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Posted: Friday, 07 June 2013 1:31PM

Q&A with Paul Mainieri & Sooners Coach Sunny Gulloway



LSU Coach Paul Mainieri

On having a more complete team this season compared to 2012
“It was clear at this time last year we had some limitations, particularly in the outfield. I thought that was our difference in the series with Stony Brook. Now this year we have speed players like Andrew Stevenson, Mark Laird and Chris Sciambra. We started recruiting speed and left-handed hitters and they are filling in nicely. When I first saw Mark Laird and Andrew Stevenson I thought they could both make a difference in our team. We now have some ability to cover ground in the outfield and now have some left-handed bats at the plate. All of that gives me a better feeling about the balance of our team.”

On having Sean McMullen in the lineup…
“He is a very vital player for our team in the leadoff spot. He is our best hitter against left-handed pitchers on our team. He’s just become a really good leadoff guy for us because he battles at the plate and really has a lot of pop in his swing. I like a guy in the leadoff spot who can hit a ball in the gap. His speed will be hindered a little bit (by his hamstring injury)but he will run decent enough. It will be good for us to have his bat in the lineup and hopefully he will be in the lineup for us.”

On OU pitcher Jonathan Grqy…
“You don’t really try to run up a pitch count against a pitcher like that. The best thing to do against a pitcher like that is to make him uncomfortable. When you strike out and get easy groundouts, then he gets into a rhythm. The best thing to do is get him out of that rhythm. The thing that is unique about him is that he doesn’t just throw fastballs. He has a really good slider, which makes things even more difficult. I don’t know that there is any real secret about hitting against him besides just fighting as hard as you can. The key is to battle him and not let him get comfortable from our guys and maybe even the heat and crowd noise. He’s not a guy that you anticipate scoring 10 runs on but I don’t think we have to score that many runs to win the game with Aaron Nola and our defense. This is the kind of the game that comes down to a pitch or an at-bat.”

On Oklahoma putting pressure on the defense…
“They are an aggressive team and they will try to put pressure by bunting and hit and run plays. We just have to show a lot of poise and make the plays. I’m a big believer in not giving them additional chances. If they want to bunt, then let’s get the out. Just because they get to second base doesn’t mean they will score. Our pitchers still have to make the clutch plays and our defense has to do work behind them. I think the key is to not lose our poise and give them additional runs.”

On today’s practice…
“We had maybe our best practice of the year today. Their poise and intensity reminded me a lot of our 2009 team when we practiced in Rosenblatt Stadium before the championship series. They looked like a really confident group out there today. They don’t look tight or worried about anything and they are ready to play. I’m excited to see them play tomorrow.”

LSU Player Quotes

Pitcher Aaron Nola

On being two wins away from Omaha…
“It means a lot, but we are definitely focused on the first game. We are not thinking about last year and how devastating that was. I think we are more confident this year and more prepared.”

On facing Oklahoma…
“I know Oklahoma is a good hitting team. I have heard they are like an SEC team. They are going to go out and battle. Their numbers are good, but you have to throw those out the window. It is a new day, and we are playing to get to Omaha.

Leftfielder Raph Rhymes

On being two wins away from Omaha…
“It means a lot, but you can’t look past this first game. We just have to go about it like we do every weekend; one game at a time. It is going to be a challenge but I think we are up for it.”

On facing OU starting pitcher Jonathan Gray…
“I have heard nothing but good things about him. He has such a great arm and a lot of talent. He is going to throw hard and come at us. It is going to be challenge but that is what I’m excited for. That is what you come to LSU for.”

On trying not to focus on the MLB Draft…
“I’m not worried about it. My focus is on Oklahoma. I gave my phone to my dad today and said ‘you take the calls.’ It is a cool experience to go through the draft. It’s something that I always wanted as a kid. Hopefully I will be picked, but my focus is going to be on Oklahoma.”

First baseman Mason Katz

On the mentality of this year’s team…
“I think it is more balanced of a team. We know how good we are. Last year we were mixing things up. We were still making changes in the super regional. I had to go into centerfield. We were just trying to find a way to win, and unfortunately it didn’t happen. As of now we know how good we are. We know we are extremely balanced. We are just ready to go out and compete.”

 

OKLAHOMA HEAD COACH SUNNY GULLOWAY

On Alex Box Stadium…
“Outstanding facility. It’s very impressive. My first time, matter of fact, out of 21 years in college baseball, it’s my first time getting to play here at the Box, so we’re excited about it.”

On how he will prepare his team for the hostile environment…
“I tell them to embrace it. It’s an opportunity to play in front of a great crowd and, I think, a very educated baseball crowd. When you know the game and you play the game the right way, you like playing in front of educated fans and that’s what they have here at the Box. I think also playing at South Carolina last year in the Super Regional, I think that will help us. That’s a pretty tough, hostile crowd to play in front of, and again, you embrace that crowd and you take an ‘it’s us against the world’ mentality into it.”

On the abundance of freshmen on the team and how he prepares them for big games…
“With three freshmen being named to the All-American [team], we’re proud of our freshmen. We really have six that impact the game from our bridge-the-gap guy in Ralph Garza, our backend guy in Jacob Evans – who can also start – a left-handed freshman pitcher that we have, and then all the regular freshmen in the lineup. You’ve got a freshman catcher, you’ve got a freshman centerfielder, and you build your defense through the middle. What we do is we keep a close eye on the freshmen when we play in hostile environments, and we count on our captains, Max White, we count on Jack Mayfield, our shortstop, we count on those guys to help lead us on the field. And they’ve done enough talking. When you have a program that has done what we have been able to do – and that’s win 40 games five straight years and three out of the last four years go to a Super Regional and one Omaha trip – I think that that helps your program. Players talk to players within your program and players trust each other. Our older guys have done a really good job at helping lead our younger guys.”

On the pitching matchup for the first game and its potential to be a low-scoring game…
“You don’t really prepare for it because you don’t know exactly what’s going to happen in college baseball. You would expect a low-scoring game with those two big names – arguably the first or second pick this year (Oklahoma’s Jonathan Gray) and arguably the first or second pick next year (LSU’s Aaron Nola). Ticket prices ought to be close to $100 a ticket with those two guys on the bump. It’s going to be awful fun. As soon as [LSU] Coach [Paul] Mainieri and myself say, ‘hey, it’s going to be a 2-1, 1-0 ballgame,’ we’ll probably be looking at an extra-inning 10-9 ballgame knowing the game of college baseball. So I won’t go there. I’ll just know that it’s going to be a great matchup with tremendous excitement. There will be a lot of electricity in the air and I know around the country, there will be a lot of people that will be tuned in watching this ballgame because of that matchup right there.”

OKLAHOMA PLAYER QUOTES

P Jonathan Gray

On setting the tone…
“I need to have a couple of really strong innings – the first, second and third innings. That will set the tone for the team. Our bats have been working pretty well lately, too. I think if we stick to what we’re doing, we will be fine.”

On facing LSU…
“I do know that they have a lot of good hitters. They are stacked up and down from the first to the nine hole.”

OF Max White

On carrying over experience from the 2010 season…
“Experience is a huge key in this game, especially against a good club like LSU. Going into 2010, I was the starting left fielder. It was one of my best experiences. I just want those guys to have that opportunity and I will play and do what I can to keep motivating them to get there.”

On the marquee pitching matchup of Aaron Nola and Jonathan Gray…
“I actually haven’t seen [Aaron] Nola pitch. I’ve heard a lot, but I know what we have on the mound in Jonathan Gray. It’s going to be a great matchup. We’ll see what happens.”


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