Can you talk about the journey you have been on in the last year? From working hard in summer school to now you’re starting a regional game. Has that sunk in and what has that journey been like?
“It’s definitely been a lot of hard work. I kind of put myself in a bind last year academically and on the field. Just pretty much been trying to work back from that so I’ve been blessed to be able to be in the position I’m at now and for coach [Fox] and them to have the confidence in me to put me out there in the first regional game.”
This time last year did you have any idea that you would potentially be starting on a Friday in the NCAA tournament?
“No. I didn’t. This time last year I was having to sit at home and watch the games on TV so I was having to fight my way back on the team.”
What clicked? What made you change your approach?
“Probably when coach [Fox] told me I was going home. He pretty much told me that… he didn’t even really say that I had to get the grades, he just said, pretty much, ‘you need to go home, I don’t think you’re going to make it here’ and that’s when it clicked for me.”
What led to that? What happened to put you in that predicament?
“In high school I really didn’t have to study much and then I got here thinking that I’d just be able to go to class and just breeze through it like I did in high school, which definitely wasn’t the case.”
Were you at home in Rocky Mount last June watching the team in the NCAA Tournament?
“I was actually in Chapel Ridge apartments watching it. I was in summer school. I had to take both sessions of summer school.”
What was it like watching the team by yourself last year and not being able to help them?
“Depressing. I was extremely happy for all of them and I texted and talked to them and stuff but I obviously couldn’t be here in the dugout with them. I was more upset with myself than anyone else because I put myself in that situation.”
Was watching the team have success last year part of your motivation for to get back this season?
“Very much so. Seeing them play and seeing them dog-pile and me not being a part of it, that was definitely a big motivator for me.”
Does concentrating on academics make you a better player on the field?
“I feel like it does, because my work ethic is a whole lot different than it was last year and studying as hard as I do during class and for exams and stuff. Also, I come down here and take that work ethic when I come to the field too.”
What are your nerves going to be in your first NCAA tournament start? How do you reign them in?
“It’s definitely going to be exciting, but I’m just going to try and treat it just like any other start. It’s obviously bigger as far as what it means, but for me I’m just going to go out there and do my job and hopefully give us a chance to win.”
Have you prepared differently this week because you did not pitch much in the ACC Tournament?
“No. I still do my bullpen and I threw that on Tuesday and that was the same day I normally would have even if I had started Sunday. I would’ve thrown a light one Tuesday.”
Are you more comfortable starting than relieving? Because since your first start your command seems to be significantly better. Is there a reason for that?
“For me I guess it was just getting back used to it, because I hadn’t done it since high school, but I feel comfortable doing whatever the coaches tell me to do. I just like being in there.”
How does the team keep a level head knowing you are the favorites to win this regional?
“For us, the coaches just preach never get too high or never get too low throughout the whole year so we’re just not really even focusing past Cornell. They told us today don’t kind of underestimate your opponent so we’re just ready to go attack them just like we have the whole year.”
How much of an advantage does it give the team hosting a regional for the sixth out of the past seven years?
“We feel like it is a big advantage for us because we’ve got guys that have been here before. Jake [Stallings] and all those guys, they’ve played in regionals, super regionals, college word series and obviously getting to sleep at home and wake up and come straight to the field is a definite plus too.”
What do you know about Cornell?
“I know they’re obviously going to be a good team. I really don’t know much about them other than their top hitters are left-handers. I think they hit four or five lefties through the lineup too, so that should play an advantage to me, but I guess we’ll find out [Friday].”