Matt Clements/Inside Carolina

This Week in UNC Baseball with Mike Fox

Inside Carolina caught up with head coach Mike Fox after UNC's series loss to Louisville. The Diamond Heels (30-17, 10-14 ACC) have a five-game slate this week, starting with hosting ECU on Tuesday, then heading to UNC-Wilmington on Wednesday, before playing Notre Dame in Chapel Hill for a Friday-Saturday-Monday ACC series.

Former UNC standout and coach Roger Williams returned to Chapel Hill as Louisville's pitching coach with arguably the best pitching staff that the Tar Heels have had to face this season. Can you give your perspective on the matchup?
?“I would agree with you - they run three guys out there to start on the weekend that are pretty good and as good as we have faced this season by far. They got [Zack] Burdi to close and you don’t see that kind of arm or that kind of velocity very often in our league much less college baseball. In terms of Roger - he holds a very special place in my heart. He’s a great Tar Heel and a special friend and I am happy for him and Stephanie and all of the success that Roger is having.”

Cody Roberts is showing a lot of confidence behind the plate in handling the pitching staff and controlling the opposing team’s running game. In particular his snap throw ability picked off a runner on Saturday and he has thrown out exactly 50 percent of the base runners attempting a steal this season. How has he improved behind the plate?
?“He is advanced and I think he was ahead of where I think the majority of freshmen start in the fall. Very high baseball IQ and very aware of what is going on all over the field. He pays attention watching the secondary leads of runners and after catching the pitch - which most of the time if you have a young catcher back there they are just focused on one thing - getting the pitch right and to catch the ball really. He has developed a great reputation of really being able to catch and throw. When you get that kind of reputation it certainly helps you and our pitchers have to do their part as well. He is a special talent behind the plate.”?

Jason Morgan got a pair of starts this week, going six innings against VCU in the mid-week before pitching three innings in his Sunday start against the Cardinals. Can you compare his two starts this week against two different offenses?
?“That is probably the biggest difference. VCU came in pretty highly touted offensively but certainly in a different league and two different teams. Louisville reminds us somewhat of our 2013 team offensively - where they only have one freshman on the field who bats in the 9 hole and they take him out for defense as soon as they get the league. They have the experience, left handed hitters, right handed hitters, they have speed, power and guys hitting for high averages and they don’t strike out. That is a rare combination. Corey Ray is a special player - talking to Dan McDonnell and they were not even sure that he was going to make it in the fall of his freshman year. Been there and done that with players and all the sudden it clicks and they figure it out and off they go. They have put together a special team and we were just trying to get 3-4 innings out of Jason and get through the lineup once or twice trying to keep them off balance and then go to our bullpen. That is somewhat what happened but our bullpen did not get the job done.”?

Brandon Riley got the opportunity to start on Saturday and Sunday in left field and has been the top freshman batter for the team - what improvement have you seen from him as the season has progressed?
?“Brandon has a chance to be a good player and an advanced hitter. He is a freshman and never been in these kind of games before. He has not had a lot of success against left-handed pitching in this league and that is why we didn’t play him on Friday, but on Saturday we just kind of threw the numbers out the window and said 'you know what he is one of our better hitters and he is going to be one of our better hitters and we have to get him in these games' - and of course he got two huge hits and I think both of them with two strikes. He continues to get better in the outfield. He came in as an infielder and he had a ways to go in the outfield but he has worked out there and his arm strength has continued to get better. That is why we are giving him some time out there - we can’t have kids with that kind of athleticism and that kind of ability and not being able to play a defensive position for us in the future.”??

Sunday was a very special day for the graduating members of this team - Eli Sutherland, Chris McCue, Randy McNeill, Cody Stubbs and Chaz Frank all earning their degrees at commencement. How significant is this milestone in their Carolina careers?
?“It is always a special day for those kids and for me personally and their families. It is the ultimate reason that they matriculate and enroll at UNC and to see all of that come to fruitition is special. I’m not a big fan of the timeframe of four or five years that the NCAA bases all of their graduation rates on. The bottom line is that they just get that degree. Baseball is a different animal as far as timelines go. The fact that we have those guys come back is special. We have others - Luke Putkonen, Alex White - those guys are making progress to their degrees as well. It is a great day.”??

Has any determination been made on who will start against ECU and UNC-W this week?
“I think the two guys in the mix for us are Rodney Hutchinson and Hunter Williams. I think we will get in here in a second and convene and look at both teams again. Obviously we have played both of them and will see what is the best match up in that regard. It will be one of those two guys depending on who we decide. They are both ready.”??

It should be an interesting weekend with the Monday start against Notre Dame being nationally televised…
?“It is a Friday-Saturday-Monday series the league allows us to do that so that the team that gets chosen for the Monday night game prior to the Thursday, Friday, Saturday series does not get in a bind with their pitching. So that would be a tough thing if you had to play Saturday, Sunday, Monday then Thursday, Friday, Saturday and bring your pitchers back. Otherwise no team would choose the Monday game because of that.”


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