"I think the guys really showed what they are made out of (against Clemson last weekend). After Friday night (defeat), they realized that, 'Hey, if we lose, we have put ourselves really behind the eight ball in the league with N.C. State winning two of three, again, at Wake Forest.' You would look at them and say they are definitely in the driver's seat. They've only lost three games, if I am not mistaken, in the league and they have played Clemson, Florida State and Wake Forest. You still have North Carolina to play and Georgia Tech to play - I am speaking N.C. State. They are sitting there with a 9-3 record and in pretty good position. If we had lost, that would have meant we would have had to have won more games than they because they would hold the tie-breaker. So, it's going to get very interesting as we go through this with the Georgia Tech series and N.C. State playing Georgia Tech and also North Carolina."
It has been a strange season in terms that you are done with the home ACC schedule and you only have four remaining home games as well.
"Yes but it's very good four our student-athletes. It keeps our guys in class. We will play three road series-Georgia Tech, Duke and Maryland - and not miss a day of class. Plus, I am not excited about going to Maryland in March. This is a very unusual but yet it's a schedule I guess I can live with. It's really nice to play here this time of the year. It's nice to play here in May also but let's just hope after the Miami series our next game here is a regional."
What did you like about this weekend. You had mentioned you liked your team's aggressive base running.
"Where people don't understand the importance of speed is. .. .let's say Stephen Drew is at first base in the first inning and there's nobody out. If I am Eddy Martinez-Esteve, I know I am going to get a fastball. If I get a breaking ball, it's only going to be on the first pitch because Drew is going to try to steal second base. I know it and everyone in the yard knows it, so the guy throws over, throws over, throws over, throws a curveball. If Drew gambles and runs, he's safe, unless the guy is getting the ball to the plate in 1.3 seconds, which is very unusual for a curveball. If a guy is throwing a fastball, he's get it there in 1.1 to 1.15 if he gets the curveball there in 1.3. Most pitchers are 1.3 fastball, 1.45 to 1.5 on a curveball or a changeup. So as a hitter, I know I am going to get fastballs, so I can sit there and look for one pitch. He's taking advantage of that. He had a big weekend. Why? Because Drew was on all weekend and he had some very good swings and drove in some runs for us, but you have to credit Drew for setting all of that up."
What do you think would be the best word to describe your team right now?
"Competitive. We've got some guys who are not satisfied when the pop the ball up in the air. When they hit a ball hard at somebody and they don't get a base hit, they are not real happy. They are not saying I hit the ball hard, there ain't nothing I can do about it. They are competitors. Many times you will see guys that pitch well and their team doesn't win and they are fine because they pitched well. Competitors don't accept that. Doug Mientkiewicz could go 3-for-4 and we get beat and he's ranting and raving in the clubhouse. The same with Eddy Perez and Pedro Grifol. But you get some times, 10 years later, you get athletes that, 'Well, I hit my two tonight. I did all I can do to help the team win.' It doesn't bother them that much. I think this club has a very vital ingredient in that they want to win. They don't care if they walk three times. All they care about is did I do my job? Did I steal second when I had the opportunity? Did I make the play in the field? That's contagious. That's a good ingredient to success and that's the way I would describe this ballclub."
In terms of offense, this wasn't a good weekend for Tony Richie and Tony McQuade.
"McQuade has been a streaky player since he got here. From day one, he's just been a guy, gosh, sometimes he's knocking the cover off the ball. ... He's one of those guys who can go 9-for-9 with the bat in a certain position and go for 0-for-2 and one of the fans down the left-field line who has not slept for four days tells him you need to take your bat and put it over your head higher and hit like Carl Yastrzemski So, his next at-bat he's going to have the bat like Carl Yastrzemski because that guy down there hadn't slept for four days said that's the way you ought to do it. It's your basic head when it comes to hitting. I've had a number of guys like that. What he has to do is listen to what Mike (Martin, Jr.) is telling him. Put the bat in the comfortable position and stay there. I didn't see Mike Weir (golfer) changing his swing yesterday (Masters) when he got in the playoff. He's hit the ball very well a certain way, so don't change. One night Tony will get three hits hitting it a certain way, the next night he goes 0-for-4 and the next day, boy,' he's ready to change something. He'll learn."
You have to feel good about your pitching staff.
"I don't think I said enough to Daniel Davidson yesterday. That was a real impressive performance. You are not facing Martin Methodist. You are facing Clemson and he faced two over the minimum for seven innings, and that's unheard of against a club that is as talented as they are. He's certainly been a big lift to us. The bullpen pitched very well. You are not going to be successful out of the bullpen every single time. If we can get the guys the work, that's the key from here is getting them the work. The Hunters Jones, the Kevin Lynch, the Rhett James, the Eddy Cannon. Of course, you know Hodges is going to get his work. I will tell you a guy we are going to look at a lot more is Matt DiBlasi. He has six appearances and we have to get him in there more. When you are facing Miami and Georgia Tech and the teams that we have left, we have to get him the ball as many times as possible. Golly, you look at the numbers of our pitchers, it's a little bit scary."
You haven't been able to get into situational pitching as much as you would like. Do you expect to be able to go back to more of that?
"Yes. I know we aren't going to be ahead by much. I know in order to keep the game close you are gonna have to give DiBlasi, Cannon and Lynch and these people opportunities to get a hitter or two out. The big thing let's just hope we are in that position because if we aren't, then we are so far behind it doesn't matter. If we can just get it out of our starters, we are not going to hesitate to give the ball to our relievers. We just feel like they have a lot to offer this ballclub and we are going to give them a chance to contribute."
While he possibly hasn't lived up to expectations this season, you've said you are still happy with Matt Lynch's performances this season.
"Lynch is as good a competitor as I've ever had. He went out there Saturday night and in the first inning I said, 'My gosh, what's going on? He's not throwing worth a darn.' Then, all of a sudden, he finds a changeup and he's getting them out with that. Then all of a sudden his fastball starts coming. He never did get the breaking ball. Don't let me tell you he started throwing the breaking ball for a strike. He never did throw that thing for a strike. But he sat there and fought. His teammates know he's fighting. We've got guys out there thinking and doing everything they can to get you in the dugout, it's easier to play behind him. That describes Matt Lynch. There's some nights the fastball is not there and he finds another way to beat you."
You said earlier you couldn't wait to get a healthy Blake Balkcom. He has become a nice addition.
"He has become a nice addition but I really expect him to be a major contributor and that's what I am waiting on. This young man in September, when I was hitting fly balls to him, I said to myself, 'That is a stud.' I mean his legs were in such great shape. He was gliding across the outfield. I said we will run this guy. Then I saw him throw and I went, 'Hmm, this guy might be as good an arm I've had here since Chris Brock.' He has had more problems with his health. Now that he's healthy, I think he's getting frustrated with his lack of production because he knows we need him to do more. The big home run was certainly huge but he's got to make more contact and improve his on-base percentage and I want him to get in better condition so he can steal a base. This guy, when he's healthy, is a beautiful athlete. He has not attempted a stolen base this year."