Quotes from the Starkville Regional Pre-Tournament Press Conference
COACH MIKE FOX
"We were excited to see our name (in the NCAA tournament) again. Our team has played well throughout the year in a good league. We are excited to be in Starkville. We have heard of the reputation down here. It is my first time here. I think I can speak for our players and can say that they are pretty thrilled to be here because it is a chance to play in a great atmosphere for college baseball against some of the best teams in the country.
"We finished 13-11 in the Atlantic Coast Conference and competed well in all 24 of our league games. We won the first two games in our league tournament against Clemson and Florida State, then lost our next two games against NC State and then got eliminated against Georgia Tech on the day they played three games in a row to win it.
"We had a good nucleus of players back, especially on our pitching staff. We lost a pretty good chunk of offense from last year, but our team responded well offensively. We led the ACC in hitting, which was somewhat of a surprise considering the players that we lost. We have pitched good down the stretch and have played good defense the last 14 or 15 games."
I assume you are starting Daniel Moore tomorrow?
"Yes. Daniel has really stepped up this year. He came into our program two years ago highly-touted out of Spencer, North Carolina. He was drafted out of high school. He has continued to improve throughout his career at North Carolina. This has certainly been his best season."
Do you feel the ACC, as a league, gets the recognition that it deserves?
"The ACC is a very, very good baseball league. I think it is evident by Florida State and Georgia Tech being national seeds. It is a lot like the SEC. There are 8 teams from the SEC in the tournament and 5 out of the ACC. We've played good teams."
What do you consider the strength of your team?
"People have asked me that, but it's hard to say. We've gone stretches where the offense has been a key for us. And we've had stretches where we have pitched well. The first two games in the ACC tournament, we held Clemson and Florida State to four runs combined. Lately, we have played really good defense. I really thought that pitching and defense at the starting of the year was going to be the mark of our team, but we've really done fairly well in all three phases."
What will your pitching rotation be in this regional?
"We will go with Daniel (Moore) in the first one and Adam Kalkhof in the second one. If we are fortunate to get to the third one, Garry Bakker. If we get to the fourth one, probably Scott Manshack. I'm not for sure, but that's what it looks like."
Talk about your relief pitching depth.
"We have some experience juniors who all came in in 2001. They have pitched a lot here because we lost the nucleus of our staff after the 2000 season. They have been through the league for three years now and was in the regional at Columbia last year, Whitley Benson, Scott Senatore and Kevin Brower. Those three guys have probably been the three that we have used the most. We've used them in all kinds of situations, some middle. Whitley is probably considered our closer, although we close with Senatore as well. Those are the three guys that we would use in the first game from the 5th to 6th inning on."
What kind of crowds do you play in front of?
"It depends on the weather and the opponent. Last year, we had Clemson at home and on Super Saturday Football we had over 3,000. We have also played some league games when we had about 500."
What will you tell you players if they are playing in front of 6,000 to 10,000 fans, almost none of them pulling for North Carolina so that they won't be intimidated?
"With a crowd like that, I don't think you have to tell them anything. Competitors love this type environment. I don't think I can say anything that would keep them from being intimidated or nervous. I know when we go to East Carolina, which is probably our most hostile in-state opponent and absolutely despises North Carolina and puts 3 or 4 thousand people in a small ballpark, we play our best baseball. We have played at Florida State and some tough environments. I think they are looking at it more as fun than as intimidation."
Are you going to allow your players to go out to the Left Field Lounge when you aren't playing?
"If they don't get onto Sean (Farrell), who is our left fielder. The first thing we said when we saw Starkville up there was thank goodness we have a seasoned, experienced left fielder. And he does like to eat chicken and ribs, so he will probably be up there eating with them. They can ride us all they want as long as they feed us."
1B - JEREMY CLEVELAND
Jeremy, have you had a chance to look at the park? It's known as a pitcher's park.
What's your mindset coming into the regional?
"We are doing the same thing that we have been doing all year. We've played in a lot of different environments. This one is probably going to be the most exciting one that we play in this year. I hear the fans are unbelievable. I hear you average between 8 and 10 thousand fans. That is amazing. Basically, that just makes you have to step up your game."
You batted .420 with 18 home runs. You don't see that much. Did teams not try to pitch around you?
"(Sean) Farrell and Sammy Hewitt hit behind me. And you have the two guys, (Chad) Prosser and (Greg) Mangum, in front of me. Others haven't had that support and have been walked a lot. These guys have made my season."
LHP - DANIEL MOORE
Talk about your opening assignment of Missouri.
"At this point, I don't know a lot about them other than that they have a pretty good ball club. There aren't any bad teams in this tournament. I'm excited about the opportunity to throw the first game for us. Hopefully, I can go out there and do my job."
What kind of pitcher are you?
"I think that has changed a lot over the years. When I first got to school, I threw like a high school guy. In high school, I was a fastball guy. It's difficult to do that in college baseball even when you are throwing 95+. I've tried to be more consistent and throw my pitches for strikes and try to get the ball on the ground earlier in the count so that I can stay on the mound deeper in the game."
What pitches do you throw?
"I throw a fastball, curveball, slider and changeup."
Which do you feel most comfortable with?
"Obviously, most pitchers have the most control over their fastball. But any of those other three pitches can be dictated by the day. Tomorrow, I may have a great changeup and my curveball might not be that good."
TO ALL OF THE PLAYERS: I asked about the players bleached blonde hair.
"We did this after we played Auburn. We didn't play well at all (lost all three games). We did this to kind of bring the guys together. It might have been one of the days when everybody came together. We are probably one of the tightest-knit groups that we have had in my four years here as far as seniors on down to freshmen. Some guys still have it, some don't."
Gene Swindoll is the owner of Gene's Page, the unofficial source for Mississippi State sports on the internet. The URL for Gene's Page is http://mississippistate.theinsiders.com. You can contact him by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.