Matt Clements/Inside Carolina

This Week in UNC Baseball with Mike Fox

North Carolina heads into ACC play at 9-3 after winning two games this week. Inside Carolina talked with Diamond Heels head coach Mike Fox as his squad prepares for a mid-week game against VCU before hosting Virginia at Boshamer Stadium this weekend.

Austin Bergner had a stellar weekend in relief for the Tar Heels. What made him so effective on the mound?
“Austin had a good weekend. He has a good week for us other than obviously the home run against St. John's. He had four appearances this week and threw seven and a third innings and only gave up one earned run. His opponents' batting average was like .125. Austin is committed to winning and just serving in any role we need him in. He’s been that guy to come out of the bullpen for us when we are in a jam or a tough spot. He is blessed with a lot of ability and loves to compete and he is confident. He has the look about him where he wants the ball. That is half the battle. He is off to a good start for us and he is only going to get better.”

What improvements have you seen out of sophomore third baseman Kyle Datres so far this season as he is leading the Heels in the RBI department at the plate with 13?
“Kyle has improved. He has improved greatly from last year to this year defensively. He has been hobbled with an ankle injury he suffered prior to returning to school. He is not playing at 100 percent, it is just something that he is kind of having to work through. It has limited his mobility a little bit, but he is slowly but surely getting back to what we saw in the fall with him. I was really pleased to see how well he is playing defense and his throwing accuracy in the fall. He is taking that next progression as you hope that those freshmen do into their sophomore years. He is a good competitor and he will do some good things for us this year.”

Tyler Baum made the most of his opportunity starting on Tuesday against Winthrop pitching into the sixth inning. What do you expect out of him the rest of the season?
“Tyler did. That was so good to see and I was very happy for him. He is a really, really neat kid. We knew he had a good arm and he was going to help us. You just don’t know what you are going to get the first time you roll those freshmen out there. Boy the first pitch of the game was 90/91 right at the knees and we were like, 'OK here you go!' He just threw strikes and every pitch was right at the knees and he was very competitive. I thought he held runners really well to start the game and got more confident as the game went on. We are going to start him again tomorrow against a very good VCU team. He is one of these good young arms that we have that is exciting to watch.”

The Diamond Heels welcomed back former standout player Jesse Wierzbicki onto the coaching staff this year. What are his responsibilities on the staff?
“Jesse does the majority of his work with our offense and works with our first basemen and catchers defensively at the two positions he has played throughout most of his career. Jesse was a hard-nosed and intense competitor who really hated to lose and played with a chip on his shoulder. I felt that it was important to bring that mentality in here. Jesse had as much to do with our World Series appearance in 2011 as anybody coming back his senior year and leading our team. So our players have a lot of respect for him. He is back there working with them every day watching video and in their ear. He’s not afraid to tell them what he thinks and be honest with them and these kids respond to Jesse. That is a great thing. I am excited to have him on our staff.”

What do you expect to have as the weekend rotation this weekend after swapping Jason Morgan to Sunday with Luca Dalatri starting on Saturday?
“I don’t see us changing our rotation from the past weekend. I thought we pitched well this past weekend. We will have Tyler Baum in the bullpen, we will have Cole Aker in the bullpen. Hopefully we will be able to use Cole Aker out of the bullpen on Tuesday against VCU. We need all of these guys ready for the weekend.”

… Does moving Dalatri to Saturday help Cody Roberts stay fresh down the stretch?
“Well you know we have two other really good catchers of course. Brandon [Martorano] is not off to a great start offensively but it has not affected him behind the plate whatsoever. He has thrown out about every baserunner who has tried to run on him. It is not a given that he is going to catch Luca every time he pitches. I think it is just the way it has worked out to this point. We are aware of that certainly just watching our kids and certainly watching our catchers. We have to put the best guys out there to give us the best chance to win on any given day. If we have to give some thought to that factor we will but a lot of times that does not come into play quite honestly.”

As a coach of student-athletes in a game that can be best described as filled with failure - how do you help the players deal with stress and struggling either on the field or with playing time?
“You can read the book I am going to write and you can post it on your site when I finish it. It will be a couple of years after I am done. That is the biggest challenge these days in coaching. What I call trying to pull kids through failure. Because inevitably it is coming. It happens to almost every player. You know we are constantly talking to them, encouraging them and trying to get them out of their own head if you will. Focus on our team, try to help our team with it. Staying with it - staying with the process. With our hitters we remind them that the number attached to their name does not define their value to the team. When we start our season against Kentucky everybody stepped into the batter’s box confident. Then the players that don’t have the hits they would like they see a number attached to their name on the Internet, scoreboard and the stats sheet and that is a very dangerous territory mentally. So these young kids especially don’t understand that because they have always been told their worth as a hitter is their batting average, which in my opinion the worst stat in all of athletics is batting average. It is just two factors - hits to at bats - and there are so many other ways to help your team win. So we constantly are trying to talk to the kids about that and encourage them and so are our returning players who have gone through it. They are a valuable resource for our players as well.”

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