Monday with Mike Fox

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. --- The Tar Heels were swept by No. 3 Georgia Tech over the weekend, including two heartbreakers, and are now 16-9 (2-7 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 weekend series against Georgia Tech?

"Certainly yesterday's loss was devastating for our team and we had a chance to win the series, which is disheartening when you look back at it. Friday nights game - Matt Harvey just continues to be outstanding on the mound for us and held a really, really good offensive team in Georgia Tech to two runs on three hits and we lose the game. That was a tough one. I really liked the way our team responded yesterday and we just have to learn to finish games and close them out - when you are up 8-3 in the last inning you certainly anticipate and expect a win. We had our heart kind of just ripped out yesterday and we are very disappointed but we have another game coming up and another week and we have to put it behind us."

What did you say to the team last night after what was potentially a deflating loss?

"I did not really say a whole lot yesterday. We talked after Friday's game. I do not say a whole lot after games - especially tough losses. With emotions you need time to process things. Basically it's that we are not giving up. Our coaches are going to continue to move forward and we need leadership and good things are going to happen to our team and we all believe that. We are shaken a little bit but we are going to move forward and regroup. I have some terrific leaders in that clubhouse and I trust them completely and we will move past these tough losses that we are experiencing and learn from them and get better. We will continue to play hard - I will assure you that."

How would you evaluate Jimmy Messer's first start against ACC competition, replacing Patrick Johnson (injury) on Sunday?

"I thought Jimmy pitched extremely well. We were hoping he would give us three or four innings. He is still coming off of that bad ankle injury so we have to watch him. But it was a good matchup because he is a sinkerball guy and we needed him to throw strikes and sink that ball and keep that ball out of the air. He was ready. It was a little bit obviously of an emergency start because of Patrick. I have not received an injury report yet on Patrick. It was his shoulder - yesterday was mostly precautionary. We are in the season for the long haul and we need Patrick Johnson for us at the end of the season as well. So I don't know exactly where Patrick is right now with his injury. It is kind of a shoulder type thing with a pain in his bicep that is a concern for us. I will find out more about that later today."

Can you compare Matt Harvey's demeanor on the mound this season as compared to last season - and also comment on his duel against 2009 ACC Pitcher of the Year Deck McGuire on Friday?

"Matt's demeanor has always been the same - his demeanor on the mound has always been good. He has never showed bad body language or anything negative on the mound for our team no matter whether he is striking a guy out or not having success. I think that is something that has been brought up with him by his father coaching him in his early years to stay composed on the mound. Obviously he has been pitching better. He is throwing a lot more strikes and his fastball velocity has been incredible. It has stayed up there and it has stayed in the low to mid 90s late in the games. From my standpoint I thought he out-pitched McGuire. Deck is certainly an outstanding pitcher as well. It is a game we should have won. I mean, we hit two balls right on the nose in the eighth and ninth inning - similar to yesterday's game with the winning run on second base in the bottom of the ninth - and it was just right at them. I hate that Matt did not get the win and that our team did not get the win - but Matt Harvey has been exceptional for us. He told me the day before the game he said, 'I'm going to show that I am the best pitcher in this league tomorrow night.' That is the inner confidence that Matt has this year that is going to take him to another level."

The Tar Heels were much more efficient on offense on Sunday, using the hit and run and starting baserunners - what was your take on how the offense is coming around?

"We were a little snake bit earlier in the year where we would start a runner and we may have the batter swinging or not and if it was a hit and run it would be a fastball up and out and our hitter could not put the bat on it. That is a perfect pitch for the catcher to come up and throw on. Yesterday we did a hit and run with Mike Cavasinni with the left handed pitcher out there and just to try to start the runner - I think Cavi is really playing well for us lately and he happened to hit into the gap and he started the runner on second base as well as he was slow to the plate. It is part of our offense we have to try to utilize and obviously when you have a 3-0 lead early and it allows you to do more and we moved the ball on the ground in a couple situations and it helped to get us out to a 6-0 and a 8-1 lead. We did do a better job yesterday of executing that but it is about getting the right pitches that you can get on the ground and yesterday we were fortunate to do that."

What is your opinion on the play of Mike Cavasinni since his return from the shoulder injury?

"I think Cavi is just showing his experience and toughness. We look at our stats from the nice games that we have played in the ACC - against obviously good ACC teams - he is playing his best baseball in the biggest games. That is certainly what you want out of your fifth-year seniors and one of your leaders. Cavi just gets in that box and gives you as good an at bat as he can every time and he has driven in more runs than some of the guys at the top of our order - hitting in the nine hole. He has played great defense and we expect that from Cavi and I hope to get that from him the rest of the year."

Have you and Coach Forbes been able to discuss the mid-week rotation on the mound yet?

"We had a little bit of a slow morning after the weekend. He and I will talk in a few minutes - but obviously using Garrett Davis yesterday was something we obviously did not want to do. He was slated to go tomorrow - Tuesday night - so that will not be the case. It will probably be somebody new - we will figure that out this afternoon."

Can you discuss the level of competition around the Atlantic Coast Conference this season?

"Our league is very, very good. It is such a great baseball league. No game is over - that is the understatement of the day I am sure. You have to be ready to play every single game every day. Georgia Tech is certainly one of the best teams in the country and one of the best offensive teams and they have a great pitcher going on Friday night. Florida State obviously is a great team and you just look at the scores every weekend and you don't know what is going to happen. We have another great challenge on the road this weekend. Maryland has a Friday night starter that has already beaten Georgia Tech and we will have our hands full up there. Everybody knows how good this league is - it is a challenge and you have to be ready to play. We have 21 league games left and we have backed ourselves into the corner obviously losing two home series - that is something you just cannot do and it is going to make it that much more difficult for us down the stretch here. We have some tough series coming up on the road. We are going to focus on the next game and move forward and we will deal with Maryland on Friday when it gets here."

Can you discuss Chase Jones and his work on the "BaseBald for the Cure" to raise money for Pediatric Cancer Research?

"We have done it before and I thought it was something that was a big hit and the cause is one that is so very, very important. Our program, Chase and a number of kids on our team and you know all of us have been hit by cancer in all of our lives at some point. Chase came to me and wanted to do it again and it was an easy response for me. He has taken on the responsibility of doing it again and we are a program that is always talking about that there is a world outside of our program that we must be aware of and try to instill in these young people as you move on in life you have to be aware of other people out there and you have to help others. We are seeing that throughout the country right now - everybody has it much tougher than we are and we have to help others - and if in a small way Carolina Baseball can do that then we certainly want to do our part."

What has it been like communicating with Butch Davis about using Bryn Renner during spring football practice?

"We have made it work. We have made it work - he is available for some days for us and not others but we have made it work. The most difficult part is for Bryn and his time management. I am not sure how he has done it. He is managing it and he is a tough kid and it has taken a lot out of him and he is managing it well. We will get him through April 10 and then he will be able to just focus on one sport. I am sure it has been more difficult on Bryn Renner than anybody trying to manage two sports and his academic work here for two weeks. He wants to be down here and he wants to be in out dugout and you saw yesterday the big hit he got for us. He is a tough kid and we like having him in our program and you might see more of him on the field down the stretch here."


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