Matt Clements/Inside Carolina

This Week in UNC Baseball with Mike Fox

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. --- Inside Carolina caught up head coach Mike Fox after UNC baseball swept Fairview to improve to 9-1. The Diamond Heels play Gardner-Webb Tuesday before hosting their ACC series opener against Pittsburgh.

Brian Miller stole everything this weekend - even stealing home twice adding to his team lead with seven. To what do you attribute his comfort level on the basepaths this season and how out of reach is the single season steals record with Brian Roberts’s 63?

“Really untouchable [laughs]. Brian is more confident this year certainly. Base stealing and those kind of things for a batter go with confidence and aggressiveness. Brian can really, really run but speed is only relevant if you don’t have fear of getting picked off or getting thrown out. I think that is the next step that Brian is taking and the decision he made on Friday pretty much saved the game for us - stole home and beating the throw and allowing us to go to extra innings.

“To your second question that is a unbelievable, phenomenal record. I know you are never supposed to say that a record won’t be broken but I don’t see anyone able to come close to that one with the way that pitchers are taught now to be quick to the plate and they all can balk sort of with that front knee buckle. It is hard to run on a lot of college pitchers now that they have that over and back move and first to third. I see that record hanging in there for a while.”

Speaking of extra innings, you were able to get some additional playing time for some players because of the extra innings and lopsided games. Brendan Illis and Wyatt Cross joined Cody Roberts behind the dish while Roberts even got a chance to show his two-way skills by taking the mound for an appearance. How do you feel about the depth behind the plate?

“Brendan really did a nice job yesterday. In our weekly awards this afternoon we are going to recognize him for that after not playing the first 8-9 games then going behind the plate. He was very solid back there and threw out a base stealer. Very pleased about that. Wyatt Cross got a chance to catch an inning and get some at bats so it was nice for us to get some guys in there and get their college debuts for us with an at bat or on the mound. We wanted to get Cody out on the mound and just let him throw an inning and get his feet wet in that regard. That is a tough thing to do. Tim Federowicz, I guess, is the last player that we had to try to do both in catching and pitching. Cody has a chance because he has a really good arm for one and also is a strike thrower. He does have a good breaking ball but he just did not have to use it yesterday. We have to continue to look for him in that position as we go forward. The more depth you have the better.”

Brandon Riley got hot with the bat this weekend after missing a start at designated hitter on Friday. How is the freshman's confidence after his first career home run and bringing his average up to a respectable .250 in the early part of the season?

“That was exciting to see. The best thing to say about Brandon Riley is that he never lost his confidence - at least we thought that he didn't after going a stretch without getting anything going offensively. He is very tough mentally. I think after getting a couple of hits in the opening game against UCLA then not having a lot of success didn’t really phase him all that much. Chaz Frank has been working with him a lot on his hitting and trying to get him started a little earlier. So he is a good player for us and it was fun to watch him have some success obviously on Saturday with such a great day. I love the doubles and triples as much as the home runs because you get a chance to see those kids run. That was probably one of the easiest swings you have seen for a home run. He has a little power in that body as well. It is fun to watch.”

What improvements did you see in the third start for both J.B. Bukauskas and Jason Morgan this weekend? What made them more effective?

“Another step forward for them. The first two weekends you learn a little bit from your performance whether you are trying to overthrow or trying to do a little bit too much. I thought both of them were more in rhythm, so to speak, right out of the gate, trying to throw a lot more first pitch strikes and being more in control and not trying to be too fine. I think that J.B. realized that he was going to need to throw his breaking ball more watching the game on Friday seeing how Fairfield attacked the fastball early in the count. I thought he was able to do that - especially early, getting some good breaking balls and getting some strikeouts. I think Jason was more settled in his start. Again you learn from the previous ones. Jason had not been a starter so you have to learn how to prepare and not to be under-ready but not to be over-ready so to speak. I think he did a nice job and got his first career win and I know that was exciting for him.”

Speaking of excitement, can you discuss getting the opportunity to get senior Chris McCue back out on the mound this past weekend?

“We recognized Chris after the game, ow effective he was for one but also the journey that he has taken, a long one to come back from his injury and his perseverance. You want to stay with it and it is a credit to Chris that he didn’t give up and he wants to try to help us win. That was exciting to see. I know his teammates were pulling for him and happy for him as well as all of us.”

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