The Arizona Wildcats were eliminated from the College World Series on Monday with a 14-5 loss the Stanford Cardinal. It followed a 7-6 extra-inning loss to Vanderbilt on Saturday.
Our recap of Monday’s loss can be found here, and below is what UA head coach Jay Johnson and All-American outfielder Donta’ Williams said afterwards.
Johnson on Arizona being eliminated: “Tough day today obviously. Tip your hat to Stanford. They were ready to play. They hit everything. And 24 hours or 36 hours of disappointment here is not going to change the accomplishments of our team. I’m very proud of them. First outright conference championship team at the University of Arizona in 29 years. 45 wins, national seed. Hosted Regional, Super Regional, be champions at both of those. And lost to two really good opponents here in terms of Vanderbilt and a really tough game the other night. I was proud of the way we competed in that. Today, they were just better. We left a lot of pitches up and over the plate and they hit everything.”
Johnson on his postgame message to his team in the dugout: “Yeah, we’re going to wrap up here when we get back to the hotel to do that justice. The NCAA wants you to move along, out of respect for the teams coming in. There wasn’t really enough time to do that and adequately do that. So we’ll go back to the hotel and talk about some things. I’ll keep most of that between us. But I’m really proud of them. I mean, I really believed we could be here. I believed we could be a championship team, and we were. And, again, it’s one thing to think you have that, talk about doing it, say you’re going to do it and actually go out and do it.
And I’m really proud of these guys. Great baseball team, made up of great competitors and great character and so it’s going to be tough. This is a tough group to say goodbye too. And we’ll have some of them back, but collectively pretty special. And we’re going to make sure we know that how we feel, how I feel about them.”
Johnson on the growth of his team from the beginning of the season till end: “Tremendous growth. I think this year felt like two years into one. A lot of the main players in 2020, when we felt like we had a team that could get here and it was shut down by COVID, returned with the exception of two, and so this was like two years in the making.
With that being said, I do think we improved. I think they handled the whole COVID thing extremely well. We had a really productive or as productive as you could have summer, productive fall.
Lost two of the first three games of the season. Made some adjustments and really got better as the year went on. I mean, to only lose I think two series the entire year in the conference that we play in and the schedule that we play is a great accomplishment.
But I thought we got better as we went. And in my opinion here nothing really changed. We just ran into two worthy opponents where the margin between winning and losing that game Saturday night against Vanderbilt was incredibly small, and they put themselves on the right side of that. And today we just got beat by a good team.
But I thought we grew. I thought some guys really made some steps forward. I think some guys played their ways into professional opportunities. Guys played their way into being elite college players. And all in all just a great team. So very proud of them.”
Johnson on Garrett Irvin leaving his pitches up: “Yeah, I think they had a really good plan against him. And he made some mistakes. And those are big, strong, physical guys. At least in terms of the Pac-12, the two most physical teams made it here in us and them.
And we knew (Alex) Williams was going to be tough. He made it hard on us in the regular season matchup. And there wasn’t a lot of margin for error. Tip my hat to Garrett to getting out of the jam in the first with no runs and then got a 1-2-3 second. But then as we were moving forward, it was just — he would leave a ball up and they’d make him pay. He hasn’t done that. He’s had a phenomenal season for us. We won nine of the ten starts he had in Pac-12 play. All he does is win, at least that’s what it feels like. So today was kind of an anomaly. And I’ll tip my hat to Stanford. Those guys got some grown-man swings off on mistake pitches.”
Johnson on Arizona’s plan against Stanford starter Alex Williams: “The plan was last time we looked like we were trying to do too much with him. He has good movement on his fastball, where you feel like it’s going to be on your barrel and then it moves off. Has a really, really plus changeup. I don’t know where he sits as a draft prospect, but for me that’s one of the best pitchers we’ve seen the entire season and should be talked about as a draft prospect.
But it was really staying on the ball. Really hitting the ball where it was pitched, because if you try to do too much, that’s where he’s going to beat you with his run on his fastball and then softening you up with the change-up. And we just hit too many fly balls early in the game. It was very abnormal, out of character. I don’t know if that was just that he had some ride and it was getting underneath, our guys didn’t stay in plan. I’ll have to look at that a little bit closer.
We did start to put together some at-bats against him. Five runs in six innings, but I mean at one time they had more hits than outs in like the fifth inning. You’re not going to win in Omaha when that’s the case.”
Johnson’s positives from the game: “When it was 10-0, it was going to be hard to come back and win that game against that quality of team. And we just met in the dugout and just said, hey, like not that I don’t care if we win, but let’s be realistic about what’s going on here. There’s no way a group of this good of character that are this good of competitors is going to go out like this. And then we immediately scored two. And then scored three. And it was 10-5. Now you’re thinking with our offense, you know, the daytime, if we can get some zeros up, might have a chance to claw back in it. I was really proud of them for that. We just couldn’t keep them off the board, in the ballpark, off the barrel of the bat. And it made it really difficult to get any solid momentum in coming back.”
Williams on cutting the deficit from 10-0 to 10-5: “You could never count our offense out. We’ve been there plenty of times in the season. So I mean just get it to the next guy. Just go up there and have a competitive AB. And, you know, we trust one another. So that’s what we did. We continued to do it throughout the game.”
Johnson on getting all but one player into the game: “Well, all of them deserve it. I think we got all but one player in the game. We just needed one more guy to get on base. We hit into a double play in the late innings that kind of hurt that. But I love every one of these guys. This is a special team. I mean, every single one of them, the 27 that are here, a lot of guys that aren’t here, they’ve poured everything they had into our program.
And going back to the last 15 games of 2019, the start of the COVID year and this year, they’ve been incredibly successful. And it speaks to the quality of players that we have that they were and the quality of people that they are and will continue to be. So I wanted to get as many of them as an opportunity as I could. Like I said, we fell one guy short, which I’m disappointed about that. But it wasn’t my plan going in today to, hey, let’s make sure we get everybody in the game. Unfortunately, the game turned out to be that way.”
Johnson on Williams: “It’s well documented with you how I feel about him. If there’s a recruit, a young player at home and wants to play baseball at Arizona, look at No. 23. And as a person, as a player. They don’t make them like that very often. And I would assume somebody’s going to give him a professional opportunity. If people are paying attention, they should. I just kind of glanced up at the board and I saw a stat he only swung and missed at two pitches that were over 93 miles an hour the entire season. That screams Major League hitter to me. So he’s a special one. And one we’re going to miss. And his on-the-field contribution was amazing. I thought it was awesome that he was a named first-team All-American the other day. He certainly deserved it. And the only thing he’s better at than playing baseball is he’s a first-class and quality human being.”
Williams on his experience at the College World Series: “We talk about staying in the moment, being present all the time. So I mean, when it was that time to just soak it all in, that’s what we all did. We just look at the crowd, the venues, hotel, the food around the hotel and everything, we just made every moment the most. When it was time to play we just came out and stayed in the moment. And we just competed. And I think that’s why we came out here. It was a great experience. It was everything I dreamed of it to be. So I’m just happy I got the chance to be here with this group of guys.”
Williams on what he’ll remember about this team: “Everything. I mean, from the locker room, weight room, the competitiveness, the music in the hitting facility. Every day they just come out and give everything that they have, and that’s why we’re in this situation. I’m blessed to be part of this team. I’m very grateful with the group of men that we have and what they developed to become. And every memory on this point, I’m just thankful for everything.”
Williams on the future of the program: “We got 30 leaders on this team. I don’t see myself as just the individual guy on this team. There’s 30 other guys in that locker room that’s bleeding right now. And they bring different characteristics to the team. Every one of them are leaders in my eyes. I think whoever wants to run the program, whatever you guys want to call it, there’s going to be a ton of guys that’s going to step up to the plate and do what they can do to carry the team to keep pushing the team and just keep the train going.”
Williams on what’s next for him as far as the MLB Draft and pro opportunities: “I haven’t even thought about that yet. I haven’t thought any second about the next few weeks. I’ve just been out here trying to give everything I got. So that’s still where my head is right now.”