Monday with Mike Fox

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. --- The Diamond Heels are now 29-12 (13-8) after a series loss over the weekend to Georgia Tech. Inside Carolina caught up with UNC head coach Mike Fox for the weekly interview ...

This Week
Tues. vs. UNC Greensboro
Wed. vs. East Carolina
Coach Fox, can you give your impressions of the weekend series?
"Well, certainly disappointed to lose an ACC series at home. I was certainly proud of our guys in coming back and having such a great response in the first game on Saturday. We had a rough go of it on Friday night because Georgia Tech beat us pretty good in all phases. I like the response our guys had on Saturday. We came to the stadium early knowing we had to play 18 innings with a lot of energy and resiliency. Of course I think that showed in the first inning of game two. The last game, it is always tough to sweep a double header in this league against some really good caliber clubs. We had a lead late but we could not hold it. You have to give Georgia Tech some credit; they had some big hits late in the game both in game three and in game one. We just move on. Tough series for us. We have a lot of baseball to play and we are still in good shape and we will get ready for our mid-week games."

Brian Holberton really picked it up with the bat this week with a big double and home run against Georgia Tech. What has caused this increased confidence at the plate?
"Brian had a good week certainly for us. He has been patient and kept working even when he had not been playing. I have been trying to emphasize to our players to stay ready and when their opportunity comes to be mentally and physically ready. Brian certainly was. He was a big addition for us right now and I think he will be down the stretch. Tough kid. We like having those tough players in the box that look at the ball well. Of course he showed some power over the weekend. He gained some confidence when we first got him in there and hit a couple balls hard and got some confidence at Virginia and he carried it over to the past week and this weekend."

Can you discuss Hobbs Johnson's performance in the third game?
"I thought Hobbs was sensational. We actually expected that of him. That is how well we have thought of how he was throwing. We did not expect him to be that efficient. I hated it for him in the seventh inning. He really did not make any bad pitches the first six innings. I think he set down 9 or 10 in a row at one point. Then in the seventh of course he gave up the tying home run on one pitch that he let get away from him. You cannot make a mistake to [Jake] Davies or he will make you pay but I think he did not walk a batter in 6 and 1/3. He only gave up four hits. By far I thought that was a sensational outing for Hobbs on his first ACC weekend starting."

The Diamond Heels have a pair of mid-week games followed by a break for final exams. How has Coach Forbes kept the pitchers sharp over this period and have decided who will pitch in those two games?
"We have not talked yet today. Coach Forbes and I will probably talk later ... If I had to guess, Chris Munnelly will get the start on Tuesday more than likely. I'm not sure yet. We gave the guys a complete day off [Sunday] and the coaches as well. We have not had a complete day off since January so we felt that it would be good to kind of get away. Over the break the guys will come in and Coach will talk with all the pitchers and they will all know their routine. They are all a very committed group. We have certain regulations during finals in terms of time demands and we will work around their exam schedules. But they will all be in on their own time and get their throwing in. We will work on the schedule around their final exams and make sure we have a catcher there so they stay sharp during that off period."

What progress has Colin Moran made so far? He was able to start throwing, fielding and hitting from a tee on Friday...
"It is a process. When you have a broken bone you just have to be patient and wait for it to heal and then slowly work back into it. Colin has been OK'ed to do a few things. The most important is throwing and getting the feel of the ball back in his hand and of course hitting off a tee. He will have some discomfort, he will have to work through that. He will have to build up through this week and see if he can keep doing more and more. Take five swings, take 15, then take 20 and work in some front toss and some BP and kind of go from there. He has another doctor's appointment on the 30th of April and we will see if he is fully cleared from there. After that it is just a matter of getting him comfortable and that he is OK mentally as well as physically and we will get him back in there."

How much confidence does the 8-run inning in the first game on Saturday give the coaching staff?
"You don't expect an 8-run first inning. We have not had too many of those. It was obviously good to see. It allowed our guys to relax a little bit and you don't count on those but we got contributions from a lot of guys. That was important. We have confidence in our offense. We have some guys struggling, there is no question about that. We have got to keep working with those guys. Some of it is more of a mental thing. They are trying to press and do too much. I think when Colin went out some of our guys felt like they had to do more than they needed to and more than they are really capable of doing to make up for his absence. We will see what happens when he gets back in the lineup and if that helps some of the other guys. That is certainly not an excuse. We are still scoring some runs but we just could not bunch together some hits in the third game. Any time you have first and third with less than two outs you feel like you need to score a run. I felt like if we could expand the lead from 2-0 to 3-0 or maybe 4-0 when Hobbs was throwing so well it would really have been tough for them to come back. For me there is a big difference in 2-0 and 3-0. These are two important mid-week games for us. We need to keep swinging well. We swung the bat very well this week. We hit .320 as a team in five games I think. I hope that will carry over to this week."

This is the first year that Major League Baseball has restricted the signing bonuses in the draft with penalties for teams that exceed the guidelines in addition to moving the signing deadline from August to July. What implications does this have for college baseball and the Diamond Heels in particular?
"I think that there are still some unknowns out there. But there are some limitations now and in the past there have not been which has been evident in our losing some 12th-round, 14th-round, 20th-round, 27th-round picks. And when clubs had the money to spend they were able to use it in those rounds and now they are not going to be able to as much since they all have a limit. I do think that the top draft picks will get similar signing bonuses like first and second round picks in the past. I do not know that for sure but just reading the part of the collective bargaining agreement that I can read and understand that looks like the case. How that is going to affect our recruiting class and college baseball in general remains to be seen. I do think it puts a lot more onus on the Major League clubs to really do their due diligence on certainly their first two selections and maybe their first four or five. We will see how that affects us. Hopefully more kids will come to college and play college baseball. Overall that would help our game. Perhaps it will make it a little easier on us trying to recruit and have our numbers where we need them to be."

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I know from years past that most college baseball players really enjoy the time period after final exams heading to the postseason. Can you discuss how from a coaches perspective it is easier to manage the season after the end of their academic obligations as student-athletes?
"I think they get more sleep, first and foremost. That is a good thing. I'm not sure how much they sleep down the stretch here even though we emphasize that a lot. They are probably going to eat a little bit better because we are going to be on a better schedule and be able to control their eating as far as pre- and post-game meals and that will help them as well. More time at the stadium certainly does not hurt. Their minds are kind of freed up from the academic pressure of what they have to do. I think it effects some more than others. The procrastinators I'm sure are going to enjoy it once the last final exam is taken. They put some undue pressure on themselves waiting until the last minute. I do think it helps. I do think we have to be careful with them having too much down time - we will try to manage that as well."

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