Monday with Mike Fox

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. --- After a tough series loss to Wake Forest, North Carolina is now 14-3 (1-2 ACC) heading into a four-game slate with Princeton at home on Tuesday before heading to Blacksburg for a weekend series with Virginia Tech.

Get your UNC baseball info and talk with fellow fans on Inside Carolina's Diamond Heels Message Board
Can you give your impressions of the last week for the team?
"Well, we liked our week until the end. The end did not turn out well for us at all. We played five this week and it is Spring Break and we were playing so well mid-week and then Friday we played well against Wake. We are extremely disappointed in the way the series ended at Wake and that we were unable to win that series yesterday."

Teams learn more about their leadership in adversity or defeat - what do you expect the leaders on this year's team will learn from the disappointment of losing a series to Wake Forest?
"I really like our team and like our leadership and I like the maturity of our team. That will show up today in practice and tomorrow against Princeton. When the adversity hits and your spirit is broken a little bit, you have to rely on the kids on your team who have been through it before. We talked briefly about this league and just how hard it is to win in this league especially on the road and it really does not matter who it is. This league, as I have said before, is very unforgiving and and one game does not affect the other one. You have to give Wake Forest credit - they came back the next two games and did what they had to do to win and I think that the maturity and leadership on our team is going to be evident and we will bounce back this afternoon and have a good workout and be ready for our next game."

Defensively the Tar Heels did not commit an error this entire weekend but lost the series - yo what do you attribute this series loss in the last two games?
"If you just looked at the stat sheets they hit .218 and we did not make an error. It comes down to close games like yesterday where I would like to have a few do overs in that regard as far as our pitching match ups. And they made a diving catch in center field that saved them two runs and they got a big two-out, two-strike hit and we didn't. There is just a fine line between winning and losing sometimes in this league. They got a big hit - a big home run - and we didn't. When you have a team 4-0 on the road you are trying to extend the lead as much as you can and crush their spirit a little bit and not give them a chance to think that they can get back in the game. It is no excuse, but the ball park played to the advance of the team that hit the ball in the air and the wind was blowing out the whole weekend and they got the ball up in the air and we did too a couple of times when you go back and look at the assists. They have twice as many assists as we did and we were involved on the ground and that new turf over there they made every play and they hit the ball in the air. The stats don't show that we should have lost two out of three but that is the one stat that counts - the score."

Speaking of the field - now two teams regionally in Wake Forest and Elon have gone to a completely synthetic field. How does this style of field affect play and is it purely a financial move to limit groundskeeping expenditures or a philosophical difference in the way that they run their program?
"You certainly would have to talk with those schools in terms of the decisions they made and why they made it. I'm sure some of it was economical - I think they were telling me that the field alone was $600,000 but you don't have any upkeep on it basically except for replacing the worn out area around the plate. It certainly is to their advantage - they play and practice on it every single day and their infielders look comfortable and there are not any bad hops and you have to learn how to slide a little earlier and things of that nature. Anytime you go on the road you have to play the other team's ball park. I mean there are nuances everywhere from the wind to the dimensions, to the turf, the sun, the backstop, you name it and then the crowd. It is part of going on the road in this league. Defensively we played well but certainly but we just got beat a little bit because we did not make quite enough good pitches when we needed to and they got a couple big hits and that is why they won."

Can you discuss Tommy Coyle's play in his second year starting at second base?
"He has played well. We saw in the fall that he has improved drastically defensively. I think this summer helped him a great deal and turning the double play he is playing better even though we have not had many opportunities to do that. He is more comfortable and confident out there. We have played well up the middle. Tommy is a good player and we saw that in him last year and that is why he played a lot as a freshman and you will continue to see him get better defensively as his career goes on."

Historically you and Coach Forbes have believed in getting a pitcher back out on the mound after facing a setback and being knocked out of a game early. Can you discuss removing Chris Munnelly from the game before recording an out against Wake Forest and the upcoming plans for the rotation with Kent Emanuel pitching in relief on Sunday?
"Cody Stiles is going to start against Princeton tomorrow and we are not sure how we are going to go for the weekend as of yet. Chris got hit in the rib earlier in the week and we did not think it was that serious, but he is going to be evaluated today. I don't think that had anything to do with his performance and in hindsight we should have left him out there a little longer. That is just the coach talking and rehashing everything when we are down 3-0 with a runner on first. Chris just did not look comfortable to us and you know we really have a lot of confidence in our bullpen but it just did not work out on Saturday. We have a lot of confidence in Chris Munnelly and I hope that it is nothing serious. I think he was hit in the ribs with a line drive - I think it was during batting practice or during practice - I'm not really sure when exactly it happened. He said that he felt fine but you don't really know when one of those things will kind of affect you from pitch to pitch. It is one of those days that happen with Chris but I bet that it does not happen again the rest of the season."

With only one mid-week game this week what will the schedule be like for the team?
"Unfortunately the NCAA does not give any extra opportunity to practice they require us to give them a day off. We will practice today, play tomorrow and Wednesday will be our off day then we will have somewhat of a short practice Thursday before we head to Virginia Tech. Practice time is so limited during the season - sometimes it is a little unfair in that regard since we need to spend some extra time with some of these kids. Our only objective tomorrow is to win the game. It certainly is not to pitch a certain number of pitchers or get some guys some work. We need to get back on the winning track here and we will do whatever is necessary tomorrow to get a win."

How are the roles in the bullpen evolving as the season is progressing?
"They are still evolving a little bit. We learned a little something about our our bullpen in the league this weekend. After we got Chris out of the game we went with Andrew Smith, a freshmen, then we thought it might be important to get some of our veterans out there the, guys that have been in it before like Jimmy [Messer] and Bryant [Gaines] and of course Shane Taylor came in and was outstanding for 3 1/3. And any time that happens it is human nature to go, ‘Gosh we should have gone with him earlier.' You don't know quite what you are going to get. In hindsight I think that Cody Penny has been one of our best guys out of the bullpen and he threw two pitches the whole series. We cannot let that happen again. We will reevaluate things from the weekend and we have a great deal of confidence in our pitchers and we pitched well enough to win other than really one pitch and that is unfortunate but it happens and we have to work through it. I like our team though and how competitive it is. I don't think we played tight yesterday and I thought we played to win but it did not happen for us."

Can you discuss Greg Holt's return to the batters box as a right handed option for the Tar Heels at the plate after focusing on pitching for the past two seasons?
"A little bit of a necessity for us. He had not swung the bat for a while and jumps back in there and had some big hits for us and that has been really good to see. Greg is willing to do whatever is necessary to help us win. To slide back there after not having BP in a while and to get some really big hits for us ... and we certainly will need him in that role until Matt Roberts comes back at full strength."

There was a recent announcement that the Diamond Heels would be reprising the BaseBald for the Cure behind the efforts of Chase Jones. Can you discuss your perspective on what he brings to the Tar Heel baseball program?
"Chase has been an inspiration to me and certainly to anyone he comes in contact with. You talk about selflessness and you hear about how one of the greatest joys that you can get is in helping others and that is certainly true but you look at Chase Jones and he lives it every single day. He is always thinking of others and working on their behalf. Certainly some of that has to do with his parents, where he came from and his battle, but he is certainly an inspiration to everyone in our baseball program and I am going to miss him dearly when he is gone. I am going to look back on it that it is one of the things in my coaching career that has impacted me the most in watching him. Everybody focuses on who does what on the field and how many games you win but this is one of those things in programs that people don't see but from the inside. Our players and coaches have seen it and it is one of the neatest things that I have been involved in watching Chase Jones and what he does for other people. It is very inspiring."

Inside Carolina Top Stories