Jay Johnson, head baseball coach at the University of Arizona, prepared this week for an upcoming three-game series against Ole Miss in the NCAA Super Regional. The winner goes to the College World Series Johnson and his Wildcats went 43-15 on the season. He was Eye on the Ball on Fox Sports 1450 this week to talk about this weekend’s important series.
(Transcribed by Justin Sternad)
- Q: What’s the focus for this week in hopes to win a two-game set to get your team into the world series?
- Jay: “I think as a staff the best thing we can do is keep everything the same, and that’s what we’ve tried to do. We have one opponent this week compared to three in the Regional format, so that slows things for us down a little bit. Relative to that we had a good practice last night, put a good one together tonight and have another good solid day tomorrow and let our guys do what they do best-which is play winning baseball.”
- Q: What point during the season, if not before the season, did you think this group was special and had this in them?
- Jay: “I felt very good about this team and felt it was an extension of 2020 where the COVID Pandemic shut us down and I thought that was unfortunate because I thought we had a potential Omaha team in 2020. A lot of those guys are back, we did lose a few players, but the entire rest of that team or a core of that team is back and have led the charge for this. We knew we were adding an outstanding recruiting class and felt like all the pieces were in place. It then came about developing a good process in the fall. In that regard, when you measure the talent and preparation, I’m not surprised at all.”
- Q: How much did you expect from freshman recruits going in and how are they handling all of this?
- Jay: “In terms of expectations, we knew we had talented players. We had a few players who were named Co-National Freshman of the year awards which is mind boggling considering they are on the same team. This is the biggest jump to play in high school baseball to the highest division in baseball and for both of those guys their talent has shown up because their maturity is in place.”
- Q: Is it a testament to you to recruit good kids who will likely mesh together and have good camaraderie together?
- Jay: “It’s so important. Having good kids like Donta Williams definitely has developed a good team bond and camaraderie and common purpose and it sure makes it fun to coach these guys when they’re all going in the same direction.”
- Q: How much does the Pac-12 Championship mean to you and the players and the program as a whole? Where does that sit in terms of what you set out to do as a program this year?
- Jay: “I think it’s very meaningful. When you look at the history of the Pac-12 conference, no conference has been more successful of teams going and winning national championships in baseball more so than the Pac-12. And you think of all the great players and coaches and programs, that was a big deal. It’s our first outright championship at the University of Arizona since 1992. And at that time, it was only a six-team format with the Pac-12 South. This team accomplished something it hasn’t done in 29 years and it’s something that I’m proud of and I know they’re proud of it. The best part is they backed it up last week in terms of the NCAA tournament and we hope to do the same this week and make a run for this College World Series.”
- Q: As a coach where do you sit in terms of your opponent? Do you worry about yourselves and not think too much of the other team or do you worry about them or both?
- Jay: “I think it’s a little of both. In terms of how we were playing, I think we took some things from last weekend that we wanted to improve on just from a quality of play standpoint. When we are on the field together during practice, our only focus is on our team and things each individual player needs to do to be as positive a contribution they can be to the team. A lot of the rest of my day is focused on Ole Miss and looking at their pitching staff and building a sound approach against all of their starters and relievers and how we’re going to pitch their hitters and all of those kinds of things. As a coaching staff we’re knee deep in preparation, and we know we have a really good opponent. It’ll be a great weekend here in Tucson for college baseball.
For the complete interview with Steve & Jay on Eye on the Ball visit: