Q&A with Mike Fox

Inside Carolina's exclusive Monday interview with Tar Heel baseball coach Mike Fox, whose No. 1-ranked team (45-10, 22-7) wrapped up the regular season with a series win at Miami and is now preparing for the ACC Tournament.

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Tell me about the series win last weekend over top-ranked Miami...

"We were able to survive and get some really big wins. It was a good series for us, it was impressive to win two games there especially after the way we got beat Thursday night to come back and win was pretty special for us. We were excited about it -- it is all about winning the series."

You have a 14-11 record playing against No. 1-ranked teams in your coaching career at UNC - to what do you attribute this?

"Well I don't have that record, the teams have that record. I don't take credit for any of that. I just think we have had good teams and good players and been able to rise to the occasion against good teams and played them well. We have played some of those top rated teams and played well and gotten some important wins."

Do you think that the Miami series shows the importance of taking advantage of every scoring opportunity in the postseason?

"Absolutely. We needed to score down there in the ballpark and the team we were playing could score a lot of runs. Any time we had people on we needed to score - every run was precious. The games are never over down there. Miami, they did the same thing. We walked way too many people in the series, that cost us obviously on Thursday night and almost cost us on Saturday. They took advantage of when we made mistakes as well."

Tell me about Adam Warren's start on Friday night...

"It was huge for us. After what happened to us Thursday, we needed our starter to go out and pound the strike zone and keep them off the board for three or four innings just to see if we could score some runs and make them play from behind. I thought we had the right guy on the mound for us and Adam has been in that situation before. He was at it at Duke when we were beat on Friday night and came back and pitched well on Saturday. So we all felt confident with Adam on the mound, the one exception being the one pitch on Saturday with the slider he threw to Sobolewski that he left up. He was sensational."

What are you and Coach Forbes' thoughts on the rotation heading into the ACC Tournament?

"Well, we probably will stick with what we have been doing. I don't know if we are going to make any huge changes right now. Actually, we have not talked much about it … we will probably talk about it on the way to Jacksonville today. Right now I can't see why in the first two games why we won't go with White and Warren..."

A couple of times this season you have talked about players in the past who have not being the best practice performers, but on this year's squad they appear to be some of the best players …

"What I meant by that is that is not that they don't practice hard, every kid we have practices hard, sometimes they just don't showcase their skills in scrimmages as much as maybe we either think they should or that we know they have. Some kids can get up for practice and play at a high level and some may have a little more difficulty. The majority of our team are great practice players, they work to improve each and every day. They are in the weight room... our pitching staff is in the weight room constantly after they throw. Adam Warren is probably the most in charge of just staying with the process and getting in the weight room. We come back from games around 11 or 11:30 at night, Brian Moran and all the relievers that have thrown, and Adam and Brian were up the next morning after our game with Miami, lifting with Coach Gatz. So we have a number of people that extremely dedicated and every time they are out there they work to get better in practice."

So far this season, Brett Thomas has not had a tremendous amount of playing time. How confident are you in using him in the postseason and how much more difficult will it be for other teams to have a book on him?

"We are confident in using him. It just did not work out for us to get him an at bat at Miami. He is just one of those guys that need to be patient. You are right, I don't think too many people are going to know how to pitch to him. We will see what happens down here, whether we are facing a right or left handed pitcher, who we are going to use. We needed to catch Mark on Saturday because of the heat and Timmy was worn down a bit and we thought we may have to pitch him so that sort of elevated Brett from DH'ing that game for us. He could be an important factor for us down the stretch, you never know..."

Coach McKay joined the coaching staff this year - tell me about his role on the staff and his coaching responsibilities...

"The third assistant on most programs is not a paid position so we are very fortunate to have Matt as a former player of mine and he played at both Wesleyan and Carolina so I knew Matt very well. He does a variety of things for us, working with our hitters and he was a catcher so he spends a lot of time with our catchers in the preseason with fundamental drills and he of course coaches first base for us. He helps a lot with on-campus recruiting and all the logistics and things we have to do with our travel plans and has administrative duties, helping with camps in the summer, although he will be coaching this summer in the Coastal Plain League in Thomasville to get him some more experience. He has his hands in about everything involved with our program this year."

What's the team itinerary look like before the first ACC Tournament game on Wednesday?

"We came to Orlando Saturday after the game - we actually went to a nice place for dinner in Miami after the game - got to Orlando at eleven o'clock on Saturday night. We stayed yesterday and some people went to Universal and some went to Island Adventure here. So we had a lot of fun at a theme park, roller coasters and probably ate too much. This morning we are heading to Jacksonville and getting in a good workout later this afternoon and then everything starts tomorrow. We've got practice at the Baseball Grounds tomorrow where each team gets sixty minutes then we have our banquet and then we will be ready to play on Wednesday."


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