Matt Clements/Inside Carolina

This Week in UNC Baseball with Mike Fox

Inside Carolina caught up with Tar Heels skipper Mike Fox after UNC swept Radford. The Tar Heels are 7-0 heading into two mid-week games (Winthrop, St. John's) before hosting Long Beach State this weekend.

What made Luca Dalaltri so successful on Sunday, striking out 15 batters in eight innings?
Luca was sensational yesterday, to say the least. To strike out 15 in a game in eight innings and looking at his pitch count with only 99 pitches that is unbelievably hard to do. It just tells you of what command he has - he had command of every pitch yesterday and throwing to both sides of the plate with his fastball. He kept them off balance and threw 75 of the 99 for strikes which in itself is terrific. Luca showed us in the fall and in the preseason that he has talent and command and plus/plus command. When you are a strike thrower and can command three pitches for strikes that puts you in a position to get on the mound for us.”

Logan Warmoth went a perfect 5-for-5 in stolen base attempts over the weekend and looks very comfortable taking a lead and developing a secondary lead before breaking to the bag. How has he improved on the bases and on the field for his junior season?
“Logan is a hard worker. He comes down to the stadium every day and is high energy. He takes care of himself and wants to be good. Those driven players that have ability - they develop. Logan’s experience here and in the summer and playing against great competition and facing the pitchers that he has to face here on a day in and day out basis has made him better. He is a complete player now in every phase of the game which is what we emphasized to him. First and foremost we want you to be a terrific shortstop and make plays for us and he has certainly done that as he can make a variety of plays. Again he is learning to steal bases and I think he has gotten a little bit faster since he has gotten here and I think his instincts are much better as well. The key is confidence and having no fear. When you are a young player you have fear of making mistakes and getting picked off and we try to eliminate those as much as we can in practice. It happens over time. The key to being a good base stealer is being comfortable going back to first. If you don’t have any fear of being picked off then you are taking your lead with the idea that you are going to second not back to first. That is the key. Logan, Zack Gahagan and some of our veteran players - Cody Roberts is one of our best baserunners just instinct wise reading the ball off the bat - but we told Logan that we had high expectations of him on the bases and that he could be a 20-plus stolen base guy and so far he is heading in that direction.”

The Diamond Heels have utilized redshirt freshman Josh Hiatt for their first five save opportunities this season. How did he earn the role after redshirting last season?
“Josh so far has been a great story. This is the fun part of coaching - watching kids develop, watching them stay with it and not give up, wanting to continue and learn about themselves and what they need to do to get better. Josh went off this summer with a purpose and came back this fall with a purpose. He is an extremely driven kid and played for a terrific high school coach [Danny Hignight at Providence] and program who demanded a lot out of him and that carried over. I know when kids come in here and don’t get an opportunity to play their first year they get a lot of people talking to them. Fortunately Josh listened to the right people and wanted to be at North Carolina and he is being rewarded for that so far. It is early in the season but I am probably as happy for Josh Hiatt as I am for anybody at this point.”

… on a related note many Tar Heel baseball fans expected to see Hansen Butler as a key relief arm this season - do you have any update on his health or availability?
“He’s not in a position right now to pitch for us. I am obviously guarded as you well know about these kids and their health situation. But, that is a correct assumption at this point.”

With Coach Jackson’s departure to take over the Liberty baseball program, the third base coaching box opened back up here. What is your comfort level going back to coach the baserunners?
“Well I have not been comfortable at third base for the last 10 years because I feel that I’m going to get smoked with a line drive at any particular point in time. [Laughs] That being said I have coached third pretty much my whole career and I am thrilled actually to be back out there and to have Coach Forbes in the dugout. We talked about that and pretty much did that for the preseason. I think it is good to have him in the dugout with his experience and managing the dugout and the kid’s emotions and talking to them. He is such a good influence on them. I don’t like relaying signs from the dugout and have never believed in giving them from the dugout. It has been good so far and I have enjoyed it and I think it works well.”

… Do you believe in the mojo of sending Coach Forbes out to coach first base?
“I have absolutely nothing to do with that. You know in fact I don’t even know it until I go out to third and look over there and there he stands. [Laughs] You know superstition is what it is and I guess if it works, it works. I think sometimes it is just a little battle between him and Coach Wierzbicki as to who can go over there and score the most runs. I don’t really care I just want our team to score. If they want to take credit for it that is great.”

With two mid-week games this week what pitchers do you expect to start those contests and how does Coach Woodard handle the management of the pitching staff?
“Obviously every day Coach Woodard has a plan for our pitchers. It is scheduled out every day. In fact he already has this week’s done and actually we are getting ready to meet here in a few minutes to go over the week. Right now our plan is to start Tyler Baum tomorrow against Winthrop and Cole Aker against St. John's on Wednesday. We are excited about getting Tyler Baum an opportunity to go out and pitch. He is an exceptional talent and has a chance to be really good. I know he is excited.”

Another interesting story is in the early enrollment of Ashton McGee, who in an alternate reality would be preparing for his senior prom instead of taking the field for the Diamond Heels ...
“Well that is the reason we brought him in here in January. But, more importantly you have to be a really good student and mature beyond your years to be able to make that quick a transition from being home at Christmas and going back to high school all the sudden you are moving into a dorm on January 9th. We felt like he was ready and played for a former player of mine at C.B. Aycock, Charles Davis, who coached Adam Pate and Rob Wooten so we knew the program he was coming from and Ashton is a terrific young man and had some success and we need to get him in there and get some at bats. It is great to see him get some base hits and nothing like having some success and building confidence early.”

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