This Week With Mike Fox

No. 1-ranked North Carolina continued its undefeated streak, improving to 14-0 after a mid-week win over Davidson and a weekend sweep at Wake Forest to start the ACC season. Inside Carolina caught up with head coach Mike Fox for the exclusive weekly interview ...

This Week
Tues. vs. Gardner-Webb
Wed. vs. High Point
Fri. vs. Miami
Sat. vs. Miami
Sun. vs. Miami
>Can you reflect back on the last week?
"Another really good week for us. Obviously we started with Davidson on a bit of a nasty night - kind of a day and night for us - to play. Trent Thornton gave us a good start and we had a big inning so we were able to kind of muster through that one. Then the Wake series we won all three games in I thought three different ways which was good for us. Any time you go on the road in this league and get three wins it is really, really important to be able to do that and for us to be able to do that the first weekend was a little surprising but it puts us in a good position out of the gate in the ACC."

The team did not commit an error defensively this weekend and made a lot of plays in the open foul territory in the bullpens at Gene Hooks field...
"It was very good. We talk about the athleticism of our team. Speed sometimes people will equate it with stolen bases and base running. But good athletes and foot speed shows on defense in a lot of ways as well. You are right it did play a factor and I made that point when I talked with the team right after the series that we played sensational defense over the weekend and I think that was a big key to our success. We have outfielders who can run and Cody Stubbs made some plays in foul territory as well. It was very important during that series and I am really pleased that we played that well."

Colin Moran has manned the hot corner for the past three seasons. Can you speak to his improvement defensively and his patience at the plate?
"Colin's improvement in all areas of his game have come from his strength and development physically. It has helped him with his arm although he had a good arm when he arrived on campus - a very accurate arm - but he has improved that with his strength and how much bigger he has gotten. Colin has really, really good hands. Generally if his glove can get to the ball he can make the play. I think the one area he needs to continue to improve on is a little bit of his lateral movement and first step. Again that comes with his size and of course equates to how well he has done at the plate. Colin understands the strike zone and we talked earlier in the year before the season started that he probably in certain situations would not get pitched to a lot. He has been very patient. I think that it certainly has paid off in the number of walks that he has received and his on base percentage is very high as well. That helps out the team when the guys behind him are hitting as well."

Can you discuss the home run barrage (eight in Saturday's game) against Wake Forest?
"That was a surprise to say the least. I didn't expect that and I thought we had the potential to hit a couple of home runs during the series because of the ballpark and the way the wind was a factor to right field both on Friday and Saturday. I think it was a combination of just running so many left handed hitters up there - although Landon Lassiter hit one as well. They got good pitches and got them up in the air and between our guys power, the wind and the ballpark we had a lot of balls fly out of there on Saturday. I do think a number of those would have been out anywhere so I am not going to give all the credit to the ballpark. Some of those balls were hit exceptionally well."

This coming week is the first schedule where you have a full five-game slate with a pair of mid-week games before hosting Miami this weekend. What are your thoughts on the week ahead?
"It is spring break for the guys so they are loving this. They are probably still asleep. They get meal money and no class. If it was up to them we would be playing every day. This is a fun week where we get to play at home and be with our kids as much as we want and have team meals together. It is something new as we are playing night games this week on Tuesday and Wednesday. I think it is still early and I was hoping it was going to warm up a little bit. I hope it helps us with our crowd some. Gardner-Webb has a really good team as does High Point. We have a huge challenge mid-week and of course Miami has had our number the past couple years. Here we go with a home series with them at 7 pm, 6 pm and 1 pm starts and we will see how they all go with the ACC Basketball Tournament. There is a lot going on this week it will be a lot of fun."

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What did you take away from Hobbs Johnson's start on Sunday and Chris McCue's performance out of the pen behind him earning the win in his 3.1-inning stint?
"Hobbs is working his way back. We kept his pitch count down and probably could have sent him out for another inning but coming off of that bout of forearm tightness we were just kind of watching him more carefully a little bit. I thought he did a nice job. I keep saying to our starters: 'Just give us a chance to win.' He had a little rough of a first inning but then he settled down and I thought did a nice job for us. I'm not sure of the line score but I think he only had one walk for us. Chris McCue obviously was terrific and didn't walk anybody and only struck out one guy but he pitches to contact and played great defense behind him and turned two crucial double plays. So you need relievers and we had all of them ready. I thought Trevor Kelley was really good over the weekend and especially Sunday."

Have you and Coach Forbes decided on the starting pitchers for Tuesday and Wednesday?
"We will throw Trent Thornton on Tuesday. Wednesday is still up in the air."

Wake Forest utilizes a synthetic field at Gene Hooks Field that requires much less maintenance from a grounds crew - on that note can you discuss the differences between the fields and your opinion on the Diamond Heels grounds crew and its work to keep the playing surface in top condition?
"We have a terrific grounds crew and (turf manager) Casey Carrick, I think he is terrific. He has so much pride in our facility and our surface and it shows. I am glad that people recognize that. It is a lot of hard work and we are very grateful for that. Casey was at our game yesterday and rode back on our bus with us. That tells you all you need to know. When people that support our program buy in so that they go and see us on the road that is all we can ask for. They are all really good guys and they care a great deal and they will do anything to help us. I am glad we have them and I'm glad we have the surface that we have. I am very much a traditionalist and want the grass and dirt. I'm not a fan of the synthetic surface but I understand why people have it and why programs, especially in the northeast, why they have it and other programs do as well. It is easy to maintain and of course I like it when we play defense on it like we did this weekend."

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