Monday with Mike Fox

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. --- With two wins last week before a weekend break for exams, the Diamond Heels improved to (27-17, 8-13 ACC). Inside Carolina caught up with head coach Mike Fox on Monday for an exclusive interview ...

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Coach Fox, can you give your impressions of the High Point and Charlotte games last week?
"Two very good wins for us going into final exams. We hung in there with High Point and won a close game at the end - obviously Ryan Graepel's grand slam was a terrific way to end the game. We made some good plays - the play with Dillon [Hazlett] throwing the runner out at home plate and [Jacob] Stallings' home run - and we pitched exceptionally well against a really good offensive team. I thought that was a very good, exciting win for our team and then to go on the road the next day and go to Charlotte to face a team having a good year and get a great pitching performance from Chris Munnelly and Colin Bates was really important for our team. We felt really good about those two wins in the middle of the week going into a little break."

Can you elaborate about Munnelly's performance against Charlotte - what made him so effective?
"First of all we felt really good about having Chris available to start that particular game. I know he was a little disappointed from his performance at Clemson and I think he really went out and took the mound against Charlotte with some resolve to kind of atone for that outing. From the first inning on he looked really sharp and just got in a rhythm early and threw a lot of early strikes to their hitters and got a couple strikeouts and his confidence continued to grow as the game went on. He looked sharp and he looked fresh. He was pitching out of the windup which helped and we played good defense behind him also which helped him tremendously. It was one of his better outings of his career for sure."

Speaking of pitcher confidence, can you discuss Greg Holt's recent improvement on the mound?
"People have to remember that Greg has only been pitching for us this year on a mostly full time basis. He has sort of been a freshman as pitching has been concerned. He has had to work through some issues and some ups and downs and learn as he has went. Greg has always had a lot of confidence, that is never something that he has lacked. I think that he has always felt that he could go out there and get the job done. The past two weeks he has been making better pitches: keeping the ball off the middle of the plate, throwing some fastballs on both sides of the plate, not leaving his curveball up. He has really been good for us the last two weeks and we certainly hope that is going to continue down the stretch here because he is an important part of our bullpen."

Can you discuss what it was like around the Bosh this weekend during finals preparing for a rare Monday game (even though that's now been postponed to Tuesday)?
"It is a little bit different change of pace. After Wednesday's game we got back late and the coaches took off recruiting in every different direction and obviously we gave the players some time off. We practiced late on Saturday because Coach Forbes and I attended Mr. Flack's funeral. So we went late and the guys had a lot of energy Saturday night. It was cooler and we turned the lights on and had a real spirited practice. Yesterday we went really short because of finals this morning - it was an optional practice for the guys that wanted to come out and get some swings in and our pitchers got their work in. It is a little different but we are used to it as we have a weekend off every year. It is just part of the routine."

Can you discuss Ryan Graepel's hot streak with the bat and his play in the field?
"He is starting to hit better, as we knew he would down the stretch. He has a great deal of pride in his performance; I know he has been disappointed in his offensive production a little bit the past couple of weeks. He and I chatted at Miami. He is an important part of our team heading down the stretch and we wanted him to certainly finish out his senior year on a good note and just to relax a little bit and not put too much pressure on himself and feel like he has to do a whole lot. Maybe that helped him a little bit - obviously you get a couple big swings of the bat and that will help your confidence a little bit. Certainly the most important thing that Ryan Graepel can do is just play good solid defense for us down the stretch and make plays at short. That helps us more than anything."

Wake Forest has a new coach this season in Tom Walter - can you give an early scouting report on the Demon Deacons, this weekend's ACC opponent?
"I do not know Coach Walter - we have not had the pleasure of meeting. We did not have ACC meetings as a group back in September like we normally do so I do not know him. He comes with a great reputation and they obviously had a big series against Duke and have had some time off as we have during exams - our exams kind of hit at the same time. It will be an interesting series. We really have been focusing on exams and working with our guys individually this week. We will start to do the scouting report on them today or tomorrow once we get done with Elon."

Currently your team has a 4.34 ERA, .310 batting average and a .966 fielding percentage. Which of those numbers are you most satisfied with and which one needs to improve for the stretch run?
"You know to me those numbers are kind of relative. You can just look at those numbers and draw conclusions from them if you want to after 40 something games, but we sort of tend to break them up into certain segments. How are we hitting with men on base? What is the number we need to improve from an average standpoint besides our team average of .310. We certainly have not been happy with our defense, except for stretches of it. We have played better defense lately. But our goal has always been to field .975, to throw a number out there. That normally relates to an average of one physical error a game - we have certainly exceeded that. So it is hard for me to say because we don't just really look at our ERA of 4.34 and we would certainly like to have it better than that. If you remove a game here or there or an inning here or there everybody's statistics can change drastically. We try not to put a whole lot of stock in numbers too much - you try to be careful about that."

You mentioned earlier that you and Coach Forbes had the opportunity to go to Chuck Flack's memorial service. Can you discuss being able to go and support Chad Flack's family in their time of loss?
"I think it is very important. It felt very personal and important that I attend and I know Coach Forbes felt the same way. Tyson Lusk was there and Matt Harvey also attended as well as a few of the parents of our players. The Flacks are our family and they have meant so much to our program - really over the last six years after getting to know Tripp Flack and his family recruiting Chad. Chuck Flack obviously was on the Board of Governors here at UNC and he had everything to do with putting the "Baseball Stadium" signs up on the road on 15-501 and Manning Drive. He kind of took that on as his own little project, calling some favors in with the Department of Transportation. He said, 'You know people need to know how to get to the baseball stadium.' I replied, 'Have at it - if you want to take on that challenge you could.' People would attest to that at the service. If he wanted to get something done, he got it done. So obviously I just thought it was important to be there and I am glad I was - it was a wonderful service."

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