Vanderbilt won the 2019 College World Series title Wednesday night after defeating Michigan 8-2. Here's everything Tim Corbin, Ethan Paul, Mason Hickman and Pat DeMarco had to say.
Vanderbilt - 8, Michigan - 2
TIM CORBIN: I don't know where to start. I've got a lot of conflicting thoughts right now just in terms of how we feel. But I think it starts, again, on the mound. If you want to talk about the game, it certainly starts on the mound with Mason. He's created such harmony during the course of the year with how he's pitched the weekday and certainly down the stretch here. He's pitched some very difficult games himself and certainly gave us a great start tonight.
And then Pat certainly got us going a little bit offensively with the home run, and then we were pretty clutch with two outs today and getting those runs. I felt like we were going to hit well. I felt like we were going to play well. I thought this was going to be a nice night for the kids.
It was difficult because we played such a good Michigan team. I thought they had elite pitching. I thought they played so well to get through UCLA and to get into this thing and make it difficult on everyone.
In some ways playing against Erik is — there's a conflict of thoughts that way, as well, but he certainly did a great job with his team. And I'm just happy for our team. I'm happy for the boys. It's fun to watch this thing come full circle for them.
Q. For Pat, I know it's not a walk-off homer, but it's a home run in the college national championship. Fast-forward 10, 20 years. How do you think that memory is going to be for you hitting that home run?
PAT DeMARCO: Yeah, I don't think it's really sunk in yet. I don't think it's sunk in yet for any of us yet, this whole experience. I was just trying to stay in the moment, and hopefully it'll sink in in a couple years, but right now just feels like any other.
Q. Mason and Ethan, in the first inning after the first few base hits, Ethan, you went over to the mound and spoke to Mason, and it seemed like a completely different ballgame from there on out. What did you say to Mason? And, Mason, how did that calm you down?
ETHAN PAUL: I think, if I can remember, I just wanted to give him a little rest. It was the first inning and it wasn't like there was anything to really worry about. We all trust Mason. He's going to give us a good outing. I think I just wanted to remind him that it's a big park. I wanted him to work down in the zone and let our defense work. We trust each other in the infield, so we wanted to make some plays for him.
MASON HICKMAN: Yeah, he was just trying to get a little confidence going with me, just give me a breather. Said, Just keep the ball down. Let's get a ground ball, let's turn two, and we'll be out of this thing soon. So it was just a little break for me and a little reassurance.
Q. Ethan, I talked to Teddy and Susan, and they weren't going to ask to go up there, but I could tell they really, really appreciated you guys bringing them up there. Why did you think that was important?
ETHAN PAUL: For so many reasons. You know, those two mean so much to this program and all the players and the seniors. I mean, to this day every time I look at Teddy I think of Donny, and just being able to share that moment with them was something that I think -- I can speak for the seniors, but probably the whole team, is something that we've all really wanted to do. This team is so special for so many reasons, but we're all genuinely -- we all care about each other, and they're just as much a part of the team as we all are.
Q. Ethan, you and a few other guys made the decision to come back for your senior year. What does it mean now that you accomplished the final goal that you guys had set out?
ETHAN PAUL: I mean, it definitely makes it — makes the decision a lot easier. I think at the end of the day, our number one reason to come back to school wasn't to have this outlandish season or anything like that. I think that we all wanted to just be a part of something special. It's great to win a national championship, it's great to do all those things, but the program means so much more to us than just winning.
I think there's such a bond with each other and we do all those things off the field and we celebrate each other so well. I'm happy that we were able to have this moment, and it's going to be a memory forever, but just being able to share this team and this experience with these guys, I mean, friends for life.
Q. Ethan, did you guys feel pressure through the postseason being the No. 2 seed?
ETHAN PAUL: I wouldn't say so. We've never really -- credit to the maturity and the experience on this team, we've never really looked too much into the rankings or opinions or media and stuff like that. It's great to be thought highly of, but that's one of the reasons why this team is so successful, is we were able to just stay within each other and keep the communication within each other and have a similar vision. So I think that led us to having some success along the postseason.
Q. Mason, you were midweek this year, obviously you're weekend last year. At some point in the season did you think this would be possible, that you would be on the mound for a national title, this type of moment for you to be in?
MASON HICKMAN: Absolutely. I thought we had the chance the whole season to end up in this situation. I had no idea what exactly my role would be. For me it was just trying to put our team in any position to win that I possibly can, and a lot of the credit is just because of the defense we had behind us, because of the offense that was produced tonight, and that really allowed us to get to this moment.
Q. Pat, the way this offense kind of coalesced here over the last couple of games, what do you attribute that to? It seemed like you guys were very patient. The walks seemed like a major factor here. Was that a point of emphasis for you guys heading into the last two games?
PAT DeMARCO: Yeah, it was kind of a slow start to the tournament, but we were playing good offense. It was just we weren't getting that big hit, and tonight most of the damage was done with two outs, and we were just getting that big hit, and we were stringing good offense together as a team. It was team offense tonight, yeah.
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Q. I've asked you about 100 different decisions throughout the year of who starts at second and short and how you move guys around, who's going to be the weekend starter and all that. Do you see each of those incremental steps led to something like this? Do you look back at each of those decisions and think it could have gone one way or the other if you didn't make the right decision?
TIM CORBIN: I guess you could think about it that way, but you'd drive yourself crazy. I think the decisions that we always wanted to make as a staff is just try to create consistency among the group, and the closer we could get to roles quicker, the better we felt we would be. Once we created those roles, then we just asked the guys to serve them and stay in them and do whatever they could to move the team along, and they did that.
Q. You've said before that seniors are often your favorite class. This year having a bigger senior class than you normally do, for a number of reasons, what does this mean for you to see this happen for them?
TIM CORBIN: You don't always get what you want in life, and to watch this situation come full circle for them is particularly gratifying. They experienced devastation at the lowest level as an 18-year-old watching a friend, lose a friend, and suffer through that heartbreak for a long period of time. They played with heavy hearts for a long period of time, and the program didn't feel right for a time. Rightly so.
But the fact that they could navigate their way towards their senior year, graduate, stay together, make decisions to come back, and then, as Ethan said -- I think his point was straight on -- we just -- we kind of stayed in our lane the entire year and just tried to do small things well.
And as time went on, we never talked about championships, we didn't talk about winning the SEC, we didn't talk about winning a regional, we just stayed very localized in their thinking, and I attribute that to the older kids. That situation callused their brain, and because they did that, it allowed them to get closer to maturity than maybe if that didn't happen.
I hate to say there's any positive thing from losing a young person, but certainly there's experiences that you gain from that that allow you to grow individually and as a group, and we did that.
Q. Coach, just a few minutes ago in this room, Erik Bakich said you are the best coach in America in any sport. Can you speak about your relationship with Erik and how it played out throughout the course of this series?
TIM CORBIN: Listen, it's always difficult to play someone that you really care about. But we're very real with one another. Our wives are very real with one another. We got to share this moment together as friends and as families, and our two teams just played.
Once our two teams were on the field, then we kind of let it go. We knew once it was over that we both could live with one another. We don't have egos. Neither one of us do.
He's a special guy. I say that besides the sport. I've always said Vanderbilt is not Vanderbilt if Erik Bakich isn't there. He created a lot of this, these foundations that Vanderbilt has allowed people to come and have what we had today, and I just -- in a big way, I wish he was part of something like this with the same uniform. I would have loved to celebrate with him because he's a very deserving guy. But in saying that, he will enjoy this at some point. He will have that opportunity.
Q. Coach, when you look at kind of the development of this pitching staff over the course of the season, everyone knows how many huge arms you have, but to see them come here and command the zone the way they did in particular on this stage, it seemed like that was something that got better over the course of the season. Is that an accurate read, first of all, and how important do you think that was to getting this team where it is right now?
TIM CORBIN: It's very accurate. And you and Kendall and Teddy have seen a lot of baseball, and you've watched staffs grow throughout the year, and I think that was -- at the end of it, I know our offense was celebrated for a long period of time, but you look at what happened in this tournament, and it was pitching and defense, and certainly starting pitching. We won this in 2014, it was relief pitching. In this tournament it was starting pitching.
And I think — forget the fact that Drake started on a Friday or Raby started on a Sunday or Kumar started on a Saturday. It was a strong collection of individuals, and they pitched deep into ballgames. And when you can pitch deep into ballgames in Omaha, you give yourself a chance. Had we not done that, we weren't good enough offensively really to get through this tournament.
So, yes, that's a very accurate read on our staff. It grew as the year progressed.
Q. Kumar got named Most Outstanding Player. I know we talked a lot about him last night, but what does that mean as a freshman to have that guy come out and pitch the way he did on this stage?
TIM CORBIN: It's almost unfair to look at him -- he's a freshman, but no one looks at him that way. And I think he kind of gained that feel early March and April, and I think it was his presence, I think it was his attention to detail. He's got a teachable spirit, and he's one of those kids that is curious. He'll listen. He'll ask good questions. He won't "yeah, yeah" you to death. He's not that kid.
There's an honesty about him that's very refreshing, and he's tough. He's got a fiber of competition that's different. He loves the arena of competition, and when you see guys like that, they separate themselves.
Handing him the ball, I didn't feel at any time that that was above him. I felt like that was for him. That's something he wanted. That's something that he could do. He pitches for Vanderbilt. He loves to pitch for his team, and it's pure, and it's raw, and it's not manufactured.