Kentucky-Indiana Postgame Quotes
Monday, June 5, 2023
Lexington, Kentucky, USA
Coach Nick Mingione
Postgame Press Conference
Kentucky – 4, Indiana – 2
Q. When Coach Roszel came out for the mound visit in the first, was there anything different that maybe he told you that he wouldn’t normally have, or was there anything special to it or just normal?
DARREN WILLIAMS: I think it was more Devin getting after me, firing me up, because it was a big situation, man, and just settled down, execute pitches, try not to do too much was the message. Stuff’s good enough, just execute.
Q. You just looked at Risedorph and smiled. I don’t know what he looked at, but when you looked at your line, has the moment hit you what you did this weekend? You probably put together one of the gutsiest pitching performances in this program’s history. With Friday and today what would you say (indiscernible)?
MASON MOORE: I was just out there throwing. I knew I had a job to do. And we knew they’d be attacking early, swinging early. I have trust, I have faith in the defense. I knew my job was to go out there, attack the strike zone, let our defense make plays.
Q. Thinking back to last year, postseason play seems to click with you. What makes you shine in these situations?
DEVIN BURKES: Just gotta put it all out there. It’s my favorite time of the year. It’s make it or break it. You don’t have time to sit there think about stuff. Just go out there and play every day.
Q. Mason, you said on Friday about how you were starting to get tired, you felt the crowd pumping you up. You’re out there today in front of the largest crowd in Kentucky baseball history. How did that feel to advance to the Super Regional in front of that crowd?
MASON MOORE: Like Gillie said yesterday, we don’t do tired. I know I wasn’t 100 percent tonight. I knew I had one job and that was to go out there and give my best effort with the defense I had behind me. I had no worries they’d make every play. And that was my mindset to go out there and just give the best performance I can for the team.
Q. Devin and Hunter, there’s that adage about (indiscernible) order seeing a guy. Their starter really frustrated you guys the first two trips here (indiscernible). Was there a time when (indiscernible) at that point you see something you thought you could break through on?
HUNTER GILLIAM: Yes. So all the credit to that guy. He was really good. He competed with a bunch of pitches in the zone. And I think the third time through, you put in so much time and you put in so much work — and Devo is the king of work. And we get after it.
It was just I think good things happen to good people and we both got good swings off in a big-time moment. It was good to see.
Q. Devin, you said earlier in the week you weren’t aware this Regional was double-elimination format. Now that you’re the MVP of that format how do you feel? And are you aware Super Regionals are two out of three?
DEVIN BURKES: Yeah, I mean, you know what I’m saying? I’m just trying to come through for my team. That’s all it is. That’s all you’ve got to do in big situations. But yeah, it’s fun. It’s fun.
Q. You hit the ball well yesterday, obviously. What do you feel like you all learned from that in terms of (indiscernible) with a different pitcher, different coach?
DEVIN BURKES: Like Gillie said that guy was pretty good. He was throwing all three pitches for strikes. Kind of the same thing as that Ball State pitcher. He pitched really well, threw a lot of things in the zone.
You’ve got to get your timing a little off, get you to roll over and pop up. Just grinding away, grinding away and getting a pitch, not necessarily that you can do damage with, but just put the barrel on.
And obviously me and Gillie and a couple of other people just came through with clutch hits.
Q. Mason, can you talk a little bit about the energy in the crowd? Looked like they were trying to lift you a little bit.
MASON MOORE: Yeah, especially at the end of the game when I was pushing 70 pitches. It’s nice having a crowd being able to show out again. It just gave me the energy to want to keep going.
I knew we had guys in the bullpen warming up. But with the crowd behind me it gave me the confidence to want to go out there and complete the game for us.
Q. One time I looked up you were in the dugout (indiscernible) how much fun were you guys having? How much easier does it make you in games when you’re having fun not stressing out?
HUNTER GILLIAM: I was enjoying watching Byers get thrown in the air myself. I’ve never seen anything like that before but the vibes in the dugout were unbelievable.
I mean we got a group of just really good friends up there. We aren’t ready to be done playing with each other yet. So it’s super fun.
Q. Coach gave you a moment at the mic there in front of the fans. How much does it mean to this program, how special you guys are heading to supers?
DARREN WILLIAMS: Like Coach said, it’s like what we talked about day one. Just not being a good team, as being one of the best teams. And being our best in June.
And it means the world. This program means the world to me. They’ve taken me in. And I give the credit to Coach Minge. He lets the guys in the locker room, these four guys up here, just control the locker room, be the voice in the locker room.
And I love every teammate that I’ve had this year and last year. I could go through every single one of them. The program means the world, fans mean the world. I couldn’t be happier of the decision I made to come to Kentucky.
COACH MINGIONE: That’s a Kentucky boy right there. That’s what it’s about right there.
Q. The Supers — redshirt freshman.
DARREN WILLIAMS: Back in the day.
Q. Finishing things up — could you even put in words how poetic this is for you that now you’re going to go to where you (indiscernible)?
DARREN WILLIAMS: Yeah, man, I’m at a loss for words. I mean, it’s the goal, it’s the dream, it’s right there on the wall.
Omaha, you’re two wins away now. And you go back, like we talked about last week, I think, all the 6:00 a.m. workouts, everything I did last summer through rehab. The gruelling practices in the fall where I was out here not throwing that day. And all I could do was cheer these guys on to get better.
This moment right here, worth every single thing I’ve done the last seven years, every single thing. Every tough outing, every gritty one like this one tonight. Every great outing.
For that dogpile right there. That means the world, man. So hopefully we can do it one more time.
Q. What did you learn from that first series at LSU (indiscernible)?
DEVIN BURKES: Just compete as hard as we can. They’re a good team. We’re also a good team. Just compete. At the end of the day it’s not about nothing else. The best team that wins. It’s the team that plays the best, not the best team that wins.
It’s just compete, like I said, that’s the biggest thing, compete and have fun.
Q. This is a group that signs every autograph after every game but you were able to run around the stadium high five everybody that you met. What’s that like, world record almost?
HUNTER GILLIAM: That was one of the coolest things I’ve ever done. Just going by and seeing everyone, their reactions and just how much this meant to everyone else.
And it’s been unbelievable for me to be here. And transfer-portal guy, who never got a chance to play in the postseason ever. I never played in a conference tournament before. Nothing.
And we just won a Regional in front of all those people. And it’s just so cool. I know the portal is crazy right now. And these coaches do such a good job bringing in good people and good players.
And there’s no reason that anyone in the portal who gets a call from these people shouldn’t want to come here.
Q. You pitched four strong innings. You go out. Mason comes in. He looks so confident. What do you say to him? Are you talking to him in between innings? What’s going on there?
DARREN WILLIAMS: I probably talked to Mason more than anybody in the world the last four months. We room together on the road. He’s like a little brother to me.
So I was calm. Whenever Mason comes in the game, I’m calm. He’s got some of the best pitches in the entire country, not just this team, not just this league, not just this tournament — the country. I think he’s going to be a Big Leaguer one day.
And, man, you’ve just got to fire him up and make sure he was on his game. And he was. I think all three of us every single inning was going up asking him if he was tired, slapping him on the chest. We were pulling him through as much as he was pulling the rest of the team through tonight. We were calm with Mason in that game, just like we will be next weekend.
Q. The offensive guys, Indiana were very complimentary of Mason’s stuff, and you guys rolling — you competed against them in the fall (indiscernible) is that a pretty good description (indiscernible)?
HUNTER GILLIAM: We actually had inner squad a few weeks — last weekend, after we came back from Hoover, and I told Mason he could sleep good that night knowing he didn’t have to face me that weekend. But it was really me sleeping good, knowing that I didn’t have to face him (laughter).
COACH MINGIONE: Thank you for being here. Obviously a special night. And it doesn’t happen with a lot of people. And especially thankful for Mr. Barnhart and Dr. Capilouto and everyone for building that stadium.
That is what we dreamed and hoped of one day, that we would see all those people in there. Our student-athletes would get a chance to celebrate and win a championship. So I’m super thankful for them and proud of our team.
Q. You got your dogpile that you’ve talked about before, (indiscernible) momentum to 2017, a long time ago. It was the same road as 2017 winning three in a row. Just how poetic is that?
COACH MINGIONE: That’s my favorite thing to do as a coach. This team was built a long time ago. When you think about recruiting in baseball, guys commit when they’re freshmen in high school, and sophomores. And to have all those guys come through and deliver in that moment and watch them celebrate, it doesn’t get any better as a coach because they’re the ones that have made the pitches. They’re the ones that have made the plays. They are the ones that went to the workouts. They’re the ones that went to class. They’re the ones that do it.
And when you get a chance to just see pure joy, it’s one of the best feelings as a coach. That’s the only thing you could ever hope for on a field is to watch your team celebrate. And I was soaking it in. And I was loving every second of it.
Q. What do you feel like you learned about your guys this weekend that maybe you didn’t see in the conference tournament or even late in the season? What did they reveal about their resilience or just knowledge of the game?
COACH MINGIONE: Well, I don’t know if this is something that I learned about them because I knew after the fall that we had a team that could compete for a championship. The thing that I’m super thankful for — and you heard them talking about throwing up Evan Byers. And I’m thankful that they got to a spot that they could let loose and just play free. Because we’re talented enough.
But the fact that they could just take a deep breath and just — sometimes you’ve got to stop caring so much, to where it’s like it doesn’t constrict you.
And Mr. Barnhart’s message about a month ago, about taking off the shackles and going for it. We’re going for it. Towards the end of the year we were pressing some at times but we did not press. They just kind of let loose and they went for it. So I was thankful that they were able to do that.
Q. Darren was able to get out of that bases loaded, nobody-out jam only allowing one. And Mason had the second and third, one out, didn’t give up anything. Just the jobs they were able to do in those two innings specifically?
COACH MINGIONE: When you sit there and you think about anytime you can have the bases loaded and no outs and you only give up one run that is a victory for the defense. And they had another time they got third base, no outs and didn’t score.
So our ability to minimize — Darren, he’ll keep you on the edge of your seat, won’t you? We’re at UT a couple weeks ago, it’s like, man, he’ll keep you on there.
But he gave us everything he had. What a warrior. What a warrior Darren Williams is. And Mason was fantastic.
Q. What about Devin makes him thrive in these situations (indiscernible) just the way he played all weekend?
COACH MINGIONE: He’s a warrior. I’ve got to tell you something about Devin Burkes. At the end of the fall we do meetings at the beginning and at the end of every fall. And sometimes in the middle.
But we basically explained to him that he had won the catching job and that we would still catch two catchers. We would want him to be fresh for late in the year. Hey, look, there’s a chance you could lose that job, but as of today — and one thing we asked him to do, hey, when we come back in the spring, Devin, I think it would be a really good idea for you to just swing by and pop in the offices every day just to say hi.
If there’s anything, you’re going to help Coach Roszel lead the pitching staff. If there’s something he needs to share with you or whatever, it’s totally up to you, you don’t have to. But if you choose you should pop by, totally up to you.
That guy’s come by our office every day. Every day that guy comes in and I hear him at the end of the hallway and he lights up the office with his, hey, what’s up? It’s, like, Coach, what’s up? Hey, Brock, Coach, what’s up?
And I’m like, all right he’s coming down. He makes his way. He stops at all the offices and he stops in my office and we spend time together every day. I’ve learned so much about him. Personally this guy, shhwew, this guy is different. Whew, even brought his mom by the office today. He literally brought his mom by the office today.
This guy is a winner and he cares and he wants to win. And, whew, he’s a special dude, a very special dude.
Q. Pitching staff, you had the 26 runs yesterday, but for the whole Regional you had two shutouts, you gave up just two runs tonight. Did you feel going into this season that you had this kind of staff?
COACH MINGIONE: We knew the strength of our staff was going to be the depth. And I kept getting those questions from a lot of you in February. And then we got into the couple weeks of March, and by the time we started up opening up SEC play it dawned on me that this was as deep a pitching staff as I’ve had here. That’s saying a lot because we’ve had a lot of really good arms.
So the depth of our pitching staff is definitely one of our strengths. There’s no way you come out of the losers’ bracket and to put up those few of runs, and you’re only going to do that with a really good defense. But our pitchers — Coach Roszel is a premier coach, everywhere he’s been. You go back, look at his track record.
He’s put together some really good staffs. You even heard Darren mention his name afterwards because of all the time and effort that he’s poured into our guys. It was definitely a good thing.
Q. Going back to Devin, he caught five games in this Regional, the last two days, hottest days of the year, and still produce like that with the bat, talk about doing that in these conditions.
COACH MINGIONE: It’s unreal. So towards the end of the year, they were in a stretch where he wasn’t getting as many hits. He wasn’t doing as well. And I had some people in my ear about, hey, I think Devin’s wearing down, he’s getting tired and these kind of things.
So you guys might laugh at this, but I said, Devo, one of his days in my office — I was, like, Dev, I got a bunch of people in my ear telling me that you’re tired. Like, I don’t know, like, you ain’t hitting as good. What do you want me to tell these people? Because I can’t tell you how many people are telling me this.
He goes, you tell them that a tired catcher don’t steal bases. I stole four bases last week. Do you think my legs are tired? Yes, sir, I’ll tell them. (Laughs).
He’s like this guy — and I went up to him yesterday. I said, hey, you’re going to have to catch 18 innings. Devin, I want you to know I told our staff you’re from the state of Florida, you’ve played in a lot of double-headers, and I have total peace you’re going to dominate this. You’re going to take care of your body. I asked him about his hydration. I said, I just want you to know ahead of time, you are going to do awesome today. You’ve done this your whole life. This is no different. He’s like, Coach, I got this, I’m built for this. I said, you are, get ready. I’m coming, Coach, I’m coming.
Q. Just the fact that second Super Regional for Kentucky in history, you’ve been with both of them, has that sunk in yet? If not, when do you think it will. And you (indiscernible) 2017 what you guys did, winning the first game, losing the second game, winning three straight. Are there any parallels you see between those two clubs?
COACH MINGIONE: Let me answer the first one. Coach Madison, will you come up here, please? When I showed up in 2017, this man asked me — he said, Nick, if there’s ever anything I can do for you, will you please let me know, I’ll do whatever. And I said, Coach, you coached here 25 years. Nobody knows Kentucky baseball better than you. He said, Nick, I want to help. I want to serve, I’ll do whatever.
I said, Coach, what do you think about, like, doing a staff bible study? And he says, I’ll do it. And in 2016, it was the fall, he’s been leading our coaches in a bible study every week for seven years. And I’ll never forget this. And that very first time we ever met, in ’17, he told me — he said, Nick, if you do this, I’ll guarantee you you’ll have a great year.
I’m a first-time head coach. I’ve never been a head coach at any level. I’ve never been a T-ball head coach, a high school head coach, a summer ball head coach — Mitch Barnhart gave me an opportunity of a lifetime. And I perked up. I said, what do I have to do? Coach, I’m all ears.
He said, you have to do three things, Nick. He said, you have to pray for your players every day. You have to pray for your staff and you have to pray for your players’ parents.
If you do that, I guarantee you, you will have a great year. And I’ve done my best job to try to do that. And we’ve had good years. We’ve had some years — we had one really, really bad year, record-wise.
But we’ve been really close. Two out of three years we’ve been one or two games short. And the parallels — we have a group of people that have prayed. I’ve got a list of people here. I believe in the power of prayer.
My wife has prayed for seven straight years. Her sisters at BSF and her prayer warriors, they pray. Mitch, Connie, Coach, Miss Sharon, Mac, Kirby, Aaron, Jason, Ryan, Matt, KG, Nathaniel, Austin, Mimi, Chris, Glen, Bo, Clayton, Nicki, Jim, Matt, Rick, Matt, Joy, Jason, Sean, Eddie.
He told me last year, he said, all right, Nick, here’s what you need to do. You need to find seven people to pray for you and your program and your players every day. And I made my rounds and I called people.
So the parallels is God has had his hands all over this. Two tough teams that want to do everything they can for Kentucky. And, Coach, I could not do this without you.
Thank you. Give it up for Coach Madison for 25 years. He deserves this.
He’s been doing this for seven years, he’s been keeping me straight.
Q. Mason his performance this weekend has to be one of the gutsiest performances in a long time. What can you say about what he put together?
COACH MINGIONE: He’s special. And if you were to go back and look at our season, he’s right in the middle of a lot of our wins. And he’s super talented. The bowling ball is exactly what it’s like trying to hit it.
He throws it to both sides of the plate. All he’s done is get better since he’s been here. We talked about him on Friday night. It seems like every week, every day, he just keeps getting better.
He’s an unbelievable athlete. I told you guys about that about him, like dunking, doing everything, whew. And I’m thankful he’s a Wildcat. I believe what W said. He’ll be playing baseball a long time, to be able to manipulate the baseball the way he does and land multiple pitches for a strike, pretty special.
Q. You were talking about the last time guys did this in ’17. You had the thunderstorm and the rainbows in the ball park and staff cleaning off seats and all. This time you flat out asked the crowd to show. What did you think when you walked out there and saw that crowd (indiscernible)?
COACH MINGIONE: I’m just very thankful. One thing I will tell you about UK fans and the Big Blue Nation is they want to get behind you. They want to cheer for you. And they appreciate toughness. They appreciate hard work. They appreciate energy. They appreciate selflessness.
And I paused when I went out there earlier in the game and I was just thankful. I just did a look-around and I just saw all the people and I was just so very thankful.
And really happy for Mitch, too, because when you invest this kind of money and you do something like that, he’s the one that had the vision for this. We never had a stadium that big, never invested that amount of money into something for baseball.
And when you get an opportunity to win a championship and do that, I’m just really happy for him and his staff because they had the vision of this. They thought this was possible. And the fact that we were able to do it on our home field is pretty neat.
Our players — one thing I’ll say about the fans is, earlier in the year, when it’s really cold and there’s not as many people, a lot of times we have to create our own energy. And the fans created it for us. And that was special.
Q. The fans showing up, what you (indiscernible) how do you allow yourself, the players, to enjoy this versus like guys (indiscernible) that’s what we were here to do the Regionals to keep going?
COACH MINGIONE: That’s a really good question. And one thing we’ve told our team from day one is that every win and every loss has an expiration date. And they can celebrate and be happy today. But after tomorrow it expires. It’s over. And we’re back to zero.
And one thing I shared with our team this year I thought was really good. I don’t know where I learned this, but yesterday’s history, tomorrow is a mystery. Today is the present. That’s why they call it a gift. So let’s just stay right here in the right now.
Yesterday’s history, tomorrow’s a mystery, today is the present and it’s a gift. Let’s stay right here. That’s the good healthy place to be. But after midnight, this win expires and we’ve got to move on to the next thing.
And I think it’s a good example especially for young student-athletes, they have so many things going on in their lives. And there’s so many things and decisions they make every day. It just helps them stay grounded. And they’ve done a really good job of that.
Tonight we’ll celebrate. But then I even had one of my players come up to me, tomorrow, Coach, after midnight this is over. I’ve got day two lift tomorrow. Austin Strickland’s trying to get into the weight room. I’ll figure out the schedule. Haven’t done that yet.
Q. You talked about the first night in Baton Rouge earlier this year. You couldn’t prepare your guys for that. You’ve been there, you’re going back. How different is that going to be obviously having done that earlier this year?
COACH MINGIONE: Great team, great program. I know their head coach well. We’re good friends. He’s one of the premier coaches in the country.
I think anytime that you can go somewhere that you’ve already been, that definitely helps. And I told them, I don’t know how to prepare you to have 13,000 people go against you.
But we’ve been there. They have great fans. They’re great people. And it will definitely be a different environment now. It’s a really good one, but it will go up another level. But the fact that our guys have experienced that definitely helps.
Q. You talked a little bit earlier about taking the loss early on, having progressed through the bracket with one loss. Now that the dust is settled and you’re moving out of this region, you won the region. As you keep going through the postseason, (indiscernible) one of the best teams in the country, (indiscernible) were able to have their backs against the ropes. They have the pressure of the world but to be able to loose and calm put together such great performances and advance anyway?
COACH MINGIONE: That’s something to build upon. We’ve had our backs against the wall before. And to have to do that and win three straight games against really good teams. I mean, West Virginia and Indiana, you’ve heard me say it all week — those are really good teams and really well-coached teams. To be able to do that, and for them to know they’re two wins away from taking a picture in front of that, that’s where you’re supposed to go.
That’s why we have it in here as a constant reminder. Every detail in this facility was mapped intentionally. So every day they walk in, they come in that door, they see Kentucky, number one, and they see Omaha as they walk to their seats.
It was set up this way intentionally. They have two more wins where we get an opportunity to take a picture right there. So excited about the opportunity.
FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports
133642-1-1045 2023-06-06 02:57:00 GMT
Coach Jeff Mercer
Postgame Press Conference
Kentucky – 4, Indiana – 2
COACH MERCER: I thought we played really well. Really proud of the way we showed up today. We put a plan together, and the boys did a great job of executing that plan really down to just leaving some guys on base.
But everything else that we lined up the guys did an awesome job of. Sometimes baseball goes that way. But I thought we played really well, competed hard. I was really proud of them. May not be much of an opening statement, but that’s mine.
Q. Ty, there was a period this (indiscernible) where you didn’t pitch for a month, and then last outing you go five strong. May not have been the result you wanted but what did the outing mean to you?
TY BOTHWELL: It meant everything. Being in a hole in the beginning of the year, like, everything wasn’t working out right. But the fact that I was able to go out and compete and lay my heart out for this team meant everything to me.
Like, Hoosier born and raised. And I’ve loved these guys and this team. I’ve always been out there for the boys whenever I need it, or whenever they need me. And just to go out there and compete for my teammates and do what I could for as long as I could meant a lot to me.
And I’m just proud of the guys that I had behind me and how much everybody else competed and laid their heart out today, too.
Q. Ty, before the start you were interacting with fans, you were tossing balls. When did you know that you were going to start, and how were your emotions going into it?
TY BOTHWELL: I knew before the day, but baseball is a game. It’s a kids’ game that we’re playing. There’s no reason for me to treat the day differently than I’ve done any other day.
Being there for the kids, just like I would have when I was going around, going to games and stuff, I know how much it means to them. And I just try and treat it like it’s just another fun day out on the mound, like going out there and competing, that’s what comes next.
I’m able to kind of turn the switch a little bit. But the biggest thing for me is just being there for others, like no matter if it’s teammates or fans in the stands and helping out with the kids.
It kind of warms my heart. So there’s no other reason to ignore them. I’d rather be on their side and make sure another kid is having a good day and having fun than just kind of ignoring them. So I don’t know.
Q. After allowing a couple runs in the first couple of innings, how were you able to settle in and find your groove?
TY BOTHWELL: Just we talk about it a lot but we have a good offense, and I knew that at some point, like, the statistics show that our team was going to turn it on. And I knew that my team had my back, whether it be rain or shine, however I was throwing, that was irrelevant.
The fact that our guys have, day in and day out, like behind closed doors, I see them working every day. And I know like all that work is going to translate to the game.
And just knowing that our guys are behind each other in the biggest moments, like that’s all I needed to have in my head to be able to go out and compete.
Q. You gave up a single to start the game and a couple walks, then you retired 15 in a row, or 14 out of 15. Did it just take you a while to sort of relax and get command, or what do you think happened?
TY BOTHWELL: I don’t really know. Like I said, just the support from my teammates to back me up when I needed it, it just kind of translated over.
Q. Devin, the entire team has done (indiscernible) fouling off two-strike pitches. It’s something you’ve been doing really well all year. Could you talk about the team approach and what did you guys talk about going into this game?
DEVIN TAYLOR: We really established it before the season with Coach Mercer being the main one that’s expressing it every day — get to first base, hit by pitch, barely get a hit, get hit in the back, we get a little blooper, a chopper — our goal is to get to first base.
Of course if we hit home runs, woo hoo, we’re scoring, but first base is the goal and if we get bigger, then that’s even better.
Q. How much has this group of students, including Ty, meant to you guys?
BROCK TIBBETTS: Meant the world to us. We knew we had a younger group coming in. And they have just done an amazing job of mentoring all the older guys and being a great leadership component and just rallying all the younger guys behind them who didn’t maybe have this much experience as some of the older guys.
And such a great group of seniors, that I think I speak for everyone that we’re going to miss a whole lot.
DEVIN TAYLOR: Tagging onto that, Phil Glasser being the main position player that’s been helping us, he was my guidance when I first got into the summer.
Like I was, like, hip, hip, hooray, when he passed the draft and came back. I remember because Mercer FaceTimed him and I was really happy that I was going to have a mentor like him to come back. And it just really spiraled on after that.
Q. Devin, you got a taste of what this means and what you can do and kind of (indiscernible). Internalize that and take it to the next step, what do you feel you learned from this experience?
DEVIN TAYLOR: We experienced a really young team. Of course I’m one of the young ones, but we all know what this experience is. We’ve been here now, got this under our belt. But now we’re just going to embrace it, embrace this loss and then carry it on for motivation for next year with everything we’ve got, for sure.
Q. Your two-year (indiscernible) — postseason, year four to five, making it to the postseason. What’s that turn around experience been like for you?
BROCK TIBBETTS: It’s awesome. Winning is fun. Winning is more fun than losing. Whenever you can win a few games that definitely helps.
It goes back to the mentorship of the older guys, the belief from the coaching staff, the belief of all the guys and each other to just be able to put it all together and win a few more games than last year.
I think it just goes back to the fall. I just kind of felt something special kind of within the locker room. I think we all internally kind of felt it. Just kind of knew that this year was going to be a pretty special one.
And it sucks to end this way, but I think it’s been a pretty fun year.
Q. Going off that kind of building block (indiscernible) the select group, now you’re going to be one of the upperclassmen, what does that kind of mentality give you (indiscernible)?
BROCK TIBBETTS: Just staying the same that have been the last two years, and just kind of helping the younger guys the way the older guys helped all of us. And just kind of helping them to stay level-headed and just let them know that they put in the work, they put in the time. Once we get in the arena we’ll be able to have success.
Q. For a couple of years this program, when it had the good years, 2013-2019, by the end of the year — because baseball is the last thing going on — how you start to notice it becomes the big sport at IU, and then the last couple of years haven’t gone so well, so it hasn’t been in the mainstream IU discussion in the same way. But this year it’s been back into it with a big season this year. So how big is it to just get back in IU fans’ minds and have a big year and have a bright future after the last couple of seasons?
DEVIN TAYLOR: Like Coach Mercer brought us up after the game in the bullpen, he’s like we really changed this program. Which I really believe that. We’re one of the best teams, we made it far.
We were really good group of guys. We’ve all bonded the whole year, and made it better when we all bonded. Just using that like, it basically just makes it a lot more fun.
Q. Devin and Brock, this was the biggest crowd in Kentucky baseball history. Looked like it bothered you guys at all. What was it like in general to be part of this scene for college baseball, and did you feed off that energy?
BROCK TIBBETTS: Absolutely. It’s a lot of fun playing in front of all the fans. This is why you come to Indiana. This is why I feel like we all chose to come here and play for Coach Mercer and the rest of the coaching staff is to play in environments like this.
And this is just a little taste of postseason baseball that we all were able to get and just that little taste helps keep us hungry going into next year.
Q. Brock, you’ve been part of a big improvement last year to this year as a team. What have you taken from that and work on improving next year?
BROCK TIBBETTS: I would just say just staying consistent with kind of year to year and taking the knowledge that the older guys have instilled in us younger guys and kind of helping the next group of guys to come in just to get them back on the same track and kind of let them know that this is now the standard for Indiana baseball, and this is just a taste for what’s to come in the future.
Q. I notice in the dugout — (indiscernible) on one knee in that moment?
COACH MERCER: Terrible. Terrible. It’s awful. There’s a lot of great things about this job and that’s probably — that might be the worst. That sucks, to quote Brock. It does.
I mean, that guy gave his heart and soul, he gave everything he had. And I know at the end of the season everybody talks about stuff and how great guys are. And all of a sudden we lose the reality of what it actually means when you have a great leader.
Like everybody’s the best and everybody’s awesome and everybody works really hard and it’s like you lose the sense — it doesn’t mean anything anymore.
Except for that guy. That guy’s different. He’s different. He’s the most passionate. He’s the most focused. He’s the most motivated.
When guys get to their fifth year, this guy’s played every day for five years and turned the draft down two or three times. He’s played every day for five years, and he’s still the most motivated, laser-focused, dutiful player I’ve ever coached. It doesn’t happen. It’s not normal. He’s just wired different.
He’s elevated everybody else around him to be like that and to understand when you’re trying to explain what it’s like to work and to be invested and to be the absolute best that you can be at something, to pour all of yourself into something and you don’t have a role mold that says, that’s what it looks like, it’s really hard.
And you come across, as a coach, you come across that you’re asking something that’s outlandish or you’re asking for something that’s too much or it’s too hard.
Then you have a player like Phil, and it’s like he’s not supposed to be doing this. Like physically he doesn’t have the ability to do some of these things that he does but he’s so diligent and he works so hard.
And it’s, like, when you can say, be like Phillip Glasser. Work like that. Think like that. Be invested like that. It changes everything. And so that’s what is difficult. When you’re looking at this guy who is broken and now you have to try to console him in this moment and you know how much he’s invested and how much he’s given to everybody around him, and you just wanted to give him one more thing. You just wanted to give him one more.
It’s just I just wanted it for him. I wanted it for those guys. You wanted to send him away in his last college baseball game to go to a Super Regional. You wanted that. We got to a Super Regional you would say at the end of that I wanted one more game for Phillip Glasser to get to the World Series.
You’re selfish, you’re greedy. We all are. That’s what’s hard for him. I know how much he’s changed everybody around him, how much he’s blessed me to coach him. To see him hurt that, it hurts you as a coach because you love him and you care about him. And sometimes we throw those things around too loosely. But with that guy, he’s the real deal.
Q. Two-part question about (indiscernible) pitching. You had some balls nailed pretty good. Starters (indiscernible) probably didn’t get as much as you would have liked. Then once they brought in Moore seemed like not a lot of great contact?
COACH MERCER: Yeah, he’s really good. It was going to be tough. You have to score early. You get to today and we had to do what we had to do to keep our arms safe, but also to put us in a position — if I run those guys out yesterday, they’re not going to be as good.
And then you probably lose yesterday’s game with — or your good guys aren’t going to be as good and you lose today because you don’t have anybody left.
But by doing that you also realize that you’re going to end up getting their arms back up, too. So it’s the role of the dice. You’ll pitch it better, but so will they.
And we had to get to Williams and we just didn’t do a good enough job against him. We had a bunch of guys on base. We had six hits and a walk, that’s seven base runners. And we had guys in scoring position, bases loaded and nobody out and only scored one.
We had a runner on third base, one out and didn’t score him. We had second and third, one out at least once and didn’t score them. You just can’t leave guys on base because when you know when you get to Moore he’s really good. He’s throwing a bowling ball at 94 miles an hour. He’s excellent.
We still had chances, still had chances against him. We still had four hits and we had five base runners. And typically we’ve done a good job. We’ve done a good job. We’ve scored runs. We’re probably the second best offense in the league, I think, statistically in the Big Ten. And probably top 40 or 50 in the country.
And they did a really good job of getting the tough zones to drive in runs. Elevated sinkers are really hard. They’re hard to get to. They’re hard to lay off and flatten off.
That’s what Ryan Kraft does. That’s why he throws an 89 mile-an-hour elevated sinker and nobody can hit him. It’s just hard to get to.
He did a really good job every time he had to knuckle down and execute pitches he did. He got in when he had to get in, he got up and in when he had to get up and in. And we couldn’t drive him in.
That was the difference in the ball game. Pitched it really well, and he just — Williams executed pitches, Moore has great stuff. Moore has great stuff.
Q. You were so close this year, and as I said to them you’ve turned the program around from the last couple of years. And you’re back in the mainstream discussion of IU sports again being a (indiscernible) sport after a couple of bad years. But how much does seeing here being here and singing (indiscernible) make you hungry to host a Regional in the next couple of years — (indiscernible) IU fans just take that extra last step?
COACH MERCER: I would quantify having a bad season as finishing fourth is probably not a bad season. Last year we obviously did have not the season that we want to have. We also had the guts to go through, what I would say, a pretty well executed rebuild in one year. And so I would quantify that.
You have to understand that — this I think will be my sixth or seventh time playing in the postseason. You’re not more hungry, you’re less hungry. You’re hungry all the time. You work in this industry, you work in this business, if you’re not starving hungry every day, the whole operation passes you by.
And so you have to look at what does that mean? How do you build? So the first thing you have to do is you have to evaluate where you’re at and how you build success at where you’re at.
So while we’re building, I’m looking at this year and next year and the following year and I’m saying how do we get to a national level. Get to a national level and stay at a national level every single year forever and ever and ever.
And so I’m not more hungry than I was yesterday. I was starving hungry four, five years ago when we started this process. I’ll be starving hungry tomorrow and I’ll be starving hungry in 10 years.
So I’ve been a player in front of 10,000 people. I’ve been an assistant coach in front of 10,000 people. I’ve been the head coach in front of 10,000 people. I’ve won and lost games.
I think if you ebb and flow based on how loud the crowd is or what you did in this pitch or that pitch, I think if you ebb and flow in that, then you’re not consistent. There’s no more or less motivation than there was before.
Now, do you learn and adjust? Sure. Do I get better at running elevated sinkers on the spin ball machine next year? Yeah, probably. Do I get better at running team defense? Yep, maybe. Do you get better at calling pitches? Whatever it is you can learn.
But I think you’re either motivated or you’re out of the industry like that. And so you’ve got to be motivated. So it doesn’t change in my mind it doesn’t change those things.
Q. Twice this weekend you played to record-breaking crowds. Indiana-Kentucky rivalry. Do you think there will be weekend series at some point in next year or so?
COACH MERCER: No, Kentucky canceled the series last year. Kentucky and Indiana is no longer a series. They called and canceled it. It’s done.
It’s the last time we’re playing unless we play in the postseason. They asked if we want to come down here. I’m not coming down here without a return trip. So it’s done.
Q. You mentioned it’s been a player-led group all season long. Obviously when Whalen was overcome with emotions there at the end, Josh and Sam went out to console him. What does that kind of say about the overall camaraderie between this group and this team this year?
COACH MERCER: They are, they’re an incredibly close group. Like the boys said, their emotions and their feelings after the game today, where it’s so, like, deep. Everyone’s upset at the end of the season, but this group, it was very hurt and it’s because they are.
All good teams are player-led. All good teams are player-led. They’re all led from within. And they want to experience something special together. And so as a coach, you’re trying to foster that growth behind the scenes.
When they start to see it and they understand it and they take the next step, as a program within, by taking the accountability themselves, then you see something really special happen. Then you’re working together. It’s not, hey, you’re working for me.
They’re not working for me. They’re working with us. They’re working with their coaches. They’re working with each other.
And that’s when you have a big jump. That’s the difference. We lost a two-run game today, but we’re 19- or 20-5 or 6, whatever it is, in two-run-or-less games. That’s moxie. That’s a team. That’s not just talent.
Talent beats everybody by 10 runs. That’s talent. A team wins close games. A team can communicate. A team can fight for each other and persevere. Team is guys like Ty Bothwell fighting his way back from not a good place six weeks ago.
That’s a hard thing to do and those guys supporting him and showing up and continuing to encourage each other. That’s what the team did. And they became that. They became that.
That’s why it hurts so bad. That’s why it hurts bad. Not because we didn’t win. I’ve lost lots of games. I’m sure I’ll probably lose lots more. But it’s because I don’t get to see those guys anymore. They don’t get to see each other anymore.
That’s what’s hard. Every team but one — I’m not unique — every team but one is going to have the same thing where you’re sad because I don’t get to see them anymore. But that’s a beautiful thing. So it makes life beautiful. It’s over. It moves on and it changes and it’s different.
So you’ve got to enjoy the moment. That’s why you’ve got them. I’m glad I got to experience a lot of great moments with those guys because it’s a beautiful group of kids.
Q. You’ve been through Regionals before as you mentioned. First time for this group. What were the kernels of things that you saw that made you pleased about the way they handled their first time, especially for some of the guys who were coming back and get a chance to do it again?
COACH MERCER: That’s an awesome question. How together they were to achieve something that was bigger than just them, I guess. Everyone will remember, and I’ll remember Pete Serruto’s home run, but how you got there. It’s like 0-2 count, I think it was the Lee kid. He’s drilling us. He’s killing us. He’s doing a great job.
And he just fights and they send him back out. I think it was the eighth. He just fights, he gets 0-2, he fights, fights, fights.
You could hear everybody just keep going, just keep going. Then he hits that home run and just seeing like the dugout erupt. Like, I stepped out at the end of the dugout. It’s pandemonium, everyone’s going bonkers, like, oh, my goodness, we did it.
And to see that moment will live with me for the rest of my life. I’ll remember the view of the dugout and everyone going crazy forever.
Watching Risedorph come in from the bullpen when Sinnard gets hurt and knowing what just happened. We just had to use probably our next two starters to cover that first game. And knowing, all right, young fellow, you’re going to have to get us out of this pickle and then you’ll have to give us some length.
And watching those guys step up and seeing all those guys have that through the first two days come back yesterday, I can throw today. You’re not throwing today, pal, you’re not hurt.
But all those guys stepping forward and seeing their performances today, seeing Ty Bothwell go from where he was at six or eight weeks ago to throwing terrific in the first game and coming out today and giving — what an incredible performance from that kid.
I just remember seeing him on the Wednesday off scrimmages throwing, trying to get it back, throwing to a stand-in dummy, throwing to kind of like the guys, the redshirt guys on Wednesday, trying to get it back, seeing so far away from it, to se him go out and pitching like he has.
Those are things I’ll remember forever. I’m very thankful for that.