Press Conference: UVA’s final 2014 College World Series presser

college world seriesTHE MODERATOR: Representing Virginia, head coach Brian O’Connor, reliever, Artie Lewicki, outfielder, Joe McCarthy, and shortstop Daniel Pinero. Coach, if you’d begin with an opening statement?

COACH O’CONNOR: First of all, I’d like to congratulate Vanderbilt University, their coaches and players. That was an incredible baseball game, an outstanding final series between the two of us. Unfortunately, in sports somebody’s going to come out on the wrong end, and we came out on the wrong end tonight. It didn’t have anything to do with not handling pressure. It didn’t have anything to do with a want to, a competitiveness, each and every guy that was out there on that mound or on the field or in that batter’s box wanted to do the job for their team, but unfortunately in competition somebody comes out on the wrong end, and tonight it was us.

But I can tell you, I’m so proud of every member of this team, of every coach. We had a special season, and it’s unfortunate how it ended, but we played a great ballgame and the competition was good. The University of Virginia baseball program will be back here in Omaha at some point, and maybe the next time we can win it all.

Q. Is it even tougher after a game like this when you can go back and look at opportunities like you had in the 6th and the 8th with bases loaded and one out?

COACH O’CONNOR: Sure, I think it’s human nature as a player or as a coach to, when you reflect back and look at what could have happened, but if we did that all the time and we did that in our personal lives, I think we’d drive ourselves crazy. We had opportunities, and it just didn’t happen for us. Like I said, it wasn’t for a lack of want to or effort or the right approach or anything. Just really the credit goes to Vanderbilt.

They made some outstanding pitches in the clutch, really did. Stone had a really good breaking ball going. Carson Fulmer is a really talented young man. You know, the guy they had in there in the end did a tremendous job too. So you’ve got to give the credit to them versus us not doing it, I think.

Q. Could you talk about your pitching decisions with Sborz coming out after first and Artie’s performance?

COACH O’CONNOR: I made the decision after the first inning to go right to Artie. One, because I’ve learned over four years what Artie Lewicki is made of, and I knew he was going to leave it all out on the field. I knew he was going to give us the best he had, and I knew he was a strike thrower. I thought runs were going to be tough to come by based on the pitching that Vanderbilt had available, and so I just decided that’s the first thing to make the switch.

Josh walked a couple batters in the beginning, and I felt we needed strikes, and I thought Artie was tremendous. He gave us a chance to win the ballgame, we just didn’t have enough.

Q. In the 8th?

COACH O’CONNOR: Well, I think that was more looking out for Artie Lewicki. This guy, I really believe is going to pitch in the big leagues some day. He’s got a bright future. He threw on Saturday, out of the bullpen and did a terrific job. I just felt it was time to make a switch. It wasn’t for the lack of confidence or Artie probably could have gone out there and given us another inning. But I’ve got to look out for his future in this game.

Q. Joe and Danny, you’ve had that breakout inning, even the loss on Monday and obviously yesterday with the offense. Did you in the 8th especially, did you get the sense the way it started, Joe, you and Mike get on. That was going to be another breakout inning. How tough was that to take advantage of there?

JOE McCARTHY: Throughout the course of the game, we did a good job getting guys on base. But it comes down to we never got that big hit to bust it open. Guys were hitting the ball hard, but just couldn’t get that big one.

THE MODERATOR: Danny, do you have anything to add?

DANIEL PINERO: Yeah, as Joe said, they were hitting the ball hard, and we just got unlucky. I don’t know. We had bases loaded and we just couldn’t capitalize, and that is just the way the game goes.

Q. Artie, Joe and Daniel will be back next year. For you, this was your final college game and final college game for some of your teammates. What are your emotions at the final out when you realize it’s over?

ARTIE LEWICKI: I don’t think it’s really sunk in yet, but I’m sure later on there will be some time to reflect and probably deal with some emotions. But the most prevalent emotion right now is disappointment, I guess, not for me and my career here, but more for us and our team and the great year we had. Like Coach O’Connor said, we wish we had come out on the better end of it. But it is what it is. Vanderbilt played better than us today.

Q. The game is basically decided on a home run, there are three home runs hit the whole tournament. How unlikely did you think that was or was that just kind of a perfect stroke to hit it under the wind, and there was no wind at that point?

COACH O’CONNOR: Really, I didn’t know whether there was wind or not. I didn’t go – going into it you don’t think is there a likelihood that somebody can hit the ball out or not. You’re calling pitches and your pitcher does his best to make the pitches. You’ve got to credit Johnny Norwood, you know. The pitch was up in the zone, and he took an aggressive swing and hit the ball out. I said it the other night, a lot of times in the history of this series somebody has a defining moment, and Norwood stepped up, took a great swing, and drove the ball out of the ballpark.

Q. Obviously, it’s been a long time since a preseason No. 1 team won the whole thing or even advanced to the championship game. With all that being said, everything that you did this year, what was kind of the message to your guys after it was all over?

COACH O’CONNOR: Proud. I’m very, very proud of them. We met briefly in the clubhouse before we came in here, and this is life. There are disappointments, and I think a man is measured on how they handle it at times when there is disappointment in their life. I know the young men, what they’re made of. I know that they’ll handle this the right way, and in a strange kind of way, the lesson that they learn through this whole experience that they’ve had this entire season and in Artie’s case in his career, I really think will help them at some point in their life. They need to walk out of here proud of who they are and who their teammates are and what program they play for.

 

Q. This is the deepest any Virginia team has ever gone in the tournament. You’ve been here a full two weeks now or will be tomorrow. What’s this been like for you, this run, particularly the Omaha part of it?

COACH O’CONNOR: I don’t know. It’s been great for these guys. This is their experience. This is their team. I’ve told the team throughout the season at different times that we’d meet that this is their ballclub. It’s not our coaches’ ballclub; it never has and never will be. I know that the 27 guys that wore our uniform these two weeks, that they had a great time coming to Omaha and competing for a National Championship. The experiences that they have here in Omaha, because the Omaha and surrounding communities make it such a great experience, that these are memories that they’ll have for a lifetime.

Q. Artie, Joe, and Dan, besides all the technical skills Coach O’Connor has given you, as you think ahead, you’ll walk away in terms of characteristics, your ability to lead. What would you say he’s given you specifically that regard?

ARTIE LEWICKI: I think the most important characteristic that he’s stressed that you need to develop as a person is to do the right thing. You never really know who is watching, and not only that, but to learn from your mistakes and take a situation that might not be ideal and use it to make yourself better as a person on and off the field and use that information going forward to make better decisions.

JOE McCARTHY: Coach O’Connor has really taught us that no matter what you’re doing in life, just to be a man about it. You’re going to have ups and downs in your life, and no matter what happens, keep your head up and continue.

DANIEL PINERO: Yeah, I mean, Coach has been a great person personally and to the whole team. He’s just — he just tells us to fight, doesn’t matter what happens, the outcome, just fight and play as hard as you can. Personally, he’s been a mentor to me, and I really appreciate that.

Q. This question is kind of about Artie. Just talk about how he’s kind of the poster guy for your program? He’s gone through a lot of adversity and comes here and pitches the way he did. Also talk about how once again you kind of raised the bar for this program one step higher with guys like him kind of leading the way.

COACH O’CONNOR: Well, Artie’s one of our three seniors. What he’s gone through in his four years with us, to in his sophomore year becoming at the end of the season, going into the postseason, being our best pitcher, going into postseason and then a month later having Tommy John surgery and then the recovery and how you handle that process was first class and was as a winner. Then to have it come full circle this year for him to be back and just really step up through the entire season. He had an oblique injury that kept him out for five weeks and there was just no quit in this guy. You know, when you have young children, as I do, as Coach Mac does, Coach Kuhn does, Coach Cannon, those are the kind of guys that you want your children to see how they carry themselves, how they handle adversity, and how Artie has handled adversity in his life will make him a better person. I think you’re spot on. I think Artie Lewicki is a perfect poster man of our program.

Q. Can you talk about how he’s helped to raise the bar for the team one step higher?

COACH O’CONNOR: Yeah, well, he was here in Omaha three years ago when we were here, and just the consistency of what he pitched with this year. You go to somebody that started his whole career, and you go to him the day before the first game in Omaha, and you have an honest, man-to-man conversation with somebody that this is what we need to do to win in Omaha. We need to put you in the bullpen. And the response being, Coach, whatever I need to do to help the team win. He pitches in four ballgames here and was just light’s out in all four. The unselfishness, when you have guys like that around and they have talent, you can’t do nothing but the program get better and take it to the highest level. We’re forever grateful to people like him that wear our uniform. It will carry on as we continue to move forward with this program.

Q. You alluded to this a little earlier. I know coming out here you didn’t want to talk about the statue. You didn’t want it to be about you. I know the other day you were so excited about the attention your dad was getting, and you speak lovingly about your assistant coaches. Can you give us a sense of the feedback of what this meant to your Virginia family? I know you were kind of insulated from it, but what you learned from your wife. Coach (Indiscernible) was here yesterday, and Coach Henry was possibly going to come in. Maybe a little anecdote of how blown away you are by how this impacted the larger UVA family?

COACH O’CONNOR: Well, as I said, it’s about these guys. I love this community, okay? I love this world series. But quite frankly, there are times that I wish I wasn’t from here. I’m proud of it, okay. But I don’t want it to lessen one bit that these guys experience, and because that’s truly what is most important, okay. This is their opportunity. That said, this is our third trip here to Omaha in the program. To see the support of our administration, to see in the lobby the last three days of the Hilton before our team would get on the bus, and the reception that they’d receive from our fans and our donors. How these players have been treated since they’ve been here. As I said, they’ll have those memories forever, and that’s what makes Omaha, Nebraska, so special. It makes the College world series and being here so  special because it’s in the right spot because of who the people are. It makes it a great experience for these guys.

Q. What do you take from this experience? What do you take into next year?

DANIEL PINERO: I mean, personally I’m blessed to be my first year, Joe’s a sophomore. We have another opportunity to have hopefully another result next year and go to Omaha. I mean, next year’s a new thing, and we’re going to be doing the same thing fall, spring and summer and hopefully the result will change.

JOE McCARTHY: Obviously, this isn’t the result we wanted to have tonight, but it’s something you want to learn from and really let it motivate you to make yourself better and maybe come back next year and make sure something like this doesn’t happen.

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