Around the Bases with Jacob Stallings

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. -- Jacob Stallings isn't known for his offensive prowess, but may be changing that perception. The sophomore catcher batted .545 during last weekend's Wake Forest series and recorded six RBI, including a Sunday grand slam. Inside Carolina caught up with him during his offensive onslaught …

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Can you discuss how your offensive game has taken off as you have received more consistent playing time behind the plate?
"Hitting is so hard and it is all about rhythm and timing. Obviously when you are in there every day it helps, especially with your timing. Certainly it helps and it is nice."

What is your outlook at the plate from your spot in the lineup?
"I definitely try in the nine hole to get on base as much as I can because Cavi and Ben [Bunting] are really good at moving the ball so it helps to just put pressure on the defense, especially if the nine-hole guy - a guy you need to get out - gets on base and that just opens a number of things for Cavi because he can do so many things at the plate."

Can you discuss what it is like for you when your father - Kevin Stallings, the head coach of the Vanderbilt basketball team - is able to come to one of your games here is Chapel Hill?
"It is awesome any time any member of my family gets to come down here; it's obviously a treat for me. He loves it. I tell you what, he might love baseball more than basketball. He cannot get enough of it - he loves coming down here. But it is awesome, I love having him here and I know the guys joke with him a lot."

One of the things that you have been complimented on is your handling of the pitching staff and your defense behind the plate.
"Thankfully defense come pretty naturally to me. I take pride in my defense for sure and I try to 'steal' strikes for my guys as much as possible by framing pitches. If I lose a strike for them I am very angry with myself. I definitely take pride in my defense blocking, but we have really good pitchers so sometimes they make me look good."

Speaking of pitching, are you looking forward to possibly getting back out on the mound at some point?
"[Laughs] I don't know if our team wants me to go back out on the mound. I don't know if that would give us the best chance to win... I'll leave that to the coaches."

Can you discuss the team's improved defensive play recently?
"I think we really have guys settling into their roles. I think that we kind of understand what our roles are now and late in the season and guys are not coming to the field and wondering if they are going to play first, second or third and we really have worked hard on it. Our defense was struggling there for a while. Coach Fox really took it upon us to play better. Some of our defensive errors were the reasons why we were losing those close game so we really are working hard at it."

What are your thoughts on the physical demands of playing the catcher position?
"Me and Jesse [Wierzbicki] were talking about that today actually. You have nicks and bruises all the time. I hurt my heel yesterday sliding into second and it hurt today. It is hard - you really have to work on taking care of your body. That is something that Mark Fleury really did a great job of; Mark was really good taking care of his body."

Freshman outfielder Brian Goodwin currently has six triples - where the UNC season record is eight. As a teammate, what's your perspective of his speed on the bases?
"Wow, is it really? I did not know that. Brian can hit a routine ground ball to the shortstop and make it a close play. It is unbelievable and it comes so easy to him. I mean, it doesn't even look like he is running hard and he is beating balls out and all that kind of stuff. It is unbelievable."

How is the team's confidence level at making this stretch run trying to catch up with NC State to get into the ACC Tournament?
"Confidence is huge and I think we were really struggling there for a while. We lost a lot of close games and I think that we were snake bit. Winning two out of three in the series at Clemson was monumental - the turning point. We are playing really well right now, swinging the bats, pitching and playing defense. We are playing really well."

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