Monday with Mike Fox

After an upset loss to start the week, the Tar Heel stormed back to sweep Miami in a key conference series, improving to 31-10 (13-7 ACC) and moving up to No. 4 in Baseball America's Top 25. Inside Carolina caught up with head coach Mike Fox -- who just signed a new six-year contract -- on Monday for an exclusive interview ...

Last Week
Tue. 4/14 - High Point 11, UNC 9
Wed. 4/15 - UNC 20, Winthrop 4
Fri. 4/17 - UNC 3, Miami 0
Sat. 4/18 - UNC 5, Miami 4 (10 inn.)
Sun. 4/19 - UNC 4, Miami 1

Matt Harvey rewarded the coaching staff's confidence in him with a season-high seven-inning stint against the Hurricanes, giving up one run while striking out five – 62 percent of his pitches were for strikes. Harvey getting back in a groove is a key development for the Tar Heel rotation and bullpen, as the postseason nears.

Alex White was dominant in his Friday night start, keeping the Hurricane batters completely off balance in the box with an arsenal of pitches that yielded a one-hit complete game shutout. White struck out 10 Miami batters while only giving up two base runners.

Reliever Brian Moran returned to action after being sidelined with arm fatigue and showed no signs of rust. He picked up a save in his two-inning stint that closed out the Sunday sweep. The importance of his return to the pen can not be overstated – an argument can be made that if he was available for the Florida State series, the results would have been dramatically different.

Dustin Ackley and Kyle Seager punished opposing pitchers this week, combining for 17 hits and converting those hits into 12 runs. Both batters are on track for more All-American honors this season, as both currently have a .399 batting average.

The Tar Heels flashed the leather again, only committing one error against Miami during the weekend series. Junior catcher Mark Fleury had the defensive play of the week, erasing a sacrifice attempt on Saturday against Miami and starting a critical double play. Garrett Gore continued his standout play in right field - he leads the team with eight outfield assists.

This Week
Tue. 4/21 - UNC-W - 6 p.m.
Wed. 4/22 - at ECU - 6 p.m.
Fri. 4/24 - Maryland - 7 p.m.
Sat. 4/25 - Maryland - 6 p.m.
Sun. 4/26 - Maryland - 1 p.m.

What was your prevailing impression of the weekend sweep of Miami and the dedication of Bryson Field at Boshamer Stadium?
The weekend could not have gone any better, from the dedication to the way the stadium looked, to the weather. Certainly our play and the results, we could not have scripted it out any better if we had wanted to.

Can you give me your feelings on the crowd this weekend, with a three-game sellout...
It was fantastic. Certainly Friday night was terrific, people were able to witness Alex [White]'s incredible performance, and the place was packed on Saturday. Having so many of these former players here Saturday was very special and the crowd ... [it was a ] beautiful warm day. Our students were great and Sunday to cap it off ... it was a great weekend at Boshamer Stadium - no doubt.

The coaching staff has showed a lot of confidence in Matt Harvey. Can you discuss his start on Sunday and how important that is for the team moving forward?
It was very important. All of us that are in this, we understand how important confidence and the coaches showing confidence in their players, teammates showing confidence in each other. It is more important to some players than others depending upon their makeup. We all know what Matt Harvey can do - we have seen it. We are in this thing for the long haul so we have to project out where we want to try to be at the end of the year and who we need to be pitching at their best to be there. Matt is one of those guys. For us there was not any doubt who we were going to pitch on Sunday. Matt relished that opportunity and pitched as well as he could.

It looked like Brian Moran did not skip a beat in returning to action ...
Brian is a very important part of our team and a very important part of our pitching staff. It is pretty evident from the time that he was out how much we missed him. He is one of those guys that we count on to have in that bullpen. He is just so steady. To see him come back after the layoff and still be able to command the strike zone like he did and the way that he finished the game yesterday was great to see. I think that was a real shot in the arm for our team and certainly our coaches are happy to have him back in the mix.

Can you discuss the improvement by Mark Fleury defensively, handling the pitching staff, and at the plate in improving his run production...
Mark is one of those guys that takes a lot of pride and works hard. He understands his role on the team and the importance of his continuing to improve and play well. Hitting around Dusty and Kyle, he understands that he needs to be the best player he can be and he takes a lot of pride in his performance and he works hard at it. It is great to see Mark's hard work and just his infectious personality and him wanting to win so badly to step up there and help us. I'm happy for Mark, certainly.

The team has two tough opponents coming up in UNC-W and ECU during the week. What is your coaching philosophy on these non-conference games...
We approach every game the same. Once the game starts we all have one objective and that is to win the game. So we have to toss out these weekends, good ones and bad ones. There cannot be any emotional carryover from Sunday to Tuesday or from Wednesday to Friday. We want to come out tomorrow night against Wilmington and play as well as we can and as hard as we can. This is not the time of year in my opinion to start messing with the lineup or any of that. We are where we are at this point. We need to continue to play well and rack up some wins and put ourselves in a good position. We are in the toughest weeks for our players because of everything they have going on academically. I am more concerned about that than anything else, so that they have the time that they need to get their work done with all the time that we have spent at the field and all the travel that we have had in the past month.

Talk with UNC baseball fans on Inside Carolina's Diamond Heels Message Board
Defensively, it was another great weekend - only committing one error against Miami - and there were some outstanding defensive plays. The team appears to be rounding into shape defensively...
If you look at all of our games - the games that we have lost and the ones where we have maybe struggled to win - defense has probably played a part in that, not making a play when we needed to. That double play [started by Fleury] was certainly important at the time. I thought Garrett Gore was sensational in right field - the catch that he made in the first inning of Saturday's game probably won the game for us when you look back at it. Because if he does not make that catch, they have the bases loaded up with a three run deficit [for us]. I don't know if we could come back from a six-run deficit. [Gore] has quietly turned into one of the best outfielders in our league. All in all the couple of double plays that we turned yesterday were huge and we really have been pretty steady in the last 12 conference games. We have been pretty steady defensively and that has been huge.

With the condensed schedule in college baseball, what areas does the team have to work on heading to the end of the regular season and the postseason?
We will manage our way through the next week and we will have practice on Thursday and we will continue to work on defending the bunt and our short game - pitchers coming off the mound fielding the bunt - working on things that we can't just work on in the cages. Our outfielders will continue to work taking fly balls off the bat on our only practices on Thursday. During exam week we will have some guys out working individually, having Levi out working on turning the double play and working Ackley in center field taking fly balls, which we have not been able to work on much. There are a lot of areas we can work on and we will have more time to do so after exams.


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