Monday with Mike Fox

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. --- The Tar Heels took two of three from Maine over the weekend to improve to 6-1. Inside Carolina caught up with head coach Mike Fox on Monday for an exclusive interview ...

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Can you give your impressions of the series against Maine?

"It was a good series for us - a good team and a good test for us. I thought in Friday's win that the score wasn't indicative of how the game turned out. They threw a good arm at us and we were able to extend the lead late. Matt Harvey certainly had his best start and one of his best starts since Boston College last year - he threw exceptionally well and we needed it. They threw their best two arms on Saturday, their starter [Jeffrey Gibbs] and reliever really were good , certainly ACC caliber pitchers with good velocity - the last reliever [Steve Perakslis] came out and was throwing 92-94, gave up a big home run late that obviously was the difference in the game. I liked the way we responded on Sunday - anytime you are coming off of a loss and get behind 2-0 on Sunday ... we are a young team and we talk about presence and not panicking and playing the whole game and I thought that Sunday was our best win of the whole year so far."

Batting with two outs seemed to be a key to the weekend - Maine did an excellent job of that on Saturday while North Carolina took the advantage on Sunday …

"Two out RBIs are something that teams probably look at as the year goes on - how good are you driving in runs with two outs? Obviously it is the hitter you have up there and a little luck and hitting the ball hard and finding a hole, but it is critical to the success of your team overall. Their kid [Myckie Lugbauer] got one yesterday with a big single in the first inning with two outs and got them on the board 2-to-nothing and fortunately we were able to come back and repeat some of that later. But two out RBIs are something that good teams have to capitalize on and sometimes you get them and sometimes you don't, but at the end of the year you look back on them and if you have enough of them you are probably going to have a successful season."

How would you compare Matt Harvey's performances in his two starts?

"Location was probably the biggest difference - he located his fastball a little better, especially early in the count. I haven't looked at the comparisons but I would venture to say that he probably threw a lot more first pitch strikes this past weekend than he did in his first start. His velocity was good and I think that Maine had some guys with long swings and they have not been out much and velocity gave them trouble and Matt had good velocity on Friday. He just got into a good rhythm and for the most part threw a higher percentage of high pitch strikes which set up the rest of the at-bat against most of the hitters."

What is your perspective on the state of your team's defense in the early part of the season?

"We have played seven games and we have had three games where we did not make an error and I think we have had two games where we made two errors - so we have not had a disastrous game yet defensively. Our outfielders I think have played well just making the routine play but we have to be better in the infield at times. We have got to be a good defensive team - obviously on Saturday it really hurt us the two errors we made. We gave them two unearned runs early and of course those came back to get us and one of those was just a silly throwing error that did not even need to be made and you have to make plays with two outs. Anytime you give another team runs with two outs it is a killer. You are kind of giving them freebie runs and letting them advance bases when they have not earned it. Those are things that this team has got to avoid doing; I think we can be a good defensive team but we just have to be consistent. I will take an average of one error a game - you are going to field .975 if you only average one error a game - and that is our goal as a team."

How is Brian Goodwin developing in learning to utilize his speed on the basepaths?

"He is a work in progress - most of our freshmen are baserunning-wise. It is usually the weakest part of the young players game because they do not work on it at all. They are not used to pitchers with good moves and being as quick as they are over to first base. He is going to be a work in progress and we can practice it all we want but you have to get out there and do it in a game. I'm not even sure that he has stolen a base for us yet, but his speed is going to show up in other ways. It showed up in the outfield, catching balls down the right field line and certainly showed up on the triples and stretching a single into a double yesterday. Baserunning is a whole different animal because your speed is only as good as your instincts are and your judgment and he has to work on that part of his game for sure."

Can you give your perspective on the runner/fielder interference call on Dillon Hazlett at second base this past weekend and the rule on assistant coaches not being able to argue with the officials?

"I did not really have a great look at it. I know it is a difficult call to make when the ball, the defender and the baserunner all arrive at the same spot at the same time. I thought the umpire was standing right on top of the call and had the best view of it and called it immediately very emphatically. Their job is to get the call right and they deferred to one another - and the rule is very clear and it is not a good rule in my opinion - but the rule is very clear about assistant coaches not leaving the coaching boxes and they are not allowed to argue. They are not allowed to basically talk or certainly argue with umpires and it is a lot like assistant coaches in basketball. It is what it is and it took a run off the board for us so it was a tough call for us and changed that inning, but fortunately did not come back to hurt us."

What are your thoughts on the performances of Cody Stiles and Parker Thomas, who both got action on Friday in relief of Matt Harvey?

"We tried to get all of these young guys ... just trying to get them out there for the first time, maybe the second time. Cody has had some issues with his elbow - he has been behind the other guys in terms of his development. We have not been able to pitch him as much in scrimmages and on the side as we would have like to so he has been behind the other guys a little bit in terms of his development and he's actually a little sore after his one inning the next day on Saturday. He is going to be a key for us - we have got to try to get him back out there and when we have these close games sometimes it can be difficult. I'm glad we were able to get Parker out there for an inning - get those butterflies out and toe that rubber for the first time as a Tar Heel and feel what it is like. I thought both of them did well and I thought Parker threw the ball well and the ball was coming out of his hand good. He has a bright future for us if he keeps working."

How has Dillon Hazlett adjusted to playing first base?

"His best contribution to our team has been his play at first base. It has been good for us to see because we had to emphasize to him how important that position is defensively. I don't think he quite understood it being an infielder at shortstop or second baseman all his life. I think those guys just think 'Just throw it over there and all the guy has to do is catch it.' He has had some very difficult plays over there. He has saved us - he has picked some balls in the dirt in pick off attempts, he has come off the bag and saved us a run. Even the tough play yesterday on the swinging bunt where Michael Morin threw over the runner's head going to first was an extremely difficult catch. We are very pleased - he is a good athlete with good hand eye coordination so he has played very well over there and of course he has gotten some big hits for us as well."

During each non-conference weekend series a different crew is umpiring each game – what are the pros and cons of that system?

"That is out of my area - we have a booking agent and a signer for our non-conference games. I don't pay a whole lot of attention on that and they have a crew of guys and I am sure some of it is locale for the umpires and others are working different games. I don't object to it. I think sometimes it is good to have different guys in here actually. So maybe the ACC should take a cue from that to send different guys in here. They are coming from all over the place, so it is a little unrealistic to think that our league could do it. But all in all I think our non-conference umpiring is generally very good and sending different guys sometimes is a good thing I think."


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