HOOSIERS TALK ABOUT WIN OVER STANFORD
June 1, 2014HOOSIER SPORTS 365
INDIANA – 4
STANFORD - 2
TRACY SMITH: I thought that was college baseball at its finest: Two quality opponents going at it and almost mirroring each other in terms of personnel and how the game was played. It was two quality left?handed pitchers going at it and making pitches and tough pitches. You had some solo home runs that were big in the ballgame, and the game really could have gone either way.
And I always hate ?? (audio skip) ?? on the winning side of it, because I've been plenty on the other side, but that to me I thought was a tremendous college baseball game and good players on both sides stepped up and made plays and did what they needed to do. We were fortunate tonight with the win.
Q. Joey, how do you assess your performance tonight?
JOEY DeNATO: I thought I pitched pretty well. The two runs they scored, really I think I had?? maybe I had a few bad pitches all game but they definitely executed on them, on pitches that I missed on. Overall I thought I did well and I pitched well enough to give my team a chance to win, and that's all I can do.
Q. Sam, it's kind of an old tradition in sports, but they say that in championship environments, the elite player or players step up, and you guys, the first two nights have gotten that. Every time they needed you tonight, including the last defensive play of the game, you made it; the two?out RBIs. Just talk about the significance knowing you're playing Stanford, an elite power, and what that meant to you to perform at that level in this kind of environment.
SAM TRAVIS: Yeah, post?season play as a player, you know, coming up in key situations, that's kind of what you live for as a player.
So definitely proud of myself and more proud of myself to come up for my team and come up big for my team. You know, that's what's making me a good player, coming up clutch, and I'm going to do whatever I can in my power to help the team out, and postseason play couldn't have come at a better time.
Q. You guys have probably been asked this at different points in the season, but were there moments you felt like you were better in this environment for what you went through last year you didn't play a really tight game like that in the regional last year, but could you feel the experience of last year helping tonight?
JOEY DeNATO: I mean, I think last year, it was everyone's first year of playing in a regional, obviously, and playing in that crowd and environment. But every single game, I think I speak on behalf of the whole team, we play every game the same, whether it's a playoff game or whatever it is. We are going to come out the same.
I mean, maybe it did help a little bit but overall?? I think overall, we just played the same game that we are used to playing.
Q. Will, could you take me through the at?bat in the eighth, what were you trying to do there and how big was it to get one at that point?
WILL NOLDEN: I knew he was a big curveball guy, so I was kind of just trying to fight that pitch off and eventually I got a fastball I could handle and just put a good swing on it and ripped it up the middle.
Q. Joey, you gave up a run in the first and seemed like you settled down after that. Is that how you saw it too, or maybe something you changed or settled down or got in a groove?
JOEY DeNATO: Yeah, definitely, the first inning, I don't know why it's been like that all year but seems like I settle down after the first few innings. I think I did settle down.
My changeup, I was working on that the whole game. I mean, I wish I had my slider a little bit better and locating my fastball inside a little bit better, but I mean, I stuck with my changeup pretty much the whole game for my out pitch and just went from there.
Q. Sam, everyone is going to talk about your offense, but I know you take a lot of pride in your defense. Can you talk about that last play or the last half of the game?
SAM TRAVIS: Yeah, once again, you know, last out of the game, you've just got to be expecting the ball. You can't get caught off?guard.
Most importantly, I wasn't going to let it get by me. He's trying to get a glove on it and keep it in the infield and keep the run from scoring, but fortunate enough to make a good play on it.
Q. Joey, how do you feel like you handled the middle of their order specifically? Seemed like you had a different approach to them Slater and Blandino and those guys each time; you feel like you got better against them as time ?? or what were you trying to do?
JOEY DeNATO: First of all, the top of the order, I know they have strong one through four hitters. So I was maybe trying to be too fine with them, too careful, and kind of giving the middle of the lineup or lower half of their lineup better pitches to hit.
They started hitting them towards the end of the game so I had to switch that around and pitch backwards. I mean, I think their whole lineup was pretty solid. They had a good approach all game. But yeah, their middle part of the lineup was definitely?? I mean, I think they had great approaches.
Q. Sam, obviously Jake Kelzer finished the game. From a hitter's standpoint, you've I'm sure batted against him. How tough is he to hit, especially a guy that size and throwing like he is, how tough is he to deal with?
SAM TRAVIS: Well, I was lucky enough to face him when he didn't have that pitch. I'll just say, I'm glad he's on my team (chuckling).
Q. It's a championship formula, but again tonight you score with two outs three times, I believe. Your best players deliver and you get a championship?like effort from your starting pitcher. When you get those three elements in any baseball game, you've got to smile and say, you know, that's what it's all about, right? Can you just talk about how important those three facets were to what you did tonight?
TRACY SMITH: Well, they are big, and actually as I was driving over here in my car just thinking about the game, yeah, a lot of things go through your mind, and the one thing that I kind of settled in on was, you know what, me personally, go enjoy the moment, trust your players, because if you're good enough, it's going to happen, and I think, you know, clearly tonight, Joey was good enough.
Got solid starting pitching, exactly like you said. Sam Travis, who is one of the best players in the country, stepped up big and got huge hits. Jake Kelzer comes in and does what he's supposed to do, close them down.
So really, it is fun to see, when your guys are doing what they are supposed to do against a quality opponent and a very, very good baseball team like Stanford.
But it's the trust, and that's what I love about this group is that they trust each other and the coaches trust them and I would assume and hope that they trust the coaches. It's just good players doing what they do.
Q. Can you talk about the decision to pull Joey in the eighth inning, and what the thinking was behind that? Also, how important was it that he went deep into that game in terms of just setting up your pitching for the rest of the tournament?
TRACY SMITH: I'll go just a brief answer on the second question. It's very important to save your pen, because you know, we are taking nothing for granted. We are not assuming that we'll roll through this thing tomorrow. We'll expect a tough battle between whomever it is, and so the more pitching you can safe, I like that.
Now I've talked so long, I forgot the first part of your question?? oh, well, when you've got a 6?7 right?hander down there that's been doing what he's been doing the latter half of the season, it made the decision pretty easy. Joey was throwing well; I thought he was. Maybe if we had an extended the lead. But we wanted to give them a little bit different look in the middle of the lineup with some of the guys that could hurt you with one swing.
Q. How important is it to get this game, especially when you get past Saturday night and you don't have to play the Sunday afternoon game; how critical is it to get this win?
TRACY SMITH: Well, that's kind of what I said. It's like, you know, keeps you off the turf for a game, or at least you hope two games, if you're fortunate enough to win that first one. It just kind of keeps your pitching fresh so, that was very, very important.
Q. Obviously Kelzer has been great for you all season long, but a big spot, over 4,000 people looking at him. How did you coming into the game think that he would do mentally?
TRACY SMITH: Anybody that spends their mornings at 5:00 A.M. staring at the bottom of the pool, which is what he did prior to coming here, has some mental toughness and has some things mentally that I could never do because I wouldn't do that.
He just seems to amaze me with the growth of, not just what he's doing physically, but he's come along mentally. You look at what we were doing early in the season, he was not the go?to option for us.
But it's indicativeof ?? him getting the ball lately is indicative of how he's progressed through the season. And that comes from the physical standpoint, but also having enough confidence to put him in that situation, and there was no hesitation on my part or Coach Higelin's part.
Q. Do you know what you're going to do irrespective of the opponent with the starting pitcher tomorrow?
TRACY SMITH: Morris.
Q. And then I guess the second one, with Kelzer, I know he's a big fastball?? felt like he was really pitching off of his secondary pitches tonight. How important is it for him to maybe not even need that fastball any more to set that stuff up; that he can go first pitch, second pitch with those?
TRACY SMITH: Yeah, we talked about that a little bit after the game. It's a power breaking ball. Just the situations that we were in, it's like you never want to sit back in a tight ballgame and second?guess your second?best pitch or your second?best scenario. And that was Kyle calling what he thought was the best opportunity to get him out; Jake throwing what he thought was his best opportunity to get him out. So we'll live with that.
But yeah, that's the one thing from a coaching perspective as he progresses and matures is to be able to flash more fastball, too, a little bit more of that fastball, because it's a good one.
Q. Any status update on Brad Hartong? Will he be available tomorrow?
TRACY SMITH: We'll see. I honestly don't know. He banged into that wall pretty good, so we'll check him out.
Q. Defensively, 18 innings, one error, but O'Connor makes a nice play in center, Rodrigue has some nice plays, Travis. Just talk about your defense.
TRACY SMITH: Yeah, it's funny, as I was sitting here looking at the guys to my right, and they were all very deserving of being here. But I love the way Casey Rodrigue played defensively. I thought he was huge tonight, the athleticism he showed at second base.
But any time you get to this point in the season, to me it's about the defense, and you know, much was made about our last year and having a little bit of an Achilles' heel, but because of the Rodrigues, because Ramos is playing very well right now, I thought that helped us get out of some innings.
It's not like, as I'm looking at the stat sheet, that Joey or Jake overpowered guys with a bunch of strikeouts. They were putting balls in play and they were putting a lot of balls in play, hard. But we made the plays defensively and took the outs that they gave us. But yeah, I loved the way we played defense tonight.
Q. Early on in the game, Sam Travis had that single to right. Can you just talk about how big that was early on for you guys?
TRACY SMITH: I'm assuming the one where he fouled?? that, to me, and I said it to him after the end of the inning, was probably one of my favorite at?bats of his of, you know, certainly the year, but one that I can remember.
Because that was a crucial time of the game, we are still trying to extend; their pitcher was making good pitches and Sam was fouling him off and he finally got a base hit. That's why I think he's one of the top hitters in the country, and that was a great example of him showing that.
Q. Speaking of insurance??
TRACY SMITH: It's the same thing. I mean, if you think?? you always talk about quality at?bats. If you think of just keeping the bat alive and keeping it alive and finally getting a pitch you can handle, it's those two at?bats that I remember as I was reflecting on that game that I thought were momentum gainers for us, momentum breakers for them. Because if ?? yeah, if he gets the strikeout or induces an out in that scenario, they get a lead?off double in the ninth, it's a whole different ballgame. So that was huge.