Southern Miss head coach Corky Palmer's opening statement at the press conference Friday
"We're very excited to be in our fifth straight Regional. We're looking forward to a good matchup with Troy State. Our guys have worked mighty hard to get here. We're weren't in very good shape four weeks ago and made a tremendous run. I'm very proud we're a two seed here in Oxford."
Coach, do you sense this field of teams is pitching heavy?
"I know we are and Ole Miss is. Troy's got seven guys hitting over .300. That's pretty potent. I think we've got three. Our m.o. is pitching, defense, and timely hitting. That's how we've won this year, and that's how we will need to play to win in this tournament."
Question for senior center fielder Jody Blount - Is there motivation from last year after Troy beat you twice?
"We swept them last year in the regular season. They got us in the postseason when it really counted. So we have a good matchup with them. So yeah, I guess we've got a little something to give back to them, I think."
Question for Coach Palmer about Trey Sutton: (Southern Miss will be without its leading hitter when the Golden Eagles play Troy Friday. Sutton, a junior first-baseman who batted lead-off, leads USM in nearly every offensive category, including batting average (.368) and runs scored. He was injured during an at-bat during USM's 9-5 victory over UAB on May 23 in the first game of the Conference USA Tournament. With him out, USM lost its next two games in the tournament, scoring a combined three runs.)
"We got the MRI back and it was not good. He'll be OK for next season, but he's out the rest of this season. At this point we won't try to play him. As swollen as his knee is, we wouldn't want to do that. So we'll go on without him."
Question for USM first-game starter Ryan Belanger, a right-handed senior.
"It's very exciting. It's an honor to open up. Troy's a good team, and the Regional is a whole new ballgame. We're ready to roll on and take the program to a new level."
Jody Blount - Do you want to play Ole Miss again? (The teams split games this season).
"They were one of our opponents this season. I didn't think we played well against them. We definitely want to get to Ole Miss, but we just want to get to the championship. We don't care who it is. We just want to get to the championship game."
Troy head coach Bobby Pierce opening statement
For our team, we are pretty excited to be here because we were certainly a bubble type team as we sat down to watch the selection show. And, we knew we had a decent resume, certainly with our nonconference schedule. We had some big wins. Against Coastal Carolina and a couple SEC wins. We had done some good things, but we also had some high expectations for this team that we did not reach. We didn't play all that well down the stretch. Our pitching has certainly come around and did some good things for us recently. Offensively, we are looking to get back on track during this tournament and score some runs. As we sat down for the selection show, we knew right where we were which was firmly on the bubble. And unlike last year's season where we won the Sunbelt and the tournament and the only mystery was where we were going to go our seed and who we would play, this year, was a lot different. We didn't even know if we would get in. We are certainly pleased that the committee took a look at our strength of schedule. That is what the committee tells coaches across America from year to year. Schedule strong nonconference, and we did that. So, we are happy to be here in Oxford and playing in this year's regional tournament. I believe in our team. We could warm up and make some noise here. We are looking for a good start tomorrow night.
(experience with a lot of seniors)
I think that is a good one because it is why the expectations were high for this year's team. We carry a lot of guys with experience and with regional-play experience. But, they have also had experience with success at this level. We went into this season having lost a couple of juniors and a couple people here today that we thought we might lose to last year's draft, but fortunately we kept them in school. Because of those factors, we had high expectations for our season. Our schedule was a tough one and these guys played well throughout it. When you look at our numbers, our numbers match up favorably with anyone. but we've just been a little inconsistent with our play. Hopefully we can lean on the experience of our seniors, their leadership, their successes, and have a good tournament this week.
First base/pitcher Josh Dew: On making the NCAA Tournament after losing in the conference tournament
Honestly I thought the season might be over with. I knew we were on the bubble. I thought it was the end of my college career. I'm kind of like a man on a mission. I'm not ready for it to end. I definitely want to get back out there and do what I've done all year long. This is like the beginning of a new season. We know what's right in front of us and we're going to accept the challenge. We're ready to get out there and play.
RHP, Clegg Snipes (game one starter) on the pitching staff
We've had struggles for most of the year, but we've had a lot of great performances as a team. In the regional our pitching staff has to step up and lead the team.
Pierce on success against Southern Miss
I think you can look at that a couple different ways. They swept us last year during the regular season. And our team was pretty motivated by the time the regional came around to play our best against Southern Miss. And those were some tough hard-fought close games. Then, we beat them in another low-scoring, tough game in Dothan (Ala.) this year so when you say whose team is more motivated than the other, I don't know that anyone is during a regional. Everybody wants to advance, but the shoe is on the other foot now. We had some additional motivation last year and maybe they do this year. Our team and their experience, I don't know that you need additional motivation. These guys all want to play in the College World Series. The only way to get there is through this regional tournament and for any team that gets hot or catches a break at the right time, tournament play can come down to whoever is hottest.
1B Clint Robinson on Troy's tough schedule:
We're playing in a regional now where everybody is 0-0. We're going to be playing against what the higher-ups in the NCAA think are the best teams in the country. By playing the Coastal Carolinas, the Arkansas and all the SEC teams we played, that just makes it a little bit easier walking into a big stadium and big atmosphere like this. It makes it easier to deal with instead of having all the nerves. We can say, ‘Hey, we've been here before. Let's just go and play ball.'
Robinson on picking up teammates when everything isn't working.
Sometimes you feel that way, but really our inconsistency, other than the physical stuff, it's also been a mental thing. We kind of go out there and say so-and-so is not hitting, so we try to up it a little bit. We need to pick each other up and try to play together instead of one person doing it all, putting it all on Josh in the ninth inning. We've got to make it to where our offense scores runs for our pitchers and they keep runs off the board for us, because momentum swings are a big thing in a tournament like this. You've got to keep momentum on your side to get through it.
Pierce on Dew:
He throws strikes. He's got a good fastball with a little run. His slider is his out pitch, and he's been able to add a change-up to counter left-handed hitters. He competes hard. I think that's probably his best attribute. He's a competitive person that wants the ball in his hand with the game on the line.
Dew on his game plan:
I am definitely not one of the pitchers that tries to get the hitter to put the ball in play on the first pitch. Anyone that gets up there, my goal is to strike them out. Last year, I struggled with lefties a lot. But this year I changed by getting two different sliders—one for lefties and one for righties. And I developed a change up. I don't pitch around. I go right at them and put the ball in his hands.
Robinson on Dew:
It's definitely a good feeling (to have him out there). You always say you want to be on your toes, but with Josh this year, you can afford to get back on your heels a little bit. It's a good feeling to know you have a guy out there that goes right at hitters and gets the job done for you. That is why we stress to get out and get the lead. Whether long or short, we know Josh is going to win for us.
Sam Houston State coach Mark Johnson opening statement
We are very glad to be here and to represent the Southland Conference. We think it is an outstanding conference, and we hope we can show that this weekend. We're a team that was a four seed in the conference tournament and came through, played well and won that conference. That is the reason we're here. We have 38 wins and have done some things well.
SS Jeffrey Holzback on the season not being a rebuilding year.
Coach Johnson immediately called us when he got the job back in July. He made a full day of phone calls and spoke to everyone of us. The seniors are very excited to be a part of this last season with Coach Johnson. We knew of the things that coach would be able to bring to the table because of his previous years of coaching. It has been exciting. It's definitely a great year for the seniors and a run for all of us. Me being a fifth-year guy it has been a unique opportunity for me to go out like this.
Johnson on first year with a new program
I don't think I would give up any of my years of coaching for this year that I had with these young men. It's been a special year and a blessing for me. I have coached 38 years now, and there are a lot of those teams, and some of them have gone to Omaha, but this is a special group and a smart group. They hadn't experienced a winning season or gone to the tournament, but we got the seniors together, and they have been very receptive. They have a lot of want to and a lot of skill. I had one year left at A&M, and I felt like I wanted to stay in coaching. I am a man of faith, and I thought that is what God was laying on my heart. This was a great match-up at Sam Houston State.
Johnson on confidence in closer Luke Prihoda
I think we have gone to Luke in 33 ballgames. We play a seven-inning game and we knock on Luke's door. He has answered the call just big time for us. It really makes it a lot easier when you have a guy that can control the outcome of games. The players believe in him, and he believes in himself. Luke's been a prominent part of almost all of our success. We don't blow people out so we knock on his door quite a bit, and he loves the role. He has a passion for that role. I think he would get bored if I had him starting.
Prihoda on the length of his outings
My longest outing has been six innings, but three or four, depending on what they need me for. If the game goes in extras, I don't like to give up the ball once I get it. I like to keep it and go until the game is over. Whatever they need me for, I am there.
Johnson on Friday night starter Jacob Howard
In the fall, he was just ok and we weren't sure where he would fit in. He has gotten better each week and last time was his best outing. We used him twice in the tournament and he did well in both of them. He's not a power pitcher, but he can run it up there and keep people honest. He's a movement type pitcher that can make it move both ways. He is a competitor. He has pride and will bring his stuff out there Friday night. If it is good enough, fine. If it is not then fine, but he will bring his stuff.
OF Bobby Verbick on playing in front of a large crowd
I am sure we'll all be nervous at the start, but then once we get into the game, we'll be fine. Some of us have transferred in from other schools, so we are used to a crowd like this. That will help. Once you get into the game, it's just like any other game. You just do what you know how to do.
Holzback on learning from Johnson about the regionals
To take your stuff out there and know that you can compete with anyone else. You can't get too high or too low. Playing in a small conference like the Southland, you're not going to be used to seeing several thousand fans at the game. We've seen some big crowds playing mid-week games at Rice or Texas A&M, some of the bigger schools that attract crowds. It can either help your level of play or change things, depending on how you react to the fans and the atmosphere. If we just keep our eyes on our goal for this weekend, and don't let outside forces take hold, we'll be ok.
Holzback on being in Oxford
When we were watching the selection show on Monday, we were all very surprised. When we saw that we were paired up with Ole Miss our jaws dropped at first. Right after that, we were like alright, lets go play ball. We knew it was going to be a long drive, but it feels good to get out of the state and see some other towns. Some of these guys got to play here in 2005 (when Ole Miss hosted Sam Houston state in a three-game series), but I had to take a medical redshirt so I wasn't able to come here. We were all kind of expecting to be in Texas somewhere, because that is where they've generally seed Southland teams. But we are excited to be here.
Prihoda on first time at a regional
I got some good advice from my brother, who played in the UT regional. He said ‘we belong here, don't just come in here being happy to be here.' We played well the whole year, and we played well in the (Southland) tournament. We belong here and we are here to try and shake things up. We are going to go out there and play our game and do what we do best, which is play small ball, pitch well and play good defense. We earned the right to be here. It's not just a fluke that we got here.
Press transcripts from Reb opponents
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