Matt Clements/Inside Carolina

This Week in UNC Baseball with Mike Fox

Inside Carolina caught up with head coach Mike Fox after his Diamond Heels (22-6, 9-3 ACC) recorded a weekend sweep at Florida State and moved up to No. 4 in the national rankings.

With an extra-innings victory and then a come-from-behind victory to sweep the Seminoles, what is the magnitude of this weekend for the Tar Heels?
“It was [huge]. I am very happy for our players and our team. It is a difficult place to win and to win a series, none the less to win all three. Our kids, they played well and we took advantage of opportunities we were given and got contributions from everyone in a number of ways. It was a very special weekend.”

Did you learn anything about the competitiveness of your roster this year in such a difficult environment?
“Well, you know, not really any more than I already knew. I really think our coaches already knew and we have been around these kids all year and they really, really want to win. Very selfless group and we have seen it in some other games we have played. Our dugout was just so good and so loose. We were down 6-2 yesterday and you could just feel and sense that we were going to get back in the game. Again, our players - this group they don’t care about the individual. They do but not to the point where they do what is best for the team. Logan Warmoth drops two drag bunts down. Tyler Baum - these pitchers we told them that all hands were on deck this weekend so whatever role you think you are playing or have played for us that is out the window. Then there is Tyler Baum in there closing and striking out the last batter of the game.”

Discussing roles and being prepared - can you discuss Jason Morgan and Taylor Suggs relief appearances on Sunday?
“Those are two great examples and Jason is probably the best one. A junior in the rotation on the weekends and as soon as we took him out he is in the bullpen working out of the stretch. You don’t come into a game like that yesterday and do what he did if you are pouting or down in the dumps about your role. We can tell these kids all we want to be prepared but they have to do that themselves and Jason is a great example of that. We kept telling Taylor Suggs that his time is coming and work everyday and all the sudden he is in the game at Florida State. Great example of those two you mentioned and of course it sends a message to all our other players as well.”

With the innings that J.B. Bakauskas and Luca Dalatri have been providing the Diamond Heels with consistent starts on Friday and Saturday throughout the season, does that make determining who is going to start on Sunday become more about utilizing the hot hand?
“Yeah, I think that is a good point. I think a lot of people get caught up on 1, 2, 3, Friday, Saturday, Sunday and we have had a couple of other seasons in the past where we have just kind of waited and we are probably going to do that going forward. We know who is going to start for us Friday and Saturday and everybody else is in relief. The coaches will figure it out Saturday night. It worked out OK for Sunday so we will see. Right now we are focused on who we are going to throw on Tuesday against ECU.”

The Diamond Heels have two more weeks of four-game slates with marquee opponents in the mid-week game with ECU before Boston College, then South Carolina before the NC State series. How do you expect to slot pitching with those two important RPI mid-week games as compared to crucial ACC weekend series?
“Our team motto this year is ‘Next’ -- this weekend is over and next is Tuesday, so let’s worry about Tuesday. You saw who we threw on Sunday [Baum] so we know the importance of these 30-league games. So we were ready with everybody that we had for Sunday. Not that these mid-week games are not important, but the weekend games take priority for us right now. Right now we base all of our decisions around them.”

Last week you mentioned the analytics team for the Tar Heels. What data are they tracking and how does the team and the coaching staff digest this to come up with a game plan?
“The data we are receiving is incredible. It saved us and probably won the game for us and it certainly kept their lead-off guy off base yesterday. If you notice where that ball was hit off of Baum, the lead-off hitter in the ninth yesterday hits the ball right up the middle off the mound with a hard hit ball and we had Logan [Warmoth] right behind second base. They think it is a hit - but it is just an easy out. That is all from data we have received from lots of video and graphics. These kids watch a lot of video and know where these [players] have a high percentage of hitting the ball and where they have hit it in the past. It is helping us tremendously, certainly more than it is hurting us and I cannot thank all of those kids enough and how invested they are. They pass all that information to Coach Woodard and then we print all that stuff. It is a lot of information - good information.”

Speaking of Coach Woodard, how does he keep some of the freshmen - say, for instance, Taylor Gibson, Robbie Peto and Teddy Sabato - developing and prepared while not seeing game action on the mound?
“We are very much still engaged with those kids. Of course Taylor Gibson is injured and he is just rehab throwing right now. For instance, last Wednesday before we left we had all those kids you mentioned throwing live to hitters in a simulated game keeping them going and not just having them throw flat grounds or bullpens but actually seeing hitters. We want to make sure they are still invested and they know that we are invested in them as they all have a future in Carolina.”

Seeing a redshirt freshman holding down an important role after not pitching in 2016 has to be some good motivation as well…
“Does that mean you think I mentioned Josh Hiatt to our pitching staff a few times. [Laughs] You would be right about that.”

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