Monday with Mike Fox

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. --- It was a tough week for the Tar Heels, losing all four games to drop to 22-16 (6-12). Inside Carolina caught up with head coach Mike Fox on his way back from Coral Gables for an exclusive interview ...

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Can you give your impressions of the weekend series against the Hurricanes?
"Well, right now there are not a lot of positives. We will go back and try to take a look - and I'm sure that we did a few things well. Right now it is kind of hard to focus on those after the difficult loss. We just did not pitch well - I mean, that is the bottom line. Gave up 26 runs in three games down here and it is hard to win in the league doing that. We had a late lead [Sunday] and can't hold it and that has happened to us before obviously and we are extremely disappointed but we just have to keep fighting and moving on. Hopefully our guys are learning from these tough losses - you hope that is the silver lining that they are learning from them and we will just move forward."

What were your thoughts on Matt Harvey's performance on Friday?
"Matt just got some hard luck pitching for us on Friday. We just can't do enough to help him and put him in a position to get a win and get our team a win. I think after the first inning he settled down and pitched great for us. We just could not get back into the game."

On Saturday in a bizarre accident Miami coach Jim Morris turned in his Friday lineup instead of his Saturday lineup - have you ever seen this happen before in a college game? Is this something that baseball coaches have nightmares about?
"No, I have not and I don't have nightmares about it - I just double check my lineup before I take it up there. It is a little unusual, I am not sure how he let it happen, but it is just one of those things. The kid that he plugged in you know hit a two-run homer against us, the first home run of the year the kid hit. It turned out to be a big blessing for him. So it is just one of those things."

How big of a challenge were the conditions in the rain late in the game on Sunday?
"It was a late start and it is just one of those things there. You know in hindsight I should have pulled my players off the field in the last inning and waited for it to stop raining and let the mound and everything dry out. I put my kids in a bad position and I thought that the umpires seemed like they were in a hurry to finish the game -w hich I thought was not a factor - we were going to have to finish the game and it was not like we were stalling. We had to finish the bottom of the eighth inning and unfortunately we had to do it in some difficult circumstances. It is what it is and we just did not get it done and there are no excuses."

Looking over the splits comparing your team's records during the day (19-10) and at night (3-6), do you think that there is any correlation to the way the batters hit in the games?
"I don't think so. I don't think day or night has anything to do with it. You opponents have the most to do with it. I would have to go back and look at it. I don't think playing day or night makes much of a difference - I really don't. Either way you have to play well; maybe some hitters will tell you that they would rather hit in the day or at night, but I have not heard much discussion amongst our team."

Your team is on a streak of 12 games committing an error and the fielding average is down to .965 ...
"We have had a stretch where we cannot put all three phases of the game together enough. We made one mistake (Sunday), a throwing error on a ground ball - it happens occasionally. Missing a cut off man and throwing balls you should not throw and trying to make plays when they are not there - those are the most difficult things to swallow and it does not help our pitchers and just puts us in a bad position when you are giving good teams in our league more than three outs in an inning. It makes it difficult. We have to get better and I thought we played better defense today - turning some double plays and making most of the plays today. We have to continue to do that."

Adversity tends to magnify pressure on the leaders on any team. How have Mike Cavasinni, Ryan Graepel and Matt Harvey handled this up and down campaign?
"I think they have done fine with it. It is frustrating, to say the least, for everybody. It is not something that we are used to in this program. But you just have to do the best you can and you have to move forward and stay together as a team. I think those guys you have mentioned have made an effort to do that and they have put a lot of pressure on themselves because they want to win as badly as anyone and they want to help our team win. You have to be careful not to do that - not to try too hard - but this group is learning and growing together. I hope there is a silver lining for all this. I hope things will turn for us at some point and things will change and we will get a little bit of confidence. I think these guys will help us do that."

In the past you have discussed the importance of having confidence, with baseball being a game of failure. How do you and your coaching staff reinforce the players' confidence when times get tough during the season?
"That is one of the biggest parts of doing anything is just having self confidence and having a belief that you can do it. Sometimes when you haven't done it, or you have not done it in a while, or you have not achieved some success and you have been working at it hard, it is difficult to muster up some self-confidence. But our pitchers do not have any choice here - we want them to be aggressive and go out there and attack and make a good pitch and good things are going to happen. If you don't you will have difficulty. We talk all the time in our program about mental makeup and mental toughness and dealing with adversity and not making excuses and talk as much about the mental part of the game as we do about the physical part. So sometimes you can't practice those things and you have to go out and live them and experience them. Unfortunately in baseball some of the hardest lessons you learn are on the losing end of the failing side. That is the tough part of it."

You have discussed making other teams earn the victory and not giving the game away with errors and walks - can you expound on this philosophy?
"If you get beat and a pitcher makes a great pitch and gets you to strike out, sometimes you just have to go back to the dugout going 'that was a good pitch, he just beat me' or vice versa. That is part of the game - every pitch that is thrown somebody is going to win and somebody is going to lose. When you pride yourself on the way you play and you want other teams to have to play better than you to have to beat you, those losses are a little easier to live with - not much easier, but a little easier when you can say 'they just beat us.' When you give it away and you walk or error and let a team get a win from you when they did not deserve it, it is the most frustrating thing to deal with."

There is another huge ACC series for your team right around the corner heading to Clemson ...
"We did not have a very good week and we have to regroup and get back in the weight room and kids get back into class and get back into the routine and get our positive vibes going in our clubhouse and our stadium. We are going to continue to do that - to just keep coaching as hard as we can and our kids are going to continue playing as hard as they can and we certainly are looking forward to our next game. We have to be and hopefully we will have better luck this week."

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