The sophomore was honored as a Freshman-All American last season as one of the top right handed relievers out of the bullpen. This season he earned the closer role from the get-go, but is also used whenever the Heels need to get out of a jam. The Naperville (Ill.) Central product has a 2.79 ERA thus far this season in 42 innings pitched, with a 42:13 strikeout to walk ratio. He has a team-leading six saves and also has a team-high 24 appearances.
Bates red-shirted the 2007 season, his first at North Carolina, after undergoing thoracic outlet decompression surgery for a blood clot. He is an outstanding student, earning a spot on the All-ACC Academic Team in addition to being on the ACC Academic Honor Roll in 2007 and 2008
Tell me about your comfort level coming to the mound in relief now ...
"It is something I have definitely learned to do since I have been here, especially since last year. I will do whatever it takes to get on the field. Starters are doing their thing and I do my thing the best I can. I might be a little better suited for throwing more innings. Coach stated that I looked like I was getting stronger as the game went on and I felt like that was true, too. I don't mind - it's fun."
What is it like when you get into a groove out there on the mound like you did tonight?
"It takes me back to the good old days. When you have a 1-2-3 inning and you go back and you know that you are going to go back out there the next inning and don't have to worry about looking in the bullpen to see if someone else is going to come in. That is something that I love, the rhythm in looking to see what happened last time I faced them and setting them up for something different."
Can you discuss Mark Fleury's contributions from behind the plate?
"He has been unbelievable. We obviously need it and he is the heart of our team. And as you guys I'm sure can see, he has the respect of everybody and we feed off of him and he brings it every day, so we try to follow his lead."
How important was the performance of starter Jimmy Messer tonight?
"It was big ... it was big getting innings out of him, especially with going to Greenville tomorrow and having everybody fresh and having Brian Moran back. We like playing those guys - especially in Greenville - and it should be fun."
How did you come up with your selection for the song that plays every time you take the mound?
"It is something that I offered my brother to go ahead and pick for me. I think he heard it on a commercial or something and it was playing and it is called, "Ladies and Gentlemen" by Saliva. It gets me going, it gets the guys going, but hopefully it does not get the hitters going...
"As soon as any game is over - a good outing or bad outing - you forget about it. You have to go back out. If I pitch tomorrow you have to forget about today whether it was good or bad. It is a new game and you have to have a short memory either way and just go pitch to pitch and inning to inning. It is a cliché, but it is the only way you can do it."
Can you discuss Garrett Gore's defensive play in right field? Coach Fox has told us how he silently has become one of the best outfielders in the ACC…
"Some of guys have [joked] that he has set himself up for dives and stuff, but I think that he does a great job out there and he has experience out there in right and does not worry about the wall and he is not afraid to let his arm loose. I think right field helps show off his arm and he has done a great job for us."