This Week With Mike Fox

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. --- Inside Carolina caught up with Mike Fox for the exclusive weekly interview, as the Diamond Heels (45-6, 20-5 ACC) are coming off their first series loss of the season. One week of the regular season remains, and it's a loaded slate: Appalachian State mid-week, series against No. 7-ranked Virginia, finale against No. 9 Florida State.

This Week
Tue. vs. App State
Thu. vs. Virginia
Fri. vs. Virginia
Sat. vs. Virginia
Mon. vs. Florida State

Can you look back at the last week, following the team's first series loss of the season at Georgia Tech ...
"Well, it was good to get back to playing this week certainly coming out of finals and sort of getting back on a routine. And the two mid-week games were good for us to get back on the field and get a couple wins and certainly the rain-shortened one on Wednesday was a little unusual. It was just important for us to get back to playing. Then we head down to Georgia Tech and you know we lose a tough game on Friday night and I was proud of our team for responding on Saturday. Benton [Moss] just did sensational for us. We went into the ninth inning with a shutout and handling that ballpark and then only giving up a solo home run. Then Sunday's game was really just excruciating and so very disappointing to be in a position to win that game and let it get away from us. You certainly have to credit Georgia Tech for getting it done and again it was just a tough loss for all of us but we have to move on this week. Baseball can be cruel at times and we have to learn from it. I do think it will make us a better team down the stretch."

What made Benton Moss so effective during what was arguably his finest start of the season in Atlanta on Saturday night?
"Benton has the capability of doing that. It is all about fastball command with him and if he is locating his fastball on both sides of the plate and keeping it down in the zone as it has a little sneakiness to it. He has that good breaking ball that is such a contrast from his fastball. If he is locating it well it is just a good mix and hitters cannot really get comfortable or sit on one pitch. Benton was aggressive, I thought, just really aggressive and I thought he got stronger as the game went on. The 7th and 8th innings were his two best innings. That is a credit to his work ethic that he just continues to get better. Again he only walked two batters and that is the key and we played really good defense behind him."

Looking over the statistics from the weekend both teams played good defense but the walks issued by the Heels on Sunday really stood out in the loss. What's your perspective on how the series was lost?
"We made one error on the weekend and Georgia Tech did not make an error in three games. You have to give them a lot of credit as they made every play. The stats don't always tell the story, that one error was a crucial one for us. It was crucial. A two-out two-run error that just gives them some life and we misplayed two balls in the outfield that really, really hurt us. They go down as base hits but in our mind they are plays that we should had made and we have made. Sunday's game was just really just on both sides just not a clean inning I don't think. I think there was a runner on base every inning from both teams. That made it difficult as there are base runners every inning. It is hard to keep a team down in that regard. If you take out Hobb's five walks in 4-and-2/3, between Trevor [Kelly], Trent [Thornton] and Chris [Munnelly] they walked one apiece. Well, I think Trent walked two, but that is part of the game and you have to kind of work around those. It is disappointing that we were not throwing strikes with a 7-1 lead but you know they were doing the same thing and we did not capitalize. You go into the ninth inning with a three-run lead you certainly expect to win. I have seen them come back to beat us before down there in the 9th inning - it was tough to watch it again."

The way the schedule worked out in the ACC this season the Diamond Heels ended up being out of town with a trio of seniors in Chaz Frank, Chris Munnelly and Cody Stubbs with commencement in progress. Can you reflect back on their accomplishments and what they have brought to the table during their UNC careers?
"Chris [Munnelly] was the only one out of the three scheduled to graduate. Chaz and Cody are scheduled to get their degrees in December. I felt bad for Chris in that regard. I actually talked with him and his parents about that and if there was a way he could make commencement and possibly get back for the game and that would have been logistically pretty difficult to do. But (I got) a typical response from Chris, Margie and Bud Munnelly that they understand but they would much rather be sitting in the stands at a baseball game. Unfortunately we did not win. Chris Munnelly finished his (academic) career at the University of North Carolina with a cumulative grade point average above a 3.0 with 123 hours. I told the team once I got all the grades on the bus and I got the microphone and I told them I had a special announcement and made that one. That is something very special that is extremely difficult to do at the University of North Carolina as a lot of people know. Of course Chaz and Cody are set to graduate as well [in December] and had good semesters for us and I am very proud of those three guys and how they represented our program both on and off the field. Three guys we are going to sorely miss after next year but certainly we are going to enjoy our time with them over the next month."

In the Tuesday game last week I recollect thinking that the foul ball that hit Matt Roberts in the catcher's mask looked pretty serious and it turned out that he suffered a concussion on the blow. Do you have an update on his status?
"He did. He took a foul tip right off the front of the mask. You see those but that one I knew stung Matt. You know he is a tough kid. We sort of knew and I walked out there and I could sort of tell and then we realized after the game that he had taken a pretty serious blow and he was diagnosed with a concussion. He was seen by the doctors, of course, several times prior to us leaving on Thursday morning as a matter of fact and I was told that he was not going to be cleared to play. He did not make the trip with us. It was important for him to stay home - actually just get home, home with his parents and get in as much quiet as possible. He has a doctor's appointment this morning at 11 a.m. to see if the symptoms persist and if they do he will be held out until those subside. So we will know more about that later on today."

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Is Skye Bolt still on track to return to action in the UVa series?
"He has a doctor's appointment today at 1 p.m. and they will reevaluate his [foot] and hopefully take just one last X-ray and we are hopeful that we get good news today that he is cleared to play. That is our anticipation at this time."

Your team was able to pick up one final game to fill out the regular season slate with a 'non-conference' matchup with Florida State next Monday, which will come after first hosting Appalachian State on Tuesday and then hosting UVa for the final ACC series Thursday to Saturday. Can you discuss how this game was scheduled and the week ahead for the Tar Heels?
"The Florida State game was pretty simple. They called up and asked for some practice time on our field on Monday which they have done in the past. They come up Sunday [for the ACC Tournament] and they wanted practice time on Monday prior to the Tournament starting. Just kind of jokingly I commented, 'Well we are going to practice too, so why don't we just practice together.' We mentioned that we would get three umpires and then it turned into 'would you all like to play?' So we are playing. There were other discussions that went on after that but it was basically we didn't see any reasons why we shouldn't play and neither did they and so the game was scheduled. We are excited about that and are hearing rumors that it might be picked up now by television so I guess all the logistics will be worked out. It was really as simple as that. And we do have a tough week coming up, yes [laughs]."

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