Monday with Mike Fox

The Diamond Heels pulled off an impressive sweep at Clemson over the weekend, completing a 5-0 week and improving to 13-2. Another full slate of games (including another four road contests) awaits the team this week. Inside Carolina caught up with head coach Mike Fox on his way back from Clemson ...

This Week
Tue. @ UNC Greensboro
Wed. vs. Gardner-Webb
Fri. @ Maryland
Sat. @ Maryland
Sun. @ Maryland
Coach Fox, can you give your perspective on the week?
"It was a pretty good week for us. We are tickled to death to have won five games this week and to go to Clemson and get three wins is not easy to do, but our team kept battling, refused to lose and we hung in there. We made some big pitches, some really good plays and some big swings of the bat when we needed it and we came away with a good weekend and a great week."

Speaking of the great week, Michael Morin played a big role in that, going 1-0 with four saves in five appearances with seven strikeouts...
"I don't know if I have ever seen a reliever appear in all five games in a week. If he is not the National Player of the Week I don't know who is. It was an incredible trek for him. We needed him on Tuesday against Davidson and Wednesday against Elon in the 9th and we needed every bit of him at Clemson. We went into this season knowing Michael was our closer and we have a lot of confidence in him and he has a lot of confidence in himself and his teammates feed off of that. We had the right guy in there in the end of the three games certainly this weekend."

What did your team show you on Sunday to tie the game up in the ninth inning and then to come back in extra innings to win against a talented team and in front of a big opposing crowd?
"We were disappointed that we did not take advantage of some early opportunities with guys on base and then misplayed a ground ball which could have gotten us out with a 1-2-3 inning. The next thing you know we were behind by three runs. I think we were all a little upset and we needed some momentum early in the game. We kept playing and really believed. We talk about that a lot, playing from the first pitch to the last and Clemson opened the door for us there with some walks in the ninth inning and I thought Jacob Stallings was really, really clutch for us all weekend. Fortunately their left fielder bobbled the ball there at first on the play. I was not sure what I was going to do [in the third base coaches box], sending the tying run with one out, but then he bobbled the ball and we were able to tie the game. When we tied the game we felt like we really had a chance to win the game. We kind of felt the life come out of them a little bit when we tied the game. A great credit to our players to continue to fight and battle and pull out a win."

With 15 games in the books, the Tar Heels have a .409 on base percentage - can you speak to the team's patient approach at the plate taking pitches and walks?
"We thought that might be a trait of ours and we really emphasized that in the pre-season. Coach Jackson really emphasizes that in our hitting philosophy. I think with walks and hit batters we are up a hundred [points] and all on our hitting. You can't count on the other team walking you but it is as good as a base hit. We tell our guys just take all the walks you have and slide them over to the hit column. So that is exactly what it is. So we needed every one of them this weekend because we did not swing the bat all that well but we got some clutch hits and I think that is the whole key. It's two out RBI, on base percentage and walks to strikeouts and so far we have been pretty good with that."

Another interesting statistic that came up this weekend is that North Carolina is 56 - 12 going for a sweep of a series in your tenure at UNC (since 1999). What does it take in college baseball to be that successful at sweeping after winning a series?
"That's news to me. I think it is credit to our players. When you practice all year long and we work, lift and condition, we do it all to win every game and play as long as we possibly can. I think it is a credit to our kids that we wake up on the road or at home on Sundays and we come to the ball park and they are ready to play. We have had some great Sunday starters as well. It is a credit to our players that they are ready to play every single game and our players have been good at it."

Can you discuss Chaz Frank's approach at the plate recently, working on getting on base?
"Chaz had a slow start and I think that he was trying to do a little bit too much and worrying about the wrong things. We need to get him back on track a little bit here and I thought about dropping him out of that leadoff spot but Coach Jackson had a good point that Chaz kind of lives for that environment on the road setting the table for us. He drew a big walk for us there late in the game and he is one of those you can't just look at his batting average. You look at that first column and it is not very good. Then you slide over to on base percentage and it is .400 or more and he has 14 or 15 walks, which is twice as many as his strikeouts. He needs to move the ball on the ground a little more to use his speed but he has been working on that a little more."

One of the things that stands out watching Frank on the bases is that he does not put up a lot of stolen bases but he creates some mayhem on the bases for the opposing battery and takes the extra base whenever he has an opportunity...
"He is very aggressive and confident on the bases and he wants to create some havoc out there and make the pitcher worry about him -- the pitcher worries about the guy on the bases and you can get a big hole for a hit for your teammates. Clemson did a really good job of holding us this weekend. We did not have many opportunities to run this weekend, we only had one or two. Chaz has done a good job for us in that regard."

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Looking back on this week, can you discuss Benton Moss's performance at Elon and his confidence seemingly improving with every start?
"Benton has gotten better all three starts, which is what you want to see. He has improved and he was lights out for us for 8 1/3 inning and I think that is going to be a big boost to his confidence. I really wish we could have had him with us this weekend so he could have seen that environment because he will be pitching down here in two more years. We expect a lot from him and he is a hard worker and his learning curve has been pretty short. That should be a big confidence booster and it will be interesting to see how he performs for us in Greensboro this week."

In your opinion, what is the toughest road trip for the Tar Heels in the ACC?
"Oh boy, they are all tough. We have had our troubles at Florida State and we have let some get away from us down there. People are probably going to think that I'm crazy but I really think that going to Maryland is a really tough challenge. Not because they are coming up but because they always seem like a difficult place to play. Maryland plays with a great confidence up there. It is usually not a great environment and that is a real challenge up there. When you play on the road at Florida State and they have an excellent crowd they motivate you whether you are the home or the visiting team. So when you are in an environment not quite like that you get a team's best shot and they play great at home and there are some nuances to their ballpark. Those are the really hard places to play."

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