Monday with Mike Fox

Inside Carolina caught up with Diamond Heels head coach Mike Fox on Monday for an exclusive interview looking back at the weekend sweep of top-ranked Virginia and looking forward to the ACC Tournament and the NCAA Tournament. UNC finished the regular season with a 44-12 (20-10 ACC) record.

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Looking back at the final series -- a sweep of No. 1 Virginia (a team that hadn't lost a series all season) -- what were your impressions?
"I could not have been prouder of our team and how we performed. It was just a very special weekend at Boshamer. The crowds, the weather and a great opponent. Our kids met the challenge. To do what we did on the mound against them in my opinion was nothing short of spectacular. How we pitched, it did not surprise me really, as I knew our players would rise to the occasion."

Besides the pitching, one of the keys to the series sweep in my opinion was the play of the defense against Virginia - avoiding providing the big opportunities to their offense with mistakes in the field...
"We did make a couple of silly errors but I don't think any of those really hurt us. When we had to make a play to either end an inning or in the eighth inning there [on Saturday]. It is not an easy play when a guy hits a ball that hard to you at third with Colin [Moran] sticking his nose in front of the ball and scooping it to first base. When we had to make a big play to get out of a jam and get out of an inning or end the game we were able to make it. When you combine that with some very good pitching that is how we won the last two days in one run games."

What's your opinion on the two-pool play leading to the championship game in the ACC Tournament and your opinion on the ACC Tournament format?
"Well, my opinion would be not to have a tournament. But we do have one and I like this one. I like being guaranteed three games and having a day off. I understand the argument that you will not have a ‘true' champion -- and I am not speaking for all of the coaches -- but I think that for the majority of the coaches this is not the weekend to tax all of your pitchers especially, if you are in the NCAA Tournament [already] and this format allows your team to play three games this week and maybe a fourth, which in my opinion is enough."

Can you discuss the action plan for advanced ticket sales for the postseason at Boshamer Stadium?
"Sure, you can credit Michael Beale (in UNC's Marketing and Promotions department). He sent me a text Saturday night and not soon after I had gotten home from the last Virginia game. He has the wheels already spinning and he had contacted all the right people in the ticket office and they wanted to get ahead of this. I applaud Michael as he has done a great job for us and he cares deeply for our program and he wants to fill up the stadium. I know technically you are probably supposed to wait until you are confirmed as host but I personally think that is fine for us to assume that we are hosting and let our Diamond Heels club folks and our Boshamer donors, our former players and those people that have bought our season tickets and mini-season tickets the opportunity to get out ahead and get tickets to the Regionals. I am all for that and we want to pack the place with Carolina fans - no doubt."

With the Regionals right behind the ACC Tournament, what kind of plan have you and Coach Forbes come up with for the deployment of pitching resources for the games this week?
"We have a little bit. Coach Forbes and Coach Jackson, believe it or not, took off not long after the game on Saturday to drive to Tennessee to see one of our signees play in a Junior College regional and sit down and talk with him. That is how dedicated those two coaches of mine are. It is just incredible the staff that I have. We had some time to talk when they were in the car and we will talk a little bit more today about it but we will not pitch Patrick Johnson until Friday. He threw 136 pitches on short rest and we are not going to bring him back until he has had some time; and we don't want there to be a lot of time between his start in the ACC Tournament and his start in the Regionals. Kent [Emanuel] is in the same situation and he won't pitch until Saturday. So we have not yet determined who we will pitch on Thursday but we have not totally decided that yet and I am not ready to announce it yet but it will not be Patrick, Kent or obviously Chris Munnelly."

What area do you have your coaching staff focusing on to be successful in the postseason?
"The same things we have been focusing on all year long. I think you have to be careful not to over do things. You get into this part of the year and you need to stay on schedule and have your practices and we always emphasize the fundamentals and will do a lot of that today in practice -- and practice defending the bunt and getting the bunt down and we had to do that a little bit this weekend getting some bunts down when we needed to. Getting all of the pitchers ready. This league and the 30 conference games prepare you for a regional and you will probably be playing some familiar teams so it is just a matter of managing your schedule. It is not like football where you can put in a different offensive scheme. You can't really change a whole lot. We want to keep our kids healthy and strong and have our hitters lift again two times this week - today and Wednesday to maintain that strength up because we hope to be playing a little bit longer and keep our pitchers on task. We are going to follow the same protocol since we have been back after January."

How difficult is it for Coach Forbes and Jackson to balance their recruiting correspondence during this part of the season with everything going on with scouting reports and preparing for the postseason?
"It is a busy time of year. We have a number of our recruits that were in the playoffs and we would either try to get to a game or try to give them a call and we have a number of them coming to orientation here really quickly in the next week or two. We have a number of them obviously with the draft coming up and we are sending out information and letters about that and staying in touch with them. Coach Jackson has obviously one of the most difficult tasks guiding these kids from signing to enrollment and there is lot that goes through with that. A lot of questions and a lot going on but I am telling you right now that we would rather be busy right now than not be - I can tell you that."


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