Coach Fox, can you give your impressions of the rivalry series against the Wolfpack this weekend?
Wed. vs. Coastal Carolina
Fri. vs. Wake Forest
Sat. vs. Wake Forest
Sun. vs. Wake Forest
“It was a very typical series with them -- close games, some good plays, some not so good plays. We were fortunate to overcome some errors defensively and get the job done. You cannot say enough about our ball club and their response from Saturday, not only losing the game but Colin Moran’s injury and then getting behind 3-to-nothing on Sunday. Our team’s leadership, character and intensity showed in coming back from that adversity. I have not had too many team that I have been more proud of for their response after Saturday. It was a great series win for us and for our team and for our leaders. Especially for our two seniors in Jacob [Stallings] and Jimmy [Messer].”
The Wolfpack has a pair of exciting freshmen position players in third baseman Trae Turner and catcher Brett Austin. Can you discuss what the Diamond Heels could learn from watching how Turner is able to be so successful stealing bases and the jumps he gets off the bag?
“He has an advanced approach to baserunning besides his speed. The key to being a good baserunner is not having any fear and being very confident about getting back to first base. It is not so much going towards second but you have to feel really good about diving back to first. He has an advanced approach and hopefully our players were watching and paying attention.”
There was an interesting discussion during the Sunday night game between NC State starting pitcher Carlos Rodon and UNC assistant coach Robert Woodard that came to a head later post-game. Can you discuss your perspective on this situation?
“I don’t want to make too much out of that. There is a lot that goes on in the course of a game and there is a lot of intensity. It is a good rivalry and I think both programs have great respect for each other and I think the players do as well. Some things you have to kind of overlook in the course of a game. We want to always respect the game. We talk with our players about respecting the game and those that played before you and did exceptionally well and had great careers and have been great leaders like Coach Woodard. I think it is important as players come into the league to respect what has been done before them. We talk with our players about that. It is what it is and it is all fine and everybody responded appropriately in last night’s game and so you move on.”
Chris Munnelly only pitched two innings on Sunday night and then Benton Moss lasted 2 1/3 innings on Monday night. Can you speak to the importance and effectiveness of your bullpen?
“We said from the very beginning when people asked about our team, we said that one of our strengths will be our bullpen. To this point it has certainly been the case. So far we have had four or five guys that have really pitched well out of the pen with some lefties and righties and we have Michael [Morin] at the end. That is a good thing for us as we can use him in about any situation. You cannot say enough about Hobbs [Johnson] and R.C. [Orlan] and Chris McCue and Mason McCullough. We have got to get Tate Parrish out there as Tate is a big part of bullpen and Shane Taylor. The key for us is that it should help our starters really as they don’t have to go out there and throw six or seven innings and we needed our bullpen the last two days. That was evident and they came through for us in a big way.”
Do you have an update on freshman outfielder/pitcher Adam Griffin’s rehabilitation from his ankle injury?
“Adam was cleared -- quote unquote, ‘cleared’ -- yesterday. He has been hitting for a while but could not run. He was available to play in last night's game. He was available to hit but I don’t know how well he would be able to run. I think now for the next two or three days it is time for him to get with the trainers and get comfortable running again, baserunning, cutting, making turns and hitting the bag. It is going to take him a while to get back to the running part of it because he has not been able to do it, of course. He has seen some live pitching in practice but he has been away from that for a while. It is good to have him back, he gives us some more options.”
Discussing options, after the game on Sunday you mentioned how many players were out taking grounders at third base after Moran suffered a broken hand this weekend. Are there any other candidates to help fill the void for the month that Moran might be out?
“We don’t have many position players. We only started the year for the most part with 15 hitters. When the game starts there are only six names on the back of our lineup card and now there are four. Obviously Shell [McCain] did an admirable job filling in there for Colin the last two days. All the sudden he is thrust into a position that he is not all that familiar with in big games and of course television. Josh Ake has been a young man that has not been on the field that much but I think that has gained confidence as he has gone on in practice. Grayson Atwood and Brian Holberton. Those are really the four players that we have available right now that could get in the mix at any time.”
After an emotional series against NC State - North Carolina faces dangerous and frequent opponent Coastal Carolina in a mid-week game on Wednesday before hosting a much improved Wake Forest that gave UNC fits last season. Can you discuss the upcoming slate for the Diamond Heels?
“It’s college baseball. Here comes the next game. It is the nature of our sport. That is why you have to maintain that even keel as best you can winning or losing. Here comes more important games for us. The Coastal is always good and very well coached. You always worry about the emotion of your team but I really think this weekend helped us in more ways than just winning the series and getting a couple more conference wins. I think it pounded home what we desperately try to teach our players. We are going to face some adversity and things out of our control. We need character, we need maturity and we need toughness because it is coming. Even in seasons where we had 50-plus wins we have had weekends were we have not played well and got swept or had injuries. You have to overcome them. I think our team is smart enough to know that we have no margin of error to relax whatsoever. I don’t see this team doing that and I think we will be ready to play Wednesday night and you absolutely need to be ready to play every weekend. You don’t have any choice in that regard.”