Monday with Mike Fox

After winning all four games last week, the Tar Heels are now ranked No. 1 in the USA TODAY/ESPN Top 25. Inside Carolina caught up with head coach Mike Fox on Monday for an exclusive interview ...

Week in Review
Tue. 3/10 - UNC 9 App St 8
Wed. 3/11 - UNC 12 App St
Fri. 3/13 - UNC 7 V Tech 3
Sat. 3/14 - (canceled: weather)
Sun. 3/15 - UNC 13 V Tech 5

The Tar Heels went undefeated last week - sweeping the series against Appalachian State and with Virginia Tech – and have regained the top billing in college baseball according to the ESPN/USA Today Coaches Poll.

Junior All-American Dustin Ackley made his first run for college baseball player of the week. He hit four home runs, batted .647, and was on base at a .824 clip while slugging 1.529 and driving in and scoring seven runs.

The Tar Heels hit eight home runs for the week. Joining Ackley with long balls were freshman second baseman Levi Michael with two, sophomore Ben Bunting hit one and junior Mark Fleury got in on the action hitting a grand slam in the Sunday afternoon finale against Virginia Tech.

Senior starting pitcher Adam Warren picked off two base runners in the Sunday tilt against the Hokies while the Tar Heels ran wild on the base paths, stealing eight bases and improving their stolen base success rate to 65 percent – up from 41 percent.

Fireman Colin Bates pitched 4.1 innings of scoreless relief on the week, earning a win in relief against Appalachian State and his second save of the season. He struck out six batters while allowing only three base runners (two hits and one walk).

This Week's Schedule
Tue. 3/17 - Princeton - 3 pm (Hat Giveaway)
Wed. 3/18 - Princeton - 3 pm
Fri. 3/20 - Duke - 7 pm
Sat. 3/21 - Duke - 4 pm
Sun. 3/22 - Duke - 1 pm

What did the team do with all of the down time between the Friday afternoon game and the Sunday finale in rainy Blacksburg?
Watch basketball. Watch basketball - watch the ACC tournament and the Big East tournament and do whatever we could to entertain ourselves obviously.

In your opinion did Virginia Tech seem committed to try to get all of the games played this weekend?
Absolutely - it was miserable. We were fortunate to get two games in and I am glad we did certainly. You know it was just one of those weekends where you do all you can to play because obviously around the league some teams did not even get a chance to play two, much less three. You just have to do what you got to do. We found a break in the weather yesterday and were able to get the second game started. We were not going to stay and play the second game - it would have been 7:30 pm. I cannot have my guys getting back at 2:30 or 3 in the morning and expect them to go to class at 8 this morning - that is completely unreasonable. We are an institution of higher learning and we have to make sure that our kids go to class - especially considering they are coming off of spring break. We did everything we could to get the games in and I am glad we got in two actually.

With the decision to bat freshman Levi Michael before Dustin Ackley and Kyle Seager, do you think that has helped the way that pitchers approach Michaels?
I think if you hit in front of Dustin Ackley it is going to be an advantage for you. He had a terrific week - the other team realized who they have on deck. I think it has helped Levi a little bit, sure ...

Conversely has Michael's hot start help get Dustin Ackley going recently?
I think any time you get up there with people on base and they cannot pitch around you and the pitcher is pitching out of the stretch, it changes things. I think it helps us as a team and I think it helps Dusty, too, to get up there with people on base. You have to pitch to him and he is a good hitter and certainly has taken advantage of it this week.

Earlier in the season you stated that Matt Harvey had made a 180-degree turn for the better as a student-athlete at North Carolina. Can you elaborate on that and discuss his use in relief on weekends when his start may be in doubt because of the weather?
Matt is just a year older and a year wiser. He is a year more mature and gotten used to being a student-athlete at the University of North Carolina and everything that goes along with that. He is a team guy and wants us to win and I think that is so important. He was disappointed yesterday when it was pretty obvious that we were not going to play two. He lobbied to me, ‘Coach let's play two - we will sleep on the bus and we will get up and go to class. Let's play two!' Because he wants to pitch - he is a competitor and it was good that we were able to pitch him yesterday and use him for three-plus innings and get his pitch count up. He was ready to pitch yesterday in any role. I like that kids are not just locked into being starters. He just wants to pitch and help our team win.

What decisions have been made on freshmen Jeff May and Landon Adams red-shirting this season?
Neither one of those guys will play this year and use up a year of eligibility.

When do summer league placements have to be completed by? Who coordinates it on your staff and where can Tar Heel fans expect to see the Diamond Heels competing this summer?
Summer placement is pretty much a year-round thing. We have had most of our guys placed for three or four months. Some of them were placed way back in the fall and some of them since school started [in the spring]. For the most part Matt McCay has kind of taken on that role, especially with the Coastal Plains League, and Scott Forbes does the Cape - it is kind of where we have the contacts. We have all of our players placed for next summer... the Northwoods League, the Cape, the Coastal Plains League and we have two in the Valley League. Once we have all of the contracts back from all of the kids I am sure we will have [an announcement] on our web site.

What is the biggest surprise so far around the ACC in baseball this season in your opinion?
Nothing surprises me too much in this league anymore. It is still early - it looks like our division is going to be extremely formidable. I think all of us know that there is a lot of parity around college baseball even throughout our league. I think everybody has seen Virginia Tech, Boston College, Duke and Maryland - I think all of us have seen those programs continue to get better. Their coaches are very good and they work hard at it. You can see by the results this weekend - there are no gimme's in this league. You better play well every weekend or you will not like the results.

Talk with UNC baseball fans on Inside Carolina's Diamond Heels Message Board
... What about UVa going undefeated and having their first road ACC series in two weeks at the Bosh - have you had an opportunity to look over their hot start?
No. [laughs.] I don't pay attention to a lot of that until it is time for us to do so. We are going to have our hands full with Princeton tomorrow - they are much better. You have to be careful about looking ahead. Obviously we know everybody's record and we do look at the standings. When things are out of your control like that you just control what you can control. We have to get our guys back after spring break today - we just got back in late. We have to refocus and get this weather out of here tomorrow and try to pick up another game if we can. We try not to scoreboard watch too much; it is kind of a futile thing and does not help you too much. We have Duke coming in this weekend and they are going to give us all we can handle and more, so we have to be careful about looking ahead.

It is apparent that family is important to the Tar Heel baseball program - can you discuss how your staff has a balance between their baseball duties and their families?
That is a difficult thing at times. We try to include our families in everything we do. Certainly during the season we probably see our players more than we do our own families. Sometimes that can get difficult. We encourage our families to go on the road with us if they can, depending on their schedules. I have two assistant coaches that have young children - I have been there before, so I know how important it is to give them some time away, take their children to school, go to recitals and things. I know how important it is. Now that my two children are grown I go back and look at how fast it was. I certainly try to keep that in mind: our families and our wives are the most important part of this whole deal. Don't let anybody tell you different - if you don't have a supportive wife who encourages you in this profession you probably won't stay in it very long. We try to treat those ladies very, very well.


Inside Carolina Top Stories