Wednesday, June 3, 2009

INCREDIBLY INSPIRATIONAL AND ACCOMPLISHED UVA BASEBALL TEAM ENLIGHTENS AND ENTERTAINS LOCAL MEDIA

(Yesterday, a founding and valuable member of the T.A.H. Society was disappointed by the lack of depth of T.A.H.’s coverage of his beloved Wahoo baseball team’s upset of the nationally ranked U.C. Irvine Anteaters in the first round of the NCAA baseball tournament.

He was right, and we were wrong.

To repent and set the world right, the month of June will now be T.A.H. UVA Baseball Month. Enjoy!)


The Virginia baseball team met with the media Tuesday in preparation for its trip to the NCAA Oxford Super Regional Friday through Sunday to face Ole Miss. The series begins with a 2 p.m. Friday game, followed by a noon game on Saturday. If necessary, the teams will face off at 3 p.m. Sunday for the right to go to the College World Series.

Coach Brian O'Connor on the rarity of having a senior as an impact player: “The ones who are highly thought of by the professional people typically move on to professional baseball after their junior year. Andrew [Carraway] was very highly thought of during the draft last year, but he was so committed to finishing his degree here first, living on the lawn, and having the total experience that he wanted to see this thing through. Right now we are reaping the benefits of that.”

On facing an SEC team with a strong ERA: “Ole Miss has had one of the better consistent college baseball programs in this country for the last decade. They are very talented. To win their division of the SEC is not an easy thing to do. They have done it and they have a great college baseball program. I know they have a number of pitchers that have really good arms, and you better to have the kind of numbers they do on that stat sheet. We are going to face some great pitching, but we have faced that great pitching in our league every weekend.”

On the impact of playing all of the post season games on the road: “When you play at home, all the pressure is on you because you are supposed to advance. There was a tremendous amount of pressure on Irvine this weekend – they were the number one team in the country, they were hosting the regional, and everybody just assumes that because you host, you are supposed to move on. Are the odds a lot greater that when you do host a Super Regional you move on? Sure, six out of eight teams every year in Omaha host Super Regionals, but for this team, I think it is good that we are going on the road. They have had that attitude all year long that they have something to prove and I think they are comfortable away from here. I don’t think that there is anything they will back down from and this weekend is no different."

On being the visitor deeper in the tournament: “The advantage of playing it home is you get to sleep in your own beds, get dressed in your own clubhouse, an play on the field you have played on all year. This weekend there will be 10,000 fans. I think it is one of the top two environments in college baseball – obviously a real advantage for Ole Miss. With that comes pressure. Our team... has been a lot more relaxed than their coach has, and they are the ones who have to do the playing. Hopefully going on the road and trying to prove ourselves is going to be something that is beneficial.”

On the carryover of momentum from the Irvine Regional: “Confidence in the game of baseball is everything because it is completely built around failure. So if you believe in yourself and your team, you have accomplished a big part of the challenge. We are playing our best baseball at the most important time of the year and I think our confidence is at an all time high. It is not misplaced confidence because of what we knew coming out of the ACC Tournament and what we knew coming out of Irvine. What we accomplished in Irvine is something really special that they won’t forget immediately and they won’t forget for the rest of their lives.”

John Hicks on being poised as freshmen: “We have been put in these situations our whole baseball career. I think all of us played travel ball. Especially in the fall with the Blue and Orange World Series, the coaches put all the freshmen in situations where they need to come up big for their team. We all believe that when we get in the box or on the mound that we are going to come up for the team. We all believe in each other.”

On the difference between this freshman class and freshmen across the country: “I think that fall practice has a lot to do with it. Putting yourself in situations where you are usually not going to feel comfortable so that you can feel comfortable in that later.”

On maintaining focus on this season as opposed to looking to greatness in the future: “We don’t even think about it. We know that ages don’t matter. We are all pretty good ballplayers and can perform when we are called on.”

Kevin Arico on helpful advice received: “I’ve gotten a lot of good advice, talking about being one guy on the mound and being another guy off the field – that guy to your teammates. What you really need to do is show them for two innings like it was.”

On the mentality while getting ready: “We have worked so hard to find the rhythm. What I do now – it’s working.”

On the impact of Valdes on the staff: “He is the emotional leader, that guy behind the plate. Day in and day out he gets the job done for us. He brings the energy that we always need, pulling [Andrew] Carraway through seven innings against the number one team in the country and then pulling me through the last two innings. He is the staple of our bullpen, pulling everybody through without a doubt.”

Keith Werman on new-found playing time: “I got some opportunities to play and I took advantage of them, just let it happen.”

On the impact of the freshman class on the team: “We look forward to having this opportunity to come out and see what we can do. We obviously have the talent despite the age that we are. It is all about execution, making pitches, and playing defense. It’s going really well for everybody.”

On the impact of such a grand stage: “The experience is definitely something new. It is being around a big crowd. Just being around it, I am thankful for it. It is one of those opportunities in life that few people get to experience. To take advantage of it and do as well as we have is unbelievable. It’s a great feeling.”

Danny Hultzen on finding time at first base: “I was recruited definitely as a pitcher. Coach [Kuhn] came to see me pitch and that was definitely how I got here, but I guess I hit pretty well that game he came to see. Once I came here to talk about recruiting, they asked me if I thought I could hit here, and honestly, I didn’t think I was able to. I didn’t have the confidence that I do now in my hitting. Once fall ball started, they gave me a chance to hit and I guess I proved myself against our pitching in batting practice. From there, I worked my way into starting at first base.”

On the impact of playing the field on pitching: “During batting practice, I don’t take as many rounds, I don’t base run as much. I save my energy for the days I pitch. The day to day process of playing the field and pitching takes a toll on you, so I try to prevent that as much as possible.”

On following in the steps of Sean Doolittle: “I have not [ever met him]... but he set the standard. A lot of guys have been two-way players, but he is the kind of guy that I wanted to model myself after. He pitched on Friday nights and was able to play first base the next day. Being able to play both positions has been great – a lot of fun.”

On winning an ACC Championship as a freshman: “It is awesome. It has been a great experience. I don’t think it has sunk in for a lot of us. A UVa team hasn’t done that in a while and no UVa team has gotten to where we are right now. It’s been great.”

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