June 12, 2011
SOUTH CAROLINA HEAD COACH Ray Tanner
First I’d like to congratulate Coach Penders and the University of Connecticut Huskies. They are a tremendous program and a great coach. A team that was very talented, and we certainly had the ultimate respect for them coming in here based on how they had to play to make this all possible. We’re very fortunate. Our guys played their hearts out. We had some guys step up. Both games certainly could have gone either way. We’re very fortunate and happy to be sitting where we are with an opportunity to go back to Omaha to the new ballpark. I can’t say enough good things about Coach Penders and his club and their class and integrity. (George) Springer’s catch in center field was absolutely astounding. We’re very happy and proud of our guys. We had some situations earlier in the year that could have sent us in another direction, but we plugged guys in and they performed and they battled. We won our 50th game tonight which is truly amazing, and now we get the chance to continue to play.
On going back to Omaha…
I’m delighted to be a part of it. I say this all the time, but it really is true, I don’t look too far ahead or behind. I try to do what we’ve got to do today. Just be ready to go and do the best you can. I know that when I came here 15 years ago, this was a program about great people, tradition and history. It was my challenge to try to continue that. We’ve been very fortunate to have some opportunities to get out to Omaha. Then we had the great run last year. It’s very special. I’m just happy to be a part of it.
On the year…
It was challenging. Players win games. I don’t go between the lines. If you can find the right group of players, you’ve got a chance. I believe in that very strongly. Do you have enough ball players? When you run a guy like (Scott) Wingo, (Brady) Thomas and (Christian) Walker, so many guys who have been there before, you give yourself a chance. Like the ESPN color guy told me afterwards, I’m a Scott Wingo fan. I said join the contingent; there’s a lot of Scott Wingo fans. You’ve got a chance when you’ve got make-up guys.
SHORTSTOP Peter Mooney
On his hit in the ninth inning…
It was a huge relief. I didn’t think the baseball gods were going to let that happen to me. Finally, I dropped one in and got two RBIs out of it. That way we were able to get some more insurance runs.
FIRST BASE Christian Walker
On living for the big moments…
I enjoy situations like that. I didn’t really decide anything. We scored a whole bunch of runs in that last inning. It doesn’t matter whether you do it or somebody else does it, you just want to get it done.
PITCHER John Taylor
On the defense tonight, particularly in the bases loaded situation in the sixth inning…
These guys have been doing it all year. Coach Meyers came out and said that for some reason he knew the guy batting was going to send the ball back to the mound. He just said make a clean throw to (Robert) Beary to try to get out of it. It forced them to get out of the inning. I think that was a big turning point for us.
PITCHER Matt Price
On going back to Omaha…
It’s a great feeling. We’re going to be back in Omaha in the new park. We won it last year in the old park. This is a new group of guys. Last year was last year. It’s a new year, and it’s going to be a great one.
UCONN HEAD COACH JIM PENDERS
First, I just want to congratulate South Carolina. This is the first time all season that I believe we were defeated by a better team. They’re a better team than we are right now. We aspire to be the kind of program that they are. Coach Tanner and his club did a great job; they were the better team tonight. It’s the first time that I can honestly say that all year; we were beaten by a better team. We had some opportunities. We left some guys on in some big spots. We fought, scratched and clawed. The catch that George Springer made in the eighth inning is indicative of our effort and resilience. It is emblematic of the kind of players that we have in our uniform, the kind of heart that beats within that uniform and the kind of person that we need to continue to grow our program. The three guys to my right (George Springer, Greg Nappo, and Nick Ahmed) had a huge impact on our program over their careers. I hate to see each of them go. They’re special people and special players. We lost the ball game tonight, but when we do get to Omaha, they’ll be a big part of that. We’ll be standing on their shoulders.
On what makes South Carolina so good…
I’d hate to see them with Jackie (Bradley Jr.) out there too. First of all, it starts with the guy at the top. There’s no better baseball man than Ray Tanner. I think he’s a great motivator and he gets the most out of his kids. That staff knows how to recruit and develop guys. It starts with those guys. Everybody on the field had a confidence and swagger that was very noticeable. I thought Adrian (Morales) really turned the series with the play yesterday. He made a heck of a play. Obviously, he’s an emotional kid that knows how to make good plays. Christian (Walker) is a heck of a hitter. Top to bottom they can all hurt you. It’s a very good ball club. The atmosphere doesn’t hurt either.
On being better prepared for the postseason in the future…
We want to skip a few rungs in the ladder. It just didn’t work out that way. We got one rung further. We did make progress this year. We’re going to be back. All those guys in the huddle know that. There’s going to be a lot said about what we’re losing, but we’ve got a lot coming in and coming back. We expect to win now and there’s no substitute for that. We expect to win every time out. The culture of the program is in a good place. That’s in large part to the guys who just played their last game in our uniform.
CENTERFIELDER GEORGE SPRINGER
On if he thought his catch at the wall in the eighth inning would change the game…
I was hoping that that catch would lead to something, and it didn’t. I feel that it just shows the team that we have. We’re going to go out and play as hard as we possibly can till the last out. Unfortunately, it didn’t work out, but it’s okay.
PITCHER GREG NAPPO
On his performance tonight…
First of all, you have to give all the credit in the world to [South Carolina]. Great players make adjustments. I wasn’t able to adjust quickly enough tonight. I felt that they got me on my heels a little bit late. Those are things that I’ll have to work on in the future. I have to give all the credit in the world to my defense behind me that made all the plays that needed to be made.
SHORTSTOP NICK AHMED
On being frustrated by the three South Carolina double plays…
I think it was tough. We tried to work to get the lead runner on base to make things happen. We only scored one run the previous game, so we tried to get runners on early. I think we had a lot of good at bats in those middle innings. We hit some balls hard. We just hit some balls right at people. Give credit to them, they turned some double plays. They made some big plays on us just as they did the day before. It was frustrating. I think we all had some of our better at bats. We all tried to grind it out, but it didn’t come though at the end.