Listen to Audio (13:09)
"Congratulations to John (Savage) and his staff and getting back here two years in a row and playing for the championship. We wish him well. The end of the year just -- it always stinks. But it's just been a great pleasure for me personally and our coaches. What we did in the ninth inning is just indicative of our kids and how we played all year. Just fighting until the very end. Proud of all of them. And this has been one of my most -- one of my most fun seasons. And it's because of these guys up here and the rest of them in that dugout. So sorry for our season to come to an end, but I'm glad it ended here at Omaha. That's for sure."
Mike, how would you describe maybe some of your team's offensive struggles the past week or so here? Was it just a matter of facing hot pitchers? I'm sure that had a lot to do with it, but anything else play into this the past week?
"Well, the teams that are here can all pitch really well. That's why they're here. So you're seeing the best arms and the best pitching staffs I think in college baseball when you get on this stage. So that's the biggest factor, is the teams can really, really pitch out here. And obviously, you know, the ballpark, the ballpark is the same for both teams, and it's hard to score out here. You saw how they got their four runs, and you've got to be a little lucky and you've got to be opportunistic and take advantage, and we just -- we just weren't able to do that tonight. But I think that's the biggest -- I think that's the biggest reason."
Coach, can you first kind of talk about Kent's toughness and longevity with how much he threw this week in Omaha?
"Well, the rumors of Kent's arm being dead, overused, ruined, whatever the adjective you want to use, were certainly greatly over exaggerated. And you saw that in the ninth. Kid's one of the toughest pitchers we've had in our program. And he showed it tonight. Thought he pitched exceptionally well and gave us a chance to win. That's the way he's pitched for us his whole career. I'm glad he chose us, come to North Carolina, and we wouldn't be here without him and we wouldn't have been here I don't think in 2011 without him. He's a stud."
What was special about this team that you had this year, and did you have a better experience with them than the runner-up teams possibly,in 2006 and 2007?
"I wouldn't say that. It's just, I mean, you saw it in the 9th inning. It's something you just don't coach. It's within your team. We're not going down. We're going to keep fighting. I think they really, really enjoyed just playing the game first and foremost, and that comes from within every play. And they've been fun. Just they like one another and practice was fun and everything we did was just a blast. And we didn't have any cliques. We didn't have any turmoil. We didn't have anything. It was a coach's dream. Our coaching staff, we said it all year long. This might be one of the best rides we're ever going to be on as a coaching staff. You get teams like that occasionally, and I felt very fortunate to be a part of it. Small part."
Comments on the senior class:
"We had three of them. We're fortunate to have three really good ones, and you saw evidence of that just in the ninth inning. That's just a very small fraction of what Chaz (Frank) and Cody (Stubbs) have done for us offensively and just throughout their careers and have done a lot more behind the scenes that most people are never going to know about, reporters and media and stuff that goes on just kind of within your team. It's special. It's the memories that you're going to take.
"This kid (Stubbs) right here is -- he's about as special as they come. And I'm glad he came to our program. And so glad he had the great year that he had. We wouldn't be here if Cody Stubbs had not done what he had done for us this year. And Chris Munnelly, graduated. I think they're a big reason. They're always a big reason when teams are out here. If you don't have a good senior class, you don't have a good group of kids, you have to have talent, but you have to have some character within your team and your program. I don't think you'd get this far. I know it's a big -- I think it's a big part of our program, at least. I feel like it is. And we talk about it a lot, and it helps you."
Mike, you guys obviously got off to the best start in school history and were number one most of the year, made it here, won the ACC tournament, came up a bit short, but how do you want people to remember your team and what you guys accomplished?
"Well, I'm going to remember them probably differently, just kind of from within. But on the outside, I just hope people will look and say -- we obviously won 59 games, but we really -- hopefully we played hard. Hopefully people feel like we played hard every game and represented college athletics and college baseball the right way and tried to do things the right way as best we can. The winning is part of it, certainly, but so many other special things went on throughout our season. They're going to be great memories for me and I'm sure the players. I hope people on the outside remember we were a pretty good team as well."
Kent, all the ground balls that you got today suggest that perhaps you had a better feel for your curveball and your off speed pitches than you might have had your last couple of starts. Was that the case?
"Yeah, I think so. I mean, my changeup was a whole lot better than it was last Saturday. And my curveball I used a lot more today, and it seemed like I was able to get good depth and put it in there for strikes for the most part. Yeah, anytime you can do that, you're going to get some ground balls."
Kent, you've been so effective in NCAA tournament going into this year, after struggling your last couple of starts. Was it important to kind of close on a note like you did tonight?
"I mean, we lost. So, no, would have liked to get a win. But I don't know. I guess just having another chance to pitch with these guys meant a lot. Didn't want the opening game be my last time out here. So, yeah, I guess there was something to that, getting another shot to just enjoy it with all these teammates."
With Berg coming in in the ninth, you guys down 4-0, a lot of people hand kind of written you off. What was your mindset going in? Seems like you've done this a lot recently where you've been able to battle back. What was the team's mindset entering that situation?
"At that point it was do or die. We either did it or didn't. We've been doing it all year, especially late in the season. Especially the seniors, with Chaz, and me we just didn't want it to end there. So we actually got to watch him pitch against -- who was it? Who did they play last? NC State. Oh, we watched him pitch against them, so it actually helped getting to watch him throw on TV. Kind of saw what his ball did, and that helped. But we weren't going to go down without a fight. That just wasn't going to happen."
John Savage & Players
Listen to Audio (12:32)
"First off, I'd like to congratulate North Carolina. Remarkable year, almost 60 wins. They ran through probably every team in America all season long. Whenever you win that many games, you don't lose a lot. So to Coach Fox and his staff, we certainly congratulate them on a terrific season. It was our style of baseball. What can you say? It was pitching, solid defense, opportunistic, offense.
"I thought we had better at-bats tonight. I really did. We had a few more walks. 0-2 to walk. We used the middle of the field better, and I think that we're capable offensively. I've said that all along. We've got good offensive players. They're just as good as any part of our game. And we do feel that way. I know that if you look at the scores, you probably won't write it up that way, but there's a lot of faith and trust in our players. And so it was a great evening for us because our style of game. Grant Watson, 19 days without pitching, stayed in shape. Simulated games, bullpens, flat work, long toss, you name it, and stayed sharp. And there's a credit to him as well for being disciplined enough to remain ready. Anybody that saw him throw against San Diego, he probably was just as good against San Diego in the regional final. So I'm very proud of our team. We've still not accomplished what we came to do. But it's on the next round. And I can't be happy enough and proud enough of our team."