Gary McClure has never been one to back down from a challenge. So when his team, the Austin Peay State University Governors, was selected to open the 2013 NCAA Tournament against Florida, the veteran baseball coach didn’t back down. In the following interview, Gary McClure recalls the events leading up to that monumental game.
Interviewing Experts: Good evening and thank you for taking time out to speak with us today.
Gary McClure: It’s my pleasure.
Interviewing Experts: Where did Austin Peay rank prior to facing off with Florida?
Gary McClure: We were #21 in Baseball America and ranked #25 by the NCBWA, and our RPI was in the top 25 in the country as well.
Interviewing Experts: How did you feel knowing you were going up against such a decorated team?
Gary McClure: It was nerve-racking, I mean everyone is very good when you get to the NCAA tournament, but we knew they had a pitcher who was projected to go in the first round of the upcoming draft and that we would be facing him. You also worry a little about the reputation a program like Florida has, but truthfully we didn’t think that would be much of a factor because we had been battle tested in big games over the past three seasons. To be honest, when it really came down to it we felt like we were the better team overall. We were the second seed and deserved that while the Gators were third, but the bottom line is that it’s all decided on the field and you only get one shot at it.
Interviewing Experts: Where was the game hosted?
Gary McClure: At the University of Indiana’s Bart Kaufman field.
Interviewing Experts: Why was APSU’s second-seeding significant?
Gary McClure: It was the highest for any OVC team in history.
Interviewing Experts: That’s a pretty impressive accomplishment.
Gary McClure: Thank you, our players deserved it.
Interviewing Experts: The Governors had faced other SEC teams in 2013, right?
Gary McClure: We had, which made it even more interesting. We lost matchups against the University of Kentucky and Mississippi State during the regular season.Both were tight games and also in the one stretch of the season we were not playing very well.
Interviewing Experts: How did Austin Peay wind up in the tournament?
Gary McClure: We had won the OVC Tournament and earned the automatic bid. However, with our RPI and record we would have got an at large bid had we lost in the tournament.
Interviewing Experts: That was not your first OVC Tournament victory, was it?
Gary McClure: No, 2013 was our third straight Championship win.
Interviewing Experts: That’s very remarkable.
Gary McClure: I won’t deny that. It was actually only the second time in history an OVC team earned an appearance in three consecutive NCAA tournaments.
Interviewing Experts: Who were your notable players for this competition?
Gary McClure: I’ll be honest, that’s a tough question because we had so many great ones on that particular team. Seven players went on to professional baseball, and we had both the OVC Pitcher of the Year and OVC Player of the year on that team in Tyler Rogers and Craig Massoni.
Interviewing Experts: This was pretty close to the time you were about to break a record yourself, wasn’t it?
Gary McClure: Yes, I didn’t realize it then, but we were just two wins away from breaking the OVC All-Time Wins record held by Western Kentucky University since 1980.
Interviewing Experts: We understand this game was a reunion of sorts for one of your players. Can you tell us about it?
Gary McClure: Florida Gator Jonathan Crawford was a team mate of the Governors’ Jordan Hankins on the 2012 USA College National Team.
Interviewing Experts: That had to have been awkward…
Gary McClure: Not really. Both players are true professionals and have a great respect for one another. When you start playing on the national level as we were, the more that happens.
Interviewing Experts: That’s how it should be.
Gary McClure: I agree completely and I’m glad their paths were able to cross once again. Thats one of the neat things about athletics. Sometimes you compete with someone as teammates and sometimes you compete against them.
Gary McClure is the former head coach of the Austin Peay Governors baseball team. McClure retired in 2015 as the winningest coach ever in the OVC.