Monday with Mike Fox

North Carolina (38-13, 17-9 ACC) finished its first week back from exam break with a series loss in Raleigh, after taking care of its mid-week opponents. The Tar Heels are now a half game behind Georgia Tech in the Coastal Division. Inside Carolina caught up with head coach Mike Fox on Monday for an exclusive interview ...

Last Week
Tue. 5/5 - UNC, 15 Elon 6
Thu. 5/7 - UNC 5, Longwood 4 (12 inn.)
Fri. 5/8 - NCSU 3, UNC 0
Sat. 5/9 - UNC 5, NCSU 2
Sun. 5/10 - NCSU 9, UNC 4

Dustin Ackley had a banner week at the plate - he had a hand in scoring 55 percent of UNC's runs, while sporting a 1.900 OPS, and slugging 1.050 with a .850 on base percentage. He hit three home runs and drove in nine, while only striking out once. Ackley raised his season average to .401 and leads the team with 16 home runs, and is second with 50 runs batted in.

The Tar Heels played an unusual Thursday night game against Longwood that was rescheduled after a rain out earlier in the season. Ackley put the Lancers away for good in the bottom of the 12th inning with a walk-off home run. Freshman catcher Jacob Stallings made his first mound appearance of his college career, picking up the win in relief and did not allow a baserunner while striking out a Lancer batter.

UNC again struggled against left handed pitchers in the NC State series, as Jimmy Gillheeney earned a win against the Heels with seven shutout innings in the Friday tilt and on Sunday southpaw Alex Sogard earned a win in relief, holding the Heels to one run and two hits in his three-inning appearance.

The Tar Heels head out on the road this week with a cameo appearance in Charlotte before traveling north to Chestnut Hill to face Boston College in their final ACC series. UNC needs Georgia Tech to lose to Duke in their series to have the opportunity to win the Coastal Division.

This Week
Tue. 5/12 - at Charlotte - 6 pm
Thu. 5/14 - at BC - 1:30 pm
Fri. 5/15 - at BC - 1:30 pm
Sat. 5/16 - at BC - 1:30 pm

What were your impressions on the weekend series with NC State?
"Well, I am disappointed - not only in the way we played, but the outcome. It was uncharacteristic of our team, the way we played. We are just going to have to move on and learn from it. There is not a lot we can do about it this morning - just be ready to play tomorrow,it is another game."

Dustin Ackley has hit for a lot more power this season. Can you discuss how far he has come in his career at North Carolina after being undrafted out of Walnut Cove?
"Dusty has hit ever since probably the first pitch I ever saw him hit in batting practice here. He has been a special player ever since he has walked on this campus. I think this year his offensive numbers - power numbers - are up, but I think that this has been his best year when you look at all the left handers we have faced and that he, Kyle [Seager] and Mark Fleury have had to kind of carry the load offensively for us this year. I think with everything that he has had to deal with this year - this being his draft year and coming off of Tommy John surgery - this has been his best season by far. He is just an incredible player. I do not know what else to say about Dustin Ackley - there are not enough superlatives, really."

Can you discuss what graduation weekend is like for college baseball players like senior Adam Warren during the season?
"That is funny because I can remember that day very vividly when I was here. We had a home game the day of graduation and I know that some players have had that in the past here - it is kind of a luck of the draw, I guess, where we will be playing on graduation. I know we have had seniors that actually have missed graduation, unfortunately, because we were on the road. Fortunately we were close by and Adam [Warren], Chad Flack and Tyson [Lusk] were able to attend graduation, which I think is a very special day. I could just see their parents - the pride in their faces yesterday taking pictures out front of the stadium after graduation. It was a special day for them and their families. I don't have many players that graduate in [exactly] four years because of the time [constraints], but Adam Warren is a special student athlete to be able to get his degree in business from here in four years."

What are your thoughts on the timing of the Major League Baseball draft, taking place on June 9 during the college baseball postseason?
"It is not the best time in the world, but absolutely it is something we have no control over whatsoever in college baseball and never will. It is what it is and we have to deal with it. It is another factor that we have to kind of keep in mind with our players and keeping them focused on the right things. Again, it is just out of our control."

This is the time of year when voting starts for postseason awards and certainly Ackley and Seager will be in contention for numerous honors. Can you make the case for why Brian Moran should be considered for postseason honors as well?
"Brian Moran leads the ACC in earned run average and has only walked four guys while striking out 67, I believe. My word, you would have to be totally not playing attention at all. He should get votes for ACC Pitcher of the Year. It is mind-boggling what that young man has done. If he does not get some postseason honors for what he has done it will be an injustice."

Can you discuss Jacob Stallings' work on the mound in the Longwood game?
"We had been so thin on the mound and he had thrown some bullpens and has a great arm and obviously has been hurt so he cannot swing - and honestly we needed a pitcher to throw an inning. I thought it was absolutely amazing what he went out there and did. He had not thrown live to a hitter; had just thrown bullpens and there is a huge difference. The thing we learned about Jacob Stallings is that he was not scared at all and was aggressive. I thought that was pretty impressive what he was able to do. He might have a future out there on the mound. Right now we just need to get him healthy."

Talk with UNC baseball fans on Inside Carolina's Diamond Heels Message Board
With the series loss to NC State, your team no longer controls its destiny in the Coastal Division. How important is it to take care of business in the remaining schedule?
"I mean, we need to play better. We need to play better tomorrow night. If you start looking at records and what you have to do this or have to do that ... I am not concerned about that at this point. I am more concerned about why we went over to NC State - our biggest rival - and played like we were walking on eggshells. Not being able to practice today with the weather ... I don't look at our team like a fan does - the coaches look more internal and we will try to shore up some fundamentals. Why we did not execute a first and third when we had done it since day one and that sort of thing. I am more in tune right now with 'lets get back to some fundamentals and playing with some swagger and some more confidence' - then you put yourself in the position to win a game and the rest will take care of itself. Obviously this week is an important week for us on the road and we need to play better."

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