This Week With Mike Fox

Inside Carolina caught up with head coach Mike Fox after the Diamond Heels won their first ACC Tournament title since 2007. Next up? The NCAA Tournament, in which UNC is the No. 1 national seed.

This Week
Fri. NCAAT: vs. Canisius
Can you look back on the path to the ACC title?
"It was an amazing experience. Just an incredible resilience by our team and it is really hard to describe it even now it is hard to have it all sink in exactly in what our kids went through since Thursday. But none of it surprised me. This team has just really played tough and resilient and all those adjectives all year long. We did not expect to face all of that with the extra innings and the late night, but we talk about being prepared for anything throughout the season and the kids played their hearts out. It was quite an experience and great memories for everyone."

What did you tell your team after they won the tournament after the game on Sunday?
"On the bus I gave them a few minutes to get on their phones and do all that sort of stuff, hearing from friends and family and having everything sink in. I just told them how proud I was of them as it was something that has not been done in the Carolina baseball program since 2007 and I am so proud of our seniors for earning that trophy and how everyone contributed. Then I had the game ball and it was pretty easy to give the game ball to Taylore Cherry and everyone was excited about that on the bus. I think once we got on the bus and we headed down the road about ten minutes it all sunk in to everybody that nobody had had a lot of sleep for two or three days and I had to talk to them all quick before they all faded."

Can you reflect back on the performance by Kent Emanuel in the tournament opener, pitching a complete game and saving the bullpen for the rest of the tournament?
"That is a really good point. I don't think that got lost but if we don't do what we did against Miami and shorten that game a little bit and have Kent pitch the entire game then perhaps we don't have all of our relievers as fresh and ready as they were. As it turned out we needed all of that. I do think that it started with that; that our relievers had an extra day and that was really, really important for us. Again, Kent goes out and he weathers that storm early in the game and settles in and just does his thing for us. It was a great performance by him."

You discussed the seniors earlier – what about the contributions you got from those three seniors in the ACC Tournament?
"That is something that I mentioned on the bus. It was their last opportunity to win and how well all three of them did and performed it was certainly theirs. Obviously Cody [Stubbs] being the MVP I could not be happier for that young man and the season he has had. And obviously what Chris [Munnelly] did in coming into the game at 2 o'clock in the morning against State and just pounding the strike zone and he waited so long to pitch. And Chaz [Frank], who just plays his heart out every game and wants to win so badly and is our spark plug. Those three, they are rewarded for all their leadership and hard work this year and in their previous years in our program. I see that as their reward for winning the ACC title."

One of the big stories of all of the extra inning heroics during the ACC title run was in the steady play of the defense behind the pitching staff. How did you think the defense fared at the Durham Bulls Athletic Park this weekend?
"We have been a good defensive team all year. We take a lot of pride in it. Cody was sensational. He got credited with three errors during the tournament. One of them was just on a foul pop that didn't do any damage for us on the play at first base but he saved us so many runs over there and he has been terrific for us all season long as all of our players have been all year. Our outfielders were sensational, I thought, during the tournament and we have been very solid behind the plate. We fielded bunts and again we think our defense is the most important part of our team. Even during an 18-inning game the defense played a part in the outcome of the game as we all saw as not making a play at first base by [NC State] allowed us to tie the game and then we ended up winning it. I am proud of our defense for sure."

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Can you speak to the work that freshman Taylore Cherry put in during the season to prepare for the opportunity that presented itself in the ACC Championship final - pitching five innings and earning the win?
"It is one of those things in coaching that is the most satisfying and rewarding to see a kid who keeps working and doesn't say anything. He gets it. Taylore just gets it. He is very self aware. 'I need to do this, I need to do that and I need to get better. I'm on a good team and if I want to contribute I have to do this, this and this.' You can sense that with him. Our players love him because he has such a great temperament. And I tell you that Coach Gaines deserves a lot of credit, too, as the last two times that Taylore has thrown in the bullpen he threw two simulated games -- a lot of pitches and of course Bryant kept telling him that 'you need to be prepared.' I think if we was like, ‘Why am I throwing so many pitches?' But of course Coach Gaines reminded him that you need to be ready. Coach Gaines was in that situation before. I give Coach Forbes and Coach Gaines a lot of credit for allowing him to be in a position to go out there and do what he did but obviously the credit goes to Taylore for going out and doing what he did yesterday."

Can you discuss the excitement of finding out the opponents that will be sent by the NCAA today during the selection show to the Chapel Hill Regional and getting the post-season prepared on the Road to Omaha?
"This is always a fun day … we have something a little new today as we have invited all of our season ticket holders to come to Boshamer so we can thank them for being good fans this year. Our attendance was so much better this year than it has ever been and we want to try to reward as many people as we can and feed them and allow them to join in the excitement and watch the show with us on our new video board. … It is a fun and exciting day."

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