This Week With Mike Fox

Inside Carolina spoke with UNC Baseball coach Mike Fox after the Diamond Heels were swept over the weekend by Notre Dame to fall to 31-19 (13-13 ACC). They finish out the regular season this week hosting UNC-W on Tuesday and then Virginia for a Thursday-Saturday series.

This weekend normal bullpen stalwarts in Trevor Kelley and Trent Thornton were ineffective against Notre Dame, while Hansen Butler, Spencer Traynor and Zach Rice combined for 5 shutout innings in relief. Can you discuss the performance of the pen in South Bend this past weekend?
"That was a silver lining in the doubleheader. The outcome certainly was not what we wanted, but it was interesting that the two guys that we have relied on out of the pen were not able to hold the lead. Then in the second game those three guys you mentioned were very effective and of course kept us in the game from the first inning on then when we took J.B. [Bukauskas] out gave us a chance to come back and win. It was kind of an interesting day, but again our bullpen continues to get better and those three you mentioned all really pitched well."

Starting pitchers J.B. Bukauskas and Zac Gallen had an uncharacteristic inability to throw strikes over the weekend and combined to walk eight batters. What were the challenges they faced?
"That played a big factor of course. J.B. walked the first two guys of the game and we lost game one so you really don't want to have a start like that where you are behind right out of the gate. He could not get it together and was yanking his fastball to his glove side a lot. Really the pitch he was most effective with was his breaking ball, but he just told me later that he just felt so good that maybe he was trying to overthrow a little bit. I thought Zac pitched well for the most part. The home run that he gave up to the 8 hitter on the 3-1 pitch was a big swing of the bat for them. We did not do much of anything right up there really, but it all starts with pitching."

Skye Bolt put on a show this weekend with a pair of home runs and walking five times in the series...
"He has always been patient and willing to draw walks. He is probably the most patient hitter we had up there which is what we needed especially when we are behind. Notre Dame's pitchers and their relievers especially are known for throwing strikes so you have to be ready to hit but it is what count and what pitch you are hitting. The ballpark played really small up there which was highly unusual from what we heard from everybody that had been up there up there which was the exact opposite. I think because of the weather, the humidity and how warm it was with the storms around with a lot of wind. Obviously Skye squared a couple balls up and got them out of the ballpark and got a 6-0 lead which we should have been able to hold on to."

The Diamond Heels check in after the ND series with a RPI of 22 according to and host UNC-W (RPI 37) and UVa (31) for the last games of the season. How important are these games heading into the ACC Tournament and the NCAA postseason?
"How important are they? On a scale of one to 10 - probably an 11. It is nice to be back at home and we have put ourselves in the position that our season will depend upon these next four games certainly and the three game series against Virginia. Our RPI will not matter if we don't put ourselves in a position to get in the ACC Tournament but everyone is obviously trying to avoid those Tuesday matchups. We have to move on. Our fans have always been able to help us and I hope they come out in droves this week but particularly this weekend - Thursday, Friday, Saturday, and Virginia is fighting for their ACC and NCAA lives as well, so two desperate teams so to speak will probably make for some exciting baseball if I had to guess."

The Diamond Heels seem to have been more successful in hitting to the opposite field as the season has progressed. Is this something that the coaching staff has put more emphasis on, or is it a case of taking what the opposing pitchers are giving you?
"I don't know that we have worked on it even more, but we have preached since day one that you have to have the ability to use the whole field. Our freshman, that is a tough lesson for them to learn since they all kind of come in as pull hitters and they could turn around on a high school fastball and the breaking balls are not that good. Then all the sudden it is a different level and once you get exposed, that hole in your swing is where you get pitched. For a lot of young hitters that is away so you have to be able to use the whole field. Joe Dudek has learned that. Logan Warmoth is trying to learn it. Obviously Korey Dunbar, a lot of his power is to right center. A lot of it is taking what the pitcher gives you. If you try to pull the ball you will get exposed especially against pitchers who are all good at throwing breaking balls."

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