Matt Clements/Inside Carolina

This Week in UNC Baseball with Mike Fox

Inside Carolina had an exclusive interview with head coach Mike Fox after UNC (20-7, 6-6 ACC) returned from a sweep at the hands of Miami. The Diamond Heels have a full slate this week: hosting High Point on Tuesday, UNC-Asheville on Wednesday and Virginia Tech this weekend.

Could you consider the series with the Hurricanes a measuring stick for the progress of the team this season?
“Well if it is a measuring stick we did not measure out very well. It was a tough series for us against a really good and hot team. They are playing well at all phases of the game. We did not play well enough in any game really to give ourselves a chance to win throughout the entire game. We had spurts where we played well and got a hit. There were too many mistakes and we gained a lot of experience and that is about all we gained down there. Hopefully this will help our young guys down the road - especially on the road - with some ACC series coming up.”

What are your thoughts on Brett Daniels’s performance, giving up two hits this weekend in 3.1 innings?
“Brett has really thrown the ball well for us this season. It has been good to see. Anytime you have a sophomore who just improves in leaps and bounds from his freshman year that is what you want to see as a coach. It is a testament to him and his hard work and learning from last year. It is just dedication and that 'I want to be good and I want to be better and help our team in whatever role.' Taking that experience from last year and using it for fuel and motivation. He has that good plus changeup that allows him to get some big outs. He has pitched great for us and pitched probably the best of any of our guys at Miami.”

It was another erratic week in the field - with a five-game slate and minimal practice time how can you guide the team to continually improve its defense?
“That is a challenge we have five games coming up and we have to and need to give the kids a day off. So practice is limited. We try in pregame to lock in and you know that one of those errors was a ball in the dirt and our catcher tries to pick up and throw a guy out at second base and bounces it. He is trying to make a play and it rolls into center field. There are different types of errors. There is not making a play on a ground ball and then there are those kind of plays where you just can’t make that throw. It is learning from that and from those kind of things where when you need to make a throw and when you don’t need to make one. Errors are all relative in how they are made. Again we keep putting our guys in the right position and keep our confidence in them and try to be better at it. That is all we can do at this point.”

The Hurricanes were very patient with the strike zone against all three of the Tar Heel starting pitchers, who all failed to get to the 5th inning this weekend…
“They are very experienced and they did not have one freshman on the field in the lineup for them. They do have some freshmen relievers, but when you have experience returning and you have a kid back as a senior - those guys know how to play. The strike zone in the ACC is different sometimes than the middle of the week. You have to throw the ball over the plate and they took advantage of that. All their hitters are playing well. The top of their order - we could not get [Carl] Chester out. Again that is just a sign of being a hot team. Some balls they did not hit that well but they found holes. I don’t have the stats in front of me but I think we gave up 26 singles. So, no home runs, no triples and we had more doubles and extra base hits than they did. Their approach was outstanding and then you add nine wild pitches and a couple of passed balls and the walks we had - I mean, that alone is a recipe for not winning a game - or any of them actually.”

There was one lineup change this weekend where Brian Miller headed to the outfield to replace Tyler Lynn, adding Zack Gahagan into the lineup at first. Do you feel that Lynn has had difficulty adapting to the pitching in the ACC after competing in junior college for the past two years?
“He has not had a lot of success as of late and he has struggled against left handed pitching which is all we saw down there. At some point you have to make those kind of decisions and sometimes it is a good thing to sit out and watch and regroup. We need Tyler Lynn to hit for us. We saw it in the fall and we saw it kind of early in the season. He hit that home run at East Carolina. Sometime you just have to look at the numbers, the production, and more importantly the swings that are being taken and make those kind of decisions. So we will see what happens moving forward. It is just part of the process during a long baseball season where kids go up and down offensively. You just have to keep working with them, keep watching video, keep encouraging them and keep throwing BP to them and try to get them back on track.”

About halfway through the season, how would you assess the state of the leadership on the roster?
“This team has figured it out. This team is fun and they get it. We are young but we have some guys that have a really good understanding of the team concept and doing whatever they can to help our team win. Holding each other accountable and I think that leadership will really start to show and it does start to show with every team when you hit some adversity. You will be measured by that. How will we respond? We did not respond as well as we would like on Saturday or Sunday. Actually, Sunday we were up 3-0 and had a chance to extend the lead to 4 or 5 for a couple of innings. That was the tale of the game on Sunday. I think these guys are going to stay with it and get back to work today as we have a big challenge with High Point but I am going to say it to the end of the season that I love this team, I love the makeup of this team and the character of this team. We don’t have a selfish player in the locker room and that is fun for me and good to see.”

Is the team getting together to watch UNC Basketball in the national championship game?
“Had not planned on it. I’m trying to get to Houston myself actually. I would love to be there as I was at the title game in 2005 and 2009. So there is nothing quite like that experience. All of us that wear Carolina Blue and work and go to school, how can you not be absolutely thrilled with our team? My concern is tonight on Franklin Street after the game when we have a game tomorrow night. I’ll deal with that later. There is nothing like that. We are excited for all of those guys.”

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