Can you reflect on this past weekend’s series against the Seawolves, two two decisive wins followed by a walk-off thriller?
Wed. vs. St. John's
Fri. at HACC: Rice
Sat. at HACC: California
Sun. at HACC: Texas A&M
“The weekend against Stony Brook was a great weekend for us certainly. The way we finished it off yesterday in dramatic fashion and coming from behind twice and then winning in the bottom of the ninth is always exciting. I am very proud of our players for handling a little bit of adversity and getting the job done.”
Benton Moss didn't give up a run in seven-plus inning in Sunday's first game. Stony Brook didn't get a runner to second base until the eighth inning ... ?
“Another very good performance from Benton. He didn’t feel well actually before the game. He sort of had an upset stomach and was sick to his stomach on the warning track throwing before the start. So we were a little concerned about that but he is a really, really tough kid and great competitor and he gave us seven and a third and didn’t walk a batter. Just a great performance by Benton and our relievers and put us in a position to win the game.”
Your Diamond Heels have a big week ahead of them, hosting St. John's now on Wednesday before heading to Houston for the College Classic to face Rice, California and Texas A&M this weekend. Can you discuss how this week is going to test the squad?
“It is going to be a huge test for us. Four top opponents, starting with St. John's. They will have another great team and they knocked us out of the regional last year so and I know our players are looking forward to playing them. Then we turn around Thursday morning early and leave for Houston. I know our players are excited about that trip playing in a Major League ballpark and playing some of the best teams that we probably will play all year. So it will be a fun week for us and we will continue to find out about our team so I know our players are looking forward to this week.”
One of the interesting things about having a double header on Sunday was that you were able to mix and match the lineup to spread out playing time among the very deep roster of position players for this year. How do you expect to continue to take advantage of that depth throughout the season?
“Well, it certainly showed up yesterday. We brought some guys off the bench in some situations and we were able to get some guys in the lineup and get some at bats. I thought Alex Raburn played well and Grayson Atwood. Brian Holberton doesn’t start either game and gets one of the biggest hits of the day for us. Parks Jordan doesn’t start game two and comes off the bench and gets a huge hit. We had four pinch hit base hits yesterday and a pinch hit walk. So we have some options and we will continue to try and see what kind of depth we do have and try to get as many guys in there an opportunity to get their feet wet and find out how they will respond. It is not a problem - it is a luxury. We are excited about the depth that we have and it keeps everybody on their toes and it does give us a lot of options. So hopefully that will be a force for us all year. How it plays out I don’t know it is just game to game at this point. We do have some options.”
You have coached third base for the vast majority of your career coaching at North Carolina. What is your philosophy in calling for the hit and run and being aggressive on the bases?
“I don’t really have a philosophy but it is just more instincts now trying to get the right pitch with the right count with the right player at the plate. We have not been as successful at it so far as I would like but again it depends on the pitch that you get. Some players are better at it than others. If you do have a philosophy it is don’t sit over there too long because the bats have changed and scoring runs in bunches is something that doesn’t happen expecially if the other team doesn’t walk you or make errors. We have to get a little bit better at it. I try to put guys in position to be successful and sometimes it is a guess as well about what pitch you are going to get from the pitcher. So I think we have done the right thing as far as leaving at the right time and swinging at it - sometimes you just don’t get the right pitch to handle. Then you have to hope the other team doesn’t execute.”
Can you give an update on Zach Daly’s recovery from his injury in the fall and is he available for duty?
“He is healthy. His arm is back from his surgery. From a health standpoint, he is available, yes.”
... From an availability standpoint, can you update Mason McCullough’s status?
“He is healthy. Guys that have not been on the field has not been because of any health related situations as far as being injured - except for Hobbs [Johnson] of course, whose status is still a little uncertain. He is back throwing again but we won’t know anything for a few more days as to whether or not he will be available for Sunday and Parks Jordan is working his way back from an injury to his arm. Those are the only two players from an injury standpoint who have had a setback.”
Have you and Coach Forbes decided on a starter for the St. John’s game?
“We have not. He and I have been busy this morning and we are going to sit down here in just a few minutes at lunch and make a decision about who that is going to be.”
On that note, along with Coach Forbes, how have you all felt about Matt Roberts and Korey Dunbar’s handling of the pitching staff taking over the void behind the plate with the graduation of Jacob Stallings?
“They have been great. They were outstanding yesterday. In fact that was one of the comments that I made after the game to acknowledge how well those young men caught yesterday. A lot of balls in the dirt they blocked, a lot of strike threes in the dirt. Korey’s ability to go back and get the wild pitch and throw a strike to Shane Taylor there in the 8th inning. That was a huge, huge run that we cut down at the plate. They didn’t have a stolen base yesterday. Coach Forbes was very pleased as was I about how well both those guys have caught for us so far and certainly yesterday.”
One of the entertaining things that have come up in the early part of the season is the 'Harlem Shake’ video filmed in the clubhouse. Can you give your perspective on that skit?
“I have absolutely no comment whatsoever about the Harlem Shake. I have no idea what you are talking about. [laughs].”