Press Conference: UVA baseball after Game 2 College World Series win
THE MODERATOR: Representing Virginia, head coach Brian O’Connor, outfielder Brandon Downes, third baseman, Kenny Towns, and starting pitcher Brandon Waddell. Coach, if you’d begin with an opening statement?
COACH O’CONNOR: Thank you. You know, a little bit different of a starting pitching performance tonight than last night. Brandon Waddell was just terrific. It seemed like after the first four innings he really settled in, did a terrific job of mixing all of his pitches, kind of keeping their hitters off balance and certainly we had another really good offensive night. A number of hit-and-runs that were executed in some such situations and some guys came up big in some RBI opportunities. So just really couldn’t be more proud of our club facing elimination, facing the end of the season. You have somebody like Waddell step up and pitch like that, and our offensive ballclub, you know, just would not be denied. Now it all comes down to tomorrow night. I know our guys will come out and play loose and aggressive like they have this entire postseason, and I’m looking forward to seeing them come out and compete tomorrow night.
Q. I remember you mentioned coming back to Game 2 of the Super Regional and how you were as calm as you’ve ever been going into that game against elimination. Do you have a similar feeling today, and if so, why?
COACH O’CONNOR: I did, because I know the bounce back that this team has shown all year long. You know when you go through a season with the team, you start to learn and understand what they’re ade of and what the fiber of a team is. I told the team last night after the game that there is no panic in this ballclub. They’d come out tonight and play another great ballgame and have a chance to win. I can assure you that I’ve had no problems sleeping, and I don’t think the players have either.
Q. Brandon, was there any discussion before the ninth inning about you coming out? What about in the later innings? Did you think you’d stay in the whole way?
BRANDON WADDELL: I didn’t know how long I’d be in the game. Just kind of tried to keep going until they told me to stop. We didn’t really have a discussion between me and Coach K or any of the other coaches. I was just prepared to go out there and trying to get the job done.
Q. Brandon picked a pretty good time to have that nine inning complete game. Just talk about what was working for you stuff-wise, and what was your approach against those guys?
BRANDON WADDELL: I felt good from the start. I felt like in the beginning I was trying to do a little bit too much. Trying to put a little bit too much behind the ball and sort of spraying here and there. Got in trouble with a couple of walks. But I feel like I settled in later on in the game. Had most of the pitches working. Could put them where I needed to. Coman called a great game behind the plate. Mixing up pitches, and trying to keep hitters off balance.
Q. Brian, 28 hits, 15 runs in two games, is this the offensive team that everyone expected Virginia to have going into the season?
COACH O’CONNOR: Wow, maybe, yeah. Certainly there is a lot of real athletic skill in that lineup. Just the ability of guys to get down the line and the pressure that that puts on infielders through most of our lineup. We’ve got really a very much a veteran lineup. I remember back a month and a half, two months ago Coach McMullan and I have a conversation, and we just believed the two of us that at some point this would all come together and we’d have a real complete lineup that we feel like we’re capable of. Fortunately, it’s shown up here in Omaha, and fortunately it’s shown up in the last two ballgames. I think that goes back to what I talked about these guys are made up. They’ve got a lot of at-bats under their belt. There are a lot of really good contact hitters in this lineup. We don’t strikeout much and we’re pretty athletic.
Q. Towns and Downes, it was starting to get late there in the sixth before you guys got ahead. What did you see with Beede? And did you feel like you were starting to get to him? What happened there to kind of help things and help the ball get rolling?
KENNY TOWNS: I thought throughout the game we were getting pretty good swings at him. Everyone was seeing the ball pretty well. As the game was going on, he was starting to leave some pitches up, and he gave us some opportunities in the sixth through the ninth inning to be able to execute some plays.
BRANDON DOWNES: I just thought we did a really good job of showing discipline with runners in scoring position in those later innings, and that allowed us to get a couple of big hits in those situations to put some runs on the board.
Q. Did you guys as hitters, and Brandon in this group, did that give you confidence at the plate watching your pitch roll through a lineup like he was late?
BRANDON DOWNES: I mean, he was tremendous throughout the whole game. He gave us a lot of confidence even if we weren’t going to be able to come through one inning, he was going to come out there and pitch his bag off like he did, and it gave us an opportunity to come through.
THE MODERATOR: Kenny, do you have anything to add?
KENNY TOWNS: I think we were able to get some momentum offensively, and as our innings were over, Waddell did a great job getting us back in the dugout and keeping that offensive momentum going.
Q. Kenny and Brandon, once they started putting runners in motion there in the sixth inning and mixing up, I guess, the attack a little bit. How much fun is that for you guys to force the action like that with the hit-and-run?
KENNY TOWNS: Well, it’s a lot of fun. It puts a lot of pressure on the defense and we were doing a great job of executing whatever motion was put on. It was really getting to them, and it was giving us situations where we could just start scoring some runs.
Q. About a month and a half or so in Tallahassee you told me you felt like brandon downes here was a guy you thought could finally get things going in the postseason. Just talk about the job he did tonight? Suddenly he’s an offensive guy again.
COACH O’CONNOR: Well, I’m so proud of him. I really am. I think it’s been well-documented what he’s gone through this year with his wrist and everything. Like I said back then, he grinded through it for his team, and when you do that and you’re selfless, you continue to fight, the game comes back around to you. It’s rewarding him now and rewarding his teammates. Obviously, he’s showing here in Omaha how skilled he is and how talented he is. This guy had over 30 extra base hits last year and he’s a great athlete. He’s now we have somebody that’s as skilled as he is in the 8 hole that makes a pretty well-rounded lineup.
Q. Brandon, obviously yesterday it was the third inning that kind of got unraveled for Kirby. Today the fourth inning they get that double there early and you’re able to pick that guy off at second base. How big was that? Do you feel the momentum kind of switched in your direction at that point? It seemed like you cruised from that time. Kind of take us through that play and what that did for you.
BRANDON WADDELL: Yeah, it was unbelievable. In that specific inning, in the beginning like I said earlier I was trying to do too much. It kind of put me in that situation in the beginning anyway. The pick play was put on, and we just executed. It was a huge momentum swing. They go from a guy in scoring position to nobody on. So I think it was something that was definitely big for us.
Q. Will Josh start tomorrow, and going into Game 3 without having used Artie or Nick in this series, how big a positive is that for you?
COACH O’CONNOR: I can’t give you a 100% right now that supports is going to start. I think it’s very likely that he will. But certainly not having touched Lewicki or Howard in these first two ballgames is important. It gives us an ability to, if we chop the game up tomorrow or do whatever we need to do to win the game, those two guys have been great for us all year. They’ve been great here in Omaha, and they’ll certainly be called upon tomorrow.
Q. Kenny, what can you say about the support from the Virginia crowd and the people that traveled out here to Omaha?
KENNY TOWNS: It’s just great to see that fan base here traveling all this way and making the big trip to come out here and support us. It shows you how much people really care about the program. You really like to get behind them and do well for them.
Q. Brandon, could you talk about any nerves that you had before the game and how you remained calm and the challenges of being in an elimination game?
BRANDON WADDELL: My approach really to the game is you can’t pull in the circumstances and the situation of the game. I feel like if you do that, you get caught up in moments and your head starts spinning. All of a sudden, bases loaded and they scored a bunch of runs. So my approach is to break it down. Trying to make it simple and stick to the game that we’ve executed all year.