Monday with Mike Fox

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. --- Following a disappointing series against Georgia Tech, the Diamond Heels (40-12, 17-10 ACC) enter the final week of the regular season with No. 1 Virginia on the slate and major postseason implications on the line.

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Can you give your impressions of the weekend?
"Extremely disappointing. Obviously after getting a win on Friday and putting ourselves in a position to win - very frustrating letting that game slip away from us. We could not get anything going offensively on Sunday to get back in the game after being down 3-0. I thought our kids competed really hard and for most of the 27 innings we pitched exceptionally well except for one of those and that inning came back and bit us. It was unfortunate but we move on and prepare for the next week."

One of the things that struck me this weekend was how similar UNC and Georgia Tech are, with both teams having a lot of youth in the lineup and some high impact arms in the rotation...
"I thought the teams were very evenly matched. Between [Mark] Pope, [Jed] Bradley and [Buck] Farmer ... of course we know Virginia's starters and you saw Miami's as well but those three kids for Georgia Tech for Friday, Saturday and Sunday starters they are three very good ones. I really thought we competed well against Pope and Bradley and you expect one of those three to have a really good outing and it just happened to be Farmer. They have a little bit more power than we do and we are starting young teams and young players. They are a good team and playing at home is a huge advantage in this league and it helps them but I think both teams are very similar. Pitching wise and offensively, defensively, speed with lefthanded and righthanded hitters the whole thing through - both teams resemble one another."

We have discussed before how difficult it can be to digest a tough loss. Looking back at the game on Saturday, is there anything that as a coach you second guessed or would have done differently?
"Well, we try not to do that. You can always look back as a coaching staff - if we moved Tommy Coyle over two feet he might have got that ball. It is kind of pointless. There are plays all throughout the game from the first pitch to the last where you might have a kid in the right position and you might not have. We ran the guys out there in the 9th inning that have finished games for us and are the best guys for us out of the bullpen. If you are going to lose the game in the ninth inning you want to lose with your best guys out there. So, I'm not going to say what we would have done differently because I'm not going to throw any of my players under the bus, so to speak. I know that they competed as well as they possibly could and really threw a couple of balls in that ninth inning that we should have caught but the bottom line is that we let it get away from us. We just did not make big pitches in the ninth inning and they rallied and hit them and found holes. The 2-2 pitch to the leadoff hitter we thought was strike three. We did not get the call and they hit one in the hole in short then you go from there. The two walks in the ninth inning really hurt us. Again, our kids are really competed and the ball is right around the plate and just missed. It was not meant to be."

One of the things that was a positive in the Friday night game was the outfield defense with two spectacular catches by Ben Bunting and Chaz Frank - can you discuss their body of work throughout the series?
"Our outfield defense stunk Saturday and Sunday, it was the worst we have played all year long. Certainly, Friday night we got a big catch from Ben [Bunting] and [Chaz] Frank to end the game, which was huge for us. It was a razor-thin win for us and we were able to get it because we made plays we had to make to win the game. Then we turn around on Saturday and Sunday and misplay the routine balls on the ground in the outfield and let guys take an extra base and let a guy score from first base on a ground ball which was a single that really hurt us. There were a couple of balls that we took bad routes to that we should have caught. That is the nature of baseball - you can make a great play one day and the next day misplay a ball or not look it in. That happened to us. I mean we obviously played great Friday night - got a great start from Patrick [Johnson], did not walk hardly anybody and played great defense. Then the next two games we had some critical walks and some crucial errors that really hurt us. We did enough offensively to win the game on Saturday we just did not pitch well enough late or play good defense. Sunday we got good enough pitching to win by [Chris] Munnelly and all our relievers, we just did not do enough offensively. So it was two different contrasts on Saturday and Sunday, but obviously results we did not want."

It looked like Georgia Tech had a plan to pitch around Colin Moran this weekend. Can you discuss their execution of that plan and the protection in the lineup for Moran this weekend?
"A little bit. Obviously they gave him a few balls to hit and I think it all depended upon the situation when he was up there. Colin looks at the ball so if he does not get pitches he can hit in the zone he is going to walk. He walked five times over the weekend and we did not get any production or much at all from our 4 and 5 hitters or 3 and 4 hitters, whichever they were. We got one big hit from Jesse [Wierzbicki] and one from Levi [Michael] and that was it. That is not enough. We can not rely on one guy and we can not rely on two or three. We did not get any production hardly from the bottom of our order as well. That is what has hurt us down the stretch offensively. We have not been consistent enough one through nine. You have to string together some hits and you have to get a two-out hit. Again, we did that on Saturday with a big home run from Jesse -- a huge home run from him -- and a couple big two-out hits and we are up 8-3 in a game obviously we should have won. We did just enough against Pope, taking advantage of his walks on Friday and getting a few big hits when we got into scoring position, so we did what we need to on Friday and Saturday. But we have to be more consistent offensively down the stretch and get those guys going and we are hitting entirely too many balls in the air and did not put enough pressure on their infield defense - that is something we have to change as well."

Looking forward the Tar Heels have one more non-conference game against Appalachian State and then the final ACC series against top-ranked Virginia. Who do you expect to start in the game against ASU?
"We probably will stick with what we have been doing. We are not going to change a whole lot at this point. I did not come back with the team yesterday for the first time ever. Normally I talk with Coach Forbes on the bus on the way back like I normally do. I came back to see my mom in the hospital but we will get in and talk but I cannot imagine that we would not throw Cody Stiles Tuesday and pretty much keep the same rotation we have have. I don't expect to change that."

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