Matt Clements/Inside Carolina

This Week in UNC Baseball with Mike Fox

Following a weekend sweep at BC, Mike Fox and the Diamond Heels (26-6. 12-3 ACC) are riding an eight-game winning streak and No. 4 national ranking. UNC plays South Carolina on Tuesday night in Charlotte before hosting NC State this weekend.

This weekend’s sweep makes it an eight-game game winning streak …
“We have been playing pretty well. Getting contributions from a lot of different players. Everybody is doing their part and helping us in one way or another and the kids are playing with a quiet confidence so it has been fun to watch and be a part of.”

… What kind of confidence boost do you see in the team after winning a tough game on Tuesday evening against East Carolina after what was probably an exciting Monday night watching the Tar Heel basketball team win its sixth national championship?
“You know it just tells you that things are going our way right now. Because I thought our team was a little lethargic Tuesday and I was concerned about that a little bit. But, I certainly want them to enjoy a basketball national championship. We did what we needed to do Tuesday and hung in there and kept playing. It is a credit to our players to be able to muster up enough energy to just grind out a win. This baseball deal is tough on these kids as we do play a lot and the games come fast and they have class and have to recover. That was certainly a good win for us against a good East Carolina team.”

Austin Bergner had a relief appearance against East Carolina before starting on Sunday against the Eagles. What has he shown you this season in order to earn a weekend start?
“The best thing that I can say about Austin Bergner is that he wants to win. These kids who come in and have been starters in high school sometimes they have to take on a different role. Part of being able to do that effectively is just your mentality. So A.B. has been one to basically say 'I’ll pitch whenever you want me to pitch in whatever role.' Then they have to mean it. It has been fun to watch his development and pitching in all kinds of different situations. His start in game three yesterday was a good one and gave us a good clean start and we were able to get him a lead and he was able to go five effective innings.”

What is the state of the Diamond Heels defense halfway through the season. The team is fielding at a .976 clip after committing only three errors this week. How much more improvement do you expect out of the squad heading down the stretch?
“We need to continue to improve. We got sloppy in a couple of innings against BC and gave up a five-run inning, which is unacceptable. We really put a lot of emphasis on playing defense this season no matter what you do offensively - you win championships with pitching and defense. Certainly I like where we are at this point and we have made some plays that have helped us. We made some plays at BC that were tough plays and that is an extremely difficult place to play and play solid defense because of the field, the wind and everything you have to deal with up there. I was pleased.”

You mentioned a rough spot for the Tar Heel defense earlier - J.B. Bukauskas had his shortest outing of the season only going four innings after being victimized by a pair of errors. How do you assess his performance in his last start?
“You know his line score's not as bad as it looks. We don’t make a play on a bunt that we just don’t get back to first and I think they end up giving the kid a hit but it should have been an easy out. That one play can change an entire inning. J.B. is human and you have to give the Boston College hitters some credit as they hung in there and got some two-strike hits against him. That is part of it and I’m sure J.B. will respond back and give us a good start on Friday.”

The Diamond Heels put up 45 runs against Boston College this weekend with Kyle Datres leading the way batting .636, and Logan Warmoth hitting his 7th home run. What factor do you attribute to the offensive breakout this weekend?
“It is a combination of a lot of things. Hitting is a difficult skill and it goes good and it goes bad. When your team is confident I do believe that hitting is contagious a little bit. I thought that our approach at Boston College was really good. We did not swing at a lot of bad pitches and the kids got themselves in a lot of good hitter's counts and we were aggressive on first pitch fastballs. We got some balls up in the air and so a lot of good things happened. You just look at Michael Busch. I mean he had nine at bats on the weekend I think and walked six times and had seven RBI in those nine at bats and didn’t strike out. So you look at his average .333 but his slugging percentage and on base percentage... You have to be careful not to just look at the top 3 or 4 for the weekend. But, everybody is contributing.”

The Diamond Heels are facing the Gamecocks again this season in Charlotte after a very successful mid-week event last season. How difficult is it to arrange this game again in Charlotte between the two programs?
“Obviously we decided to play last year and it was a windfall for everybody. The crowd and this game is going to sell out again. It is supposed to be a beautiful night and the Knights have been unbelievably accommodating. It should be a fun game. Getting back to Charlotte for me personally to be able to see some friends... It is just a fun game and college baseball players don’t get an opportunity to play in front of 10,000-11,000 people very often. I know it will be very exciting. South Carolina has a great team and it will be great to see Chad [Holbrook] and Tyson [Lusk] again.”

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