Matt Clements/Inside Carolina

This Week in UNC Baseball with Mike Fox

Inside Carolina caught up with the head coach of the Diamond Heels after their season opening series victory at No. 9 UCLA. The team returns home this weekend for a series with another Top 25 opponent: Oklahoma State.

What did you think of Zac Gallen’s performance opening the series at UCLA and what prompted you to honor him with being a captain for this season?
Zac obviously got us off to a terrific start Friday and gave us exactly what we hope that he would. Right out of the gate in the first inning he showed his experience and certainly was not nervous and attacked their hitters and had some real efficient innings. He kept his pitch count down and allowed us to throw him deep into the game and give us a chance to win. He was just sensational. Zac has done everything we have asked for three years and he is a good student, works hard and cares about the team deeply and we felt like we needed some leaders and needed to make a statement with some leaders with him and Adam Pate - naming them captains on the very first day of the fall. Certainly Zac wanted to take on that responsibility.

With such a young roster and thus untested offensive pedigree, how did they fare in your eyes?
We certainly need to improve from last year. Again this is just one weekend so we just have to wait and see. We felt like we had a chance to be better offensively and we got contributions from up and down the lineup. We had Zack Gahagan in the nine spot yesterday and he came up with a big home run to give us the lead back after they tied it 5-5. Everyone contributed and we used our speed to put some pressure on them with safeties and going first to third so a little bit of power with some extra base hits. All in all we couldn’t be happier with our first weekend. We struck out a little bit too much - that is something we have to cut down on, but all in all it was a good start for us offensively...

... What was it like watching the offense perform from the dugout with (hitting) coach (Scott) Jackson manning the third base coach’s box?
It was something we have experimented a bit with in the past and I just decided to turn the offense over to him this year and we have done that all fall and preseason. It worked out great and I think he enjoyed it and he is wanting to do it and it is a challenge. My being in the dugout with this team - it is a fun bunch of kids. Obviously, it is fun when you win, but either way I am excited being in the dugout and seeing the enthusiasm and the energy. It was a different perspective but a good perspective.

You mentioned that Adam Pate was also honored as a team captain. What was the thinking behind putting Pate in right with Tyler Ramirez moving over from right last season to center this year?
It was better for our team - with Lynn, Ramirez and Pate we have three guys out there that can all cover some ground. I have always thought that Tyler Ramirez might have been our best center fielder all along and he played in right his first couple years. We had him in center field during scrimmages and practices in his freshman and sophomore years. Adam is probably better suited to right. The good news is that we can flip-flop them or move them around if we need to. We can put Brian Miller out there as he can play center field as well. We have options if we ever need them.

On a related note, what has Brian Miller shown you defensively to earn him playing time at first base?
We have to get our best offensive players that we can into the lineup and sometimes guys have to move around a little bit. You may see Brian some in the outfield and some others in the infield. It is good to have some options and versatility. We are a work in progress on our infield. Probably the weakest part of our performance of the weekend was defensively. We have to continue to improve on that throughout the year. It is kind of unusual to have your leadoff hitter as your first baseman, but that just happens to be the case for us. Brian was a wonderful surprise for us last year and he has continued to improve and get better. Again he cares about winning and does not care about where he plays. He just wants to help our team win.

So is the biggest concern with your young team their defensive play in the field?
That and we have got to continue to develop our bullpen and I think we will as the season goes on. We will have to see who fits into what role. We have Hansen Butler, who has been sensational, but had a little bit of tightness in his shoulder and we got him out of the game on Saturday because of that. But, our infield defense - we have to be able to pick the ball up. We walked too many guys in critical situations. By our scoring they only had 10 hits all weekend. I think that their box score had them with four hits on Saturday but we thought that two of them were errors on our part. On that regard we didn’t give up a lot of hits and there were a lot of swing and misses on their part. If you look at the stats we should not have lost the one game. But, it is what it is and we have to take these three games for what they are worth and flush them pretty quickly and try to get better this week and ready for a good Oklahoma State team this weekend.


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