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What Was Said: Wes Johnson previews Georgia-NC State Super Regional

Palmber-Thombsby:Palmer Thombs06/07/24

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ATHENS, Ga. — It’s Super Regional weekend in the College Baseball world, and Georgia is set to play host to the NC State Wolfpack at Foley Field starting Saturday. UGA head coach Wes Johnson and a pair of Bulldog players had an opportunity to speak with reporters on Friday and shared updates ahead of the best-of-three series with a spot in Omaha just two wins away. They know the stakes, and they feel confident in their approach to an effort to get Georgia back to the College World Series for the first time since 2008.

DawgsHQ was on hand and has a full transcript of what Johnson had to say. Video of both Johnson and the joint interview with Charlie Condon and Corey Collins is also available. Without further ado, here’s what was said…

On how Charlie Condon and Paul Skenes compare as players… 

“I’ve said this before, but great players when I’ve been around them whether when I’ve been with the Twins or guys I’ve been around in college, it’s more mental. The physical stuff, some of it they’re just blessed with but some of it they do continue to develop their talents. Where those two guys are similar, the great ones I’ve been around, they just have a different mind. They want to challenge themselves daily. When they do that, if they don’t get the result they always want, they understand that they’re going to get better because of how hard they challenge themselves.

On the vibe around the Georgia team entering this week… 

“Guys, we’ve had a good … We we’re fortunate enough to wrap ours up and not have to play Monday. We’ve had a good week, we’ve had some good practices. Haven’t made them too long. Just short and crisp, fast, try and put a lot of tempo to the them. Get them in, get them out. We’ve had a good week. You hope and you want that to carry over to this week.”

On how the team has continued to develop… 

“Our league, meaning the SEC, it starts there. Everybody in that league is talented. There is not one team that doesn’t have talent. Everyone has good players. I just talk to our team about that a lot. You look at any team in professional baseball, I was fortunate enough to coach two divisional titles, those teams in their belief and confidence is at a level that is really, really high. It gives you a chance to go out and carry that into winning. That’s what I meant by that. Yes, we’ve developed some guys this year. There’s no doubt about that. We can look at that objectively. They had to learn how to believe in themselves. They had to learn, how once they did that, to take the confidence to the field. And then look at their teammates and know that about each other.”

On how they stack up against NC State… 

“I think we’re pretty evenly matched. They’ve got some really good bats. They’ve been play exceptionally well, probably the last four, five weeks now. They’re playing really well. Their pitching is similar to ours, their offense is similar, their defense. You look at this one, we’re evenly matched in my opinion.” 

On if Georgia will start Leighton Finley on Saturday, what the doctor said about fellow pitcher Charlie Goldstein…

“Charlie won’t be with us this weekend. Charlie will be here but he won’t be on the active roster.”

“Game 1 for us, I’m waiting on a few things and I’ll put that out there later.”

On Kolton Smith’s status… 

“Oh, he’s fine. Kolton is fine.”

On if having more people around the program builds confidence… 

“I think the biggest thing that players have to realize when you’re at home and your home crowd is here, as I tell them all the time, those people are rooting for you to do good. Once we understand that with confidence and belief it should take us to another level.”

On what he wants people who haven’t watched Georgia before to come away with this weekend…

“We just love playing baseball. We enjoy it, we have a lot of fun.Hopefully they see we never really panic, no matter what is going on, good or bad. We just keep playing the game and have fun doing it.”

On the origin of the german shepherd home run celebration mask…

“Oh, we could have a whole segment on that. The guys just wanted a prop in the dugout, right? I said, ‘Hey, when did we become the German Shepherds? I thought we were Bulldogs.’ No, there’s been a lot of fun with that. They said they couldn’t find a Bulldog mask on Amazon or wherever they went. The guys have fun with it. Going back to the last [question], I want our guys to have fun. We have enough, you know, serious things in life we have to deal with on a daily basis. Yeah, that’s the dog mask. It’s a product of the guys came up with it. I let them come up with it. I just laughed when I saw the german shepherd mask.”

On if the mask helps keep them loose…

“Oh absolutely, yeah. That’s what that’s stuff’s designed for. That’s what hopefully it’ll do this weekend.”

On NC State’s pitching and the experience it has…

“Yeah, you know, this time of year it’s about experience. They’ve got two really good freshman arms I really, really like. Their two best bullpen arms, at least on our end of evaluating things. They know their players better obviously, their heartbeat and so forth. You just look at raw stuff though, they’ve got two really good freshmen, got a mix of older guys. You’re not going to rattle them. You know, this crowd’s not going to rattle them — or I wouldn’t think that with the starters, especially their older guys. You know, they’re a good program, they play in a good league, and it should be a lot of fun.”

On how this Georgia team’s heartbeat has continued to improve…

“Yeah, the biggest example I guess I could give you is Leighton Finley. You know, I thought he was a little — not to use that term ‘sped up,’ but he was moving a little quick opening night of regionals on Friday night. You know, I sat down and talked to him a long time about it. Like, ‘We’re going to need you in the future. You’re going to pitch in these kind of games hopefully more in your career, and the next time you get out there’ — and I told him to be ready for the weekend last weekend and that I needed three outs out of him. I said, ‘When you get back out there, we’re going to go through some different things to make sure.’ And I thought, come on man, bases loaded, no outs, and I thought his heartbeat was great on Sunday.”

On juggling getting ready for this super regional and recruiting the transfer portal…

“Yeah, it’s just the world we live in now, right? You can’t sit back and wait. Yeah, we’ve had a couple commitments and had guys on campus this week. It’s that time of year. It’s a good thing. You want this, not sleeping right now. That means things are going the way they should be.”

On the opportunity to play this series at home…

“Well, the stat just slipped me on home teams in super regionals, but yeah, you want to play at home. Our guys are comfortable. They’re going to sleep in their bed tonight. Everything, right? They’re going to drive their car here the same way they’ve done it for, you know, nine-and-a-half months and get here and then get to the field and go in that same locker room. Yeah, it’s just huge.”

On what it would mean to him and to Georgia to advance to the CWS…

“Yeah, you know, the first thing we want to talk about is tomorrow, but yes, I’d be naive not to  say that yeah, if we got there and we win that second game — for these guys, especially this group. You look at Charlie Condon, you look at Corey Collins, Fernando Gonzalez. I mean, I could go through all the guys that have been here a while. It would mean the world to them, right? And, you know, for us, it just shows that you can come in. I heard the term so many times when I got here about rebuild, rebuild, rebuild. You just know that you don’t have to rebuild — that you can go out and if you do your due diligence and run your models and everything else you can find a team that can win in your ballpark.”

On 10 of the 16 teams left standing being from the SEC and the ACC…

“We could point to a lot of things. I think, you know, you’ve got to point to administration and the investment they make in college baseball, right? It’s really hard to be successful at this level without, you know, support from your administration from recruiting to facilities to everything else that gets good players to your place. And so you look, and that’s what the two leagues have done.”

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