This Week With Mike Fox

Inside Carolina caught up with the head coach of the Diamond Heels after his team went 3-1 last week, beating Davidson and then taking two of three from Pittsburgh. Up next is a five-game week, including a weekend series at Maryland.

Can you reflect back on the last week?
"It was a good week for us winning three games and having a good win over Davidson and two wins on Saturday on our first conference series, but we were disappointed in not being able to sweep the series. But you have to give them some credit for taking advantage when we opened the door for them with mistakes and we need to learn from our mistakes and move on."
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What were the challenges of playing a double-header on Saturday?
"That is a long day. You postpone the game on Friday and you know you are going to play 18 innings the next day. The pre-game meal is three and a half hours before the first game and then you take batting practice. It is a long day. We talk about it and we try to prepare for it and we know that it is going to happen and we have to play a double header about every season. It is one of those things that we don't have any control over. It is hard to win two games on the same day. It does affect your pitching a little bit and obviously those that have to throw on back to back games like Riley Hovis did and he played against Davidson so he was not available for Sunday so you have to work around your pitching some. These guys are young and they are on Spring Break so you have to manage it and do the best you can."

What have you seen from Tyler Ramirez and Zach Daly in the competition for playing time in right field?
"Tyler has been getting some playing time as of late. He is a really good player who has a great swing. He has really improved since the fall and has gotten in better shape. He can really, really run and he surprised us a little bit about how fast he is. He has some power as well and he is a young guy – a freshman and he needs to keep learning and observing. Zach Daly got some playing time and he opened up the season with a home run for us in Charleston. So he has got some power, he needs to keep improving offensively and he is one of our best defensive outfielders and he will get more playing time."

With two mid-week games this week how will pitching depth come into play?
"It is Spring Break so we will have to manage their time a little bit and they don't have class so they will have more down time. We have them in study hall all week as some of them have papers due next week. With the two mid-week games being a little later [4:00 p.m. first pitch] it gives us a little more time to get more individual work in before we have our pre-game meal. Some of our guys are excited about playing back to back games this week and Coach Forbes and I talked this morning and he is looking at the scouting reports more on both teams before we make a decision [on who is going to start on the mound]. We should know who is going to go this afternoon but we have a number of options.

"We had some great performances out of our bullpen this week. We give weekly awards and we gave our relievers Zach Rice, Chris McCue who were really good out of the bullpen. Spencer Trayner this weekend against Pitt did a nice job. We have got to keep developing some depth and these mid-week games we are going to allow some other guys pitch for us. A.J. Bogucki, Taylore Cherry and we have to get Luis Paula out there and Trevor Kelly and we have to get some other guys out there so we don't extend those guys. We are going to need everyone pitching in the ACC series. Obviously Zach Rice has been effective out of the pen against lefties and we have Riley Hovis doing well out of the pen and Chris [McCue] at the back end coming in to close. They have done well for us."

With Skye Bolt now starting in center flanked by senior Parks Jordan in left with Ramirez or Daly in right, how has that impacted the defensive performance?
"To that point we gave up 41 hits this week in four games and 40 of those were singles. We gave up one extra base hit in four games and we have to credit our pitching but we also have to credit our outfielders for cutting off balls and getting to balls. Parks Jordan got the defensive player of the week having made some tremendous plays for us on balls over his head and balls down the line. We have a very good chance at being a pretty good outfield group. We have some guys that work hard, have good feet and don't bobble the ball and take good routes to the ball. We have some good fundamental defense out there and we have to continue with that."

Next season the NCAA will introduce baseballs with lower seams – what effect do you think this will have on the college game and how are you preparing for this?
"We got a few of those balls, not the ones in particular that we will be using next year but some of the minor league balls during the pre-season during batting practice. I think there is going to be a difference. If you look at the scores across the country we see not a lot of runs being scored. You look at batting averages of the team and 3-2, 2-1 games. You look at the new bats that changed the college game. Perhaps the new balls will bring back some offense and more home runs which I think people want. I think the pitchers are going to like them because the ball will move a little more and we will see how it impacts the game next year."

One of the unsung staff members on the Tar Heel baseball team is the staff athletic trainer Terri Jo Rucinski. Can you discuss what role she plays in keeping the players ready for all of the physical challenges of a college baseball season?
"You don't have enough space in your article to give her justice. She has been our head trainer since 2006 and she is the one who gets our guys ready to get out on the field and play at a high level. That is a big challenge. Baseball has a lot of wear and tear in playing at a high level. She is unbelievably dedicated to what she does and has a wonderful attitude. She has an unbelievable personality as well and that is why she is held in such high regard by everyone and our players. She really, really cares and it shows in everything she does. She has a great attitude and she works some incredible number of hours. I could not even begin to keep up with it. She is here a lot longer than anyone else on our staff if I had to guess. She gets here early and is working late. She is a very special part of our program."

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