POST-GAME QUOTES * GAME 1 * May 30, 2003
#2 South Carolina 4, #3 East Carolina 0
South Carolina head coach Ray Tanner
“I’m elated to win the first game of this regional. Chris Hernandez did a tremendous job for us, and I have to give a lot of credit to [ECU pitcher] Will Brinson. We scored three runs in the first inning, and he didn’t buckle. He’s the type of pitcher today that young players should take note of. When things aren’t going well in the beginning, you stay and battle, and he gave his team a chance to come back.
“On our side, Hernandez was everything that we wanted him to be today. We knew that he had the ability to go out and have the kind of game he did today. He’s had a number of good games for us this year, but we haven’t given him a whole lot of run support. He had a bundle today, but he was outstanding. It was a tremendous performance, and [Kevin] Melillo provided some run support. It’s just great to win the first game.
“It wasn’t a gamble at all (to start Hernandez on the mound). Chris was fresh. He’s a guy who’s been out there before. He likes to pitch. I’ve always said that if you’re going to be a team that wins the tournament, you have to have some people do exceptional things that maybe aren’t the guys you count on all season. Hernandez has been in the bullpen for us most of the season, but in order to win, you’ve got to have guys do a little more than they’ve done before. Quite honestly, we thought that he could win.
(On the performance of Kevin Melillo): “I told him at curfew last night, ‘I’m moving you down. I want you to drive in some runs.’ He doesn’t listen to me all the time, but he did today.”
South Carolina starting pitcher Chris Hernandez
“I felt a little pressure with this being the first game of the regional, and I wanted to get us off on the right foot. I was excited to get the nod today. I knew Bondo (Steven Bondurant) wasn’t feeling well, and we would try to hold him back a day or two. We have great defense behind me, and we played spectacularly today.
“That (run support) relaxes all pitchers. Anytime you can get a nice cushion, that makes your job a lot easier.
(On the three-run first-inning lead): “I was ecstatic.”
South Carolina 2B Kevin Melillo
“I tried a different approach today. I was just trying to find pitches to hit. I had a couple of opportunities today, and I was just fortunate enough to come through.
“We knew we had to go out there and set a tempo for the game. For once, we provided Henrandez with some offense this season. If we got him a lead, we we’re going to feel comfortable with the outcome of the game because he’s been there for us all year throwing the ball the way he has.
“It’s always great to win the first game of a series. We play the winner of the Georgia Tech-Stetson game, and those are two very good teams. Our pitching staff has been deep for us all year, and we’ve got a lot of good arms coming out of the pen who are fresh, so I think we’re in a good position right now.”
East Carolina head coach Randy Mazey
I think this is the first time the Pirates have been shut out this year. Usually in baseball when your team hits the opposing pitcher harder than the opposing team hits your pitcher you win the game. I really thought that we hit more balls harder today then they did – except for that one that the left fielder dropped every ball we hit was his at somebody.
Our philosophy when we play is for our starting pitcher to get us into the 7th inning with an opportunity to win the game and usually those balls that we have been hitting are falling for us and today was a different story.
Will (Brinson) did a great job and aside from the first inning jitters, which were pretty obvious, Will settled in and threw a great game. This is the way Will pitches – he gives up a lot of hits and goes deep into a lot of counts but he always keeps you in the game.
We are still very fresh. Our strength is our bullpen and we still have Sears and Tucker and we have an opportunity to use those guys. All the credit goes to Will. He could have very easily given up in the first inning. We thought we had a guy struck out in the first inning that could have saved us a couple of runs. When that happens, a pitcher does one of two things – he can complain about it and dwell about it or he can forget about it and go on. Will went on and pitched an outstanding game.
(On tomorrow’s starting pitcher): We don’t know yet. I think we have different guys that match up better with each team, so we will talk about it and see who we play tomorrow.
(On tomorrow’s elimination game): This team plays better when we have a sense of urgency. Any time our back is against the wall, whether it is in the last three innings when we are down a couple of runs – that’s when we play our best. Our backs are against the wall tomorrow in a do or die situation and I really believe that our guys are going to come out playing our best baseball tomorrow.
(On changing line-ups): We really don’t at this point. My job is pretty easy when it comes to line-ups these days. We have a set line-up and our left-handed hitters hit pretty well against left-handed pitchers.
East Carolina pitcher Will Brinson
I was trying to hit my spots with my fastball and my change-up. I didn’t have really good command of my curve ball all day. I was just throwing fastballs and change ups.
I’ve pitched in a regional atmosphere before. In the first inning, I threw some good pitches and they hit the ball and that is what good teams do – they take good pitches and do something with them. All the credit goes to them.
East Carolina shortstop Darryl Lawhorn
(On S.C. starter Chris Hernandez): He threw real well. He mixed it up on us and threw in and out, mixing in off speeds. He did a real good job today but we hit a lot of balls hard that didn’t fall for us. I guess that is the way things goes sometimes.
(On the first inning error): I just missed it. It went under my glove. I was kind of a little nervous in the first game – I think that everyone was.
(On line drive that ended in a double play with bases loaded): I hit the ball hard – it’s just one of those things that happens. Things were going their way. We hit a lot of balls hard that didn’t fall for us tonight.