THE MODERATOR: Tim, give us an overview of the victory.
COACH CORBIN: Obviously a big victory for us. Sometimes you never know how you're going to react out here for the first time. But I thought the kids were very comfortable during BP today. When we started the game, Sonny grinded it through.
But obviously we got very good relief pitching from Corey and Will Clinard and Kevin finishing up. And some big, big two out hits today were the story. Guy on my right with a big home run, and that's what we needed, because that's a pesky ballclub; they keep coming. So we're fortunate.
THE MODERATOR: Questions.
Q. Corey, if you could talk a little bit about coming into that situation and what you did in that fifth inning and what you were able to do to execute the next few innings. Corey Williams: I just came in there, and D.J., our pitching coach, he talked to us about knowing our plan when we come into tough situations, what to use, use our strengths and stuff.
And I went in there, tried to get a first pitch strike, so threw a curveball. And then got another strike, and then tried to get a two seamer on his hands. He missed it. I was fortunate for that.
Throughout the rest of the game I just went out there tried to challenge them and make them make the mistakes, and me just trying to get the ball over the plate and not walk them and give them freebies.
Q. Connor, could you talk about the home run; the pitcher said it was a 3 1 slider, and whether you were expecting that? Connor Harrell: We knew Patrick Johnson had a pretty good arm, we knew it was going to take a lot to move him out. He was sort of living off the plate, throwing breaking balls. Breaking ball was pretty good, but he was able to leave it up for a second and I got under it, extended, and got it in the jet stream.
Q. Coach, it seemed like this was a game that really could have gotten away from you at various junctures in the game. Talk about what it says about this baseball team, your baseball team, that you were able to battle and figure out a way to win? And, secondly, in a tournament of this caliber, does it take winning games like this, games that arguably you could have, should have lost, in order to get where you want to be at the end? COACH CORBIN: Well, you're right. The fifth inning was kind of a decider. After all, they had twenty guys reach base today. The fact they only scored three runs, we were fortunate, we pitched out of jams. And Sonny did early.
But Corey's strikeout obviously with the bases loaded was big. But we have been a team that has been able to get ourselves through the middle of a game and then put games away in the 7th, 8th and 9th inning with some runs. We've played a lot of close ballgames up until the 7th and 8th inning and then we've separated ourselves. That was kind of the story today. But the pitching at the end was crucial. We were able to stop them.
Q. A little earlier Coach Fox said he thought that Connor's home run really deflated them even more than he might have expected. How could you talk about the game changer that was? COACH CORBIN: It certainly was a momentum switch for us, because of just coming off the inning in which we shut them down, and they probably felt like at that point they had a chance. But then the big home run. Particularly since it was with two outs. Conrad's hit was big, too, to propel the inning and give us a chance to score.
But Connor's home run was a difference maker at that point. And I felt the extra inning, the 8th, when Tony and Gomez got up, Tony Kemp and Gomez got those big hits, those were clinching moments.
Q. Tony, a lot is made about teams that make their first trip to the College World Series. Can you kind of talk about what the bus ride over here was like today, what batting practice was like, were you guys loose, nervous, looking around, what was going on? Tony Kemp: It was the same. Coach Corbin told us to prepare like it was just another game, just another SEC home opener.
Everyone was loose, making jokes, laughing, just like they do every game. And then we prepared the same. And then luckily we were able to get the "W" today. So it was a good job by the team.
Q. Tony, can you just comment on the catch you made with the bases loaded there? Did you think you had a chance at it right away? And when did you decide to take a chance and dive for the ball? Tony Kemp: I was originally in the gap, and then Coach Holliday and Corbin kind of shifted me towards the line. A little tough to see with all the people there.
But the lefty got a ball up; and once I started running in, it looked like I had a chance, decided to lay out there and luckily I lifted my glove and the ball was there. So that was good.
Q. Corey, I was wondering when you were going through your knee rehab, all the days of work, have you ever had a time where you dreamed about maybe being in a setting like this and having a day like you had today? Corey Williams: I came here when I was 12 years old, and then besides that, just Chris Ham really helped me, our trainer, throughout the whole year when the injuries happened. Without him, the support of Coach Corbin and all my teammates, I don't know, I'm just glad to be pitching again. It's a dream come true. It's unbelievable. I love every one of these guys. It's an unbelievable time right now.
Q. Important shutdown in the sixth inning. They put runners on first and third, did you think about going back to Ziomek back there, or what was the thinking leaving (indiscernible) pitch the rest of the way? COACH CORBIN: I'm sorry, that was quick. First and third?
Q. Did you think about going to Ziomek after that? COACH CORBIN: No, we were going to go with our guys who had been out there more. We really wanted the guys who were a little bit older who had been in that situation. We were saving Ziomek for the end of the game if they had guys in scoring pitching, when their lefties came up.
They had a string of three lefties we knew they weren't going to take out, we felt that was the best matchup. We were going to wait until the 8th or 9th for that even though we had him down there.
Q. Connor, you hit the first home run at the College World Series in this ballpark; do you want to make a plea to get the ball back? Connor Harrell: No. They can keep it. I didn't even think about it until I guess after the game someone brought it up. I guess it's a pretty cool trivia fact.
Q. Tony, three for four and a walk. Can you talk about the impact you had today; and, Coach, maybe you could address that, too? Tony Kemp: Luckily in the first inning I think that the fastball was going to come, so I decided to take a swing at it.
And then it went foul to first. Then luckily I was able to get the bunt down. And coach asked me to put pressure on them just like he does every game. Luckily I was able to do that.
And then teammates behind me in the lineup, I think we just did a great job hitting the ball today. And had a ton of great pitching. And we have Corey and Ziomek and Clinard, just go down the bullpen, they do an amazing job every game, I think that was to our success.
COACH CORBIN: He was a catalyst today. He got on base, what, four different times. I liked his mentality to start the game off. Because in a situation like that, putting a bunt down, putting the pressure on them right away I think was a key moment. It kind of broke the ice for us, and get him over to third base and then score.
But he played a very good game today, both offensively and defensively. That was a very nice catch. And we had some good defensive plays, too, to stop those moments.
Westlake's play there at the end was phenomenal. Esposito's play, diving in the 6 5 hole was a great play. So we did some nice things and ground ball defensive plays.
Q. Could you just talk about what Sonny was struggling through today, what was going on with him?
COACH CORBIN: Yeah, he was probably just trying too hard. You never know. I've been to these games, these first games of Omaha, sometimes they're very difficult on the starting pitchers.
You've got two highly skilled guys in Gray and Johnson and they threw a lot of pitches. They didn't get through the middle part of the game. You've seen that happen so many times, probably just trying a little bit too hard.
He doesn't walk that many people and he doesn't have that hard of a time throwing strikes, typically, but he didn't feel great. He was grinding through it. Gave us what he had. You can't knock him. He's done such a good job to put us in this position to begin with.
Q. Connor, after that home run you got back in the dugout, what was the mood like? Did it feel like everything had kind of changed for you guys?
Connor Harrell: It was exciting. I felt like I sort of helped the team, which I hadn't at my first two at bats, and it was exciting for me to come in and sort of drive those runs in. And, more importantly, I think the fact that we had a lead, we had some momentum going into the last three innings was the most important thing about it.
Q. Tim, in the NCAA tournament you've been more willing to go with relievers for longer stints, two, three, four innings at times. Could you talk about the decision to do that?
COACH CORBIN: Yeah, because they settle in the ballgame. They're in the game. They feel a little bit better. Sometimes when you put a first timer in there, we did it to Ziomek today. And going back, I don't know if I would have done that or not.
But the good thing is he's in the game. He felt that rubber, which is a good thing. But we rode out Will the other night against Oregon State and let Corey go as far as he possibly could. If they were able to ride it out, shut down the hitters, then we probably would let him go to the end.
I think at this point we don't really have a closer, per se, we're just trying to finish the ballgame, and we feel like the depth in our bullpen is so good that we can really utilize anyone. It's not so important who finishes the game, it's just finishing the game with us winning.
THE MODERATOR: We're joined by North Carolina. Coach, give us an overview of the game.
COACH FOX: Well, first of all, I mean, Vanderbilt, they have a terrific club, which we knew you have to play them for nine innings.
It seemed like it was kind of almost of a two half game. The first half we really hurt ourselves not taking advantage of the opportunities we had first three or four innings, I guess, four or five innings.
You look up and we have ten hits and they've walked us six times and two hit batters, 18 base runners. Of course, I looked on here and saw we left 16 men on base. That's pretty much the tale of the game for us, offensively.
Out here, it's how well you play from the first pitch to the last and getting big two out hits. And they got them and we didn't. And that was pretty much, I think, the tale of the game. They have a terrific team. And we'll just have to regroup and be ready on Monday.
THE MODERATOR: Questions?
Q. Chaz, when you hear that number, 16 left on base, is that, I guess, an indication of how good Vanderbilt's pitching was in the clutch, or is that more a case of the bats not coming through?
CHAZ FRANK: I think they buckled down, especially when they had runners on base, when they had two outs, I think their crowd got them into it. They just made good pitches and we weren't able to get timely hitting like we've been doing all year.
We've been riding our pitching and defense all year. And we've been able to get timely hitting and we weren't able to get it today.
Q. Patrick, how did you feel out there today? Looked like you were struggling a little bit at the beginning.
PATRICK JOHNSON: I definitely didn't have my best stuff. They're such a good hitting team. You can't leave balls over the middle of the plate. I did that a couple times today, and they made me pay. But I wasn't as sharp as I've been. And I just made a couple of mistakes.
Q. Patrick, if you could talk about the sixth inning, take us through that, if you were getting tired at that point, and the home run that Harrell had?
PATRICK JOHNSON: It just goes to show they can score runs quick. I got the first two guys out, then the next guy got a single and hits it off the wall. And then the next pitch I hung a slider and he took advantage of it. It was a 3 1 count. I really didn't think he was going to swing at a breaking ball, but I kind of laid it in there and he didn't miss it.
Q. Chaz and Ben, if you could talk about Williams, just what different look that he gave you guys compared to Sonny and what he did that allowed him to have such a positive effect for Vanderbilt?
BEN BUNTING: I think he did a nice job coming in, getting ahead of his fastball, keeping us off balance with his off speed pitches, making us chase his off speed stuff in the dirt and made us get ourselves out.
CHAZ FRANK: I think he did a good job at locating his fastball and hitting the corners. And I saw he was leaving it up and then down the zone so we couldn't hit it. But Williams did a great job at working the corners.
Q. Coach, talk a little bit about the character of your team; for some of us who haven't seen much of your team this year, just their comeback ability and your confidence in them?
COACH FOX: Well, we were right down there in the last inning. Westlake makes a great play at first base. We got a chance to get the tying run up there.
So I love our team. We're not going to give up. And I really I felt like the home run deflated us a little bit. Maybe more than I expected, and we still had plenty of game to play. Maybe I misinterpreted my team a little bit. But Vanderbilt's bullpen, they're as good as advertised.
I was probably remiss in not saying that earlier in my statement. You know, everybody knows the pitching they have; and coming out of the bullpen, they're going to match it with some arms, 91, 92, 93, and they're going to bring a lefty at us and we've got lefty hitters.
You've got to give them credit. They made some big pitches when they needed to. But I thought that was the story of the game.
Q. Moving forward from here, going to Monday, talk about your team, their comeback ability after they've taken some tough losses.
COACH FOX: You know, we've been in this situation before. Certainly not out here, but you have to you get a day off, which is unusual. I think most college teams would prefer to get right back on the field the next day. Not let this linger too long.
That's usually what happens in a weekend. But we'll regroup and we'll go workout somewhere tomorrow and let the guys rest a little bit and most important let them do their fathers tomorrow, I think that's extremely important. Dads always make you feel good, no matter what. So I'll make sure they get around their dads and this one will be over with and we'll see what happens Monday.
Q. On the difference in the challenge his team is facing at this point.
COACH FOX: I'd rather win the first one. That's the difference. It's a four team double elimination tournament, so it's like a regional. If you lose that first one, you're like, oh, boy, have to get on with this thing, we've got to win. I don't look at how many you have to win, you just have to win the next one.
By my take it's either going to be Texas or Florida. So that's not going to help me sleep good tonight either.
Q. Coach, Levi is four of his last 26 in the postseason. He's been a force for you all year long. When you're leaving bats, struggling like that, how do you approach that with him?
COACH FOX: It's not helping us, that's for sure. And we make a change here next game, I may have to, get him out of the 2 hole, drop him down a little bit. That's really the only thing you can do this late, maybe switch things up a little bit.
He's trying as hard as he can, certainly, and he's getting pitched pretty well also. But he can't get anything going. And he's been up there with guys in scoring position, and he got himself out on the one pitch. We got a four pitch walk right before he gets up there, bases loaded and swings to the first pitch that was a ball. That's because he's pressing a little bit, trying too hard; and no matter how poorly you're swinging it, you still want to have that good ball strike recognition and swinging at strikes, nothing else. Hopefully we'll get him back on track the next game.
Q. Patrick and Mike, your thoughts on what kind of spark plug Tony Kemp was in the lead off role for Vanderbilt today?
PATRICK JOHNSON: He battled me each time he was up there. He saw a lot of pitches. He's so fast. He was a great lead off hitter, and I think he kind of set the tone for them at the beginning of the game, forcing me to make that play right there; and unfortunately I made an error. And he just did a great job all day.
COACH FOX: Yeah, he's a pest. He's an absolute pest. I'd like to have him. No offense, Chaz. I would hit you in the 2 hole if we had him.
But he's a good player. He's just what you want over there. Hit lefties, righties, slap the ball around, can bunt, run like the wind. Puts all kind of pressure on you right out of the gate, drops the bunt down. But we're playing into the bunt and he still gets on. Good player.
Q. Ben, just back to the runners left on base. Out of the 16, I believe eight of those were with runners in scoring position. How frustrating or could you talk about the frustration that you guys probably obviously felt in that situation?
BEN BUNTING: It's very frustrating looking back leaving all those runners on. We all go through those times and at bats where we don't get that big hit and leave runners on. But to keep it happening and have that lingering feeling all game, you start pressing; it's pretty tough mentally to try to get out of that.