MIKE FOX & PLAYERS
Listen to Audio (13:19)
“Obviously, first off to Ed [Blankmeyer] and his staff and his St. John’s team, congratulations to them. They certainly deserved to win this regional. I’ve known Ed for a long time. He’s a great baseball man and Mike Hampton, his assistant, they do a great job and you got to give them all the credit. They came down here and certainly not in just this game, but I think every game they played, they just played terrific and the certainly outplayed us in every facet of the game tonight so my hat’s off to them and congratulations to them.
“The end of the year, I don’t care how many times I do this, it’s always the worst. Especially just because of Jacob [Stallings] here more than anything else. Being a senior I know how bad Jacob and of course all his teammates wanted to get back to Omaha and I think it’s one of the biggest reasons Jacob returned to school besides obviously getting his degree. So I feel bad for all those guys and Jacob’s dad just said it. When you invest a lot, it hurts and this game can be pretty cruel. It can be pretty cruel to you at times and I think that’s why you learn so much from playing it.
“I’m proud of my team beyond belief, because I don’t think anybody knows, except these two guys [Luis Paula and Stallings] and the guys in the locker room what all we had to do just to get to this point and how much we had to piece together a team at times. We did good.”
On the pitching today, which gave up 24 hits over the two games:
“They swung it well. East Carolina got 10 hits against us I think and one of them was hit hard and that’s no reflection on them, you just have to go back and look and, sure, we’re giving up base hits and some of them are in the four hole and some bounce over. That’s part of baseball and we’re running freshman after freshman after freshman out there and they haven’t been in this situation before, so do they not quite make the pitch we want them to? Occasionally, but you got to give St. Johns credit. They swung it well and they got the big hits when they needed to and that’s what separates regional champions from everybody else.”
Is there anything you can put your finger on why this team was unable to come through with timely hits?
“We got a lot of big hits in 46 wins. I know you guys want to talk about the regional and we lost; got beat by a better team. You’re right. We’ve relied on our pitching a lot. I’ve said that before and [we were] somewhat of a work in progress offensively. We could just never sustain consistency to get a couple hits back to back in an inning for example. It’s hard to win at this level on this stage if that doesn’t happen and you got to have one good at bat followed by another one. You can’t just rely on the other team to walk you, make a mistake, make an error, make an errant throw to give you opportunities to win, because it gets harder and the teams are better and they play at a higher level. Not that they didn’t during the year for us, but I don’t know. We had some guys that didn’t have as good a year as they’ve had in the past. Part of it is baseball. I think as a season goes on you start pressing a little bit and they realize that, ‘I’m not hitting as well as I did last year.’ Hitting is a cruel cruel thing. You put a good swing on the ball… but that’s baseball.”
Does this seem a little surreal for you given the success you’re accustomed to and you guys had been playing your best baseball coming into the weekend?
“I guess a little bit. It hit me while I was out there. Obviously we didn’t get to where we wanted to go, but we had a great year. It’s just disappointing the way it ended.”
Could you see anything from behind the plate that prevented the pitchers from seemingly getting in a rhythm today?
“I think they just found some holes. It’s just baseball. I didn’t really think they hit the ball all that solidly. They had a few good hits in there, but, obviously the double that guy hit was a big hit, and then we did the same things that we’ve been doing all year, but they just found holes and when they do that I guess it’s just not meant to be.”
You called this year a great season earlier, but is that hard to put in perspective knowing the bar is so high here?
“Maybe now people will realize how hard it is to get to Omaha and realize what coach [Fox] and the program have done over the past seven years. I guess the other teams have made it look easy, but it’s not easy and, yes, it’s disappointing, but we had an incredible season. We got a national seed and our best player was out for four or five weeks. What does that say about the rest of the team? We played great all year and the bounces just didn’t go our way this weekend.”
On getting a chance to pitch in a big moment like tonight and what it means for you?
“It’s very disappointing getting the loss, but I tried to do the best I could to keep our team in the game and… I really wish we could’ve gotten the win, but it’s baseball.”
ED BLANKMEYER & PLAYERS
Listen to Audio (9:55)
“I want to first thank the University of North Carolina for hosting a tremendous tournament. I’ve been to several tournaments and this has been the best tournament I’ve been to. They’ve done great things. They’re a first class act.
“Second, thing I’d like to say is Mike [Fox’s] club played their guts out. We had that storybook ending yesterday and maybe took a little wind out of their sails. Sometimes it’s destiny sometimes. I thought we played our A-game. I thought we we’re playing our best baseball coming into this. I thought Mike’s clubs wasn’t at their best, but I thought we played very very well. Our starting pitching in all three games was solid. We were aggressive offensively and we almost took ourselves out of couple runs just today trying to force some things, but you live by the sword, you die by the sword.
“I’m proud of these guys. After a tough start and coming down here [in February] playing Mike’s club down 5-4 in the bottom of the eighth and we give it away 8-4, we were trying to find ourselves, but towards the end of the season I felt we were a good club and I felt we had the chance to do something special and hopefully we can continue this trip.”
After the bad hop two-run single did you feel like it was going to be your day?
“Sure. The ball bounced our way. There’s no doubt about it and that’s baseball. Last night when we got that three run homer for Danny [Bethea]. North Carolina has been doing some special things. Mike Fox’s program is a special program. It just wasn’t their weekend. The kids played their guts out. They made some mistakes, we took advantage, but we played well. We outplayed them this weekend and they made some mistakes and we got some breaks and that’s baseball.”
What does this mean to you and the program?
“This is unbelievable. When it was time to come back I knew we had a good team to come to this point and win a regional and this is probably the biggest moment in my career here. For the program, it just shows that we can play good baseball too. Even though we’re not outside until March or April we can play with anybody in the country an I think that showed that today.”
What does it mean to beat a program like North Carolina on their home field to reach a Super Regional?
“Especially them being No. 4 in the country. It was an unbelievable experience. They’re known for their great program and just being able to compete with a program like that is just a great feeling and then coming away with a win is just unbelievable.”