This Week With Mike Fox

Inside Carolina caught up with head coach Mike Fox after the Diamond Heels (30-21, 14-13 ACC) recorded a Senior Day win over Florida State and began preparing for the final week of the regular season, which includes a trip to Gardner-Webb on Tuesday and a weekend series at Miami.

Can you recap the past week?
"It started off well, certainly, with two mid-week wins with Campbell coming out of exams and then went to Elon and getting a terrific win there. The weekend of course started off poorly for us against Florida State both Friday and Saturday, but we got a big win yesterday with our backs against the wall and Zac Gallen comes out once again like he did at Virginia and pitches great and got a big win for us on Sunday. All in all not as good a week as we wanted but we are in a good position here moving forward."

With one series left, what does this mean at this point as far as postseason expectations go for the ACC Tournament and the possibility of an NCAA bid?
"Well, honestly, I have not really looked at that. I really haven't. I don't know all the scenarios but we control our own destiny here from what I can tell. If we take care of business we can put ourselves in a position certainly not only for the [ACC] Tournament but after that if we continue to play well and get some important wins. I think we control now what we can do moving forward. That is the only position that we want to be in."

You mentioned after the game on Sunday that the performance that Zac Gallen had on the mound should not be overshadowed by the rest of the game. Can you elaborate on the importance of his stint on the mound?
"It was extremely important that he gets us into the middle part of the game we thought. Certainly the way it started and getting out of the first inning and being able to settle in and holding them where they were. Florida State has scored 4-5 runs in almost every game they played and we knew that we would have to score a few more runs to allow us to get to Riley and to get to one out in the 5th was the most important part of the game."

Senior Day is an emotional and special time for college baseball player on their last home game. What have Parks Jordan, Tom Zengel and Andrew Smith meant to the Tar Heels?
"Anytime you have seniors it is great for your team. These are young men that have been in your program and seen every aspect of the program for four years. Just to be able to see and to be a part of some special teams and to learn some leadership skills and to be able to mentor other guys. It is very important and we have had some good senior classes here. It was so nice to be able to see Parks and Tommy were able to contribute to our win yesterday on their last day - it was pretty special."

As the head coach, how concerning is it to you when you have to impose suspensions or benching players for disciplinary reasons (Michael Russell did not make the trip to the Elon game and Landon Lassiter and Skye Bolt did not start)?
"It is extremely disappointing. It is always disappointing when you have to do that as a coach and especially when you pride in yourself and your program on making certain standards and everyone is accountable for their actions. We don't have a lot of rules in our program but the ones we have we adhere to them. Again it is not about one player and one game. You saw what those kids did over at Elon. To go over there and play one of the best games of our season with some young men who hadn't had the opportunity that got it and to do well - it does not get much better to me than to do that."

Which of these two statistics that the Diamond Heels have put up so far this season are more troubling to you as the coach - batting .268 as a team or fielding at a .966 percentage?
"Believe it or not at one point we were leading in the league in hitting. In college baseball it is what it is offensively now. There are not too many teams hitting .300 now in college baseball. The defensive part of it with our lack of fundamentals on the base paths and not fielding at .975 [percentage] - that is our goal. That is more concerning to me. On occasions we have thrown the ball to the wrong base and been in the wrong position. That opens the door for the other team to score. We have to really limit those down the stretch to give ourselves a chance to win."

How do you handle the sports psychology managing the team with handling success under pressure?
"That is a great question. In general the players will tell you they just want calm. They don't need anything other than calm. They just want quiet, don't get on me, don't say anything or try to pump me up if I had to guess. There is an ebb and flow of every pitch during a game. There were 172 pitches thrown by our pitchers and 130 from theirs - there are 300 pitches being made during the course of a game. You have 300 some odd times to react. Ball, strike, hit, bad swing, good swing. You certainly have to keep your composure - players have to keep their composure. It is such a mental game. There are times that you need to probably say something during a game but I think they are few and far between because the game does not stop. There are no timeouts. It is not like you have a halftime. You can't huddle your team together. There are more individual conversations in a baseball game than a chance to get your team together for a ra-ra session in the dugout. You have to have a sense of that during the game and keep everyone under control because the calmer you are and the looser you are generally the better you perform."

The Tar Heels have a four-game road trip to wrap up the regular season, ending in in Coral Gables. Can you preview the upcoming week?
"We turn around quickly for the weekend and get on the bus on Tuesday then we get on a plane on Wednesday. It does seem like a kind of short week but that is why we are here and why the kids are here to play. It is a very challenging end of the season for us. We are excited to go to Shelby to play them but also to see some former players in Tyler Trice, Chad Flack and some other ones who have contacted us. It will be fun to go back there and play. I expect it to be a great environment there tomorrow night and we have quite a challenge in Miami with a lot to play for against a team that is red hot and one of the best teams if not the best team down the stretch in our lead. It is a big challenge ahead of us for certain."

What are the goals for the ACC Tournament this year?
"We always go to the ACC Tournament to try to win in despite what others say. It might have a different feel if we are one and done on Tuesday [in a play in game] because we have not had that in this league before. If you go into the Tuesday game it is single elimination and that will change everything and we will wait and see how that plays out."

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