Monday with Mike Fox

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. --- The Diamond Heels (32-20, 11-16 ACC) were swept over the weekend in Charlottesville and now face tough postseason odds heading into the final week of the regular season. Inside Carolina caught up with head coach Mike Fox on Monday for an exclusive interview ...

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Coach Fox, what were your impression of the hard fought series against the Cavaliers?
"We had three really good baseball games - Virginia is certainly as good as advertised. We are certainly very disappointed that we did not get a win or two up there. We just lost some heart breakers again. We just could not score enough runs. That was really the bottom line to the series. I was very pleased with our pitching. I thought we pitched exceptionally well - starting with Matt Harvey. He has been a tough luck loser for us throughout the season on Fridays at times because we have not been able to give him enough run support. To lose two games in the bottom of the ninth is difficult to take but it is part of the game. Virginia reminds us a lot of our teams the last couple of years really - the '07 and '08 teams especially - where they have veterans all over the field and expect to win and come up with the big hit or the big play and they did that against us. The bottom line is we did not do enough offensively to give us a chance to win."

Can you talk more about Harvey's performance?
"We have been expecting that from Matt because he has been able to do that for us so consistently throughout the season. He felt good there in the last inning, was still throwing hard and was right at his pitch count level and that would have been the last inning for him if we had gone into extra innings. That was important for us and it was just disappointing that it came down to a ground ball through the six hole that gave them the winning run. That is just part of it. I thought he pitched his heart out. Against a good offensive Virginia team, holding them to three earned runs is about as good as you can ask."

Jimmy Messer had a strong inning in relief over the weekend - how has he recovered from the ankle injury and what was your opinion on his performance?
"He had a good performance earlier in the week as well. Jimmy has been a little up and down for us. He got a slow start and I think that some of that was his ankle and he lost his confidence a little bit there, but I thought the two innings he threw for us this week were the best we have seen Jimmy Messer throw. We saw that in the fall - I hope that bodes well for this week because we might need him in certain situations this week. And that certainly bodes well for the future because Jimmy is talented and we need consistency from all of our team and Jimmy has showed that the last two outings. I am excited for him because he was pretty dominant in the two innings he threw this week."

You have a pair of freshmen left handed pitchers in Zach Bernard and R.C. Orlan - how have they performed this year and did they exceed your expectations for their first season at UNC?
"I don't know if they have exceeded it or not, cecause I really did not know what to expect. Obviously we expect kids to improve as the season goes on which I think both of them have. We like both of these kids and we think they have really good futures for us. Zach came in up there [in Charlottesville] in a tough environment following Chris Munnelly and pitched one inning while only alloweing one hit and struck out two guys and R.C. is the same way - very aggressive and great mentality. I think what has hurt the two of them is that they are the only two left handers. We have had to have them available for the weekends so that has prevented them from throwing some in the middle of the week which they needed to do. And we could have probably given R.C. a spot start here or there but you know when you start thinking about that you might need them over the weekend and that sometimes restricts that opportunity. I think both of those kids have the right mentality and will continue to improve and I think they will be even better next year."

Your team will need some help from Duke and will need to win one more game down the stretch than NC State in order to be able to make it into the ACC Tournament...
"We talk a lot in this program about the process and college baseball is a process from the beginning to the end and there are a lot of things out of your control. We can only do what we can do. We have to stick to that philosophy. Our players are not going to quit. We are going to keep playing and we are going to practice later this afternoon and prepare as hard as we can for this week, starting tomorrow night against Charlotte. We have absolutely zero control of what happens in other people's ballparks. We just have to deal with ourselves and move forward and try to continue to improve and play as hard as we can with as much confidence as we can until someone tells us we cannot play anymore and that is what we intend to do. We do not have any other choice. I am so proud of my team - we have played hard. We have really played hard all season long. We have not played well at times, but we have been so close - it has been frustrating that we have lost so many close games but it happens. We have to move forward and we are going to and we all know what is at stake. Saying it verbally and talking to your team about it when they get it is counterproductive and we try not to do that at all. We talk about playing the game and definitely needing to try to stay relaxed, have fun and enjoy it. That is the only way that we can play at a high level. That is difficult to do when there is pressure but we have to make every effort to do just that."

With four critical games remaining in the home slate at Boshamer Stadium, how important is fan support?
"Well, we need our crowds to help us. Quite honestly we have been disappointed a little bit in our fan support this season and we know that winning is a big part of people coming out - I get that part of it. But we still think we have a chance and I hope our fans do as well. We have played some exciting games at Boshamer and have some good talented players that are fun to watch and we have a new stadium and I think there are all sorts of reasons for people to continue to come out to support us. They are college student-athletes that are trying as hard as they can and they are as disappointed as anyone that we have not reached some of the goals that we have set for ourselves. I just hope our fans come support us this weekend and support the kids."

Right around the corner on June 7 the Major League Baseball Draft. If you had any influence on the decision makers in professional baseball what would you change about the draft or the signing deadline?
"I certainly would like the draft to be a little later and not in the middle of the college season. I am not sure when that should be - it is at a difficult time and if you are still playing it is on the minds of a lot of the players. I certainly would like to see them shorten the window between the actual draft and the signing deadline. Having it go on all summer - I don't think it is good for any party. I think there have been discussions about that but you really wouldn't matter if you moved it to July 15 since you still could not replace those players. But I do think that the players that chose to sign would get on the field and into pro ball a little earlier which seems to me to be an advantage on the pro side. I think all the negotiating and haggling going down to the last hour is just not how it should be done. Maybe that will change in the future."

Can you discuss your relationship with departing assistant coach Matt McCay - from his days playing under you at NC Wesleyan, to transferring to UNC then to rejoining the Diamond Heels as a coach?
"I have known Matt McCay since he has been in high school - that has been 12 or 13 years ago. We have a long standing relationship and he is one of the true special people that I have been fortunate to have in my life both as a player and as a coach. I am obviously very happy for him and he is a terrific person and one of the best people you would ever want to be around - as solid an individual as you would want to meet. He has done an outstanding job for us here at Carolina as a coach here and is very beloved by our players not only for his knowledge of the game but how much he cares about them. He has a terrific sense of humor which is always good and always makes him fun to be around. This is an exciting time for him and his wife Julie and they have a baby on the way - he has a lot going on right now and I am sure it will all work out and I certainly wish him the best. I am going to help him in any way I can to make this transition an easy one for him and I think he will be successful."


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