Monday with Mike Fox

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. --- Inside Carolina caught up with head coach Mike Fox after the Diamond Heels (23-9, 9-6) returned from a tough weekend in Coral Cables. It won't get any easier next weekend, as a trip to Charlottesville awaits.

This Week
Wed. vs. UNC Asheville
Fri. at Virginia
Sat. at Virginia
Sun. at Virginia
What were your impressions of the trip to Miami this weekend?
"Not a good one, that is for sure. It happens in this league. Miami outplayed us in every facet of the game. The results of all three games shows. Obviously very disappointed but you have to move on. Like I told my club, sometimes you will be in the path of a really great team that is part of being in a really great league. The most important thing we can do is learn from it and go back today and try to improve and get ready for another week. Certainly the weekend was not good for us."

The Tar Heels had seven errors this weekend. Can you discuss the state of the defense?
"Well, we not only made errors but we only scored three runs in 32 innings. We can play at a high level defensively and pitch at a high level and still have difficulty winning. But, yes, about everybody on the field has made a physical error at one time or another. It is something that we have to improve on. There is no question about that. There were several of them that we were able to navigate through. Yesterday, for example, Miami got five hits but that is all we got so we pitched well enough. Walks and errors are always going to cause you to lose games if you don't overcome them offensively. It is disappointing because we put such a high level on that phase of the game for us. We know that we have to be a good defensive team and you cannot blame having Colin [Moran] out of the lineup. Shell McCain has filled in admirably there and has gotten better and better with every game. He made a couple of really nice plays there yesterday. We dropped fly balls. We made some errant throws to first. We do not make a play on a ball up the middle that would have been an inning-ending double play ball that would have saved us two runs. It is disappointing but it is something that we have to improve on. Our players need to have a higher level of concentration and look the ball in and be confident and make plays. We talk about that all the time - just make the play. Easier said than done."

What was your perspective on the pair of balks that were called on Benton Moss yesterday. Obviously Coach Forbes had a different perspective than the umpires on the calls...
"One was they made the call on the throw over to first. We did not see Benton do anything that all other right handed pitchers don't do when they try to throw to first base. When Benton steps he sort of has his left foot right in front of his right one. So it is kind of impossible for him to go to first without moving his left foot. Then later on with a runner on first and second the base umpire said he did not come to a complete stop. It is one of those things - I am proud of Benton. I knew it really upset him. I could tell when I talked to him and then he struck the next two guys out. I want to give Benton a lot of credit for overcoming that as far as the frustration. Balk calls are ambiguous and from a coach's standpoint they have to be obvious - that just the casual fan could see it before a balk is called. They can completely change the course of an inning and obviously the easiest response for me to make is that we want the players to decide the outcome of the game. But the umpires have a right to make those calls and they did and obviously we did not understand it but we had to move on."

The team had a more patient approach at the plate on Sunday, earning eight walks after only earning one free pass in the first two games. And the team batted .173 for the weekend - can that be attributed to putting extra pressure on themselves against some talented pitching?
"It is a combination of a lot of things. Their pitching. They have really good pitching and they did not throw a bad arm at us. Patience at the plate. You cannot be patient against Eric Erickson - that kid throws strike after strike. If you try to be patient against him it will be one, two, three strikes, you're out. The kid they threw yesterday [junior Stephen Ewing] had no command of his fastball whatsoever. He could not throw a first strike so common sense would tell you to do what? He gets in a jam, he throws behind with his breaking ball. That was his pattern. We did a really poor job of it. We have not adjusted. We have young players playing and they have not figured out yet that you have to pay attention during the game and you have to adjust from at bat to at bat and you cannot continue to do the same things. It was clearly obvious once he got in trouble he started throwing his breaking ball. He had 6 or 7 walks and 8 or 9 strikeouts. Walk, strikeout - which tells me that he is going to his breaking ball to our lefties and we chased way too many of them out of the strike zone and we did not put good swings on them and we should have been looking for that pitch. You can't just quantify one thing or another because it is different when the hitter digs into the box. Coach Jackson will go over it with our hitters. We are feeling sorry for ourselves and not making adjustments from pitch to pitch or worrying about how they are feeling or seeing the ball and then it was pretty clear that we were pressing to score runs and get a guy in scoring position and if you try too hard usually that doesn't work. That is a natural reaction as a hitter that is something we have to try to avoid. That comes with some maturity and our young hitters need to grow up a little bit and get a little bit better."

Can you discuss the spectacular extra inning duel between each team's closer in Michael Morin and E.J. Encinosa on Saturday, putting up zeros in extra innings?
"That was one of those great baseball games. Michael Morin is a warrior. He is going to do anything he possibly can to help our team win. We basically considered that a start for him. Once he got going we are not going to pitch him again this weekend and we let him keep going. We hate that the game ended like it did. The second pitch to that kid [freshman Esteban Tresgallo - who hit the walk off home run Saturday] was a strike. There was no doubt in my mind on the video. It was called a ball and it changed the next pitch and he just got under it just enough and lofted it up and the wind had died down since it was so late in the morning. Encinosa - he no-hit us for 6 innings. He has nasty stuff, 94 [mph] with sink and his breaking ball that is pretty much unhittable in the strike zone. That was the frustrating part. We could not get a baserunner to get him into the stretch. He is much more patient in the wind up. It was fun to watch and it was frustrating to watch and we did not think that we would be playing until almost one in the morning but that is baseball."

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How important will it be to get Matt Roberts and Adam Griffin back in the swing of things to put some balance into the batting order and allow the Diamond Heels to match up with the other team's moves on the mound down the stretch?
"That is just the breaks. Ewing yesterday gave up most of his hits to our left handed hitters and Erickson is the same way. He is really, really tough on right handed hitters because he has got such a good change-up. Lefties are hitting .295 against him and righties are barely hitting .230. You have to be careful about that. You read the scouting reports and see what we know about certain pitchers. Sometimes common sense will tell you to throw a right hander against a lefty in there. But it is not always the case. We have got to have some of our lefties in there no matter what because they are the best and the strongest in their positions on the field. They have to improve. We have a couple of lefties in there that hit left handed pitching much, much better last year than this year. That has to improve down the stretch. You get Adam Griffin in there and he bats against Encinosa because we put him in center field because they had the winning run at third base and we needed a stronger arm out there because if they hit a sacrifice fly. So he is in the game and against Encinosa, a righty throwing that hard and lining out to center field. Both of those guys need to play an important role for us down the stretch and it is just a matter of getting them in there and getting some at bats."

Do you have an update on Colin Moran's recovery from his broken hand?
"I do not. I have not heard anything since we left on Thursday."

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