Mike Gambino: Thanks everybody for taking the time.
Obviously as a ballclub, we are excited to be here. I think one of the things that will jump out about this ballclub, when people see the ballclub, is how much fun these boys have and how hard they play and how much fun they have being together.
They are as tightly-knit a group as I've ever seen and that's why they have been able to a couple times in the year when it looked like we were kind of out of things, kept their heads down and kept playing hard. So it's a fun team to be around.
Q: Talk about this last series you just finished up with Georgia Tech. What do you take away with that? And the way that series really played out, what do you take about that starting off the tournament this week?
Gambino: When you play a team a three-game series and come right back with them again, Georgia Tech is what you'd expect Georgia Tech to be. They are a really good ballclub and they are really well coached. Obviously you see the numbers, they can really swing it. They have arms in the pen. That's a team that once they get into the NCAA Tournament, that's a team that you could very well see in Omaha.
So obviously we have our work cut out for us going down there, and especially after losing Game 1, the mind-set of the boys in a lot of ways was a doubleheader, win or go home. That game, the first game of that doubleheader was essentially Game 7 for us.
But we have really been there for the past five weeks, been sort of teetering right on that; each weekend could have put us right in the middle of the playoff race or right out of it and the boys kept playing hard and winning baseball games. The mind-set was we have been here for a month and a half, just keep doing what we've been doing.
Q: Go back to that series with Louisville at the end of April. You take two out of three over the Cardinals. How big was that of really getting yourself to where you are now going into the tournament?
Gambino: That was enormous. It was enormous for a couple reasons. One, just collecting wins in the season, you just try to do anything you can in the ACC to fight and scrap and collect any type of win you can get any chance you get.
To get two wins out of that weekend was huge, but also to do it in the way we did it, close ballgames, yeah. You guys have all seen Louisville - that's one of the best college baseball games I've ever seen. They have got pitching, they have got speed, they have got power, they can play defense. There might be six or seven Big Leaguers on that ballclub, three or four first-rounders; to come away with that, and with one of them being a walk-off win, really helped the confidence of this ballclub.
But I think at this point, the boys thought that we were good enough to be in the postseason, but they weren't entirely sure. After that, it was like - all right, here we go. If we can beat Louisville twice at home and we all believe they might be the best team in the country, then we're okay.
Q: How tough is it to game plan a team that you just played last week in Georgia Tech for tomorrow? How tough is that for a manager?
Gambino: Well, I guess you can go one of two ways. It's tough because just played three games or it's easy because everybody knows what's coming.
In general in this conference, there's not a ton of surprises, with all the stats that are out there, all the scouting reports that are out there, all the games that are on television; you're pretty familiar with everybody you're playing. You look at the number of ACC baseball games that are on ESPN now is through the roof.
There's not a lot of surprise in our conference. Really at this point, what it comes down to is in that game, who is going to execute, who is going to get a two-out hit, who is going to get down a bunt in a big situation, who is going to do a good job with a situation at-bat in the third or fourth or sac fly. It's really going to come down to one of those two things.
And obviously whether or not we can keep that offense of theirs somewhat in check because it's a really scary lineup and we all know that. We have all the confidence in the world in our pitching, and what Coach (Jim) Foster has done with these guys, it's unbelievable and we have some really good arms. But it's still a scary lineup. So got to keep that lineup in check and see who can execute.
Q: Justin Dunn, talk about his development. I know last year, he led your team in saves. What about those Long Island kids?
Gambino: Yeah, Long Island has worked out pretty well for our program in general. We had a coach from Long Island here, Mike Belfiore (ph), i guess almost ten years ago, eight years, something like that. Any time that we can recruit any tough northeast kids, you love that.
And Justin, yeah, Justin was a projectable shortstop/right-handed pitcher that we wanted to put on the mound, and we thought if we made him a full-time pitcher, he had a chance to be special. Development started his freshman year with Scott Friedholm, before he left to go become the head coach at UNC Asheville. The last two years under Coach Foster, it's continued.
Last year he was still learning how to pitch. He had premium stuff and was still learning how to pitch. Last year, he was a starter earlier in the year, we put him in the bullpen because we were having a little trouble in the back end of games and we had a guy like Justin, wipeout stuff. It gave our team a lot of confidence to put him in the back of games.
Early in the year, we continued that plan. But as things played out, early in the year, Coach Foster came in at one point and said, "Hey, what do you think about starting Justin and we talked about it and went with it. And it was a great move both for our ballclub and also for Justin, because it's allowed to go to that starting role and continue his development.
Q: Similar question about Georgia Tech, if you get through tomorrow's play, going forward, the pool with Miami and North Carolina State, Florida State - that's two teams you haven't really played. FSU only got one game because of the rain and Miami didn't play at all this year. How do you prepare for teams that you haven't really seen in person?
Gambino: Yeah, well, especially when you're in the spot with the first round elimination game, you just basically have to worry about that game. There's no real reason to start game planning, preparing and lining up pitching for games when we're in essentially in another Game 7.
It speaks so much of what our conference is and how ridiculous this conference is that your reward for winning an elimination game is playing Miami, Florida State, and NC State three days in a row? Right. It speaks to how great this league is.
You look at both sides. Doesn't matter which pool you look at, you look at the other side, it's just as scary. For us, it's, "Let's figure out, we have to play a really good baseball game against Georgia Tech and hopefully come out of there with a win, and when we do, we'll sit back, regroup and then preparing for the two ballclubs."
Coach Murphy puts together our scouting report. He's putting together scouting reports and we're going to have all that stuff ready. But as far as game planning, that won't really start until we know we're playing them.
Q: Do you think part of the team's success this year has been the pitching staff? But the offense has been really clicking of late. What has been the key to your offense's turnaround in the last couple weeks?
Gambino: We always believed - teams are built around pitching and defense. That's what we've talked about from here from the beginning. That's what we're focused on, pitching and defense. For 150 years in baseball, if you can pitch and play defense, you have a chance to win a baseball game.
That said, we always thought this offense was better than that sort of stretch in the middle of the year when we had trouble scoring runs. You're going to have times when each player ebbs and flows and you'll have times when the offense has a whole ebb and flow, right.
We just kind of are excited that the offense is sort of coming together and swinging the bats well going into the postseason because you know the pitching and defense is going to be there.
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