Monday with Mike Fox

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. --- A weekend sweep of Wake Forest has put the Diamond Heels (31-17, 11-13 ACC) within reach of a postseason berth with two weeks remaining in the regular season. 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 weekend series against Wake Forest?
"Obviously it was a weekend where we certainly needed to win all three games - I certainly think that everyone knew that going in. Saying that is one thing but then going out to do it is quite another. It is hard to sweep anybody in the ACC no matter what so we are all very pleased with the outcome and the way we played. We had three beautiful days to play and graduation and Mother's Day - it could not have worked out any better for us."

The Diamond Heels were finally in town on Mother's Day and graduation Sunday - what was that like for Mike Cavasinni and Colin Bates?
"It was a very special day for them and their families, of course. We never know how the calendar is going to fall with where we are on graduation and that is usually the first thing that I look at to see if we are at home on graduation. I think that it is so important that our players that are finishing in the spring can be at commencement. I can remember that day when I was in this position - it was a special day to be able to celebrate that and obviously it being Mother's Day and to have a baseball game and to be able to come right over from Kenan to Boshamer. I know they took pictures out in front of the baseball stadium as well. It was a wonderful day to see both of those young men get their degree which is certainly the most important thing and I am proud of both of them."

Can you discuss Jacob Stallings' play this weekend?
"He had one of his best weekends for sure offensively and defensively. He had a good week and a great weekend, with some big swings of the bat for us certainly yesterday. The grand slam being the most important one - it got us the lead - plus the two doubles and playing with confidence and seeing the ball well. He was a big part of our three wins for sure."

Stallings bunted for the suicide squeeze on a pitch well inside with Tommy Coyle on third in the Saturday game against Wake Forest...
"I think it is the first suicide squeeze that we have attempted all year. With the infield playing in is normally not the time that you want to do it, but I wanted to go for the element of surprise and I think it might have surprised even Jacob and Tommy when I put it on because I don't think we have attempted one all year. Jacob is a good bunter. He has proven that over the last couple of years and he is usually able to put the bat on the ball, so I trusted him and obviously you hope for a pitch that is close to a strike. It was a very difficult pitch to bunt and much less to bunt down on the ground. A lot of balls that are running inside, you have to pull your hands back in and it tends to put the ball into the air. So he got it down - blooped it in there, but got it down just enough. Terrific play on his part."

Garrett Davis is holding batters to a .210 batting average, but is averaging seven walks per nine innings - how is he progressing with his control?
"Everybody knows that is the part of Garrett Davis' pitching that he needs to continue to work on. If you do look at all of the other numbers - hits versus innings pitched and opponents batting average against - you can see the talent that he has and the stuff that he has and so it is quite obvious that his nemesis is the base on balls. He took a little step backwards in the one inning he pitched, I believe he struck out two but with three walks. We have to continue to work through it if it turns into a somewhat of an eternal challenge for him."

Your team only committed one error over the weekend against Wake Forest. How do you feel about the state of the squad defensively right now?
"We have been playing a little better defense recently. It is something that we knew was going to be important for us coming down the stretch. We have to continue with that - if you go back and look at some of the close games that we have lost, we made a crucial error here or there that opened the door for the other teams. We have to continue to be steady in all areas from our infield defense to our outfield, to making the proper throws and turning some double plays when the opportunity presents itself. We have got to continue to emphasize that and hopefully we will play good defense throughout the rest of the year."

With the sweep of the Demon Deacons, your team now controls its postseason fate, being tied with NC State for the eighth spot (and owning the tiebreaker over the Wolfpack) in the ACC Tournament and having a top 30 RPI ranking heading into a huge series in Charlottesville with the top-ranked Cavaliers. How confident is the team heading down the stretch towards the postseason?
"We often look at the standings and know what we need to do. We have a huge game coming up on Wednesday with the College of Charleston - one of the best teams certainly in our region and certainly they could really, really help us. We are going to focus on that one first because every win from here on out is critical. Certainly the 6 ACC games we have left are the most important ones for us and we have a very tall order heading up to Charlottesville. They might be the best team in the country from end to end at this point. Facing their pitching in their ballpark with their experience we will have to go up there and play our best baseball - there is no questions about it - to have a chance to be successful. We are going to try not to focus on that we have to do this or we have to do that. We try to stay away from that sort of talk or thinking. I thought our players did that about Wake Forest. We did not talk about a sweep or ever talked about the number of wins we have to have. That is focusing on the wrong things. So we are going to try to go up there and play loose, relaxed and with confidence and maybe that will help us."

Speaking of confidence, can you discuss Tommy Coyle and Brian Goodwin's improvement as freshman starters and getting more comfortable on the bases - especially with Coyle's performance this weekend against Wake?
"They both have have done that - that is a good observation. Sometimes it is a part of their game that they feel the least confident sometimes and have a fear of making a mistake. Both of them run too well to have that kind of mentality on the bases. In the course of the 48 games that we have played so far we want these freshmen to get more comfortable and not play like freshmen at the end and have confidence on and off the field. I think they both have gotten better on the basepaths and feeling a little bit more comfortable and wanting them to be more aggressive and they will be a big part of rest of our season and our future for sure."

The Diamond Heels have Tyson Lusk in his first year as the clubhouse and equipment manager. Can you discuss what his job entails and how he has performed in his first year?
"Tyson is the backbone of our program - there are no ifs, ands or buts about it. It is hard to describe Tyson Lusk and everything he does and has done for our program in this short of an interview setting. It is certainly having the laundry done for the players and that is just the tip of the iceberg. Ordering, budgeting, he helps a lot with pre-game meals, post-game meals, travel. He even keeps the quality at-bat chart for us - which he loves to do. He's just a wonderful, important part of our program and our players have great respect for him - he is super intelligent and cares deeply about our program and does things above and beyond of what he should be doing. We are really lucky to have him in this position and he is over qualified for it. He had the passion from being around it and had a big hand in our Hall of Honor - he collected a lot of those pieces of memorabilia from our former players, writing letters and calling them. He keeps up with our former players like Dusty [Ackley] and Kyle [Seager] and informs me what they do every night in the minor leagues. Tyson is just a do all, be all, end all of our program and I am very lucky to have him."

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