This Week With Mike Fox

Inside Carolina caught up with the head coach of the Diamond Heels after his team went 4-1 last week, defeating George Mason, Gardner-Webb, and then taking two of three from Maryland. Up next is Princeton on Tuesday, followed by a weekend home series against Georgia Tech.

Can you recap your 4-1 week?
"It was a really good week for us. It is Spring Break for the guys and we played in five games for the first time this season and had two really good wins for us in the middle of the week and played our first road series in the league and winning Sunday in the rubber game at Maryland. I thought it was a really good week for us."
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Last week you discussed having to manage the time for the team during the break - can you discuss what the week was like for the team?
"It was mostly the guys just hanging out and doing some team things together. When you travel over the break - Thursday was a travel day for us on the back end of Spring Break where we are on the road and the front end of the break we had an ACC weekend Friday, Saturday and Sunday. Monday we practiced then had the second annual Women's Clinic on Monday evening, which was a lot of fun. Then we were playing Tuesday and Wednesday. There was not as much down time as we think we are going to have. We didn't have a whole lot of time to do hardly anything up in Maryland, playing on Friday night then playing at 2 p.m. on Saturday and at noon on Sunday. We were at the ballpark three and a half hours or four hours before the game so we don't have a chance to do much sightseeing on these road trips."

Tom Zengel had a pair of home runs on Friday and has been swinging a hot bat for the Heels so far this season at DH, after not seeing much action the last two years ...
"Tommy really swung the bat well for us at Maryland. He has come into his own this year. It is a wonderful story about that young man. His freshman year he got over 100 at bats and the last two years he has not gotten on the field very much for us. He just stayed with it - a wonderful teammate, just a great leader for us. He stayed with it and is having some success. Hitting the home runs Friday night - he has a really, really good swing. He feels very good and confident right now. He's been working with Coach Jackson a lot and is a really hard worker and has really helped out our team. It has been great to see."

Korey Dunbar cut down three base-runners in the Sunday game when Maryland was trying to get back into the game. How much progress have you seen from him behind the plate?
"Korey, as I have said before, has really, really improved since last year. That is a credit to his hard work. Part of Maryland's game is to bunt and run and those two big caught-stealings in that one inning where they were trying to get back into the game - it really took them out of that inning. He blocked the ball really well this weekend. It is hard catching back-to-back-to-back days. It was tough sight lines the last two or three days. The lights at Maryland are not very good and it is hard to see. It is one of those weird days where the background is tough. He had a great challenge this weekend with our pitchers and did a tremendous job for us behind the plate saving a couple of runs blocking pitches."

Coach Jackson is frequently moving infielders and outfielders around based on his spray patterns and batter tendencies. What is his preparation for opponents' patterns?
"That is a lot of hours in front of the video watching previous games of opponents' hitters and marking it on spray charts. So you have each player and a spray of whether they hit the ball in the air or on the ground against a lefty or a righty. You have to watch a lot of games and have a lot of at bats to get some tendencies. Of course, things change as the series goes on depending on what we see with our own eyes on Friday or Saturday. It is really kind of subtle sometimes. He will move an outfielder to one spot or the other to make a play. It is a lot of hard work and effort on his part and it pays great dividends for us."

As the season progresses, how has Landon Lassiter been evolving playing the hot corner after playing at DH last season and shortstop during his prep career?
"He is continuing to get better at third. It was a real challenge for him this weekend with the speed Maryland has. They bunted on him two or three times. It is something he just has to go through and learn. We tried to simulate some of that stuff in practice but, he made a couple of really nice plays [Sunday]. He is going to continue to get better the more he plays there. It is a quite different position than short. Landon started off the season rough offensively. Some of that was because of his ankle and not feeling 100 percent. You don't have some success then your confidence starts to waiver. He has been working his way back there like the Landon Lassiter of last year. At the end of the year his numbers will be there again because he is too good not to. He is going to continue to get healthy and get his ankle to 100 percent and continue to help us. He has been a big part of our offense and he was this weekend as well."

The Tar Heels used their speed to manufacture runs this weekend - how did you manage the running game to put pressure on the Terrapins?
"We just kind of take what the other team gives us. The first couple of games the pitchers were really, really quick to the plate and as I said before they are not calling the balk move in college baseball for any team so it gives the pitchers such an advantage holding runners. We run when we think we can. Obviously you don't want to run just to run but it did help us in that last inning giving us second base on one of them playing the infield in. Our speed has helped us win a couple of games from home plate to first. Staying out of a double play, keeping the inning going and then the next guy will get a base hit and score a run. Everybody talks about speed equating to stolen bases. We equate it to home to first and sometimes first to third. That is where we want our speed to play offensively."

If there was one thing about college baseball - either with the NCAA or the ACC - that you would change to make the game better for student-athletes what would it be and why?
"An actual baseball rule? Or just a NCAA Regulation?"

... Say for instance the 35-man roster or the 27-person scholarship limit or the travel roster as examples?
"All of those you just mentioned. The one that I certainly would change would be the NCAA over-legislating our sport. We should not be tied to numbers. The NCAA promotes the student-athlete experience and prior to the 35-man roster we had our 36 and 37th players who got the opportunity to have the experience to be part of our program whether it was as a bullpen catcher or an extra player or whatever. They go on to law school and or go on to become a minister and I have seen what that can do. I wish we did not have all of these numbers because I don't think it is about numbers but giving kids an opportunity to be a part of a team. That's what they are promoting. I think they should live by that."

Have you had an opportunity to stay updated on the former Diamond Heels in Major League spring training?
"Oh yes. We know what happened last night with Adam Warren and with Colin [Moran] with the Marlins. Michael Morin got sent to minor league camp with the Angels. Coach Jackson and Forbes keep me updated with all of that. We are on the internet all the time communicating with those guys as they go through spring training. It is fun to follow them."

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