This weekend is obviously about trying to win the regional, keep the season going and eventually reach the College World Series.
But it could be the end for several Tech seniors, and a few juniors who may leave if they are selected high enough in Monday’s draft.
Notably, it could be the last game for senior first baseman Tony Plagman. He came in as a preferred walk-on, and could leave as the greatest home-run hitter in Tech’s storied history. It could also be the last game for seniors Jay Dantzler, Sean Devine, Jason Garofalo, Patrick Long and Andrew Robinson, not to mention Deck McGuire, who will likely be a top-10 pick on Monday.
Dantzler and Devine redshirted the last time Tech made it to Omaha. This time, they want to go back and play.
“It’s one thing we are keeping mind, these last two or three games could be the end of our season,” Dantzler said. “This could be the last time we play together as a team. The last time most of these guys could play college baseball. That’s one of the things we are keeping in our head. It keeps us focused.”
Plagman, who was named a third-team Louisville Slugger All-American on Thursday, needs just five more round-trippers to reach 58 and pass Jason Varitek as the school’s most prolific slugger. He hasn’t talked about the record. Like the others, it’s about wins.
“It’s tough to think about,” Plagman said. “It’s bleen a long four years for me and a long five for Jay.
“We have a great opportunity and I think we are going to take advantage of it.”
Here are some quotes from interviews I conducted during the week that weren’t used in stories, as well as some quotes from Thursday’s press conferences, courtesy of Tech’s sports information department:
Opening statement: “I am just excited to be in a regional and to get a chance to host and to know if we keep winning we get a chance to play at home again. It says a lot about our team and what they accomplished this season.”
On Friday starter Mark Pope: “He pitched against Mercer down there. He really pitched well except for one inning that had a couple of errors in it. Our goal is to win three games in this tournament. So you try to line your pitching up with what is going to give you your best shot to advance. He is our most rested guy because he did not pitch in the ACC tournament so it was his time to pitch.”
On his pitchers: “I think we have a solid staff, top to bottom, and we have some different pieces we can use in games to try and get outs.”
On playing at home: “Any time you play at home it’s an advantage. Our fans have always done a great job supporting us here in the postseason. I look forward to it once again this year.”
On learning from last year: “I think we’re on the right track. I think we did a good job of not taking any games for granted and not looking past anybody. I think this year, heading into this regional, it’s one game at a time. Friday night is all we’re worried about right now.”
On learning from last year: “You have to go out and play hard every day and know that anything can happen. You might not be playing your best baseball, but you have to go out there and grind every at-bat and every pitch.”
On learning from last year: “From last two regionals we know we have to come out and play hard and that anything can happen. We need to play as a team and play together.
“The last two years, we slowed down at the end, maybe got a little tired. This year we are going to trun it around and play our baseball game.”
On what the younger guys, like Matt Skole, need to do: “He knows how it is. He knows last year we played a little soft against Southern Miss and they took advantage. The younger guys have been doing a good job of having a lot of energy and keeping that focus and that drive.”
On facing left-handers: “Sometimes we get caught up….we do hit a lot of home runs. Majority of those home runs come when we have a good approach. Something to focus on all week in practice. In games when we have soft-throwing lefties, you have to stay on top of the ball and hit it the other way.
“We have to take it upon ourselves to not try to get pull-happy, not to hit home runs, that’s where the soft-throwing pitchers are at their best.”