2015 Men's College World Series

Wednesday, June 24

Virginia 4 - Vanderbilt 2

Virginia


An Interview With:
COACH BRIAN O'CONNOR
NATHAN KIRBY
PAVIN SMITH
BRANDON WADDELL
KENNY TOWNS

THE MODERATOR: Representing Virginia, head coach Brian O'Connor, starting pitcher Brandon Waddell, third baseman Kenny Towns, first baseman Pavin Smith and relief pitcher Nathan Kirby. Coach, an opening statement.

COACH O'CONNOR: Well, it will be simple. I'm just so proud of these guys, these four guys sitting here and all their teammates. They hung together all year and certainly got to this postseason. And it's just amazing what a group of guys that stay together and play for each other and pick each other up and don't give up can accomplish. And certainly we're very, very proud of this championship and feel very, very fortunate. And I said it out on the field, Vanderbilt's all class. Their team sat in that dugout for the entire presentation. And that's certainly a classy program, and they do it right. And we just feel fortunate that we found a way. And Kenny Towns stepped up and Waddell and Kirby and Smith and so many different guys playing great defense. And certainly this is a championship that, our first, and one that these guys will never forget.

THE MODERATOR: Questions.

Q. Brandon, after the first inning, Vanderbilt knocks you for two runs, what did you do to kind of settle down? What did you do to get yourself back into that groove?
BRANDON WADDELL: It's just a matter of taking a breath, getting your mind right, kind of simplifying things. I knew what I had to do. So it's a matter of going out there and executing. So I got focused back on those things. I knew 2-0 wasn't going to be the final score. I knew our offense was going to score, you know they were going to put up some runs. So at that point it was a matter of trying to keep them to two, keeping our team in the ballgame as long as I could.

Q. Brian, going off the question about Brandon, I guess kind of what was going through your mind in that first inning, and as you watched Brandon, like Haseley, go inning after inning with those zeros, just talk about his performance, talk about that.
COACH O'CONNOR: First of all, coming into this game I knew we'd get his best. How he's pitched in this championship two years in a row is pretty special and doesn't really happen. And so I knew he was going to give us everything he had. Certainly the first inning you could tell that he was up in the zone. And they did a nice job of executing and getting the hits that it took to score a couple of runs. And he made an adjustment. He made an adjustment immediately in the second inning to get the ball down in the zone, and he went back to doing what he's done since he's been here in changing speeds and locating the ball. And I was just amazed that he was able to give us seven innings, but that was it. He had done his job. He had done everything that he could do. And certainly he'll go down as one of the great ones that's ever pitched in this program, and as big a game pitcher as you get.

Q. Kenny, what was the effect in the dugout of the team of Pavin's home run, to go from down 2-0 to suddenly tied?
KENNY TOWNS: Yeah, just him with that big swing, it gets a lot of energy in the dugout, too. You tie the ballgame up, you get some momentum. We got some other guys on base that inning. We didn't score again but it just kind of got the team up, got our spirits up a little bit. And we were able to put together some quality innings after that.

Q. Nathan, it seemed like they had a lot of trouble with your slider here today. What was different for you today versus a couple of days ago? Did you feel like you had a better feel for that pitch in particular?
NATHAN KIRBY: A couple days ago I felt like I was learning to ride a bike again, especially being out here in front of this big a crowd as we had and as great a team as Florida was. But tonight, starting and coming in for relief are two different things, I knew this was the last six outs of the season and I was going to go out and give it everything I could.

Q. Brian, can you put into perspective what teams like North Carolina, Georgia Tech, all ACC schools that tried to win this championship, but for the first time in 60 years Virginia has done it in the ACC?
COACH O'CONNOR: Well, I knew that question was coming, certainly, because a lot's been made of it. And it's amazing the text messages I received over the last couple of days from other coaches in our league rooting us on. But we've never discussed in our program about one league against another or us trying to so-called as a league getting over this hump and winning a national championship. There's great programs in our league. You mentioned a couple. And there's many, many more that have been here, been in this position and could have very easily done what we did, and there will be many more after us. And our conference is a year in, year out, an outstanding conference with great coaches and great players and committed administrations. And I think you'll see more teams up here out of our league sitting on here with the national championship trophy. I'm proud that we did it.

Q. Coach, I remember seeing you pitch at Southwest Missouri State in 1992 and having a Harley T-shirt underneath your jersey and all that. Thinking back to those days, did you ever dream you would be coaching? Was that a goal of yours to win a national championship way back then? Did you think about coaching and what it would be like to be where you are at now? Was that always kind of your dream?
COACH O'CONNOR: I wish I still had that T-shirt. But, no, I'll tell you, I've been really, really fortunate to be around a couple of really great leaders and men. And I knew when I was in college and I was around my college coach, Jim Hendry, the coach of Creighton, and the impact that he made on me. I knew that this is what I wanted to do. Never thought of winning the national championship. Just thought of trying to put together the best program you can possibly put together, and give guys like these guys sitting up here a great experience for them to be able to develop their talents and enjoy being around each other. And never thought about winning a title. Never really got consumed with it and just tried to do over the years to make the right decisions by the players. But I knew in college that this is what I wanted to do and that's because of Jim Hendry.

Q. Kenny, if you could just -- what will you remember most about what this coaching staff has done for you guys this year, the way they've held you guys together through the ups and downs? What stands out to you the most about what they've done for this team?
KENNY TOWNS: Obviously they've done a lot for us this year. But the one thing that Coach O'Connor and the other coaches kept preaching to us is you've just got to grind through it. We had a lot of ups and down, as you mentioned, during this year, but they didn't expect less out of us. They kept their expectations high on us, and just told us to grind it out. And I think going through those ups and downs we were kind of able to become a tougher team, a more resilient team. And I think that showed for us in the postseason, and obviously it started from the coaches kind of passing it down to us.

Q. Pavin, the wind at this park has been dramatically different sometimes from day to day. From the way it was blowing today, did you have a feeling when you got up that if you got a piece of it it might go out?
PAVIN SMITH: I wasn't thinking about trying to hit a home run. I was just trying to get on base, trying to extend the inning, trying to keep the rally going. When I hit it, I knew the wind was blowing out and I was just, like, telling it to go.

Q. Nathan, first were all five of your strikeouts on sliders? And secondly when you went out with the lat strain, did you ever fear that you might not be able to pitch again this season? And could you describe the emotions you felt when you were first sidelined to you come back and you close out the national championship game?
NATHAN KIRBY: I believe they were. I can't remember. It went really quickly. When I came out that game, I didn't think it was going to be serious, because I turned around and I was still throwing strikes and still throwing my normal speed. But the doc came back and said it was going to be six to eight weeks. I talked to the coaches and to the trainer and they were all very supportive. But it is what it is. It's baseball. It's what we sign up for. But if they told me that if we were here and six to eight weeks later that I would have a chance, and I told them I'd be ready.

Q. Brian, I remember talking to you after Brian Boland won his first NCAA championship, and you said that you had felt that it would happen for him eventually and you had told him that. Did you feel the same thing for yourself, that if you kept knocking and kept getting back to Omaha that eventually you'd break through?
COACH O'CONNOR: Well, Jeff, we've talked a lot as coaches in this program and to the players amongst all of us about consistency, you know, give yourself a chance every year to play in the NCAA Tournament. And if you do that every year, then you've got a chance to move forward and things. I remember those conversations that our tennis coach, Brian Boland, and I had, we were next door neighbors, and actually learned a lot from him, getting to the national championship and not winning it and then finding a way. And so those conversations to me personally were very valuable. And I think those lessons that you learn as a coach you're able to mold how you're going to handle your team when you get to this situation. And these guys couldn't have handled it better.

Q. For the players who were here last year, when you think back to sitting in that dugout, watching Vanderbilt celebrate on the field in front of you, contrast it to where you are right now, does it make it sweeter, do you think?
BRANDON WADDELL: You know, I can picture that exact thing happening, and I pictured it for a while after it did happen. It's something that's tough. And it's something that takes a while to get over. But at some point you've got to go back to work. You've kind of gotta delete it. Take the experience and the lessons learned and go out and try to get back the next year. So we worked really hard in the offseason. We tried -- basically everything came together as a team. And to have the opportunity to get back, I'm not going to say it makes it sweeter, but it's just you know what the other side is like. So it's just a matter of going out there and trying to flip that around and using that experience and lessons you learned to be successful in the same stage.

NATHAN KIRBY: I think last year it was sad to see the guys that had put three years and four years before us go. And I think the thing that was really gratifying to me was knowing that we were playing not only for the guys on the team and the coaching staff and the fans but for everyone that's walked between the lines before us in this program. And I think that was probably the most gratifying thing is knowing that all our hard work and their hard work paid off because they passed down a lot what we've learned and a lot of what the experiences the coaches have had and gone through have taught us, so I think that was probably the most gratifying thing.

KENNY TOWNS: I mean, yeah, I don't think anything can make a national title sweeter. But it was just nice to be able to get done with this group of guys, obviously there's been a lot of guys who have been in this -- I mean last year guys were in this position to win a national championship and it didn't go our way. But just being able to get another crack at it this year and just kind of a coincidence that it happened to be against Vanderbilt. It's just incredible to be able to get it done this year.

Q. Coach, going into the regional tournament as the lower seed, did you even -- how did you get your team kind of motivated and did you imagine yourself being in the College World Series, back to back title match with Vanderbilt?
COACH O'CONNOR: No, but I've just never thought that way. I've never tried to predict the future and coach your team by predicting the future. I and the other coaches know what these guys that wear our uniform are made of. We were confident that they weren't going to go away and they weren't going to stop fighting. And we certainly found a way to get ourselves in the NCAA Tournament. And we talked a lot about it as a team, about just having the opportunity to compete again, that they earned this right, and just tried to simplify it as much as possible, because I think if you think about it, a big thing like trying to get to Omaha, trying to win a national championship, it's just way too much. This game is just incredibly hard to play. And if you put those kind of pressures on you, it's tough. And hey, not many people thought that this could happen. I think my brother told me this afternoon the odds in Vegas today were 310 to 1 that we'd win this thing. So I don't know, I'm just proud of these guys that they just hung in there. And it's an unbelievable example to people that if you stay together as a group, if you've got a group of guys that work hard, a group of guys that really love each other and care about each other and are passionate about what they're trying to accomplish and just fight and won't go away -- certainly you need some breaks, and we had breaks in this, in Omaha. But I'm proud of them and couldn't have forecasted it, but we're darned glad we're sitting up here with this trophy.

THE MODERATOR: On behalf of the NCAA I'd like to congratulate Virginia winning the 2015 College World Series.
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