Monday with Mike Fox

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. --- The Diamond Heels (36-20, 14-16 ACC) closed the regular season with a sweep of Virginia Tech, narrowly missing the ACC Tournament, and now await word on the NCAA Tournament. 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?
"Well, it was obviously a terrific weekend for us. We did all we could do to help ourselves in sweeping a very good Virginia Tech team - it was a great way for us to finish the regular season. We played well and played with a lot of confidence and got good pitching and really played well defensively. We got some big swings of the bat from a lot of guys. It was a great finish for our season and a great way to honor our seniors - to send them out on a winning note."

Speaking of the seniors - Ryan Graepel and Mike Cavasinni at the plate and Colin Bates' six innings of shutout work on the mound ... it appeared like they were motivated to keep hope alive for this season ...
"You could not have scripted anything any better. Going into the last weekend and having these three seniors going into their last season at home - and you know that you are not going to host a regional so you know for sure it is their last time out there - and you are so looking forward to them playing well and for your team to win. All three of them just had terrific weekends for us and you could tell they were locked in. They certainly led our team by their performance, their will to just win and to lead the rest of our team to win all three of those games. It was really fun and gratifying for me to watch."

Every year when you have players in their final season of competition it has to be emotional on Senior Day. What were the emotions having Mike Cavasinni, Ryan Graepel and Colin Bates out there before the game with their families for their final appearance at Boshamer Stadium?
"It is difficult for me - I really have to try to keep my emotions under control because we are getting ready to play a game. I want them to be honored in the best way possible and if I start thinking too much about all the time ... I have known Mike Cavasinni for going on eight years now from the first time I saw him play to his fifth year. Everything that Colin Bates has gone through with surgery starts flashing through your mind. Just seeing them standing out there I just want them to be out there happy and smiling and hoping that deep down they feel good about their experiences at North Carolina - that is the most important thing. It is kind of bittersweet; I am extremely happy for them but I am really, really sad that they are not going to be around our program next year, that is for sure."

What was it like on Saturday, having done everything in the final week to punch the ticket for the ACC Tournament then realizing that that window of opportunity was closing?
"I did not ask the score of the other games - I did not ask the score of the Georgia Tech-Boston College game until the sixth or seventh inning. I do not know if any of our players knew or not but, gosh, if they did know before our game was over you sure could not tell by the way we played and finished the game. I thought we played one of our best games of the year on Saturday. It is disappointing, but it is our own fault and nobody else's and we are having to deal with it. We are going to send our players home and prepare as if we are in a regional and prepare for the best."

Looking at the possibilities heading into the conference tournaments, the Diamond Heels are No. 21 in the unofficial RPI and No. 38 in the ISR. With a 64-team field with 30 automatic bids and 34 at-large berths, what is your perspective on your team's chances to get into the postseason?
"You know I have had a number of people ask me about that today. I am just one of those coaches who does not get into all of this. My assistants are the ones who are getting onto the web sites and looking at the other leagues, the bids and the RPIs - I know that the committee has a very difficult job to do. I am hoping that they certainly look at our finish in the league and I certainly hope that we would get in. All we can do is just prepare and do the right thing with our team this weekend when we get back and hope that we get good news on Monday."

If you could make a statement to the NCAA selection committee about why the Diamond Heels should earn a postseason berth, what would you say?
"Oh boy, I'm not good at that - I am really not. I told somebody that they are not going to look at the scores and just look at wins and losses. I also told somebody I will say look a little deeper and maybe dig deeper and look at the close games we lost - but then I was thinking that might not even help us. They might look at that like, 'Gosh they lost all these games they should have won - they don't deserve to be in...' We play in such a good conference. I am hoping that helps us. Nine of our losses are to three really good teams that played better than we did and we hung right in there with all of them but we just did not come out on the winning side. So if I had one statement that would be it and it is not a great one."

What will the schedule be like for the team preparing this week for the possibility of the season continuing?
"I gave a lot of thought to it Saturday after the game. We sent the players home until Friday. We met with all of them on Sunday and gave them the game plan for this week. A number of them are still here - they have apartments here. The in-state players, if they went home it would be for today or tomorrow so they will be back in here. The pitchers have all met with Coach Forbes and they know what they need to do. We have a very mature pitching staff. We will bring them all back on Friday and we will practice and scrimmage on Friday and Saturday and get our pitchers back on the mound. Matt Harvey, Chris Munnelly and Patrick Johnson and those guys will have a certain pitch count and we will probably do the scrimmage on Friday night under the lights to give our guys some excitement and prepare for the weekend on Saturday and Sunday. Then on Monday we will watch the show to see if we get in and then get back to work on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday. It will give us a week of practice if we are fortunate to get in before the first game and I think that it is great this time of year. I think the rest for a number of our players will do them good."

Matt Harvey was an obvious pick for All-ACC First Team, and that was announced today. What about All-American honors?
"Oh, gosh - to me that is a no brainer. I mean I think that a lot of that they just look at numbers - innings pitched, strikeouts, walks, ERA and their wins and losses. Again, I am hoping that the committee will look at that this is a guy that every time he went out there on Friday he gave us a chance to win and there were some nights we did not give him a chance to win a game because we did not score enough runs or play well enough. But I think he has been one of the best pitchers in the country all year long and of course voted first team All-ACC today - I think without Danny Hultzen at Virginia he would have won the ACC Pitcher of the Year. He has had a sensational season for us and that does not always show up in the numbers but he has been good about every time out there for us."

Say, for example, the Diamond Heels do not have the opportunity to play in the postseason - would a small silver lining be that it won't delay the players departures for the Cape and other summer leagues?
"Sure, those guys would get a head start on that and get to the leagues a bit earlier. Obviously we would get right back to work recruiting. It is certainly lengthening our summer from what it has been in the past. So it will be what it will be - it just will go to show you that you cannot take anything for granted. It has happened to other teams before. Clemson is the best example that I can use where they were playing in the College World Series one year and did not make the NCAA Tournament the next and the following year they were really, really good and it was a short term thing and I hope that that would be the case for us. We will just have to go back to work - that is what me and my staff will do. We have already been in close contact with all of our 2010 signees and been to see a number of them about the draft and attending school at North Carolina. We will continue on that trend and just work towards next year and use this year as a big learning experience."


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