“It was a close game. Great game. My feelings are that we went up against who I believe to be maybe the best pitcher I've seen in the SEC for an opponent since I've been the coach at LSU. He reminds me so much of Aaron Nola, it's scary.
“He was good. Tough pitcher. I know he had a lot of strikeouts but I thought our guys battled him and battled him. I don't know how many hits we had against him. Had to be about seven, eight, nine, I don't know, nine hits against him. We had a couple of situations if we had been able to take more advantage of, we would have been able to overcome it. But when you think about we went against one of the best pitchers in the country, I think the guy will be the first pick in the draft next year, and we were having to piece it together with our bullpen guys, it was amazing we were right there and had a chance to win. Our kids played their hearts out. I think we played well in most areas. We had a couple of mistakes and probably hurt us a little bit. But our kids left it all out there on the field, played their hearts out and we just came up a little bit short tonight.
“It's comforting to know that we still have Jared Poché going tomorrow fully rested. If we're fortunate enough to win tomorrow night, we've got Alex Lange waiting. We don't think the series is over by a long stretch. We're excited about playing tomorrow and hopefully we can have a little bit more luck on our side tomorrow.”
Question: Both players, what were your impressions of Singer tonight? It was a strange game, a lot of strikeouts, but you had a lot of swings off of him, too?
“Exactly like you said. We had a lot of strikeouts, a lot of hits. That's the type of pitcher he is. You're either going to get up there and get your money's worth and hammer a pitch, but you've got a tough chance of getting a hit if you get behind. So you've got to tip your hat to him. He had a great outing. Like Coach said, he's probably going to be the first pick in the draft next year. But that's just the pitcher we knew we were getting. He's got electric stuff. We knew we were going to have a battle every time we stepped in the box.
“If you got your hit off of him, that means you got your pitch. If you missed your pitch, you were going to have a tough time.”
“Exactly. Brady is a great pitcher. He had some really great stuff. We had to go up there and just look for one pitch, and if you missed that one pitch, it's probably going to be a rough at-bat for you. But if you hit that one pitch that you were looking for, then that's when we hit those balls hard. So I think it was a whole different ballgame for right-handed hitters off of him because it just seemed like it was much tougher at-bat, much more uncomfortable. So he looked great tonight and he had electric stuff.”
Q: Both players, could you speak to the job the bullpen did, give you guys a chance to win while they're piecing it together. Russell doesn't normally start, and then the guys extending longer after that?
“I think they did a great job. They kept us in the game. I think the most lead went for them was 3-0. So we were within three the whole game. Got it all the way back to one run and kept us in the game the whole time and we had a chance to win. But we just couldn't get those big hits. We got obviously a few big hits but we just couldn't push it over the edge.”
Q: Singer felt like the first matchup against you was using that fastball a lot. Tonight looked like he was mixing it up a little bit more, throwing more offspeed stuff out there. And did you guys see that and made him good out there tonight?
“First time through the lineup, he was using his fastball a bunch. That's what he has. First couple innings he's going to be 92, 95, maybe bump 96. He's a smart pitcher. As he got later in the game, he started back-dooring sliders to us lefties and dumping that slider in there for strikes to righties early in the count. You've got to tip your cap to him. He knew how to pitch us. He was a smart pitcher, went through the game throwing all his pitches for strikes. We had tough at-bats, grinded to the end, and we have nothing to hang our heads about.”
Q: Antoine, you get Singer for 7 innings, and then Byrne who throws the ball a lot more offspeed, a lot of sliders, some balls coming out at 74 miles an hour. Talk about the transition going from Singer to Byrne?
“Actually didn't get to face Byrne. But as a hitter, that's part of baseball. It's not illegal to put in a new pitcher, guy throwing slower. You've got to make that adjustment. I thought our hitters did a great job with that tonight. We hit some balls hard off of them, and tomorrow we're going to be ready.”
Q: What's this team's comfort level with kind of its back pressed against the wall turning to Poché and Lange knowing you've still got those guys waiting for the next two games?
“I mean, that's the great thing about baseball, you get to come out and play tomorrow. We're not hanging our heads about anything. We had a lot of great stuff we did tonight. We had a couple of tough breaks that didn't go our way. But that's the way baseball is. We're going to come out tomorrow, a lot of positivity, energy, and get after it.”
Q: Antoine, that home run started to get things started for you all, seemed to break the ice on Singer I guess a little bit. What did he throw you and what did you hit out?
“I hit a fastball out. But I was seeing him pretty well today. I was just trying to lay off the breaking ball as much as I could, and I did a good job of that, and luckily I got ahead in the count that at-bat and I didn't miss my pitch.”
Q: The play in the bottom of the eighth where you got Smith thrown out at second base, I assume that's not a reviewable play, and also did you think he was safe?
“You're correct: It's not a reviewable play. You know, the ball beat him. I don't know if Josh with his swim move got around it or not. I haven't seen the video of it, but I think a lot of people thought he was safe. I couldn't tell from where I was.”
Q: Coach, to get three really strong innings out of Russell there to start the game, I'm sure you felt pretty good. What was your plan? How far were you hoping to ride him and obviously kind of escalated there quickly?
“You know, Russell did a really great job there the first 3innings, and, man, obviously hindsight is 20/20. If you would have told me before the game we would get 3 shutout innings from him to start the game, I would have been pleased. I got a little greedy there and tried to get an extra inning out of him, and we still had a long way to go and not a lot of options coming out of the bullpen. I just thought, if nothing else, Russell is a strike thrower, and he ends you walking three guys in a row.”
“In hindsight I probably would have started the inning with Bush. I'm sure everybody would have disagreed with that because we had shut him out for 3 innings, but I knew in my heart if we got three good ones out of him, I should have been pleased. I'll take the blame for that. I tried to stick with him for too long and it backfired.”
Q: Do you think Russell kind of ran out of gas there at the end?
“I don't know what the reason was. He threw a lot of strikes. I should say there were a lot of full counts in the first 3 innings, and a couple runners got thrown out on base on caught stealing’s and those type of things. He blocked one ball in the dirt, threw him out, another was on a pitchout, we threw a guy out stealing.
“So he was doing a good job, but I think I should have been happy with three and probably would have been the prudent move to go to a fresh arm. Let Nick Bush start the inning fresh instead of bringing him in a tough situation.”
“You know, when he came in that situation, I thought he did a good job. He got the popup, Kramer made a great catch. Bad luck for us that they were able to tag and score from third. But I think we were a little bit unaware to not cover second base there and allow the other runner to tag and take second. Turned out to be important because on the ground-rule double, if he was at first base, only one run would have scored there. So we had a little bit of just kind of a – I don't know what you would call that – a bad fundamental thing where we just didn't cover the bag.
“In retrospect, like I said, I wish I had just started the inning with Nick Bush. I thought Nick threw the ball well until the one inning he fell behind on Langworthy, had to throw one in there, and the kid hit a double and they bunted him over. He had two strikes on Rivera, tried to bury a breaking ball in the dirt and left it up, and Rivera did a good piece of hitting, getting the base hit. I thought Newman did a great job.
“All in all I thought our pitchers did a nice job not knowing what we're going to get going in. It was a tough matchup for us, going against Singer with bullpen guys. Would have been wonderful if we had Eric Walker or Caleb Gilbert available, but the unfortunate injury last week forced us to change things a little bit. I was proud of our guys. I thought they competed really hard out there on the mound. We were up against a tough one. Our guys at the plate competed. We were almost able to overcome it, but just came up a little bit short tonight.”
Q: Can you just describe what makes Singer so tough out there?
“He's just got that whipping arm. He reminds me so much of Aaron Nola it's scary. He's got great command. Can control his fastball, both sides of the plate. He's got great movement. He throws that slider off the same arm slot, and it's hard to pick up. Early in the game I thought maybe the shadows were giving us a tough time. But even as the shadows went away, some of our right-handed hitters really had a tough time. I'll tell you, he's good. He's really good. And I think he's going to keep getting better.”
Q: Talk about in the 4th inning where Florida just scored, your first two batters singled and Singer was able to come back and strike out the next –
“I think Antoine's kind of kicking himself a little bit for not taking third on that ball. I think he just felt that he didn't want to get thrown out at third base with nobody out. I think if he had to do it all over again, he would have taken a shot and taken third base there. I think the center fielder was actually conceding third base and was throwing to second. Antoine hesitated for a slight second. He thought the prudent thing to do would be to stop. Who knows what would have happened if runners were first and third. Anything could have got us one run there. But (Singer) raised his game and he got out of it, and give credit to him. I can't say it enough. He's tough. I respect him as much as any pitcher out there.”
Q: Can you just speak to this team being in the situation, been in the situation recently, had to beat a really good Oregon State team to get here. Can you speak on that?
“We're not going to hang our heads tonight. I thought our kids competed as hard as they could and they left it all out there on the field. And we were just a hair short. Like I said going into the game, it was a tough matchup for us, and we knew that. Our kids didn't give up. They believed that they could do it and we just came up a little bit short tonight. Going forward, tomorrow, our kids, they're confident. They're going to go out there and play hard. We respect the University of Florida, but we feel like we're right there with them.
“We've got one of our guys going tomorrow. Jared Poché has been a warrior for us for four years. I know that he's not going to give up and he's going to go out there and pitch his heart out tomorrow. We've got obviously Zach Hess rested now with an extra day's rest. He's had two days' rest. So he should be primed and ready to go as well.
“I told the kids, you know, we don't have to beat these guys twice. We've just got to beat them tomorrow. Let's win one game. And then we'll worry about the next game after that. Florida obviously has got a tremendous team. It's going to be a tremendous challenge. But I believe our kids will be ready to go and we'll be excited about playing.”