Baseball Notebook

Inside Carolina's weekly feature on the Tar Heel baseball team, including an exclusive Monday morning Q&A with head coach Mike Fox ...

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Week In Review: The Tar Heels (10-2) started off their week with a dominating win over William & Mary at the USA Baseball Complex, followed by a challenging series at Duke, where the team struggled out of the gate on a cold and windy Saturday early game of an unscheduled doubleheader, but regrouped to win the second game later that afternoon and the series with a shutout victory over Duke in the Sunday matinée to clinch one point in the Carlyle Cup Competition. • March 4th vs William and Mary (Cary, N.C.) - W (10-2)
• March 7th vs Duke (Durham, N.C.) - POSTPONED
• March 8th vs Duke, Game 1 (Durham, N.C.) - L (13-4)
• March 8th vs Duke, Game 2 (Durham, N.C.) - W (9-3)
• March 9th vs Duke, (Durham, N.C.) - W (9-0)

Defensive Performance of the Week: Garrett Gore's defense this weekend in Jack Coombs Field was breathtaking, making some impossible plays look easy. He did have one error in the nightcap of the second game at Duke, but his defensive play in the Sunday game to clinch the series victory over the Blue Devils was one for the ages, turning two clockwork double plays and throwing out two runners from deep in the hole at short by just inches at first base.

Pitcher of the Week: The Sunday afternoon pitcher was listed as "to be determined" all week long, and it ended up being Rob Catapano with his third start of the season. He pitched four shutout innings, striking out five Blue Devil batters and totaling 88 pitches. After the game, he stated that the key for his strong performance was being able to keep the ball low in the strike zone and throwing his off speed pitches for strikes.

Batter of the Week: Sophomore Mark Fleury received a lot of at bats at designated hitter and was behind the plate for the second game in the Saturday double-header in Durham. He made the best use of his improving playing time while hitting .500 for the week (8-16) while hitting his first home run of his career in the rubber match in the Duke series. He scored five times this week, while driving in five Tar Heel batters as well.

Interesting Note: The Tar Heels turned the Duke series around on the strong pitching performance of junior Adam Warren and the continued contributions of a bullpen stocked with freshman hurlers. Unlike last year's deep and experienced Tar Heel roster, this one has a lot of young players who will develop and improve as they get accustomed to the level of competition in the ACC. Another interesting note was the great fan support that the Heels enjoyed over in Durham this weekend, as Tar Heel fans outnumbered the Blue Devil faithful. The Heels won the series alongside Krzyzewskiville, where piles of trash and abandoned tents fluttered in the bitter cold wind on Sunday afternoon.

Looking Forward: The Tar Heels return to their adopted home for two weekday non-conference games and host Virginia Tech for a weekend series. • March 11th vs. Coastal Carolina (Cary, N.C.) 3 p.m.
• March 12th vs. Virginia Commonwealth (Cary, N.C.) 3 p.m.
• March 14th vs. Virginia Tech (Cary, N.C.) 4 p.m.
• March 15th vs. Virginia Tech (Cary, N.C.) 1 p.m.

INSIDE CAROLINA Q&A WITH HEAD COACH MIKE FOX

It was a pretty cold and windy weekend over at Duke...
"Wind is something we have to deal with sometimes in college baseball -- it was not very pleasant over there on Saturday.

What did you tell the team on the bus between the games on Saturday at Duke?
Actually, between games we did not go to the bus -- after the day I chatted with them. After 30 minutes we had to turn around, that is what happens with these double headers. You try to get some food in the guys and turn things around. The good thing about our team this year is that I have some seniors and leaders that understand what can happen in this league. You can get beat at any time anywhere and if you have to turn around and play right after that you have to respond. It was cold and miserable, the wind was blowing. We just got beat pretty handily and we did not play well. You have to trust your team at that point and that they understand what they need to do for the next one. Hopefully, you have some tough kids, mentally and physically -- we were able to play a whole lot better in the second game. We pitched exceptionally well in the second game."

It seems like the Tar Heels have been much more aggressive on the base paths this season, Is this something that you are stressing this year?
"We have tried to; we try to take advantage of opportunities of good counts at the plate, where the other team can not pitch out or our hitter hopefully will get a good pitch to hit. You have to trust your base runner, plus at some point you anticipate a change-up or breaking ball that makes it more difficult for the catcher to throw the guy out. I feel like we need to be aggressive. I think a lot of it is situational, it is who is at the plate -- we have had some guys that are hot and some that are cold. We have had a goal that we wanted to run a little more and steal some bases and so far we have done a good job with that."

Tell me about the importance of Garrett Gore's defense, especially this weekend...
"I have been telling folks that I think Garrett can really play defense for us and do a good job for us at shortstop and so far he has done that. He made a couple of really good plays yesterday and even the day before. He and Kyle [Seager] turned some important double plays for us yesterday, especially when we brought Colin [Bates] in and got some ground balls. That is all we want from Garrett at short, he is perfectly capable and takes a lot of pride in his defense and it shows. He is a good player for us."

Yesterday, after the game, you mentioned that Mark Fleury didn't used to be a good practice player -- could you elaborate on that?
"Well, I say that mostly based on last year, and I think that Mark would be the first to admit that with the two catchers that we had returning last year that it would be a year for him to learn and perhaps not get a lot of playing time. He did not have the maturity to say, ‘Hey, I possibly can contribute to this team...'. He is more of a gamer -- when the other team shows up he is a big time competitor. He has become a much better practice player in that he understands that every repetition in practice leads to a better performance in the game. I think the more intense and focused you practice I think the more inclined that is to come out in a game. I think he sold himself short a little bit last year. Now that he is realizing that he has an opportunity to play and contribute, he has significantly upped his concentration, intensity, focus and effort in practice."

What did you think of Rob Catapano's performance this Sunday?
"I really like the way that Rob Catapano has thrown the ball for us this year. He is much more aggressive than he was last year and more confident. He has been around the plate for us, been able to throw the fastball in for us and been able to throw his breaking ball for strikes. He did not give in when he got in a situation where he could have, I have been very impressed with Rob, he has greatly improved from last year. He really works very hard as well."


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