Monday with Mike Fox

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. --- Inside Carolina caught up with Coach Fox for an exclusive weekly interview prior to the announcement of the field of competitors for the NCAA Regionals on the road to Omaha.

Can you reflect back on the ACC Tourney and the Diamond Heels participation in it?
"The first thing that comes to mind is how unbelievably we pitched in those three games. Two shutouts and we only gave up three earned runs in the three games. So just a continued impressive performance by all of our pitchers from our starters to our relievers. Good start for us against Wake and we climbed back in the game against Miami with the home run from Grayson [Atwood] obviously we could just not get that one done and then obviously a classic game against NC State. All in all a good tournament."

Can you discuss the future of the ACC Tournament and scheduling in the ACC with the additions of Pitt and Syracuse to the Atlantic Coast Conference where Syracuse does not currently field a baseball team among their athletic teams?
"It is a little unknown at this point. There has been some preliminary discussions about it amongst our coaches and I am sure our meetings in September there will be more specifics ironed out. I think it is probably pretty clear with an odd number of teams we will be doing away with divisions. I'm not sure how you can have divisions with an odd number of teams. How the tournament is going to go I am not real sure. We discuss it every fall and there are a number of opinions on the ACC Tournament from the value of it to kind of the format of it to how many teams should be invited. It is kind of an ongoing discussion and is interesting but we have a lot of opinions of course and I am not sure quite honestly what direction it is going. I'll know more in September."

...What is your personal opinion on the matter?
"I think I have probably been on record that I would just as soon play another weekend series as opposed to the ACC Tournament. I say that that there is some value in the ACC Tournament and I understand what it means to the league. If we expand to 10 teams it does give it does give other teams an opportunity not only to play in the event but win it and be an automatic qualifier just like Georgia Tech [this year]. I understand both sides of it but if you are asking my personal opinion is that I would like to not have an ACC Tournament and have an extra week to play another ACC series depending on the format or another high quality non-conference opponent if that would be the case."

With the regional hosts already being announced the Atlantic Coast Conference has five regional hosts as compared to the Southeastern Conference only being awarded three hosts. How do you feel this reflects on the competition in the ACC this season?
"That was interesting and I was certainly happy for our league. I thought our league was really good this year and some teams came on late and played well. A number of our teams played strong schedules and I think that helped in terms of getting a few more host sites. I think it is awesome for our league and I hope those teams all do exceptionally well. We are happy to be one of those five hosting that is for sure."

You have discussed at length in the past players who are filling bench roles on the team being ready for their opportunities when they arise. Can you discuss Grayson Atwood's making the most of his opportunity with his game tying home run in the 7th inning in the Miami game?
"He certainly was and I think that it speaks to Grayson's great character and attitude and being a good teammate and the encouragement he has received from his teammates who have been in the situation that he has been in all year. It is extremely, extremely difficult not playing and investing time and energy and all the hours of practice and the time commitment and then not having that reward of playing time. That is the most difficult thing for any student-athlete but in particular one of my players to have to deal with. When I have a young man who handles it the right way and then gets an opportunity and does something really special seeing the look on his face rounding third is pretty special. He deserved that moment and I know everybody in that dugout was so happy for him and I hope there are some more of those moments in the near future."

You were suspended for the NC State game for receiving a post-game ejection from the second base umpire after the Miami game. Coach Forbes filled in for you and let the Tar Heels to a win in a classic game against the rival Wolfpack. Can you discuss your perspective on what Coach Forbes means to you personally and to the Diamond Heels?
"First and foremost I think I have a great staff. Every head coach will make that statement but the proof is in the pudding with what our program has accomplished over the last 6 years or so. You don't have that kind of success if you don't have very dedicated, committed and hard working assistant coaches and staff. I have been extremely blessed that that has been the case here. Scott has been with me a long time and we know each other exceptionally well so I had no doubt. He is ready for anything that is thrown his way. He proved that last year in the Regionals. He certainly proved it again. He is as ready to manage in a game like that as anyone and I thought he and the whole staff did an exceptional job and I am very proud of them and I am glad they got a big win it was fun."

Where did you watch the game from while being suspended?
"I watched the game from my house in Chapel Hill and I met the team here and my wife and I went by Harris Teeter and bought a whole grocery basket of ice cream, caramel, chocolate, whipped cream and the whole works and had sundaes for the guys when they got back and rolled in the stadium. It is the most excited I think that I have ever been. So I wanted to give a little something and food is always the first order of business besides meal money [laughs]."

The offense appears to be getting in a groove with Colin Moran rounding back into form and Cody Stubbs starting to swing the bat well again. Can you discuss the psychology of batting in baseball and where the Diamond Heels are at right now?
"Well I mean hitting is an up and down thing. It just is and is with every player. It comes and goes with your confidence and pitching has a lot to do with it. Mechanics with so many things in play and it is usually a work in progress from the very first game to the very last game. It gets more difficult because teams scout you and if they don't know you at the beginning of the year they certainly do by the end of the year. There is so much video and technology out there now and teams know how to attack you and it is all about making adjustments and keeping your confidence and not trying to over think things. I think our hitters have obviously improved. Case in point with Cody Stubbs the past two weeks he has been our average leader and steps in against Rodon and gets two hits. So he went through a tough stretch but every player goes through a tough stretch but it happens. You hope they all sort of mesh together and find that rhythm and confidence all at the same time and obviously you are a better offensive team because of it. I hope that is the case moving forward."

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