Monday with Mike Fox

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. --- The Diamond Heels went 1-2 in the ACC Tournament to enter their Chapel Hill NCAA Regional with a 45-14 record. Inside Carolina caught up with head coach Mike Fox on Monday morning for the weekly interview ...

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Can you give your recap of the Atlantic Coast Conference Tournament?
"Lost a tough one to Miami. It was a little unusual for us not to be able to hold onto the lead. That was disappointing. Then here comes Mother Nature and a 15-inning game and the whole tournament got pushed back. The committee had a tough decision to make certainly with our Wake Forest start. But, we managed that game and did the best we could certainly, although it was a little bit unusual starting as late as we did and finishing the next day. But, the result was what we wanted. I am proud of our guys to be able to manage all that and coming back the next day I thought the game against Virginia was a terrific game. It was very similar to the ones we had in Chapel Hill. They are a great club. A hit here or there and we could have won the game. I thought Kent [Emanuel] was sensational and it was one of his better starts all year long and it was just a one run loss but both teams really competed hard even though the game, as far as the ACC Tournament - and probably nationally as well - was pretty meaningless."

Can you discuss Patrick Johnson's performance against Wake Forest and Jesse Wierzbicki's performance in the ACC Tournament as both of those players were announced to the All-Tourney team?
"That was probably one of the disappointing things about not being able to finish the game even though it was in the middle of the morning - it would have been interesting to see what Patrick would have been able to do. After the first inning where he walked a couple of guys he was lights out. I don't think based on his pitch count ... I doubt very seriously that we would have let him throw nine innings. It is kind of a moot point right now. He gave us a great start and it was exactly what we needed. Certainly we had several guys beside Jesse who played well in the tournament. Tommy Coyle was really good but Jesse I am proud to see him get honored in that way because he played well with a big home run for us. He is starting to swing the bat well for us down the stretch."

How about R.C. Orlan's weekend and how he handled adversity in the field?
"That was fine. R.C. was just trying to make a play. The first bunt when he looked up and saw that Colin was not at third he should have just turned around and shuffled his feet and got the out at first. That guy at third would have scored anyway. I have no qualms whatsoever on the bunt by [Keith] Werman. R.C. does things 100 miles per hour. I never fault a kid for that. He is trying to field a bunt and make a play at home and just threw the ball a little too hard. I do believe if the throw was a good one there I think the kid would have been out at the plate then we would be talking about what a sensational play he made. It is just one of those things. R.C. is extremely dedicated and works on his fielding and his pick off move and all that extremely hard. He was just trying to make a play and I would never fault a kid for that. We would not be where we are without R.C. Orlan, I know that."

You mentioned that Kent Emanuel's performance against Virginia, in your opinion, was his best outing of the year. Can you speak further on that?
"I thought that was one of Kent's best starts for us. We were watching the first couple of innings and thought, 'Man he is really throwing the ball well.' Tying up some of their right handed hitters and being able to pitch in. He is so poised and confident now with the way he is throwing. I think all you need to know about Kent Emanuel is that Virginia went on first movement on him to try and steal a couple of bases. They have seen him a couple of times and that is the scouting report on him and you have to sort of guess when he lifts to first base. We talked to him in the dugout about it and that we would have to come up with a slide move next year or change his rhythm a little bit and he looks at me and Coach Forbes and says, ‘Yes Sir.' Then he goes out and in the middle of the game and changes all of his rhythm going to first so we saw him do some short lifts and change his rhythm throwing to the plate all year long. That just tells you what kind of athlete he is and what kind of aptitude he has for the game. But he made an adjustment right there in the middle of the game. That is how athletic he is. We are going to feel really confident with him throwing in a regional because he has pitched a lot of big games for us this year."

Do you feel that the format of the ACC Tournament merits garnering the automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament?
"There is always going to be people that like and dislike season-ending tournaments, conference tournament formats. You can debate that until the cows come home. It just depends upon what side you want to land on. It is my take that for the most part coaches in our league prefer this type of format. Now whether or not it determines a true champion I don't really know. If you go in there and win four games like Virginia did you are the best team for those five days. I guess that debate would really get a lot stronger if an ACC team wins the tournament that is not in the NCAA Tournament. So far I don't think that has happened since we have gone into pool play. We had seven teams in the NCAA Tournament, I believe, even before the tournament started. That debate would even have been stronger if Wake Forest had won the tournament. Then your question would have been a legitimate one. Should that team that is not going to be in the regional probably now be in because they won a pool play event? I don't know but I like this format because it does not tax your pitchers and you know you are going to get three games in and I think that is important and you know you are going to get a day off and I think that is important. So we debate it every year in our coaches meeting when we go back and forth and there are a lot of opinions discussed but so far we are sticking with this one."

What will the Diamond Heels week be like after the regional matchups are announced?
"Today will be fun. This is the best time of year, there is no doubt about it, for several reasons. One is this is what you point towards when you start and we are excited to see who will be coming to our regional and to get prepared for that. We will work out today and we basically get three days to kind of do what we want as far as practice and schedule things that we want or need to. Obviously the coaches will huddle here and talk about how we want to line things up for the weekend. There is a lot of preparation involved hosting a regional. We have already done the preliminary work but here comes the ticket requests and all that sort of thing. We will have to deal with all of that but it is an exciting time. We will have Boshamer spruced up and ready to go. We need our fans here to really get out to Boshamer and support this regional as they really can help us win this thing." Can you compare and contrast where the team is this year with last season when it was a question mark heading into the selection show if there would be a postseason for the team?
"It is obviously a different feeling. You sort of know down the stretch here that you are in. That certainly helps. I mean there is a little bit more relaxation involved. It certainly makes it easier in terms of coaching and being able to manage your practices and your days. When you have a period of time where you don't know if you are playing or not those are some tough practices. You find out what kind of motivator you are if you can get your kids to practice at a high level for three or four days not knowing your fate. It is a comforting feeling and our players deserve it and they deserve to be recognized today for the regular season that they have been able to have. We are excited to be hosting a regional at Boshamer. We have been there and done that and we know what to expect and we are excited."


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