan, but it might have been one of his best teams ever. That offense, you look at it, it doesn't give you a break. It'll be as good as any offensive team that we will see from here on out. Richie, I don't think anyone saw that coming. I'd be lying to you if I thought it did. We were just trying to get as much out of him as we possibly could. Grayson, the same thing. We were just trying to get him out there as long as we could. The fact that they extended into the ballgame was monumental for our team. But again, it's heart, and I hate to use coachspeak, but that's what it is. It's heart and will and trying to win for our team. That's all it is. That's all it is.
On how long he planned to throw Garvin That's what it was, if they looked tired. D.J. had a very good pulse on Grayson. The thing that I didn't really want to do with Grayson was pull him too soon, because even if I thought he was 80 percent, I thought the fact that he was left-handed may have still been enough to get their hitters out. And I felt once we brought in the right-handers that we'd have to work harder. They know that when they're facing Chase Reid, they knew what they were going to see. When they were facing Sonny, they know that he's coming after them with a fastball and a hard breaking ball.
On Vanderbilt's bunting It was a bunting game. It was that type of game. It was going to be a one-run or two-run game. I thought it was more difficult especially with Holland in the game. He was sweeping that breaking ball, but I thought the bunt was the safest play. When it was first and third there at the end of the game, it was just a play that we had worked on for a long time. It's a safe play because you can bunt it. You don't sell out the runner at third base, but if it's well-placed, then it's very difficult to defend. You can't defend it. It paid dividends tonight.
Center fielder Connor Harrell
On his winning bunt Well, going up to the plate, I kind of knew, I had an idea it was going to happen. It actually kind of freaked me out, I had only bunted once this season. I got the sign, laid a bunt down and won the game. Pretty simple. I saw it get past the pitcher and I was already in celebration mode.
On his home-run saving catch in the third It was funny. I was going back and I didn't know how far it was from the fence. I actually didn't even know once I caught it that I was at the fence, so I catch it, run into the fence and I see that my glove is over the fence. Going into it, I didn't know that it was an over-the-fence catch. I just thought it was a catch, and then I see my glove's over the fence and I'm hitting the wall, saves two runs.
On the game-winning bunt It's a play you practice to win the game. You go out and practice. It hardly shows up in competition, but we pull it out and we have a lot of confidence in it. You get it down, just like you practice, just like you draw it up, and it's a won ballgame.
On giving up the lead in the ninth Yeah, we felt we had it there at the end, but that's how baseball goes. We've been on both sides of it before. That's why you keep playing the game, that's why you keep focused mentally. Just keep pushing runs across, trying to get base runners on. We know how it feels. They did it to us last year. It's finally good to charge and celebrate with our own team.
On Brian Harris' lead-saving grab in the ninth That's the story of our defense. It's the story of our shifts. Sometimes they don't work, but at the right moment, at the right time, they worked. Credit to Coach Corbin, Credit to Coach Holliday, Coach Johnson. It's the story of the year. Defense plays a big part in our game, and it shows up tonight.
On Vanderbilt's hitting in the clutch Clutch hitting's been the story of our team also. We've got a couple walk-off wins, a lot of comeback victories. Hitting's one of the most difficult things to do in sports, but sometimes they don't fall, sometimes they don't score. It doesn't really matter. We're going to advance. We're going to play some more baseball games, and we're going to score some more.
On Harrell's home-run saving catch It was unbelievable. It was a mistake slider that I made. I threw him an 0-0 slider, kind of a get-me-over. He'd done a good job all day being on my pitches and he hit it, and the park plays kind of small, so he hit it and I looked back and I see Connor going back, and I'm like, `It's gone, it's gone, it's gone, whatever.' And he makes an unbelievable play. He's been playing a great center field all year so definite props to him.
On his feelings going into the start I'm always nervous before I pitch, just kind of a feeling that I get. I just approached it kind of like a relief appearance, trying to just give our team a chance to win. Not trying to do too much, not trying to be more than I can be or not try to strike everybody out or get everybody out. Just try to go in and stay within myself and give our team the best chance to win, and that's really what I tried to do. I don't think so. It was just a battle. Credit to him, he did a great job. I felt great even to the minute that I came out. It was a little bit of tough luck, I didn't get a couple breaking balls, change-ups across, in I think the seventh inning it was and that came back to bite us a little bit. But I think it was a good old-fashioned battle. He did a great job. I felt like for sure he would swing through at least one of those fastballs that I threw him, but credit to him. He battled himself into a walk, so it was a good at-bat.
On his emotions in the ninth inning I knew coming out in the ninth inning it was going to be a tough inning. I knew they had their 6-7-8 coming up, which were good hitters. I knew if we got the first out, then everything would be all right. Then the first guy reaches on a walk and then the batter interference and then from there things just kind of seemed to skyrocket. I knew Arnold was going to be sitting on a first-pitch fastball, but then he ends up hitting a curveball. After that, D.J. came out there and said, `Just get this guy and we'll win the game, just get this guy and we'll win the game.' And then, I wouldn't say I got the guy. I'd say Harris got the guy with a great catch. That's just what this team's about, just picking each other up. Coming off the field after the ninth after they tied the game up, emotionally, I was just gone. I was just out of it. And then I had Espo come over to me and say, `We got you, we got you.' Curt came over to me and said, `We got you, we got you.' I think there were a few other people. Then D.J. came over and said, `Get back in the game, get back in the game.' I think that's what we've done all year. We've picked each other up, and a great example of it was tonight.
On his conversation with pitching coach Derek Johnson Well, obviously D.J. thought that after scoring that run that all the momentum was on their side, and he just comes out and tried to re-focus. He said, `Focus on this hitter right here and we'll come in and win the game.' He told me again, `Get this guy and we're going to come in and win the game.' We didn't come in and win in the bottom of the ninth, but coming back in the bottom of the tenth, it was a huge play. I honestly felt after we got that guy that we were going to win that game. And then in the tenth inning, we came back, Curt gets it going, getting hit by that pitch and you know what happened from there.
Louisville Head Coach Dan McDonnell
Opening Statement It's very tough. I want to congratulate Vanderbilt. They have a great team. I feel they had to be the best number two seed in the country. They were a bad weekend away or another win in the tournament to be the host. It just didn't work out. They have great coaches, great players. They obviously felt comfortable here. It's disappointing that they did get sent here two years in a row. I think the NCAA has to evaluate that. But again, I don't want to take anything away from them. This is a great team. As for our guys, boy, it hurts. What a great season. I told our guys in the outfield how proud I am of them. What a special, special year. The success that they had, how successful they were, to host a regional and be a national seed. I told them there's only one team in the country that doesn't end their season with that type of speech in the outfield. And unfortunately we're not going to be that team. But I challenged these kids all year. I raised the bar high and they responded. Like I said, what an unbelievable season to this point. Unfortunately it ends. What a great game. I think if you step back, I know that hurts for us right now, but that's an unbelievable college baseball game. They rob us of a two run homer there. They catch the line drive with the bases loaded. As did we. We made some great catches. We struck out three guys with the bases were loaded. It's just an unbelievable baseball game. Clearly the home team has the great advantage in a game like this. We were the home team the first two times we met, but the scores weren't close. Like losing to them in 17 innings down there, when you're the home team and get extra innings, all you have to do is get that one run. The advantage clearly swung to them late. I was proud of our kids that we fought and tied it up with two outs with a runner on first. We kept the rally going. But once you get into extra innings, the home team has a huge advantage and they capitalized. We've got to give them credit."
On his pitchers "What you've got to understand and again I give all the credit to Vanderbilt, you can't take anything away from our pitchers. Think of the three runs that we gave up. It's was a bases-loaded or was it a first and second, runners were going, and the kid capped the ball. It fell in front of our left fielder. Then they hit the six hopper through the six hole where our shortstop and third baseman dove. That guy led off with a walk and then they squeezed. The ball rolled about 30 feet. That's baseball, that's what it is. We didn't choke, we didn't make errors. We didn't give up rocket ball as I like to call it. We played play hard. I'm really proud of this group. I challenged them to hold their heads high. It's baseball and you'll be better off for it. It's not easy to run out there and compete because as good as the feeling is when you win, boy it really hurts when you lose. This one's going to hurt for a while. Again I give them credit because they put on the uniform and they competed and played hard. It was fun to watch."
On the performance of Thomas Royse and Neil Holland "Real gutsy. He had a tough week and wasn't feeling great. Roger Williams isn't going to run somebody out there who he doesn't feel isn't ready and prepared. I feel we did a good job of allowing him time to get healthy and feel right. There's a reason he's the Big East pitcher of the year. What a warrior. He competed out there. You could see he was fighting through. He left it on the field. I was really happy he was able to walk off the field with a standing ovation. Unfortunately, Neil, when you're the closer you don't get to do that. Neil put together one of the greatest seasons I've ever seen. I hope he wins Closer of the Year. No disrespect to the guys up for the award. We won 50 games; I don't even have the stats in front of me. The number of saves and the wins are unbelievable. If you look at the last five or six loses in the last month, Neil Holland was not involved in those games. It's unbelievable what he did this year. It was one of the greatest pitching performances in a season that I've seen. But that's the life; you got to live on the edge. I know it hurts. You out there sometimes when you lose. How many times was he out there this year and got to jump on him? It was an unbelievable season."
On his offense's performance "I wouldn't call it frustrating. They have great pitching. It's always been their strength no disrespect to their defense or their offense. They pitch, they got plenty of arms. It makes them a complete regional team. Their team is geared for tournament type atmosphere. They just run arm after arm after arm. We saw that in that 17 inning game down there. Their pitching numbers speak for themselves. We competed. We're two feet this way and two feet that way from having a six spot on the board rather than a two spot. We were that close other than Drew Haynes ball up the middle that kind of found a hole. We jumped on some balls off of some really good arms. It wasn't frustrating. That's baseball."