This Week With Mike Fox

The Diamond Heels had another undefeated week, blanking UNCW and sweeping Maryland. The Tar Heels improved to 29-2 (12-2 ACC) and will play at Elon and host Liberty during the week before heading to Virginia Tech this weekend. Inside Carolina caught up with head coach Mike Fox for the weekly interview ...

This Week
Tue. at Elon
Wed. vs. Liberty
Fri. at Virginia Tech
Sat. at Virginia Tech
Sun. at Virginia Tech

Can you reflect back on the last week in the books for your Diamond Heels?
"That is a good way to put it - another week in the books. They are rolling by pretty quickly. A good solid mid-week win for us at Wilmington where I think we played well defensively on the road and Chris Munnelly was sensational for us. It was a really hard fought, tough weekend for us against, in my opinion, a very underrated Maryland team who has played everybody close. I thought we were fortunate to win Sunday but we did some things to put ourselves in a position to win and that is what you want to do. We are pleased with another good week."

After the game on Sunday you seemed a little disappointed in your team's play, in particular in giving away at bats and making mental mistakes. How must the team improve even while winning games in order to achieve its goals?
"That's just me. That is what coaches do. I am tickled to death that we swept Maryland and I told our team that. As a coach you always want your team to play at a high level but that is impossible for 60-plus games. I am really more pleased that we were able to win the way that we did. We have had guys throughout the season that have not had good games at the plate or not done some things as well as they are capable of but they were picked up by their teammates. That is a sign of a good ball club. Right now we don't have any time to practice, playing five games a week and guys are warmed up. When people talk about ‘what does your team need to improve on?' right now it sounds crazy but our guys need to rest and take care of their academics and when the game starts tomorrow night at Elon they have to be ready to play. It is just weird how it works that way but we don't have a whole lot of time in practice when we play five games a week. So it is more about rest and trying to get some individual guys some work. It is more about just rebounding from a sub-par performance and rebounding for the next time."

You briefly touched on Chris Munnelly's performance at UNCW. Do you feel that opened the door for the senior right hander to be the fourth starter with Trent Thornton's move to relieving on the weekends?
"Chris is going to start tomorrow night against Elon so you can spin it anyway you want to: one, two, three or four. Chris would have been used in relief yesterday if we had needed him, if it was one more batter or extra innings or whatever the case may be. We play the weekend games all out and we figure out the mid-week games from there. We did not use Chris there and he was available for probably an inning or two over the weekend and we didn't use him so he is available to start Tuesday and depending on what happens on Tuesday we will have him available for relief at Virginia Tech. We don't lock guys in as much as people would think as a certain role but Chris has really, really pitched very well for us this year and we like him in any role we can use him in right now."

On that note, how important are the mid-week games for developing the depth of the bullpen for the tough ACC series that are coming up and preparing for the post-season?
"Well, anytime we can get guys out there on the field -- whether it is pitchers or hitters -- to get them innings or at bats, like Tommy Zengel yesterday with a big swing of the bat for us; anytime we can do that it is important. Playing time and inning is important, no question, but if Chris Munnelly goes out there and throws nine innings and throws 100 pitches tomorrow and is throwing well for us he is going to stay out there potentially. I'm not sure what we are going to do on Wednesday in a game that we added. Certainly we need to continue to pitch those guys to keep them sharp but on the other hand Arizona won the national championship with about seven pitchers last year. So I am not saying that is going to happen to us but we just kind of play one game at a time and use guys that we think are most beneficial to get guys out during that particular inning. If it develops guys it develops them. That is part of the process."

What are you and Coach Forbes looking for in the catchers in their competition for playing time as far as their defense, offense and handling of the pitching staff?
"First and foremost it is that - their ability to catch, and catch at a high level, and not take strikes away. That is the most important thing. There is no priority order after that. Certainly we want guys to be able to block the balls in the dirt, which all of our catchers are good at. We want to keep them fresh. We like our catching situation and I think all three of them have done a sensational job for us. So the most important thing is that they are on the same page with Coach Forbes and keep the game going and they are in a good rhythm with our pitchers throwing to them and they really don't do anything to hurt us back there, which none of them have obviously to this point."

Can you give an update on Chaz Frank's injury and talk about what Skye Bolt has shown you in center field? On Saturday he had a superlative catch...
"I don't have a report as of today. Chaz tweaked his hamstring so we will take it as slow as we possibly can and I will hear from (trainer) Terri Jo [Rusinski] and Chaz later on today as far as how his treatment is going. We certainly will not rush him back, that is a delicate injury and we do have the luxury of being able to move Skye to center field. He did make a sensational catch on Saturday to help us win. He is very aggressive out there and very comfortable out there defensively. Again, that competition and guys being able to play multiple positions has certainly helped us."

You won your 1,200th game as a college head coach during the past week. Can you give your perspective on this accomplishment?
"You could have skipped over this question. Well, sometimes I still do pinch myself. I do. It does not seem like 30 years but I relish my 15 years at North Carolina Wesleyan and glad I was able to coach at that level and have that perspective. Certainly being back at my alma mater is just something very special and getting to work with some incredible people and some of the best assistant coaches I think that are out there. Every head coach will tell you they are only as good, and rely heavily -- if not totally -- on their staff and I have had a lot of really good ones who have worked extremely hard. It is easy for me to say I didn't win one of those games and the players that text me and stuff I told that to them. I have had a lot of really, really, really good players that have played at a high level and hopefully we can continue that. I have been really, really lucky and fortunate to be where I am."

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Can you discuss the relationship between the Major League scouts and the Diamond Heels program? Certainly the scouts have a job to do in evaluating the draft eligible players with the Tar Heels but they also could pass on tips and information about potential student-athletes to Coach Jackson and Forbes on the recruiting trail...
"It is an important relationship. Coach Jackson and Forbes, as you mentioned, they are kind of on the front line from that regard as they know more of the scouts and have more of a relationship with them than I do since they sit there and watch a lot of games with them. We know some that have been former college coaches and we have a history with them. They have a job to do and we understand that completely. We try to be as accommodating as we possibly can with them and I think the relationship is a good one. We give them limited access to our players at a time when it is not intrusive for them from a time or academic standpoint. Again I think it is something that we have to do and want to do and it is not a problem whatsoever. We want our players to develop and have a potential for a professional career and that is part of it."

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