This Week With Mike Fox

Inside Carolina caught up with UNC head coach Mike Fox after another undefeated week, culminating with a sweep of Duke. The Diamond Heels are 39-2 (18-2 ACC) – having won 14 straight – and host UNC-Wilmington and Charlotte before a big matchup at NC State this weekend.

This Week
Tue. vs. UNCW
Wed. vs. Charlotte
Fri. at NC State
Sat. at NC State
Sun. at NC State

Can you reflect back on the last week, where your team only allowed nine earned runs in the five-game slate?
"Pitching certainly was the story this week. Just looking at the numbers from our five games it is an understatement to say we pitched well. We gave up nine earned runs in 45 innings. We got really good starts four out of those five games and our bullpen was sensational. You are giving yourself a really good chance when you pitch at that level. We did it mid-week and we did it this weekend against Duke."

One of the challenges in describing the historic season to date is running out of superlatives to discuss a 39-2 start. Can you put this start into perspective for casual baseball fans?
"I'd rather not. [laughs] I really don't want to think about it to tell you the truth. It has been mind-boggling for me and that is not trying to downplay our team or our performance. That is something that you don't expect. I think that the key right now is to try as best you can to enjoy it and not really think about it ... We are trying to stay in the moment. We have played at a high level, we have been fortunate and got the ball to bounce our way a few times but we have played solid defense, have good starting pitching and found some very reliable relievers to come in and settle into their role. And of course we are better offensively than we have been and I think that probably the key besides offensively the walks-to-strikeout ratio and showing a little more power we have gotten some two-out base hits and some two out RBI and we scored some runs with two outs which I think we have to do to have this kind of record. We are where we are because of our pitching. There is no if, ands, or buts about that. We have been able to hold the other team down and not allow a lot of big innings and the results are in our record so far."

One of the improvements in the offense that I have noticed is that there are three batters that are performing at a very high level in Colin Moran, Cody Stubbs and Brian Holberton. The opposing team has to make some tough decisions on how to face them.
"That has been a key as well. We have had a number of players who are just performing well and kind of in different stages and when we have had a player that is not, which happens in baseball, we have had other guys step up. Up and down the lineup we have had guys have good weeks, great weeks, hot weeks, none of our hitters playing on a regular basis have really not given us good at bats or a good game or whatever the case is. I think just from watching us we are a difficult team to pitch to. Down the stretch we certainly think that that is going to continue. The middle of our order looking at the RBIs and the runs scored with Colin, Brian and Cody and obviously when we get Skye [Bolt] back they are doing what they need to do to help us score runs and win games."

Seems like there are only big weeks remaining. To that end, this week you're hosting UNC-Wilmington and Charlotte before heading over to Raleigh to play NC State. Can you describe the week ahead for the Tar Heels?
"This is the last big week of five games. It is the last week of class and obviously that is huge for our players with a lot of things due academically with final exams. We have had a tough stretch and a tough grind. That is why the level of play that we have had is good to see because these kids have had a lot of time demand issues here. We talked this year about not categorizing games and playing at a high level for the next game. That is the one that is most important. People want to look ahead at the weekend, I understand that, but obviously we can't but the fans can. We can't afford to. We have a Wilmington team coming in that is playing very well since we played them down there and everybody is going to be ready to come into Boshamer and beat us and we are going to have to be ready for these two games mid-week. There is no question about that. I'll talk about NC State if you want me to, but all I know is that they are red hot and we are playing over there. Saying that we will have our hands full over there is an understatement."

Boshamer Stadium had a pair of sellout games this weekend against Duke. Is it time to start to look at expanding Boshamer for possible regional and super-regionals in the future?
"That would be fine with me. There are two things that would get in the way of that: where and how much... What I told our players yesterday before the game is that I wanted them to relish the fact that, from what I am being told, this is the first time in the history of the program -- which is over a hundred years old -- that there have been back-to-back sellout crowds with standing room only during the regular season in April, much less March or May. I wanted our players to understand what a great moment that was and what they had done and what the players before them had done for this program. I didn't want to take it for granted because a lot of people have worked very hard to get to that point and that level where we have that many people and they were into the game and it is a beautiful day and we got Rameses there and people are on top of the dugout. It was just the kind of atmosphere that we have seen at other venues and we played in them and I think we all kind of wondered 'why can't this happen at Boshamer Stadium.' The fact is that it is and we will continue to take steps and we will continue to get there it is wonderful for me to see. But, mostly I am so happy that our players are playing in front of home crowds that are obviously helping us win. I have said this before and I will say this again -- that they deserve that."

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One of the goals that you have discussed in the past is for your team to field at a .975 rate - can you discuss the play of the fielders recently?
"Well, if you are pitching well it is the next most important thing. If you are not walking people and not giving up a lot of base hits the only way the other team can have an opportunity to score is if you make mistakes physically. I think our players understand that and they take a lot of pride in that. We have some athletes on the field defensively that are making some plays for us. Chaz Frank was sensational in center field this week and over the weekend. Michael Russell made some terrific plays on pop ups over his head. People think about a shortstop being able to field ground balls but it certainly is more than that. Making slow roller plays and pop ups. Matt Roberts was terrific behind the plate. He did not let a ball get by him behind the plate certainly all weekend. That is key. We want to average one error or less per game and I think we are sitting right at that and I certainly expect that to continue and hope it does."

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