Matt Clements/Inside Carolina

This Week in UNC Baseball with Mike Fox

North Carolina’s (29-7, 14-4 ACC) 11-game win streak ended on Sunday, but not before the Diamond Heels won their sixth ACC series in a row for the first time since 2013. This week’s slate includes Liberty on Tuesday and a weekend series at Pittsburgh.

The Diamond Heels are in excellent shape for the opportunity to be a national seed in the NCAA postseason this year, how significant of an advantage is it to clinch the rights to host in Chapel Hill?
"I understand the question, first of all. We are really trying hard not to focus on that. Obviously that is the coach in me in just trying to play the next game. That is certainly one of your goals. That means you are going to host and playing at home is always an advantage."

With a number of draft eligible players performing well on this year's squad, how do you balance setting the lineups to focus on winning while developing the bench players for the future?
"Well that is always a challenge having players that are playing and players that aren't. As the season goes along you settle into your top 9-11 position players and your top 8-10 pitchers. Your objective for every game is to win. So you start with a premise of using those guys. It is the off days and the practice days where you are trying to get your hitters that have not seen live pitching for a while to get them out there to face some pitchers who haven't seen a live hitter in a while. We are actually working on that this morning and Wednesday to try to do just that to keep our reserves, if you will, as ready as we can."

Michael Busch has been batting .303 in ACC competition after starting the season off slow at the plate. How has he improved at the plate and in the field during his first season as a Tar Heel?
"He has made himself into what we think is a terrific first baseman after never playing the position before and coming in and learning it. It is a credit to Coach Wierzbicki spending a lot of time with Michael at first base. He has really played well over there. Michael obviously showed us a lot this fall and that is why he was hitting in the three hole as a freshman. It did not go as well for him as we all wanted. Michael is a really tough minded kid who does not get down on himself. So he just kept working - again, I credit him, Coach Forbes and Wierzbicki for working extra with him in the cages and the video and trying to help him. He has a really, really good swing and he has worked hard and he is having some success now."

What is your opinion on the quality and consistency of umpiring in the ACC this season?
"I really chose not to comment. I can't comment on that. The only thing I will say is that everyone involved with the game in any capacity should be held accountable. The players are. The coaches are. The staff, the game ops people. Everyone is held accountable for the job they have to do. That should include our umpires. That is all I prefer to say on that matter."

This week featured some tremendous atmospheres in the sold out game in Charlotte against South Carolina and big crowds at Boshamer this weekend against NC State. How noticeable is that to the players and coaches during the game and does it have any impact on the game?
"This was a great week for our kids. Just to play in that environment on Tuesday. The weather cooperated and we played well and Easter weekend. We play a lot on the road on Easter weekend. So just the fact that we were at home was good enough for me. Our players certainly recognize that. Our fans are slowly becoming a little bit more savvy and learning when to stand up and cheer and when we need a little extra help - our kids do. They notice that for sure."

With Liberty coming in on Tuesday and longtime former Diamond Heels assistant coach Scott Jackson heading up the Liberty program how do you reflect on the influence that you have had on the coaching profession in college baseball?
"Well, let me say this - Tuesday night may be the most intense game that we play all season. Because I know Scott Jackson and Bryant Gaines and they are two of the most competitive people and they could care less about what I may have done for them over the years. They are going to want to beat my tail. I know that for a fact. We will see how all that goes. Both of them are just special people and I love both of them to death and their families. Again I can't say enough about what assistant coaches do for head coaches. What good players and good assistant coaches do for head coaches - I just reap the benefits, honestly. I know Coach Jackson along with obviously Scott and Bryant they are responsible for all the kids in our program right now. You see how well we are doing and it was them who got them to UNC."


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