Monday with Mike Fox

Inside Carolina caught up with Tar Heel head coach Mike Fox on Monday for an exclusive interview ...

Week in Review
Tue. 3/31 - UNC 9 Davidson 4
Wed. 4/1 - UNC 7 Old Dominion 6
Fri. 4/3 - UNC 4 Georgia Tech 2
Sat. 4/4 - Georgia Tech 10 UNC 6 (11 inn.)
Sun. 4/5 - UNC 13 Georgia Tech 10

Dustin Ackley batted .429 this week with a .666 on base percentage and started the week off with a two home run game and ended the week with one as well. He is now tied for the team lead with freshman Levi Michael with 10. Ackley scored seven times this week and drove in eught runs.

Alex White had a dominant performance taking the mound for the Tar Heels on Friday night. He went eight innings, holding the Yellow Jacket hitters at bay for most of the evening while only giving up two runs on four hits and striking out eight.

The Tar Heels only committed one error over the weekend at Russ Chandler Stadium - Ryan Graepel's fifth of the season - and only committed three all week long.

However, a controversial strike zone late on Saturday night allowed Georgia Tech to hang around and use a ninth-inning rally to force the game into extra innings. Head coach Mike Fox and assistant coach Chad Flack were both ejected in the 11th inning.

This Week's Slate
Tue. 4/7 - East Carolina - 6 pm
Wed. 4/8 - Richmond - 6 pm
Fri. 4/10 - at Florida State - 6 pm
Sat. 4/11 - at Florida State - 4 pm
Sun. 4/12 - at Florida State - 1 pm

Can you elaborate on the series victory in Atlanta – UNC's first since 1998 - against a talented Georgia Tech team?
It was a big series win for us with no question about it. They have a very good team again and for us to go down there to win the series was a big step for us. I am very, very proud of our team.

What'd you think of Alex White's performance on Friday night?
Alex was outstanding for us on the mound. We really needed it after the week we had - we had some guys that were not available. We really needed Alex to have a dominating performance and pitch at least seven-plus innings for us. He was the Alex we saw last year, time in and time out, and he put our team in the position to win the game against a really good hitting and dominantly left hitting team. Alex was terrific.

Dustin Ackley has been on a tear recently - can you discuss his recent power surge?
I think we all have known that Dusty has the ability to hit the ball out of the ballpark - we have seen it in practice and day in and day out, but he has not been that kind of hitter. He sprays the ball all over the field. This year in the three hole, he realizes that he probably needs to hit with a little more power and drive more runs in. I believe he hit four this week if I am not mistaken, it has been good to see. We have to have some guys in the order who can pop the ball out and get you back in the game or extend the lead, which you could see [Sunday].

With the Tar Heels are playing in the NCAA Men's Basketball Championship tonight, have you decided whether to go or not?
I am debating that as we speak - I have the opportunity to get on a plane at 4 o'clock and go to Detroit. When we were in St. Louis I got home about 5 a.m. and we had a game the next day. We have a big game against East Carolina and then we play Wednesday and get on a bus about 7 a.m. Thursday morning to Tallahassee. I am debating whether it is in my best interests to go to Detroit tonight. [laughs] I guess I need to see where my ticket is at - if I am 200 yards away I might not even be able to see the court.

What do you have the team doing for the game tonight?
I am going to lock them in the stadium. [laughs] I am going to lock them in the stadium and let them watch the game down there - they can bring their sleeping bags and then they will be ready to play on Tuesday night.

After tonight the focus will shift for the casual North Carolina fan to the Diamond Heels ...
I don't know that we really look at it that way. We have our fan base and everybody loves Carolina Basketball - I want our basketball team to play as long as they possibly can. I just think that it is a great atmosphere with people following them to the national title game. Maybe we will see some more folks paying attention, that would be great - we have two big series in April. With the students here the weekends will be good and we will get a lot out for Miami and Maryland. But you know that we better have a lot of people out tomorrow night because East Carolina, you know they will bring a good crowd. The fans out there love to talk - but we don't pay much attention to that - we need to prepare our team to be ready to play. We are focusing on getting our kids back [from Atlanta] at 1 a.m. - and getting them to class and a workout in this afternoon and kind of get back in a rhythm. We pitched everybody we took this weekend. Obviously East Carolina has a great club they and are having a terrific season. It will be a big game, but it is just one game and we want to be prepared mentally and physically to play and hopefully play well.

Can you discuss using Bryant Gaines out of the pen on Sunday?
That was his first weekend trip that he has ever taken as a Tar Heel and the first time that he has pitched on the weekend. It could not have come at a bigger time - it was at a time that we needed it. We needed to take another pitcher and that is one reason we pitched him on Tuesday and kind of limited his pitch count to have him available if needed. We were just very thin. Brian Moran was really sore still Saturday from his 100-pitch outing that he had never done before. Nate Striz was taxed a little bit and had some soreness in his shoulder. Colin Bates had back to back games, so we really did not have much choice. Once we got the lead we needed a strike thrower and we just counted on him to throw strikes and that is exactly what he did. Fortunately they hit a lot of balls right at us the last couple of innings and our defense has been pretty spectacular the past probably two or three weeks. I think that probably got lost in the wind - Kyle Seager probably saved four runs himself at third base. We played terrific in the infield and had some great running catches in the outfield, outstanding behind the plate. I think we are fielding .973 as a team and I think we were way behind that last season at this point.

It appears as though Mike Cavasinni is getting more comfortable at the plate ...
It sure appears that way. On the bus on the way home yesterday with the coaches we discussed how he got down the line a couple of times this weekend - kind of like the old Cavi - and going from first to third like he did in the College World Series in 2006 on a single to center field. Then the triple that he hit, I tell you he is a tough little nut. He gets in the box and he is not scared. He was terrific this weekend. Slowly he is running back into form - it has been great to see.

What thoughts do you have for the rotation and the pen heading to this mid-week slate and the road trip to Tallahassee this weekend?
Patrick Johnson will throw tomorrow night [against East Carolina]. We got him in yesterday and he had not been in that situation before and he kind of tried to overthrow a little bit and basically kind of threw a 'bullpen' in the term of numbers of pitches, which is what he normally would do on Sunday before pitching on Tuesday. We will see - maybe the good thing about not using Colin Bates on Sunday is that he will be available for us and not using Brian [Moran] very much at all on Sunday he will be available. Matt Harvey is going to be fine; he had great stuff and gave up two seeing eye base hits early in the game and settled in. Now he is kind of back on his routine and we will not use him during the week and get him back on his normal routine. He threw a lot of pitches, which was good, and he will be back on his routine and ready to pitch this weekend.

With the second half of the regular season approaching, what areas of improvement do you and the coaching staff focus on now?
We always talk about defense - and could not be more pleased with it. [We could] be a little more aggressive on the bases - the hit and run yesterday to get us our 13th run I thought was huge. After that, deciding to start the runner and Kyle Seager was huge. We just want to be emotionally and mentally just ready to play each game and trying to manage getting guys to class. This is one of the toughest stretches for college baseball players, with class and finals coming up and a lot of papers due and travel. This will be another back-to-back, long trip for us. They did not do us any favors as far as travel is concerned. Once we manage it through this Easter weekend, we get a home series and the rest of the semester - this will help our guys through finals.

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