Coach Fox, can you give your impressions of the weekend series against USC?
“Well now that it is all over we are certainly happy to have won the series. Disappointed with Sunday but I told our team after yesterday’s game that we scored three runs in two games so I thought we were fortunate to be 1-1 in the last two games. But overall I thought it was a series we really needed against a talented team and we faced talented arms Friday, Saturday and Sunday, which I think is important for the development of our team. We had a close game and we got behind yesterday and tried to fight from behind. We kind of ran the whole gamut of the type of games that we are going to be involved in down the road. I thought all in all it was a great series and will help prepare us for the future.”
Chris Munnelly was involved in an impressive pitcher’s duel on Saturday. What made him so effective from your perspective?
“That was a sensational game. I thought that kid [Ben] Mount threw really, really well and fortunately for us Chris matched him pitch for pitch, which is what you want when your offense is getting shut down. Chris had all his pitches working and was locating his fastball and keeping the ball down in the zone, which is very typical of what you have to do to be successful as a pitcher. I thought he had command of all of his pitches better than I have ever seen him. It might have been one of his best -- if not his best -- outing in his career and he has had some good ones for us. He pitches into the seventh inning for us and does not allow a run and gave us a chance to win. I thought he was sensational for us.”
There was an unusual play on the bases in the first inning of Sunday’s game where Colin Moran was thrown out at third with two outs in either an attempted double steal or hit and run with Cody Stubbs at the plate. What happened there?
“It was all on me. We are not going to hit and run with two outs and certainly not with a 2-0 count on Cody [Stubbs] -- it was me inadvertently without even thinking about it. Not even suspecting that either one of those guys would be thinking we would run in that situation. I will take full responsibility for that. It surprised me when I saw Colin take off but I have to take responsibility for that.”
What was the team’s approach against the Trojans’ left handed starting pitcher on Sunday in freshman Stephen Tarpley?
“I thought early in the game he was nervous. He is a freshman and seemed uncertain of himself. I thought we let him off the hook a little bit. Too anxious and he was not locating his slider, which was his best pitch against left handers. He gained confidence and you could just see it in his body language and demeanor. He just got more effective and he started locating his pitches a little bit better. It is a good breaking ball and it is one that is hard for lefties to see and hard for them to lay off of. You can tell hitters all you want to that that pitch is out of the strike zone but it does not look like it out of his hand. We had a few chances but did not muster up enough. Facing the two pitchers that we did on Saturday and Sunday, with a right hander with a good change up locating all three pitches and then Sunday, I hope that helps us down the road.
One of the most impressive performances of the weekend was sophomore Hobbs Johnson’s outing at the back end of Sunday’s game. Can you discuss his performance in relief?
“The bright spot for us Sunday without a doubt. That is the first point I made when I walked into the locker room. We are always looking for the bright spot or the silver lining and Hobbs is a great story. Extremely committed and really, really works and wants to be good. He really has not had the opportunity. Just had the one early and that was really his first outing. He stays with it and gets the chance to go into a game and we were maybe going to use him for a hitter or two and just get him in there and comfortable and he went 11 up and 11 down, which is extremely hard to do in college baseball. So Hobbs was terrific and it was a big boost for his confidence and I think that will help us down the road.”
The Diamond Heels only committed two errors over the weekend. What do the Tar Heels need to do to continue to improve defensively?
“That was important for us in close games. We emphasize pitching and defense, as you have heard me say before. I thought Jacob Stallings was terrific. Obviously the play on the wild pitch really helped us in Saturday’s game. Colin [Moran] once again played well at third. He won our defensive award for the first week of the season. We have to do a better job up the middle. Obviously, the pickoff play yesterday where we have the guy picked off and we don’t make the play then they go on to score five runs. That was disappointing. I don’t know how the game would played out after that. We have to continue to work and improve. Over all we are making plays and our goal is to keep it to one error a game and field .975 and it is early in the year but we are on pace for that.”
How will you and the coaching staff manage the bench for the position players this season; how do you expect to use your depth with some of the players who have not carved out roles yet to keep them effective for future needs this season?
“That is always a challenge, the guys that are not getting live at bats like they need to. We will pick our spots during the season. Maybe on a Thursday when we practice some pitchers that have not faced hitters and vice versa we will do that. We will try to pick our spots to get some guys in there and try to get an at bat but we want to keep in mind who we think our best hitters are and the situation in the game and put kids in the situation that is occurring in the game and put kids in the right situation to be successful. We need Adam Griffin to get well and that will be another right handed bat that we have an option for. Until then we are what we are and we will keep plugging.”
This is the first week that the Tar Heels have five games with four on the road. What are your plans for pitching this week?
“It is certainly a challenging week coming up, there is no doubt about it. The rest of them from here on out are all very challenging. It is Spring Break, so we have to manage our players and their down time. It is something you have to think about as well. It is important for us to focus on the next game, which we are going to do. Right now we are going to throw Luis Paula against Davidson [on Tuesday] and Benton Moss at Elon on Wednesday. Coach Forbes and I have not really talked about the weekend but we don’t expect to change anything certainly Friday or Saturday at Clemson as of yet. Some of it depends on how much of our bullpen we have to use on Tuesday and Wednesday.”