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On returning to Omaha -
It's really been fun to look at the freshmen, because they've been told all year what it's like out there. They're a little more giddy than the other guys. Everybody is excited. I'm just happy for our players to get to experience this again, It's a great place out there.
Is there anything you learned about your team last week that you didn't already know?
I knew we had some good players, and I knew we had some tough kids. I felt like we really were a determined bunch, but I know we can get on a big stage when games are on the line and play and produce. That's experience. That's confidence. I felt our team had that all along.
On Mississippi State -
We've been working on scouting reports ever since we won, and we knew who else was going. Anytime you go into Tallahassee and win a regional down there, you're a really good team. Obviously Coach has built a fine tradition down there. We know about Mississippi State. We talked to Clemson of course. They're a good team. They're a confident team. They're playing well. They've got great relievers as well. I think that's probably a strength of their team. So it will be a great challenge.
On getting off to a good start -
Starting out… We're going to say, let's get behind (laughs). No, it's just the way the game goes. You can't always control those things. We do talk about playing 27 outs, so I don't have to say much to them. I'm not going to have to say much to this group here on out.
On Andrew Carignan's struggles off the field, and how he had to let him finish the game out on Sunday -
He and his family have gone through something none of us can really imagine. He's a strong kid. It really knocked him for a loop, as it did all of us. Once we got the 9-4 lead, I felt we were pretty safe, as long as his pitch count didn't get up too high. I was hoping we would win, and if we played Friday, I was already thinking, ‘Alright, how many days is that?'
How much of an advantage is it to be familiar with the field and the surroundings in Omaha?
I think it's very important. It's probably going to be a big factor in the first inning or two. We know what it's like out there, and I think us, Rice and Oregon State are the only three teams back from last year. I think it's one of those things that initially will be good. But once the game gets going, everybody will be ready.
On getting more from the starting pitching than last weekend -
I was actually very pleased with the way I pitched on Friday – as a whole. But we definitely want to do better than last week. The thing you try to do is get better. But I'm very excited to be starting against Mississippi State. We got a chance to see them play against Clemson. They've got a great ball club. I was a roommate this summer in Chatham with Ed Easley – their catcher, and he's a great guy. So I'm happy he's going to have the opportunity to play, and I get to play against him. It should be a lot of fun.
How important was getting another chance to play in the College World Series a factor in your decision to come back for your senior year?
It was up there. I told my parents that if we hadn't had a legitimate shot, I would have probably gone ahead and signed. Last year's team was so special, but I certainly knew we had a great group of freshmen coming in. I knew we would have the opportunity. It was definitely one of the top reasons, if not just to get a couple more semesters of school under my belt.
On what has carried the team back to the CWS -
One of the huge points is camaraderie. I mean, we really like to be around each other. We just weren't ready to leave. We've got some guys that probably won't be around next year, so we just wanted to continue again on college baseball's biggest stage. And we worked tremendously hard in the fall. When last year was over with – that was great. But we came back Day One with new aspirations of going back this year. I think that's what's carried us.
How long did you celebrate Sunday night before you turned your focus to Mississippi State?
There was a celebration, but we knew that was not where we wanted to be. We want to be back in that final game once again. I believe we have the best team, and if we play like it, things should go our way. But you know how baseball goes, you've got to have a lot of luck also.
Would you like to see Oregon State again in the final?
I'd love it. I'd definitely love it.
On trying to forget last season's CWS outcome -
You can't forget it, but that's the one thing that keeps you going. It's the drive of working hard. That's the one thing that drove us since Day One. We brought home the smaller hardware. We want the bigger this time.
On the freshmen -
They're a big part of this team. Dustin Ackley, Tim Fedroff, Kyle Seager, Alex White; they've been a tremendous part of our team. I think them being around us an older group of guys, you're going to get confidence level from us. That's how we pulled it out in this playoff series so far. Because even though were down, we're not going to care, because we're relaxed and ready to go.
How big of a deal is this?
Leading up to Omaha has been pretty big. The way we lost our first game in the ACC Tournament, and then to turnaround and win it; I think that was real big for our team – both momentum-wise and confidence-wise. We kind of learned that we had the ability to win on the big stage. Some of the freshmen were surprised how it feels and how into it the town gets.
Is last year's season-ending on your mind?
No, not really. We're taking it one game at a time out there, and we'd like a chance to get back to the championship series. We feel like we have a ball club that can do that. We're not thinking about last year truthfully, we're happy to be there this year. We're treating it like a business trip. We want to get our five wins and hopefully come home with a national championship. That's what's on our mind.
On what has brought them back to the CWS -
I think we've just got a great character and a great bunch of guys. We've got a lot of talent, but talent doesn't always win in baseball. We've got a great work ethic as a team. We're very deep. We've got a great pitching staff and a great bullpen -- the bullpen's huge in college baseball. Guys like [Andrew] Carignan, the [Rob] Wooten's – to come in there and slam the door like they have all year for us. And our lineup speaks for itself. One through nine, there's no weaknesses. We can swing the bat with anybody.