Matt Clements/Inside Carolina

This Week with UNC Baseball Coach Mike Fox

Inside Carolina conducted its weekly, exclusive interview with UNC baseball coach Mike Fox after his team completed a weekend sweep of Duke to improve to 17-2 (5-1 ACC). The Diamond Heels host Western Carolina on Tuesday before hosting Georgia Tech on a Thursday-Saturday series.

Your team scored 59 runs this week and appeared to wear out the opposition with patience at the plate and pressure on the base paths. To what do you attribute the offensive performance?
“That is pretty accurate. A little bit against the scouting report on Duke that we heard that they make a lot of plays on defense and their pitchers throw strikes and you really had to work hard and earn your runs. That did not seem to be the case - you have to give credit obviously to our club. I do not think that Duke did not play or pitch up to their potential. It seems like we took advantage of every mistake they made - walk, hit batter, error - I think as good teams do. They opened the door for us and we took advantage. We got guys in scoring position and got a lot of two strike base hits throughout. I think that Logan Warmoth’s hit yesterday was the biggest swing of the bat of the weekend putting us up 3-0 in the first on Sunday’s game.”

The top of the order --  Brian Miller (.381 average/.461 on base), Adam Pate (.347 average/.444 on base) and Tyler Ramirez (.433 average/.554 on base) -- has been performing very well at the plate... 
“Well they really have. They are good players and they are playing with confidence and they believe in themselves and work extremely hard and know what they need to do to help our team win. You have to throw Kyle Datres in there. You have to be careful looking at batting averages. He gets hit by pitches, he puts a bunt down yesterday and gets walked three times yesterday and sets the table for Tyler Ramirez. Tyler has come up there a lot with people on base and with first base open - creating some holes for us with some opportunities. He is seeing the ball really well right now. Those guys and our whole lineup really has been helping us offensively up and down.”

Do you think that hitting is contagious and everyone has bought into the game plan offensively?
“I don’t think there is any question about it. It is like anything else in sports, in shooting [basketball], it is hitting. You can have your ups and downs - it is how you are feeling and what you are being surrounded by. There is such a good vibe amongst our team and there has been all year. Guys are kind of feeding off one another and enjoying one another. When you are playing well and you have that care amongst your team you don’t want to let your teammates down and you want to be part of that success and I think that is part of it for sure.”

Only two Tar Heels have saves this season and freshman right handed pitcher Taylor Sugg has one of them. What has he shown you - in the fall and so far this season - to earn the responsibility of pitching in pressure situations?
“To only have two saves at this point is a good thing for one. That means you have not been in very many close games at the end. They are coming for sure. We have liked Taylor as soon as he stepped on campus. He is a very loose and carefree kind of kid with a great personality. He does not let too many things bother him. That helps you when you are pitching. He is a strike thrower with a really good breaking ball that he can throw for strikes. He earned the opportunity to get in a weekend game and we thought it was very important for him to pitch in an ACC game yesterday to try to get his feet wet. He is someone we have to count on out of the bullpen. When you are a strike thrower you have a chance to pitch for us.”

You have a bit of an unusual week with a Tuesday mid-week game and a Thursday-Saturday series with Georgia Tech. Is this part of an ESPN Thursday night program?
“Well, actually, this weekend was a mutual agreement between us and Georgia Tech. The ACC gives schools the opportunity to move Easter Weekend to a Thursday, Friday, Saturday schedule if both teams agree. I just floated the idea out to Danny Hall and they agreed to it, which was a little surprising with it being an extra day of class for them. But, for Good Friday not missing class that just gives us Easter Sunday off is really what it is doing. It will be a little different for us going Thursday, Friday, Saturday but you know it will be good. It will be nice and we have a big game on Tuesday with Western Carolina coming off of a sweep this weekend [versus Kansas State] then we will practice Wednesday then prepare for a tough series Thursday, Friday and Saturday.”

This Thursday was announced as the “First Bark at the Bosh” where fans can buy a ticket for their canine companions to help support local animal charities. Can you discuss this marketing promotion and the rumor of a Diamond Heel service dog potentially joining the program?
“It is most definitely a marketing idea on Thursday. When I read the banner and saw dog bandanas for the first 400 dogs I had to laugh at that. We are really expecting to have 400 dogs at the Bosh on Thursday night? That would really be interesting. Other schools have done it. Other teams have done it. We will see how it goes. It should be fun if nothing else. [Staff Athletic Trainer] Terri Jo [Rucinski] is very involved with Paws for People and she has a dog that she has been assigned to and we have had some pups here at the stadium occasionally. Terri Jo is our biggest dog lover here at the Bosh. She is going to get one at some point and we will see how this dog translates into our team at some point. I’m not sure about any of that.”

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