Around the Bases with Levi Michael

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. --- Inside Carolina caught up with UNC shortstop Levi Michael for a mid-week interview. The switch-hitting junior is leading the team in on base percentage (.480) and is second in batting average (.341).

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How did Coach Fox prepare the team for the ups and downs of the college baseball season?
"That is exactly what he told us after the weekend. He kind of expected us to have a rough patch at some point during the season because of the nature of baseball and told us to stay positive and continue to build our confidence and keep playing good baseball."

How did the team take getting swept over in Raleigh?
"It is a big rivalry and we are upset that we did not play as well as we needed to win over there. I think coming off of this weekend, obviously we got swept by State and you never want that to happen but I think it will turn into a positive for us. It humbled us a little bit and refocused us and I think we are ready to go for the rest of the season."

What's the specific focus leading up to the Miami series and the stretch run towards the ACC Tournament?
"To continue this week getting prepared, continuing to work to get better. Miami just like any ACC opponent is going to be a big weekend for us. We just have to continue to play good baseball."

What is it like staying on top of your academic work during the season heading into final exams?
"You feel the grind a little bit. But I think that it is exciting to know that you are finally about to get out of class and finishing up exams and then focusing on baseball. That is the most fun time of the year and we are all looking forward to it."

You are leading theteam in on base percentage - can you discuss your approach at the plate this season?
"You know some days you might not be swinging it as well as others but one thing that you can remain constant is swinging at good pitches, seeing the ball well, working deep into counts and making the pitcher throw extra pitches. So that is what I focus on trying to work deep into counts, maintain a good approach and stay patient at the plate."

Now playing at shortstop, how's your relationship on defense with Tommy Coyle as your double play partner?
"I think me and Tommy are real solid up the middle defensively. We have good chemistry and we work well together. Me and him get along well together and that just adds to it. We communicate well and that is what it takes."

In less than six weeks Major League Baseball will have the amateur draft - how much contact have you had with scouts working on their pre-draft preparations as a draft eligible junior?
"It creeps in the back of your mind. But I have not had much contact with them. They usually try to let me play out my season. That is something that I am not focused on at all right now. I am here in the present and right now we have the season so I am going to continue to try to play hard and get some wins with these guys."

You have had your share of nagging injuries during your career at North Carolina - can you discuss your relationship with head trainer Terri Jo Rucinski?
"Terri Jo is my biggest fan. She is the biggest reason that I am on the field everyday. I can not give her enough thanks. I spend hours a day down there more so than working to get better with my baseball just because I have to get healthy in order to be out there, so I can not thank them enough."

Can you discuss the team's prowess in stealing bases during the season? You're second on the team with 12 in only 13 attempts ...
"Coach Fox usually takes what we can get. In recent games behind the plate and on the mound in they have done a good job at being quick to the plate and have had good defensive catchers. We are not going to run into outs, we are going to take them when we can get them."

Opposing teams seem to like to find a left handed pitcher to throw against the Tar Heels, especially during mid-week games - what is your perspective on that tendency?
"We have a lot of lefties in our lineup and a lot of teams tend to try to play the matchup. It is harder to see the ball - you don't get a chance to see the ball as well left on left - so I think that is the main reason they throw lefties at us."

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