2008 NCAA Lincoln Regional
Sunday, June 2, 2008
Oral Roberts Press Conference
Coach Rob Walton
On the game
"It was a hot game. The guy on my left (pitcher Kelly Minissale) was special. He's so valuable to the club as a center fielder. He's our best outfielder. He's a really good athlete. What we've tried to do with Kelly during the year is pitch him against all the premier clubs in the country. There's a little reason behind that. We knew we were going to need him in a regional, so we didn't pitch him in our conference weekends because it's really not going to do a whole lot of good for us because we really need our center fielder. The only way we could develop him was to throw him against Wichita State twice as well as Arkansas so he's in those big environments. I really wasn't too concerned about him performing well in this environment because we put him in those environments during the year. Regardless, if you get him in those environments or not, it takes a special mindset, makeup, toughness and determination. It was one of the best performances that I've had as a head coach in tough conditions, a tough ballpark, a No. 1 seed in the tournament. For me, it doesn't get any better than that."
On Minissale evolving into a pitcher
"That evolution goes back to when he was six years old. I've known the Minissale family for a long time. They're special people. They're friends of mine. Back when I was scouting part-time and those types of things, Kelly was in our baseball facility, taking lessons and swinging a bat at six or seven years old. It's mind-boggling the time has passed so fast, and we're here in a regional in Nebraska. Who would've thought it at six or seven years old? But at six or seven, believe me, you could tell he was going to be a player. They're a great family and he's a great kid. It's just a wonderful situation for him."
On Minissale developing into a pitcher
"We kept it in the pen. He's so valuable to us in centerfield. He's not our fastest outfielder, but his first step to the baseball is so good, I just haven't seen anybody like it. He probably runs a 6.9 60 (-yard dash), but he plays like he runs a 6.6 60. He never gets a bad read, never gets a bad jump. It's just so valuable to have that defender that it's hard to take him out and get him in the game (as a pitcher). If you end up starting him, then you have to bang him from the outfield for the next game, so it's very difficult to get him on the mound. This year, we didn't have a choice. We had to do it. He's actually thrown bullpens for the last couple years, but it was waiting for the opportunity to present itself where we could use him. This year, fortunately, we had the extra outfielders. That was key. (Justin) Mitchell comes in and plays late defense for us. Brian Van Kirk moved to the outfield. We had options this year and we didn't really have them the last couple years to be able to fill those holes in the outfield spots. The opportunity presented itself, and then we set a plan early in the year where we said, 'This is what we'll do with Kelly. We'll put him in this environment. That way, if we have to use him in a regional, he'll be ready for that situation. It takes a tough-minded kid to do that because he's saying, 'I'm only getting the tough guys in the middle of the week', but this kid (Minissale) just likes to play baseball. The mentality is right."
On preparing Minissale for spot starts
"We ran his pitch counts up all year. He threw 100 pitches in each game he threw. He's more conditioned to throw 85-90 (pitches). Any time you're over 100 and not getting regular starts on the weekend, you're asking a lot of a guy. It's definitely in question for me too. I would've liked to have seen him finish the game, but he's cramping up a little bit."
Pitcher Kelly Minissale
On his performance
"I have to thank the coach for having the faith in me to put me out there. My fastball command and my changeup (were working for me). That's about it."
On his feelings about his performance
"It's an amazing feeling, really. I'm glad I went this way. We still have a couple more games and I think we can pull it out."
On his preparation to pitch
"We work at it. I throw bullpens and get ready for games. It's a mindset to go out there and get it done."
On Nebraska's offense
"They reminded me a lot of Wichita (State). Those fastballs on the corners, they went after them but didn't square too many of them up. A lot of them were infield fly balls, fly balls in foul territory. It's good when you have a good defense behind you."