This Week With Mike Fox

Inside Carolina caught up with head coach Mike Fox after his No. 1-ranked Diamond Heels had their first .500 week of the season, splitting mid-week games and the series against NC State. UNC is 41-4 (19-3 ACC) heading into exams, which means only one game is scheduled for this coming week.

This Week
Wed. vs. The Citadel

Can you reflect back on the last week for the Diamond Heels?
"We had four tough games and just a very tough loss to Wilmington, of course, giving up three runs late and not being able to hold a lead. That was disappointing. I am proud of our team for responding against Charlotte on the next night with a quick turnaround from our Tuesday game. With the last week of classes with State coming up on the weekend it was a credit to our team to be able to refocus. I thought Riley Hovis was really good for us against Charlotte and gave us a good start with only one walk. Of course then we go to NC State and get a terrific start by Kent Emanuel on Friday night and get a great start with Colin's home run that really took the crowd out of it. It was a good start for the series. Then on Saturday we faced one of the best pitchers in the country and we got behind and dug ourselves too big a hole to climb out of and even though we kept scratching and clawing and got 12 hits we just left too many people on base and were not able to get back into the game."

There is this dilemma of having more televised games but then losing the flexibility to be able to move the games to avoid possible cancellations because of the weather. Were there any negotiations with ESPN to move the game time on Sunday?
"Well, there were no negotiations. ESPN has the rights to the game and they invoked that right to keep the game time at 7 pm. As it turned out that was not the right decision."

.Do you think there will be a chance to squeeze in another game?
"We have no flexibility in terms of dates. We cannot play from Thursday until the last day of exams. Then we have two games and then we travel to Atlanta. We will arrive back late Sunday night. I guess we could play Monday but that does not make a lot of sense with a game on Tuesday then a Thursday, Friday, Saturday series against Virginia. That was what was disappointing besides not finishing the series, that we are not going to get all of our regular season games in."

What made Kent Emanuel so effective from your perspective against NC State on Friday night? It appeared as though he was able to keep the batters off balance ...
"You said it. He does not ever let the hitter ever get comfortable. Only Kent Emanuel can throw a 3-1 curveball or a 3-1 changeup with runners on first and second trusting that he is going to throw that pitch for a strike and it is not what the hitter is looking for so generally they take it. Then it is 3-2 and they know that Kent is going to be around the plate so it puts them into swing mode and he is just very confident throwing all three pitches for a strike -- four, really. He throws that slider occasionally to lefties and got a big strikeout there with one. He is able to make big pitches. Really it is a characteristic he always had but certainly he has refined it and gotten better at it as his career has gone on."

Can you discuss Trevor Kelley's performance on Saturday night going the distance out of the pen keeping the Tar Heels in the game and keeping the bullpen fresh and allowing the Heels to be prepared to throw the kitchen sink at the Wolfpack in the third game in the series?
"You know that was important for us. We talked with Trevor about coming in the game with people on base. He starts off with a four-pitch walk then throws two balls to the next batter before the base hit and then after he got out of that first inning he came in and sat in the dugout then you have a different perspective on things. 'I've been out there, it's not that big of a deal.' He went back out after that and the next three innings he was really good. He threw 67 pitches, I think, which is the most he has ever thrown in his career. That is what we were thinking. He is being effective and keeping them where they are run wise and giving us a chance to get back into the game and it did keep those guys rested in the pen. That is another one of those reasons that we really wanted to play the game [Sunday] because we had our pitching ready to give us a chance."

After researching the slugging averages for the teams for the past 5 years - this year's squad is second over that time period in slugging at .475 so far for the season behind the 2009 squad that finished up at .479 for the year. Is it time for Louisville Slugger to prepare an ad campaign featuring the Diamond Heels, as this is the first season that the Heels have used their bats exclusively?
"I don't know about that. I'm sure they are happy that we are swinging the bat well. I think it is more who is holding the bat than the bat - that is certainly no slight to them. You have to give credit to our players who have gotten in there and got the job done. We are happy with certainly Louisville Slugger, they have been very good to us. Their main college guy was here the Duke weekend. That is happy to see that college players in general are adjusting to the new [BBCOR] bat and there are still some home runs being hit and offense continues to be part of the college game, which I think is important."

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Do you have any update on Skye Bolt's recovery from his broken foot?
"He has a doctor's appointment today at 1:00 and they will X-ray it again. They are making a form, I guess, don't know what to call it -- it is like a walking boot but it is formed specifically to fit his foot and someone is coming down to mold that today and they will make it and FedEx it back to us tomorrow. So I will know more this afternoon of where exactly he is and it looks like from (our trainer) that it is progressing well and you know he may be able to just get in there after he gets in this form fitting shoe -- it's not really a boot, it is more like a shoe to be able to stand and swing the bat to get back into the routine a little bit. But there is no way to tell at least as we are talking right now when we can expect him back."

The Diamond Heels have their tremendous 'Super Fan' in Tom Jensen. With the trip over to play at NC State and the earlier game at Elon the practice of 'heckling' opposing teams took center stage, as compared to supporting your own team. Can you give your perspective on fan interactions at the ballpark?
"I think you see throughout sports now that fans in a lot of places are more interested on getting on the other team, or coach [laughs] more than they are pulling for their own team. I think there is a fine line there. Obviously with Tom it is always pro-UNC which we appreciate very much. When you go on the road it is part of it. It is not something that you don't ever get used to but you know that it is coming at certain venues. You just have to tune it out and not let it affect you in a negative way and certainly not react to it because that is what they want you to do. It is part of athletics and it is part of what fans do and they feel like if they pay they have the right to do that, so many of them do."

What's in store the next week for the coaching staff and the players with the exam break coming up?
"Coach Jackson left this morning to head up north to visit with the players we have already signed. Chris Oakley, Zac Gallen, A.J. Bogucki. To go up there and see them play potentially and to meet with them and we have a lot of draft information that we put together and we try to sit down with the families and give them that information. This is kind of the time of the year that we do that. Coach Forbes is heading up to see Rob Kaminsky this weekend. But, there are a lot of high school games if the weather cooperates. Again we are working around a game on Wednesday and final exams, study sessions and trying to get lifts in and that sort of thing. We manage the week around our players and all of our activities are optional for them. I know when all their exams are and who needs to be where. It is something we have to work around every year. It is part of it but our players have been able to manage it pretty well."

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