Monday with Mike Fox

With UNC's sweep of Maryland in the final home conference series of the regular season, the Tar Heels have taken over the top spot in the ACC's Coastal Division. Inside Carolina caught up with head coach Mike Fox on Monday for an exclusive interview ...

Last Week
Tue. 4/21 - UNC 7 UNCW 5
Wed. 4/22 - ECU 4 UNC 0
Fri. 4/24 - UNC 7 Maryland 4
Sat. 4/25 - UNC 14 Maryland 3
Sun. 4/26 - UNC 4 Maryland 2

With the sweep against Maryland - and Clemson's timely defeat of Georgia Tech - the Tar Heels are in first place in the Coastal Division and barreling towards the postseason with a full head of steam. The Tar Heels dropped one non-conference game this week, to ECU, as they were shut out for the first time this season.

The Tar Heels have most likely not played their last game of the season at Bryson Field as they are expected to host the NCAA Regional (and Super Regional).

A pair of timely home runs from Levi Michael and Mark Fleury propelled the Tar Heels to victory on Sunday. Fleury has been swinging a hot bat, slugging 1.278 this week while knocking in 11. Michael hit his first home run since April 3 and has responded back in the two hole, leading the team for the week with a .533 average. Dustin Ackley got involved this week with a pair of home runs and is now leading the team with his career-high of 13 on the season.

The bullpen came to the rescue to complete the weekend sweep, highlighted by an eight-inning performance by the relief corps of Colin Bates, Brian Moran and Nate Striz, who were all available on Sunday because of the other arms in the pen working efficiently earlier in the series.

Exam break has now arrived. Individual workouts are set up for the week while the coaching staff is using its time to work on recruiting trips, before hitting the road for a pair of ACC series and wrapping up the home slate with a pair of non-conference games.

The next game for the Tar Heels is a home contest on Tuesday, May 5 at 6 p.m. against Elon. The Heels will play their final regular season home game on Thursday, May 7 with the rescheduled Longwood matchup.

What were your impressions of the series against Maryland?
"We are tickled to death to be able to sweep them. They have not been swept too many times this season if you go back and look. They have given everybody else fits in our league. You don't get too many sweeps in this league; no matter who it is or what it is you have to relish it."

Can you discuss the performance by the bullpen?
"That was very important for us with Matt Harvey going out with back spasms [on Sunday]. Fortunately we did not have to use Colin, Nate or Brian on Saturday, so they were fresh Sunday. I think that helped, we had not taxed them this weekend and they were ready and they were fresh. All three of them threw very well for us Sunday and they were the reason why we were able to win the game."

With final exam break this week, what is the schedule like for the players?
"This break we have is part of college baseball, how we kind of have to manage our season. We start off slow ... the players won't have anything at all the first four days this week. They will come in and lift and the pitchers will throw. They will have their schedule up on the board and they come in whenever they can around their exams and study sessions. We will get back with some workouts on Friday, Saturday, Sunday and Monday and work guys out around their schedules to be ready for our game on Tuesday with Elon and we rescheduled Longwood for Thursday - we felt like it was important to get a couple of games in before ACC play. It will be unusual to play on Thursday night before traveling over to NC State on the weekend. It is important that our guys stay focused and stay with their weight room and throwing. They need a break, so it is good that they can rest their bodies for a couple of days."

Over the weekend I was scouting your upcoming opponents and was surprised by the condition of Boston College's baseball facilities …
"You know, everybody's ball park is different and I think that they have plans to build a new facility up there. I think that the next time that we go up there we will be playing in a new park. It is a challenge up there - it is not like the other stadiums in the league. We are playing against them and no matter what the field conditions are or the size of the stadium or where it is, we have to go up there ready to play. It is what it is up there and we have to be ready to play."

Can you discuss Mark Fleury's recent play with the bat and the importance of keeping him fresh with backup Jacob Stallings being out for a couple more weeks?
"Mark had a terrific week for us - it is a credit to him having to catch all five games. We are concerned about him staying healthy and not getting injured. It was a big stretch for us to get through with Jacob being out. You have to give Mark a lot of credit, it is not easy to catch all of those games and then still be as productive as he has been. He managed it very well and certainly we need to get Jacob back to get some depth back there."

With yesterday being Senior Day, what have Adam Warren, Garrett Gore and Mike McKee meant to the Tar Heel baseball program?
"Those three guys have been a very special group - and I have to throw Mike Cavasinni in there with them as well, as he came in there with that group, along with our student manager Tyson Lusk. I am impressed with what that group has done, winning 200 games in their four year career - I am not sure that that has ever been done before in our program. I told them last night after the game, that is an unbelievable accomplishment, but probably what they did off the field is just as important. [They are] terrific young men with great character and strong faith - led our teams in more ways than just on the field, that is for sure. They made it real easy on me the last four years. It is going to be very sad to see those guys go."

How is the coaching staff using the exam break for recruiting purposes - are Coach Forbes and Coach Jackson hitting the road?
"They are hitting the road - we are actually going to see most of our players that have already signed with us, and a few underclassmen. We are trying to go and watch Matt Graham, Jacob Turner, Tim Brechbuehler and the guys we signed last year just to stay in touch with them and start educating them on the draft - the pros and cons of that. That is kind of the time of the year to do that. It is a big week for us recruiting and kind of trying to get in the players homes - it will be a very busy week."

Talk with UNC baseball fans on Inside Carolina's Diamond Heels Message Board
What's your opinion on having the ACC Tournament in Durham this year?
"I still wish it was in Fenway. Watching the game last night and knowing we were going to be in Boston College the week before, we were all looking forward to that trip and being in Boston for potentially seven or eight days - and I know our seniors were, too. I am very disappointed that Adam, Mike and Garrett don't get a chance to play in Fenway Park. I guess the next best option is kind of right by your back door. That is a great facility over there and close to home, so I get to keep by my family, which is important."

In that game up in Boston last night, Jacoby Ellsbury had a straight up steal of home against the Yankees. What's the risk-reward ratio for that and which players would you give the green light to in the right circumstances from your third base coach's box?
"You know we have attempted that a couple of times. First of all, the other team has got to be in a situation where they give you that opportunity. I actually was watching that last night as well - you have a lefty slow to the plate with his back to you. You put that stopwatch on from the time he starts his delivery to the time the pitch hits the catchers mitt. If it is over three seconds, you have a chance, depending upon what kind of walking lead you have. It is an element of surprise and it is hard to practice against. They surprised the Yankees and it is an exciting play - it is good to see Major League Baseball doing those things. Our guys that can run a little bit, obviously you have to have some confidence there - you can not worry about getting picked off there. We tried it with Levi - we had not practiced as much with him. Obviously Cavasinni and Bunting, Seager is a great base-runner, I think - not the fastest but has great instincts. I think Ackley … any of those guys, if the timing is right and you get that walking lead and don't stop your feet, you have a chance at stealing home if the pitcher is not paying attention to you."


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