Monday with Mike Fox

The Tar Heels (23-3, 7-3) had another undefeated week, sweeping Duke after posting mid-week victories over UNCW and High Point. Inside Carolina caught up with head coach Mike Fox, who recorded victory No. 1,100, for an exclusive interview on Monday.

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Coach Fox, your Tar Heels had another undefeated week, can you reflect back on the slate of games?
"Very good week for us. Talked about it this morning with the coaches, five games that we won and none of them by any stretch were gimmees and games that we could easily have lost as far as the opponents. We came out of the week winning five games. It was a good week for our kids."

With the basketball season coming to a close, more Tar Heel fans will be turning more of their attention to the baseball team. Can you give a brief description to bring them up to date on the first 26 games?
"Oh gosh, we have played 26 games already and we are about halfway through our season. We have a fairly young pitching staff and some good young players playing for us and some veterans really playing well. Jesse Wierzbicki is having a really sensational season for us and Jacob Stallings is hitting in the four hole for us. We have played really solid defensively and pitch well and have some depth in our bullpen and some good starting pitching. We are extremely pleased with where we are at this point but certainly have the toughest part of our season coming up."

Colin Moran earned National Player of the Week honors thanks to his efforst both with the bat and the glove, going 9-for-15 with four home runs while having a perfect fielding week with nine assists and some tremendous plays at third base...
"Yeah, I was getting ready to say that something that might have gotten lost in the week is how well he played defensively and of course that does not get lost with us and I am glad that it didn't get lost with you either and I appreciate the question. What jumps out at you first and foremost is just the incredible week that he has had. You don't see these numbers very often in a five-game stretch in a college baseball season. It happens in our league sometimes because there are sensational players in our league. But he has 13 RBI in five games and slugged at over 1.4 and throws a triple in there and almost hits for the cycle. Four home runs and they were all clutch and he had one of those weeks that everyone dreams of having and helped us win some games for sure. The thing about it is that he walked five times and yet he did not have the most hits for our team this week - Tommy Coyle had ten. But you look at Colin and he has nine hits but seven of them were for extra bases and so only two singles. It is a mind boggling week for him and we are certainly glad he was that hot because we would not have won these games without him."

Speaking of Tommy Coyle, his hitting streak is up to 15 games (after his teammates earned him a a fifth plate appearance in the bottom of the eighth where he was able to extend his streak) and he's provided steady play at shortstop with Levi Michael injured...
"Tommy has had a really good year for us so far. We are not surprised by that. He is such an intense competitor and works at it and is ready to play everyday. A hitting streak is obviously a little luck involved getting an extra at bat. Tommy moves the ball and puts the ball in play and hits the ball to all fields and can run. He can mis-hit or chop a ball and still get on base. He has all sort of ways to keep his hitting streak going. We are just really pleased with how well he is playing defensively for us. We move everyone around during practice, pre-season and during batting practice. You can not predict injuries and we have to think about what we would do if this or that happens. Tommy has good feet but he doesn't have quite the arm strength but he understands that and comes and gets balls and has good range. We did see him play short when we recruited him so we knew he could play all over the infield. What he did at short did not surprise me."

One of the things that stood out this week was the handling of the pitching staff with the number of minor injuries and that seemed to pay dividends on Sunday having the depth to win an extra innings contest to sweep Duke. Can you discuss the management of the pitching staff this week?
"Well, you need to credit Coach Forbes and Coach Woodard for that. They monitor those kids so closely and know every pitch that they have thrown in the bullpen and obviously during the game. They watch them closely with their velocities and they know every one of these pitchers inside and out and know how quickly they recover. The best thing about our staff is that I don't think that we have put a player out there that has not been fresh or as close to 100 percent as they could be. I don't think that was always the case last year. We had to pitch some kids and that is never good because our job is to put them in a position to be successful and in order to do that we want them at 100 percent certainly with their arm. We are not afraid to use a lot of these guys out of the bullpen for one or two batters and the best thing about it is that they all have bought into it with their role and they understand it and relish it and know that they can go in and throw three pitches like R.C. Orlan yesterday and those three pitches can help us win a game. I like that about our staff most of all that they know it is about the team and how you can help us during a game so be ready when we call on you. We needed a bunch of them the other day during mid-week and we needed eight of them yesterday to win. That is the bottom line - let's get the W."

Can you discuss the play late in the Duke game on Sunday where Jesse Wierzbicki was called out for missing first base on his turn towards second?
"I did not see it and all I saw was that one of the Duke assistant coaches came out and immediately was telling their players to throw it to first base. I don't think Coach Woodard saw it either. That is not the reason that I went over to first base. I was not going over to argue the call because I did not see it. For an umpire to make that call in the bottom of the ninth he has to be sure 100 percent to remove the winning run from second base. It was pretty emphatic. I went out there after I heard what the umpire said to Jesse and my personal opinion is that it was not very respectful. So it is one of those things where we talk to our players all the time about you hit the ball well and it might be over the head of the outfielders head but your job it to get out of the box and make as good a turn as you can and keep your eyes and nose on the bag and make sure you hit it. I did not ask Jesse - as it really didn't matter after the game since we won - if he touched it or not but I have a feeling he probably didn't or if he did he got very little of it."

I would be remiss if I didn't mention your 1,100 victory over the weekend. What did you think about reaching that milestone?
"I will say it again. I did not know anything about that. That is the honest truth. Tyson Lusk knew better than to do that and to tell people and announce it right after the game. I am not a fan of that - I did not want anything to take away from what our players had done in winning the series on Saturday against Duke. I will reflect on all of that way after I stop coaching. I don't keep up with the numbers as the players have done all the work. It means that I have been doing it a while and it means I have had some really good players and assistant coaches. All it means that I have been lucky and fortunate. In that regard I consider myself very blessed to have been a part of 1,100 wins."

Your team has another tough week heading up the road to play Charlotte at home then hosting a hungry Clemson squad this week at Boshamer Stadium. What's your perspective on these opponents?
"Number one, we need to be ready to play tomorrow night. It is one of those dangerous games where we are going on the road against a good team who played us close here and has walked more than they have struck out. We have to pitch well and throw strikes and not come out flat coming off of this emotional weekend and being drained a little bit and get on the bus tomorrow ready to play. Clemson and Coach Leggett is well known to always have his team prepared and they bounce back well. In this league you have to be resilient and I am sure that Clemson will be. They have a lot of left handed hitters and that is something we have to manage. Our bullpen will have to be a factor. They are missing their number one pitcher [Kevin Brady] and then their best hitter [catcher Spencer Kieboom] was out against NC State all weekend because of a concussion. We will have our hands full with Clemson like we always have because they are talented and well coached. It will be a fun weekend for us and we need our crowd to come out. Our understanding that Clemson has a busload or maybe more than one, two or three busloads of students coming in for the weekend so we need to encourage our students and fans to come out and give our players an advantage playing at home against a very good team."

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