Around the Bases with Jesse Wierzbicki

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. --- Inside Carolina caught up with the senior Jesse Wierzbicki after the Diamond Heels' 16-0 ambush of the Elon Phoenix in a mid-week game at Boshamer Stadium.

Thoughts on the team's hot start so far this season?
"We are getting off to a good start, but Coach keeps reminding us that we really have not done anything yet. We are playing well right now but we have not played an ACC series yet and we know we have a long road ahead of us. We are trying to stay even keeled and not trying to get too high or too low and just trying to stay even because the bulk of our season has not even gotten here yet."

The players and coaches have spoken to the special chemistry on this team …
"I think we have a good mix of guys. We have a bunch of freshmen and we have a bunch of returning guys from last year and some seniors to lead the club. I think our chemistry is unbelievable this year and I think it shows so far."

Did the opening trip to California help to that end?
"Definitely it did. We all just got to bond. We got rained out there and got to hang out as a team out there in the hotel. It helps when you go out there and win four games to start the season off."

It seems like opposing teams have a scouting report on you to feed you a steady diet of breaking balls - how does the coaching staff prepare you in practice to counter that strategy?
"To be honest - try to hit the fastballs before it. [laughs] Working on off speed and just trying to go the other way and not trying to do too much with two strikes. And if they are going to feed me sliders and curveballs to just try to hit them to right field and not try to pull it. If you try to pull the ball on an off-speed pitch you end up grounding out or missing it. I am just trying to work on hitting the ball the other way."

The new bats have generated a lot of discussion this season already. What are your thoughts on them so far?
"Last year you could hit one off the end or if it jams you a little bit and still put it out of the ballpark if the pitcher was throwing hard enough. If you miss-hit it they are definitely unforgiving in that area this year. If you square one up they still go. We have hit some balls this year that were absolutely tanks. I don't think it is as big as a problem as everyone is saying - they still hit pretty well."

Can you discuss your comfort level in fielding at first base this season?
"Last year was pretty much my first year over there so I was obviously not nearly as comfortable as I am now. I think right now I am getting the hang of first base. It is all about footwork over there and if you can feel where the bag is. It helps when you get some games there. Our infield pretty much make it easy over there. Every ball is pretty much right to you so I am just catching it. I'm not having to do too much."

What about the aspect of preparing for pickoff attempts and then preparing for defense at first?
"Pretty much when the guy is on first you are just waiting for the pick and if he does not pick you square up to the batter and if the ball is hit to you just knock it down. You just try to get yourself in a position to field the ball after the pickoff and be quick to be ready. Obviously you are playing right next to the bag so if the ball is hit it is usually scalded at you and you are right next to the bag. You have to be ready for balls to be ripped to you."

Can you discuss the depth of this team's bullpen? What was a weakness last year seems to be a strength this season ...
"We have a bunch of guys who got their feet wet last year and it really is helping us this year not to be scared about coming out of the pen and that has really helped. We have some freshmen that are just fearless who come out and throw strikes and have done an unbelievable job for us so far. One of the guys that just came to mind is Cody Penny. He was kind of a non-factor last year and really just did not pitch much. Then this year he has completely turned it around and is pitching unbelievably for us right now."

Which of the freshmen position players has caught your eye early in this season?
"Colin Moran - that kid - his bat just finds the ball and he squares everything up. It is unbelievable how well he is playing right now."


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