Monday Interviews

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. --- Monday interviews with assistant coach Scott Forbes, shortstop Levi Michael, first baseman Jesse Wierzbicki, catcher Jacob Stallings and pitcher Patrick Johnson, as the Diamond Heels prepare for the ACC Tournament.

Associate Head Coach Scott Forbes

When was the last time that you had a pitching staff that was this deep?
"Probably back in 2008 when we were playing in Cary. We had Brian Moran, Colin Bates and Rob Wooten, but it is still not as deep and not as many arms that can stay fresh for us. That has definitely helped us down the stretch and change some roles. Put [Michael] Morin as the closer and have some of these young guys, these freshmen, have really stepped up for us. We have two legitimate lefties and three righties to get to a good closer so we feel pretty good about that depth."

How do you feel that the depth will give the team the opportunity to try to win the ACC Tourney and not suffer any penalty in the regionals later?
"That definitely will help because obviously we have been been in this situation and we have been fortunate to be in the postseason and we know what the ultimate prize is. We want to win the ACC Tournament, but we also are not going to tax our guys. So it is less tempting, if you are fortunate to make it to the championship game, if you feel like you can throw somebody and not have to bring somebody back. That is definitely what we are going to do and our philosophy going into the weekend. We will set up our pitching for next weekend, but with our depth, we feel we can beat anybody with any given pitcher on any given day."

Patrick Johnson was selected as an All-ACC Second-Team performer and as the ACC Pitcher of the Week...
"If there is ever a kid who deserves it - it is him. Having surgery during the post season and working so hard to get back where he is and throwing that complete game was kind of just icing on the cake for him but 10-1 is pretty good in this league."


Junior Levi Michael

Can you compare the position that the Tar Heels are in heading into the postseason as compared to last year?
"I think we are in great shape this year coming off of a big series win over Virginia this past week. I think this is really going to help us and it is good to see that we are playing our best baseball at the right time and hopefully we will carry some momentum into the ACC Tournament."

How are you feeling physically now after having some nagging injuries earlier in the season?
"I am feeling a lot better. Kind of taking it day by day and trying to stick with the process and working with Terry Jo [Rucinski] - she does a great job getting me out on the field every day and it is getting better."

By enrolling at UNC early for your freshman year you ended up being ineligible to be drafted by Major League Baseball - what has the build up been with scouts and front offices as you have been projected to be a top draft pick in the upcoming draft while your college baseball season is still progressing?
"It is definitely something that I have been try to put on the back burner right now. My main focus right now is trying to stay healthy and trying to play well for this team and work to try to get back to Omaha. When that time comes I will deal with it then. Right now working and enjoying playing with these guys."


Senior Jesse Wierzbicki

Can you compare the position that the Diamond Heels are in this year as compared to last year before the regionals?
"I think this year going to the ACC Tournament will help us. Last year we had to sit around for a week and a half, two weeks and we did not know if we were even going to get a chance to play in the regionals. Playing in the ACC Tournament will keep us ready, but we know we have a spot in the regionals so we can kind of focus on that and look forward to that."

Looking back on your career, what is your best memory so far?
"I'm hoping they are in front of me. Last year we made a good run there at the end but we were not quite able to punch the ticket to the next round. But, I think we have a really special team this year so I am not setting my goals too low. I think our best moments are to come."

Last year it seemed like pitchers fed you a constant diet of breaking balls but this year you have been able to stay composed in the box. What have you been working on with Coach Jackson to prepare you for this season at the plate?
"I think last year I came intp the league and no one had really seen me. Once they kind of figured out they could get me with sliders and curve balls, they keep feeding them to me and I really did not make an adjustment. I think that mentally perhaps I was not ready for the season. Then this year Coach Jackson embedded in me that you will not always get a pitch that you want to hit but it is what the pitcher is going to give you. So you just have to take what he gives you and work on that. I have worked on trying to cut down on my swing and not try to swing out of my shoes and try to hit the ball to right field."


Junior Jacob Stallings

With the first two opponents for the Tar Heels in the ACC Tournament Pool play both being opponents in Miami and Wake Forest that were series losses earlier in the season - does that give the team extra motivation to go all out?
"Without a doubt. [Against] Miami we lost two games in one day. We were pretty frustrated with the way we played especially in the second game. In the first game we were right there but they exploded in the 10th. At Wake we felt like we should have taken two out of three there, too. It is definitely a situation where we are excited to play them and hopefully get some revenge."

Can you discuss the physical and mental toll of catching as many innings as you have this season?
"It is something that is obviously new to me. I caught most every game the last half of the season last year, but obviously, that is not a whole season catching every game. It is something I have had to adjust to and the physical toll is that you have to really take care of your body. That is something that you don't realize until you go through it. Mentally you have to stay focused and bring it every day. You can't focus on your hitting or defense because especially with hitting, it is so up and down and such a thing of failure. But you just try to focus on how well the team is doing and what I can do in this situation to help the team win."

Today Virginia Head Coach Brian O'Connor was announced as the ACC Coach of the Year. Do you feel that Coach Fox should have garnered more votes from the ACC coaches for the job he did this season with this team?
"Well Coach O'Connor is a great coach and obviously their consistency all season has been amazing, but from the year we had last year, Coach [Fox] could have gotten a little more consideration just because we bounced back from not having a great year last year to this year. But, you can't argue with Virginia's head coach as they have had a great year so far."


Senior Patrick Johnson

Can you discuss getting the opportunity to start against Wake Forest in the ACC Tournament?
"I mean they are probably going to play us tough just like they did the whole weekend. We can not take any game out here lightly."

What is your opinion on Colin Moran receiving ACC Freshman of the Year and First-Team All-ACC Honors?
"That is unbelievable. You could tell as soon as that kid got here in the fall that he was going to be a special player. But the way he came out and played at that level the entire season and has not fell off at all and leads the league in RBI's it is unbelievable. He is unreal."

How much motivation does the team have after not going to the ACC Tournament last year to make a run at getting into the Championship Game?
"Not going last year left a sour taste in our mouth. I feel like that was a big motivation for the guys that were here last year. Because at this time last year we were here practicing while the ACC Tournament was going on not knowing if we would make the NCAA Tournament or not and it was kind of all up in the air. We did not know what was going on. [This year] we wanted to leave no doubt and take care of business."


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