Monday with Mike Fox

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. --- Following a tough series loss to Florida State, the Tar Heels are now 15-6 (2-4 ACC). 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 Florida State this past weekend?

"It was a tough series for us to lose. Any time you are right there and you have an opportunity to win all three games and you only win one it is extremely disappointing. I did not realize until someone pointed it out to me last night that we were ahead 24 of the 27 innings over the weekend. We just were not ahead the last three innings unfortunately. I learned a lot about my team and how competitive they are - we will learn from the weekend and work to do better and finish games."

What did you think of Matt Harvey's performance on Friday night, pitching seven scoreless innings against Florida State while striking out 11?

"Sensational - it was one of his better outings as a Tar Heel. A little rough start there to start the game but then really I thought for seven innings he dominated the game -- [he had] some big strikeouts. Obviously when you are a strikeout pitcher it elevates your pitch count and we were not going to let him go farther than he did in the seventh with his pitch count. But he gave us a chance to win the game, which is what we ask out of all of our pitchers. It was a great performance for him. Very happy for him and very proud of him."

How about the other two starters, Colin Bates and Patrick Johnson?

"Colin struggled a little bit commanding his slider - it is unusual for him to walk that many. I thought he competed well and, again, we are in the game. When we get our starters out of the game and we bring our bullpen in we want to be in position to have a chance to win the game. That was the case both Saturday and Sunday. I thought Patrick had one of his better outings. He did not strike out a lot of guys early in the game but then in the middle part of the game he got some big strikeouts. I was pleased with both of their performances - they did fine."

Can you comment on Chris Munnelly's and Michael Morin's performance coming out of the bullpen on Saturday?

"That was certainly very important for us and we accepted from the very beginning that Chris and Michael have very bright futures here and they showed in the fall that they have the talent and ability to pitch in this league as freshmen. Then it becomes a matter of getting them out there in big games and getting their feet wet so to speak and putting them in that tough spot and getting the nerves out of the way. But they were certainly a big part of that win and I wish we had them available for Sunday. Chris threw two innings and Michael is coming off of a stress fracture in his elbow so we cannot extend him too much. Our bullpen, I thought, was fine over the weekend - we did not score enough runs. People are going to focus on the fact that we lost some leads but we did not score enough to put ourselves in a position to win on Friday and Sunday."

Tommy Coyle has started every game at second base as a freshman. Has he exceeded your expectations?

"Tommy has been a great addition to our program. He is a tough little player that showed right from the first of fall practice that he had a chance to play for us as a freshman. He has really improved defensively and worked hard in all phases of the game. He can run and, up until really the last week I guess, he had not struck out a whole lot. He did have a tough weekend, but that happens. The pitching is elevated and he faced some really good left handed pitching. He has some facets of the game that he needs to continue to work on but we think he is really going to be a good player for us for his career here."

How's your comfort level with your team's defense - currently fielding .978 and showing a penchant for timely inning-ending double plays?

"Our defense has been exceptional, I think. Our goal is to average less than one error a game which I think we are doing that. We made some really clutch plays over the weekend, besides the double plays - Cavi's catch - and we emphasize defense a great deal in our practices and our preparation. We would like to have a couple plays back, but if all of our kids are trying to make plays I will never fault them. I think we have the ability and talent to be a really good defensive team and I think we are going to have to be in order to put ourselves in position to win some games."

There seems to be an inability thus far to defend against the stolen base - allowing 22 on 27 attempts so far this season ...

"It is something we have to try to shore up. Some of it is our pitchers and some of it is not making good throws and some of it is not being in position to cover the bag. It is something that we have really emphasized greatly for the last 10 or 12 years. If you look back, teams have not stolen a lot of bases on us in the past here. We have to work with some of these pitchers to be a little quicker to the plate and we have to do a better job of defending that and not letting teams take a free base on us and making them give up an out to bunt a guy to second base as opposed to just taking a chance on stealing the bag."

Can you give an early scouting report on this weekend's ACC opponent in Georgia Tech?

"A great team - a terrific offensive team 1 through 9. Probably the best pitcher in the league or the country in Deck McGuire on Friday night. This will be a great challenge for us. They do not have too many weaknesses - it will be another big challenge for our team."

The Hall of Honor opened over the weekend to the public on the Boshamer concourse - can you discuss how this project came about ... and what it is like for you to see your 1978 'Tennessee Thumper' on display there?

"The Hall of Honor - we are so thrilled to have that room open. It was an idea way back when we were started planning the facility that we wanted a room to honor the history of Carolina Baseball and to put it on the concourse where people would have access to it and overlook the field. Michael Beale deserves all of the credit for this room along with Dave Arendas and Tyson Lusk - collecting all the memorabilia and contacting just numerous former players. We cannot thank our former players enough for sending back all the items from their playing days. We still have things in there we want to add but it is exactly like I envisioned it and we are very grateful for three or four donors who provided us the funds to be able to finish off the room. If it was up to me there would not be anything in there of me - but I just happened to have my bat from '78 and I have the ball as well that I got 15 years after I hit it but that is a whole another story. It is a small piece of the history of Carolina Baseball that I am certainly proud to be a part of."


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