This Week With Mike Fox

After a break for exams, the Diamond Heels (27-19, 13-11 ACC) now enter the final two weeks of the regular season, starting with a pair of mid-week games before hosting Florida State this weekend. Inside Carolina caught up with head coach Mike Fox for the weekly interview …

Coach Fox, can you reflect back on the East Carolina game last week?
"I'd rather not. [Laughs]. I'd rather not talk about that game. That was obviously not a good game for us. The only bright spot for us was on the mound with Taylore Cherry. I thought Taylore pitched exceptionally well and got out of some trouble. But, we didn't do anything else well that entire night. It was a disappointing performance and certainly not a good way to head into some time off and into final exams."

Normally the off week is big for the Tar Heel coaching staff to hit the road to catch up with recruits. How busy a week did Coach Forbes, Jackson and yourself have?
"Well, we all have kind of been everywhere the last four or five days. Three coaches now can go out on the road. Between Coach Forbes, Jackson and myself we have been to Iowa, Ohio, Asheville, Nashville Tennessee, Los Angeles and it seems all points in between. So it was a good time for us to get out and see, evaluate and touch base with our signees and so we have taken advantage of this opportunity."

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Speaking of final exams - junior Benton Moss was honored again for his academic achievement..
"We are very proud of Benton of course. We recognized him yesterday at the practice we had in front of his teammates and his peers. He sets the bar incredibly high not only for himself but his team. He has a chance to make academic All American here in two or three weeks. It is just a great credit to him and obviously we have others who have done extremely well, guys that are in business school and take their academics very seriously. Of course they are all pursuing their degrees and that is certainly what we inspire them to do and what we want them to do. We expect to have a good semester academically and look forward to seeing how well they all do."

Reilly Hovis won Co-ACC Pitcher of the Week last week. How would you assess his development as the fireman for the Heels with Chris McCue out of action?
"Reilly has had an exceptional season for us. It speaks for his good work ethic and just a great attitude. Listening and having the ability and all those things combined coming together and having a great perspective of where you are and where you need to get to -- Reilly has done that. He is one of the hardest workers on the team and he listens, has a great attitude but he also has a mentality where he stays calm, very business-like and does not get rattled and knows what his job is. He does not need a lot of pats on the back and just goes about his business and really has had an exceptional year to date for us and we hope it continues."

Which of the Diamond Heels will be celebrating at commencement this year?
"We have a number of our players and former players getting their degrees. Andrew Smith and Tom Zengel will be finishing here real soon. Tommy has his last final (today). We are excited about those two. Mark Fleury will finish in May and Josh Horton will finish after the second session of Summer School in July. Our pair of bullpen catchers, Will and Zach, will both get their degree and Will will be attending Law School at UNC. Parks Jordan will finish this summer as well. These guys have done everything that has been asked of them both on the field and off. We are so excited about all of them getting their degrees. It is terrific."

The team is hosting Campbell on Tuesday before heading to Elon on Wednesday and then hosting Florida State this weekend. What are your thoughts on the upcoming slate?
"We will get back at it here (to)night and guys will be finished with exams that day. I think it will be good for all of them to be finished with those and have the semester behind them academically. I am excited for them and they are looking forward to focusing totally on baseball. We get back on the field and have five tough games with three really tough opponents. Campbell has had a really, really good year - actually two really good years and spectacular players. Playing at Elon is always a challenge and then of course with the Seminoles coming in should be a great weekend series for us. I know that the guys will be excited to get back on the field."

Do you have any update on Michael Russell's status after leaving the East Carolina game early with a back issue and with Wood Myers's recovery from his broken hand?
"Wood has a doctor's appointment to reevaluate where he is. Michael is taking some time off. He had a doctor's appointment at 9:30 a.m. as well. He's been doing some physical therapy and rehab stuff with Terri Jo [Rucinski] and I think he is feeling better and the time off has helped him as well. Michael will be ready to play."

Can you compare the academic support program for players today as compared to when you played at North Carolina?
"If I can remember back that far. I honestly don't remember, but I'm sure we had some, but I don't remember much about the support that we had back in the late '70s. I don't think it was specifically set up for student-athletes at the time. If you wanted it they had other avenues to find some help. I'm sure there was but obviously I was such a terrific student that I didn't need any of that stuff. I'm kidding, of course. But, now it is extensive and unbelievable support that these student-athletes have in their academic support from the writing center, to tutors, to guided study, to academic councilors. There is nothing that they cannot get help in. It is terrific. The University has done a great job of continuing to develop academic support programs for athletes since the time that I have been back at UNC as well."

Did you get a chance to catch up with Michael Morin's first appearances on the mound after getting called up?
"It was a big thrill. Getting to see Michael but we didn't get to see him pitch that first time up. We were able to see him and his family for his first time [up] which is a unique experience. Then seeing his first one [on the mound] online and watching then his last appearance where he struck out the side so we have been in touch with Michael. He is thrilled at getting the opportunity to pitch in the Major Leagues. It is fun to watch all these guys but just the fact that Michael just left UNC not too long ago and now is in the Major Leagues is a great credit to him..."

... That means he missed out on the opportunity to sit in on some long bus trips in the minor leagues...
"[Laughs] That is what we were trying to get out to tell these 2014 signees that we are trying to get to school and that is what we have been spending a lot of our time really is going out and seeing all these young men and touching base with them with the ones we signed in the 2014 class. Your point is well made."

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