Matt Clements/Inside Carolina

This Week in UNC Baseball with Mike Fox

Inside Carolina continues its exclusive weekly interview with UNC head coach Mike Fox after the team’s third straight ACC series victory, this time over Miami. The No. 7 Diamond Heels 18-6 (6-3 ACC) take on reigning national champion Coastal Carolina on Tuesday before departing for Tallahassee to take on the 12th- ranked Seminoles.

The Diamond Heels received an outstanding performance by Taylor Sugg on Sunday in relief, going three innings while only allowing a single hit in his fourth appearance on the season. How was Sugg able to be so effective against the Hurricanes?
“We were very happy with Taylor. These relievers who go a length of time between outings, that is a tough deal and you have to stay ready with your flat grounds, your bullpens, all your lifting and everything is so important to stay locked in. We’ve been telling him that ‘your time is coming and you will get an opportunity to get in a game’ and he was ready. It is as much mental as it is physical. He gave us a good three innings and gave us a chance to have an opportunity to come back and score some runs.”

Cole Aker was removed from the game on Sunday after walking the first two batters - after just joining the weekend rotation replacing Jason Morgan. What did the coaching staff see to make that decision so early in the game?
“Cole has been in the mix all along for either mid-week or weekend starter for us. He has such a power elite arm and is pretty much unhittable when he is throwing strikes. We thought this would be a good opportunity to see him pitch on the weekend. Unfortunately, it did not work out. We did not like the way he looked and obviously his control was not there. Too excitable I think. We have a stable of relievers that we trust and obviously we had Rodney [Hutchinson] - one of the reasons we had not pitched Rodney on Friday or Saturday was to have him available for Sunday. Unfortunately, it did not work out for Cole but he will keep working I am sure and be part of our staff moving forward.”

How do the Diamond Heels prepare for facing left handed pitching with only one left handed pitcher on the staff?
“Well early in pre-season we had R.C. Orlan here - one of our former players who gave us a couple of outings so our hitters could see him. We also have a player off of our club team who we brought in to pitch in some scrimmages for us. We also set up our machine inside with a lot of left handed spin and that sort of thing. Obviously, we’ve faced enough of them now. So that has been a bit of a challenge but we do that the best that we can.”

Brandon Riley had a tremendous week for the Tar Heels at the plate hitting a pair of home runs while leading the squad with 21 runs batted in. He earned ACC Player of the Week honors for his efforts. How has Riley improved in his second season starting for the Tar Heels?
“Brandon really works and listens. He is so aggressive. He got some pitches to hit and obviously his two home runs he hit this week were huge and I think he had 16 total bases and drove in eight runs this week. We needed every one of those. He does not walk much, he loves to swing. We are trying to get him to bunt a little more as he can run - get that more a part of his game. It is nice to see him get in there against some lefties and take some good swings. Obviously a big home run at East Carolina and a big one against Miami and helped to get us two wins.”

The Diamond Heels have a very significant behind the scenes staff to prepare the players for the wear and tear of a college baseball season. What kind of contributions do you get from the UNC trainers, strength coaches and nutritionists?
“Our support staff - they are outstanding. We just had Kelsee [Gomes] our nutritionist in here talking to a recruit we had this morning. They give their time in many ways. The best thing I can say about all these people is how good of people they are and how much they care and our players know that and sense that from our trainers and our training staff, to our nutritionist, to Coach [Greg] Gatz, to our analytics team - they really care and really want these kids to be successful in all areas of their life and I am most proud of that. That is the one thing with recruits that I emphasize the most. That there is support here at the University of North Carolina in every area of your life if you need or want it. That is a true statement. I love all of the people that work for us. They are behind the scenes but they are as much of a part of our success of our program as any coach that is for sure.”

Tuesday the Diamond Heels are hosting the Bark at the Bosh. What is your opinion on this event?
“The best thing about the Bark at the Bosh is that from my family standpoint is that Michael Beale brought my dog Maddie to take the picture. I have not even noticed as I hardly ever look at the scoreboard. But, apparently my dog Maddie has been up on the scoreboard. That has excited my wife more than anything and that is all I am going to say about Bark at the Bosh.”

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