May 26, 2009
WACO, Texas - Just days away from taking on Minnesota in the first game of the NCAA Baton Rouge Regional, Baylor head baseball coach Steve Smith and Aaron Miller met with members of the media during Tuesday's teleconference.
Here are Smith's and Miller's thoughts on the Bears' being in the Baton Rouge Regional.
Head Coach Steve Smith
On the team's reaction to making the field of 64:
"I think of all the years, this one was a little different. This group of juniors has been under the microscope and has had so much pressure on them since the day that they got here. They have been through so much in the past month. I think all of that and waiting until the last bracket--I was pretty confident that we were getting in based on our RPI and our record against the top 100 and just watching years and years on how teams are selected--I thought our resume was pretty good. Those players don't have all of that. It was quite as a mouse in that room until that last bracket popped up on the screen. They were pretty excited."
On the expectations of the Junior class:
"This group of juniors was the number one rated recruiting class in the country by Baseball America when they signed. I know in baseball we have never had a number one ranked class. That was a pretty significant thing. The expectations of the Baylor fandom just went through the roof. This happened right after we went to Omaha in 2005. They played pretty well as freshman. In 2006, a bunch of them started as freshman. We had some senior holdovers from that '05 team blended with this bunch of freshman. They struggled mightily in 2008. They came back this year with a lot of pressure on them. Even Baseball America called them out last summer. They talked about this group of guys and called them by name in one of those July or August issues just talking about how we are going to find out next year if Aaron Miller, Dustin Dickerson, Shawn Tolleson, Craig Fritsch and Kendal Volz; are they really good or were we wrong. The guys came back and they have been unbelievably good to work with from the day that they got here in August."
On the mentality of the team over the past week:
"I hope what I am going to see now is that they can relax. Getting into the tournament was not their goal. I am sure it doesn't remain their goal. When you go through the month that they went through, getting to the tournament can be a real question mark. Going into the game last Saturday against Kansas, I didn't tell them that I thought it was a must win game, but I think it was. We played so well. We played well over the last three games. I hope the monkey is off of them right now. They are never going to live up to the expectations of the fans. They feel like we were destined and we came out of it on the other side. I just hope we come out in Baton Rouge and play ball and have fun."
On the Big 12 Championship and the Nebraska series:
"I didn't know if we had to win the tournament, but I knew we had to go in there and win a couple of games. In football they would refer the Nebraska series as a trap game. We are going up there playing a team that is way better than their record shows. Their bags are packed, their cars are loaded and their lockers are cleaned out. They know they are not going to the conference tournament, yet they are very capable. We didn't play bad, but they pitched lights out and we came up short." RHP Kendal Volz
On the team struggling down the stretch of the season:
"Every team in the Big 12 has struggled at some point during conference. We just happened to struggle towards the end of the season. We are glad that we have a shot. We would have been very disappointed if we didn't (make the tournament) because we know how good this ball club is and the kind of things that we can do."
On the media's criticism of Baylor making the NCAA Tournament:
"We don't really pay too much attention to that. They can voice their opinions because that is part of their job. We are in and those guys can't take us out even if they think it was cheap. We try to stay away from all of that. It is really just hogwash. We are just focusing on practicing and what we can do to win these games."
On the Big 12 losing skid:
"Some games we wouldn't play as well--we wouldn't pitch or we wouldn't hit and sometimes the ball didn't bounce our way. Some things are just out of our control and really it just seemed that when it was raining, it was pouring. The thing about this team is that we kept fighting and showing up every day. We ended up having a good (showing) at the Big 12 Championship when we really need to and it gave us a shot. All of that is behind us now and we have learned from it and are starting fresh this weekend."
On the opportunity to play in the Baton Rouge Regional:
"All of our guys have played in a regional and we have a couple of freshman that are key players. For the most part, guys have been through this and we realize that these are games that we have to win and if we don't win then we go home. It is not the World Series yet, which is where we want to get. The older guys on the team have taken it upon themselves to hold everyone accountable which has helped us (this season)."
LHP/RF Aaron Miller
On being the last team called:
"We were in (the locker) and (the selection show) kept us sweating for a little bit because we had a feeling that if we made into the field that Baton Rouge, Ole Miss or Rice would be one of the locations that we would be sent to. The first two came and went and we were not in them. LSU was the last one announced so we sweated it there for a little bit. There were several other teams that were put in the same bubble group as us and they had already been announced. There were only a certain amount of spots and we were getting a bit worried. We ended up pulling it out and we are excited."
On the losing streak and Baylor's chances to make the NCAA field:
"We have struggled just like anybody. One thing that I really haven't thought about that our coach (Steve Smith) said was that if you flip our season around it looks a lot better and we are probably in no doubt. If we struggle early and finish strong against some of the teams that we beat early on, I think we are pretty much a no doubt team. All it takes is a chance to get in. I think we are a team just as much as anybody that if we put it together we can beat pretty much everybody out there."
On the team's mindset during the Big 12 Championship: "We went into the Big 12 Championship not really knowing. To make sure that we were going to get in we felt like we needed to win (the championship). You never really know when you put it up in someone else's hands. You never know how it is going to work out so you never really want to have to do that. We went into the Big 12 Championship trying to stay out of that scenario."
On the strength of the Big 12 Conference:
"In my three years here this has been about the strongest conference that we have had. The pitching was unbelievably good this year. You are going to see several guys that are going to be (high round draft picks). There are going to be an insane amount of prospects over the next couple of years that are going to end up being some really big arms. We went to Nebraska and didn't take care of business--anyone can beat anyone (in this league). It was a tough conference."
On playing at the new Alex Box Stadium:
"If we were going in I don't think we could have had a better place to go. I have been down to a couple of (LSU) games when I was in high school. I took a couple of visits out there and I really enjoyed the atmosphere. The fans are great. I don't think you could really ask for better fans and support for the program. There are going to be 10,000 fans out there to watch the game. I haven't seen the new stadium but I heard that it is amazing. I am really excited about it."
On Baylor's chances in the Baton Rouge Regional:
"I really think we are a dangerous team to kind of slip in. A lot of people didn't give us the respect to be in and that's fine. That is not going to kill us. We are still going to go out there and play our game. On any given day we can pitch and hit with the best of them. I think that is kind of a scary combination to know that a team can do that. We haven't exactly put it together this year like we were supposed to, but we have shown glimpses on days where we can be one of the best teams in the country. As long as you get in, you have a good shot."
On the team's mentality heading into the Baton Rouge Regional:
"I have always been somebody that has never played for somebody else. I don't play because of what someone else says or things like that. Going in, if we want motivation, all we have to do is pick up a newspaper or go online to BaseballAmerica.com or Rivals.com. If we need motivation, it is definitely out there. I really don't think that is the mentality of this team. We are a really loose and laid back team. I think that is going to be an advantage for us playing there at LSU. I don't think the crowd is going to be as big of a factor with us because we have played in a couple of big sets already down there at Minute Maid and the Big 12 Championship. I think we will be okay."