"I thought it was a really good regional and I thought every team here was good. I thought we had a really good four seed here in Maine. I thought they had four pitchers that were Major League prospects; that challenged some teams here. I though FIU and James Madison were extremely offensive which always gives you a chance to win if you can swing the bat. All in all I thought it was awesome."
What was your perspective on how your team performed?
"I think the most impressive thing was the energy our guys had -- how hard they played and how focused they were and how they played pitch to pitch. They did not get caught up in if something bad happened, like yesterday when we did not break it open when we had the bases loaded with no outs. I thought they did a good job just coming down here and playing hard. I thought we threw the ball well on the mound and the bottom of our order produced. I thought some guys picked up Levi [Michael] and Colin [Moran], who struggled a little bit this weekend and that still allowed us to score some big runs and quite a few runs."
All year Coach Fox has preached pitching and defense to give the Heels the best chance for victory. This weekend the Tar Heels did not commit any errors in the field and got two stellar performances from Patrick Johnson and Kent Emanuel. Can you discuss the pitching and defense this weekend?
"Outstanding. Our middle infielders and our outfielders, really everybody as a team [played well]. Jesse Wierzbicki I thought played an unbelievable first base. He had a lot of ground balls hit to him. Levi Michael was outstanding, I thought he made big league plays at short. Tommy Coyle, Colin Moran and everybody. Our outfielders - Coach Jackson did an unbelievable job making sure they were in the right spot. Jacob [Stallings] behind the plate with no passed balls and no wild pitches really because he does a good job not allowing them from being wild pitches. I think our pitchers did a really good job controlling the running game, I don't know maybe we gave up two bags, but it might have been one as I'm not sure. I think a lot of that is dictated by the guy on the mound. I thought [Kent] Emanuel and [Patrick Johnson] pounded the strike zone. It helps when you pound the strike zone and not walk guys because it keeps your infielders into every pitch."
What is the team's schedule like today with the visitation for the Fox family this evening?
"We will come down there today. We get our guys up and keep them on a routine. We don't let them sleep too late. We will get them meal money then they go eat and come back here and get their treatment in the training room and all that stuff. Today for the most part is an off day for baseball. The pitchers will do their throwing and it is more of a lifting day with Coach Gatz - this time of year we put a premium on continuing to keep our strength. We feel like we have played so many games, every now and then not picking up a bat (is okay) for the position guys and they can rest their arms and our pitchers throw to a minimum of what they need and then everybody gets their lifting and conditioning done. We will take a bus tonight together as a team for the viewing. It is at seven so we will leave at six o'clock. Then tomorrow we will get back on a schedule as we don't know yet when we will play so that will dictate the long range schedule how we will map out things."
We have talked before about how Coach Fox has prepared you for the next step in your progression as a coach but this weekend brought into focus how that mentoring process paid dividends with your stepping forward in the interim this weekend.
"Obviously with it being a tough time for Coach Fox, ‘Your mom is your mom' is my saying all the time. There are going to be a lot of regionals but you only have one mom. So Coach was where he needed to be and we talked quite a bit. I have been around Coach for so long and I think the best thing he has done for all of us is to allow us to do our jobs and sometimes maybe to fail or whatever and he just steps back and watches. Coach Jackson works with the hitters now and Coach pretty much just throws to them and he might say something here or there but he allows Coach Jackson to do the majority of that and breaking down the video with all those guys and the same with the pitchers with Coach Woodard and myself. That allows you to have confidence and helps you realize that you are in charge right here making the pitching changes and a lot of the pitching decisions. Then I think the fact that he wasn't here and I think that the best way of saying this is that there is only one Coach during the game and because somebody always has to make the ultimate decision you know if there is a big one to make. That was really the only difference fortunately when you are young and you get some head coaching experience maybe in a summer league at least you have as a head coach you can reflect back on that and learn from where you have been as an assistant coach."
Can you discuss the teams focus and execution of the scouting report and how the team balanced the emotions of wanting to do well with Coach Fox being absent?
"We actually addressed that and talked about it. We are not going to change the way we play; we feel like we have won a lot of games and the reason we have is hard work and preparation. Those two things we say all the time: fear is a great word but hard work and preparation equals faith and courage and that conquers fear. I know it sounds corny but our guys believe in it and they believe in hard work so when the game gets here they just play. We tell them all the time practice is the time when you get after it and even if it is short you do everything 100 percent so in the game you are prepared for it and you can make all the plays. That is the thing that Coach Fox does such a good job with -- practices are so detailed and organized and when the games get here our guys are ultimately prepared to compete and thrive in pressure situations."
With taking on the responsibilities of managing the team this weekend, was having an experienced pitcher and coach in Robert Woodard a benefit?
"It was invaluable. Woody has brought so much in such a short amount of time as a coach here already. Heck, he was dressed last year in Oklahoma for us and I thought he helped us there. He had just started coaching and I thought he helped us there and he just started coaching. He has an open mind to learning new things and he is a tireless worker. He charted every pitch this weekend. We kind of spread out the scouting duties and we all watched different games and we all put our thoughts together to figure out the best plan of attack against our opponent. He is tireless at it and he will stay here at the stadium until two or three in the morning and break down the video and it will be sitting on my desk when I get in there the next morning. He is still young and he will stay up late and we go to bed early to get up early. It is definitely what he needs to do in coaching. He is going to be great at it and he already is great at it. It is a comforting fact to know that there is a reason that we have excelled throughout the season and a lot of it has to do with Coach Woodard helping these young pitchers and getting them advice on being a pitcher here at UNC."
Last night Coach McFarland from James Madison gave what could be the ultimate compliment from an opposing coach for the Tar Heels, praising the defensive set up and preparation. Can you reflect on that?
"You work hard as soon as you find out who your opponents are - you get on the phone and make a few calls and get some help from teams they play. Any charts, spray charts on where the balls were hit against them. Then you get online and you find video and you can find it about anywhere of opponents and you watch it and it takes time but it is worth it. Coach Jackson takes everything that we watched, for instance if Woody and I watch a game, we spray it. It is called a spray because you spray where the ball goes. We give it all to Coach Jackson and ultimately he keeps all the spray charts and he puts 'Okay, this is where this guy hits a fly ball to left.' He hits all the fastballs in the air to left and breaking balls on the ground to the right side so Coach Jackson is in charge of that during the game and does an unbelievable job with it. We move our guys quite a bit and trust what we have done and the time we have put in for the most part that is where the outfielder or infielder need to be."
Now with the Super Regional the Diamond Heels can focus on just Stanford, as the Cardinal won the Fullerton Regional late last night and will be heading to Chapel Hill. How soon does the scouting begin on Stanford?
"The great thing about DVR, I stayed up as late as I could but I could not keep my eyes open all game. We recorded Stanford and we have them on tape three times and we will talk with people who have played them and they will do the same thing about us. But, we definitely will start that process today and it is a little less anxious feeling as far as having to get that done on three teams as compared to one team. You are going into a weekend series like what we do every weekend in the ACC. So we will prepare the same way and we will have our guys prepared the same way and when we get here we will be 100 percent ready and hopefully we will play well."
The Major League Baseball draft starts tonight, and Levi Michael is expected to be UNC's headliner, as a first-round selection. But I wanted to ask about Jacob Stallings - do you think defensively he is prepared to compete at that level?
"I think Jacob is one of the best catchers in the country if not the best defensive catcher in the country. I think he is prepared to do so at any level. He has done an unbelievable job for us not just throwing out runners but handling our pitching staff. It has been very comforting for me to have a guy that has been here and has experience and I can let him call pitches and we can communicate so he is prepared for whatever he decides to do. I think he will be in a similar situation maybe as Adam Warren and it depends if he wants to go out this year or if he wants to come back and go out next year. Because he is going to play professional baseball, it is not a matter of (if) but when he decides to do it."