This Week With Mike Fox

Inside Carolina caught up with head coach Mike Fox of the No. 6-ranked Diamond Heels after their season opening sweep of Seton Hall at Boshamer Stadium. The Tar Heels are 3-0 heading into a weekend series hosting UCLA.

Can you give your impressions from the opening series?
“It was nice to get the season started. That is for sure, it is a long time coming from when we get together in late August. It seems that February 13 will never get here soon enough for the players. We were fortunate to get three wins and you never know what to expect with the season starting and how your team will respond. I was obviously very pleased with how we played in really all three phases of the game.”

The Diamond Heels appear to have a lot of versatility and depth on the mound and in the field this season - what's your perspective on the overall roster depth for this season?
“Well, yes, I think we do and I think it has made for some great competition in practice, in the weight room and with everything we do. We do have some players that can play multiple positions and our pitching staff is the same way. We can use guys pretty much at any time. Zac Gallen is a great example. I thought that Zac came in and his two innings may have been the two cleanest of all our pitchers all weekend. We have guys who can play infield or outfield and multiple infield positions. That is going to help us certainly down the road.”

With a pair of seniors on the roster in Benton Moss and Trevor Kelley this season, how is their leadership ability on and off the field?
“Benton’s situation is obviously unique as he had the opportunity to sign (with MLB) and decided to come back. I think he came back for all the right reasons and he is obviously a great leader in our program as has been stated in multiple times and in a number of articles. You can not put words into what Benton Moss has meant to our program and will continue to mean throughout this year… and Trevor is the same way. Trevor has come a long way and still has a very valuable role for us out of the bullpen and has done some great things for us. Chris McCue is kind of in the same vein for us technically he is a senior [academically] but just a redshirt junior from an athletic standpoint but in our program for the fourth year. We have three great senior leaders on our team for sure.”

You sent freshman J.B. Bukauskas to the mound to start the third game of the season. How did he show that he was ready for that challenge?
“J.B. didn’t pitch for us all fall so really we only saw J.B. in three or four outings in the pre-season with a pretty short window for him to get out there and throw some live batting practice and throw in three scrimmages. He is talented and obviously has a good live fastball and some pitchability. I think you saw that a little bit when he was able to come back from some 3-1 and 3-2 counts and throw strike three in there. I think he is only going to get better and I think the best thing about J.B. even as young as he is, is that he has a great demeanor and he does not get rattled at all. That is what we like and we just wanted to give him an opportunity to get him out there and get his feet wet opening weekend because he is going to be a big part of our pitching staff and he gave us exactly what we were hoping he would in five innings only walking one batter and throwing well.”

Every year this team focuses on defense and a crucial part of that is up the middle of the field – where is this squad is at with that at this point of the season?
“You have to start with Skye Bolt in center field. He is the best outfielder I have ever coached. His teammates and his coaches see that every day in practice. He has that uncanny ability to know where the ball is going to be – he is a special talent out there. When you have a center fielder who can run down a lot of balls it helps the rest of your defense in so many ways. We are a little new up the middle with Wood [Myers] playing short. I think you saw a little of his range and savvy-ness over the weekend. Alex Raburn has played all four infield positions for us throughout his career and it is nice to be able to have a guy out there who can do that. We caught well and we have two good catchers in Korey (Dunbar) and Adrian (Chacon) and we feel good about that part of our team.”

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