COACH RON POLK
"This is a ball club that won 40 out of (59) games. We competed well all year, stayed healthy all year with the exception of Joseph Hunter who was out three and a half weeks. Can we win this tournament? Yes. Can North Carolina win it? Sure. We are in a tough bracket against Georgia Tech if we win it. There's no guarantee that Georgia Tech is going to win their tournament. There's going to be some upsets. The home team has a little advantage but not so much where you can take it to the bank or you can put your house up for sale."
Are you going to start Alan Johnson the second game or wait to see who you will play?
"Right now, it is almost 100% that we will start Alan Johnson no matter if we play Missouri or North Carolina."
Do you expect to lose Maholm to Major League Baseball this summer?
"Yes, I think he is gone. From all reports, he is going to be a 1st rounder. He is ready to go to the next level."
Are you expecting any other underclassmen to be drafted?
"Papelbon, Gendron and Brinson. There's more (interest) on Paul because they want to know when he is going to pitch. They bring in scouting directors and supervisors. But there's not as much action on the other boys. I don't think that anybody but Paul will be a first rounder but we may have one or two others who may go in the top 10 (rounds). There's 30 clubs and all you need is one guy to come in from the west coast that pulls the trigger on draft day. Gendron has a great game, then all of a sudden he may go from the 15th round by anyone else, but one club drafts him in the 3rd or 4th round. Jeremy Brown from Alabama last year would be a good example. He was a first rounder to Oakland. Jeremy is a great player but I imagine if you had asked all of the other ball clubs, none of them would have drafted him until the 8th on down. But he was a catcher and Oakland liked him and he was an easy sign for them because they had a lot of first round drafts."
What about feedback on your high school signees?
"There are a couple that have attracted some interest, but, as of right now, I think we are in pretty good shape with them, but you don't really know until draft day."
Talk a little about what you told the team after making quite a few errors during the SEC tournament.
"We made some errors. LSU made, I guess, three errors against Alabama (in the first inning). You talk about errors but physical errors are going to happen. Mental errors, you don't like. You don't talk about errors. You talk more about situations and mental mistakes than you do about errors. If Manny boots the first ball (Friday) night, I'm not going to go up to Manny and have a fielding lesson with him."
Talk about what the atmosphere means to you? Some of the other teams are a little concerned about it. "They won't be concerned about the outfield. I think they are going to have a fun experience. If I was a coach on another team, I would like to come to Starkville because I think it is a great experience for your players. I've never had teams leave here except for one many years ago (Oklahoma State) that felt like the outfield was nasty or got on them. They have been very supportive. They are not going to throw things at them. They will feed them after the ball game if they are nice. They won't find a better atmosphere for a regional, well maybe LSU, Auburn has a nice place and Southern Miss looks like they are going to draw a good crowd."
What have you told the younger guys about playing in a regional here?
"I was telling them all year that we get to host. We were shooting to host a super also. It's like nowhere else. The atmosphere was unbelievable when I was a freshman. I have always dreamed about bringing back another regional tournament. To be able to do that my senior year is even more special."
You will probably have to hit better in this tournament than you did in the SEC tournament.
"We know what our strengths are, pitching and defense. We have been up and down. We started out so hot this year that it seems like we have been down lately. Certain guys stepped up their game in Hoover. Berkery, Butts, Hunter and Mungle hit the ball well."
What do you know about Middle Tennessee?
"The coaches will give us a scouting report the day of the game. We'll get it at the pre-game meal tomorrow. I know they are good. I heard that they have won 10 out of 11. You have to be a solid team if you are in an NCAA regional."
Talk about the opportunity to play again in front of the home crowd.
"It's great. I haven't gotten the experience of pitching in a regional here. I'm really looking forward to getting out there (Friday) night. I'm pumped about having it here."
Talk about your career here.
"It has been a fast three years. It has been great. I'm happy I came here. I got to play in a Super Regional my first year here. Last year, we missed out on the regionals. I'm looking forward to this year. Hopefully, we can go all the way this year. It starts all over for everybody starting tomorrow."
Is this like a Friday night start for you?
"Every game from here on out, adds a little bit more because it is post-season. For me to get the first start, it shows how much they think of me. I'm happy to take the ball."
Since this could be your last start here because of the upcoming draft, are there any special feelings for you?
"No, I haven't thought about that. The only thing I'm thinking about this weekend is the regional. We have to win this. Everything else will take care of itself for me."
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.