Fall Baseball Wrap-up

CARY, N.C. --- The Tar Heel baseball team completed its Fall World Series this week, which marks the conclusion of the fall practice season. Inside Carolina talked to head coach Mike Fox about reviewing the fall and looking ahead to the spring ...

Fall World Series
10/28 – White 1, Blue 0 (game blog)
10/29 – White 3, Blue 0 (game blog)
10/31 – Blue 2, White 0 (game blog)
11/3 - Blue 4, White 3 (game blog)
11/5 – White 8, Blue 3 (game blog)

Top FWS Performers
Colin Bates – 0.00 ERA, 11 K
Alex White - 0.84 ERA, 16 K
Matt Harvey - 0.87, 11 K
Bryant Gaines 0.96 ERA, 13 K
Greg Holt - .471 (5 2B, 1 HR, 7 RBI)
Kyle Seager - .467
Ben Bunting - .353

What are your initial thoughts on how the Fall World Series went?

Fox: "I thought our whole fall went well. This is exactly what we wanted with the World Series, to end with the last game and have something riding on the line. This is the latest we've ever gone – latest I've ever gone for a fall. I didn't really know how it was going to work, going into November, but we started our practices a little later hoping our facility would be ready. And it just kind of worked out, being the last day. All our pitchers stayed with it. You kind of worry about your pitching, going all spring, all summer in the Cape and then keeping them throwing for so long and I know Coach Forbes was a little concerned about that, but I thought it worked out pretty well – we got all the guys the work they needed. I was pleased with the fall and the World Series."

Any individual performances really stand out to you this fall?

Fox: "We've really been looking at our sophomore class in particular. Your freshmen, you're going to get what you're going to get – they'll have ups and downs getting used to everything. But it's our sophomore class that didn't get a lot of playing time last year – [Brett] Thomas, [Greg] Holt, [Ben] Bunting – that played well this summer and we really needed those guys to come back and have a good fall and play with confidence. And I think we saw that. Greg Holt really swung the bat well in the World Series. It's funny how that confidence plays such a big factor and they got more confident. I think Logan Munson has proven he can be a guy for us coming out of the bullpen. Nate Striz struggled early in the [FWS] but I think his last two or three outings were a lot better."

How about Bryant Gaines, who pitched very well in his three Fall World Series outings?

Fox: "Bryant, he's improved so much. He weighs 218 pounds and his body percent is so low – I've never had a kid work like he does. When you work hard and want to be good, you start seeing results. He pitched great for us. Of course, he had a really good summer in the Coastal Plain League and it kind of carried over. He's really moved up the chart for us, I think."

Colin Bates pitched shutout ball in his two Fall World Series starts, what did you think of his performances and how will he factor into the rotation in the spring?

Fox: "Colin was such a big factor for us last year. Coming off a redshirt year, we didn't really know what to expect, but he had some great outings for us last year and continues to get better. He's a competitor. We're really not sure … I think we know who our Friday, Saturday, Sunday guys are, but it's a good problem for us to have. I think Colin's in there mid-week, but relievers are so important on the weekends in ACC series – we've got to have [Brian] Moran and Bates and those guys ready for the weekend, so all that factors in. This new start date, making us play five games a week for nine straight weeks, you've got to have five starters. And that's why Gaines is in there, Patrick Johnson is in there, Garrett Davis is going to be back in the mix. We feel like we've got 13 pitchers that are all going to get innings for us. We're probably as deep – quality depth – on the mound as we've been here, really one through 13. That'll help us a great deal when those three injured guys come back, they'll all be competing for innings and that means they're all going to probably improve."

This team lost a significant amount of offensive production from last year's team. Outside of Greg Holt, who as you mentioned had a big Fall World Series, who are you looking to step in?

Fox: "[Mike] Cava[sinni]'s got to come back and get back to the form he was in 2006. I think he showed during the fall that every at bat he had against live pitching, you can see it coming. You don't face live pitching or play for two years, it takes you a while. He's going to be important for us. Ben Bunting's going to be important for us. Brett Thomas … and obviously we need [Dustin] Ackley and [Kyle] Seager (pictured, right) to have good years for us. Mark Fleury's got to step in and produce again. It'll be interesting with him against left handed pitching – he's got to hit against lefties for us and that's something we'll emphasize and work on with him."

Is offensive production the leading concern heading into the spring?

Fox: "I'm going to be careful not to put too much focus on that. I think our team's still going to be around pitching and defense. It has to be with the staff we have. We can't give the other team free runs. It all starts with that. I think we'll have to improve our base running and our young guys need to learn to bunt and bunt for a hit. We don't have that firepower where I'll be surprised if we'll score a whole lot of runs early. I think we'll be an offensive team in the making, if I had to guess right now. But I've been fooled before. I can't predict anymore. Adam Greenberg came in here one fall as a freshman and had five hits in 15 scrimmages and we thought he'd never play his freshman year – and that next spring he was ACC Freshman of the Year. So I've quit trying to predict. But I think you'll see a different offensive team. We get in that new stadium and we get Dusty in there, I think we'll be a better offensive team than people think. "

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