This Week With Mike Fox

Russell

No. 1 North Carolina went 3-0 on the week to improve to 21-1 (7-1 ACC). The Diamond Heels will host a pair of mid-week games before Clemson's weekend arrival for an important ACC series that will include a showcase Monday night game on ESPNU. InsideCarolina.com caught up with Mike Fox for the weekly interview ...

This Week
Tues. vs. VCU
Wed. vs. Winthrop
Sat. vs. Clemson
Sun. vs. Clemson
Mon. vs. Clemson (ESPNU)
Can you discuss the last week for the Diamond Heels?
"Sure, we had another good week. It was a challenge for us weather-wise coming off of spring break and getting back in the class routine then having to change locations with Boston College. It was an interesting week but we were able to play three games and get three wins. All in all another good week for us."

With the Boston College series getting moved to Chapel Hill due to bad weather up there, how did the negotiations go to make that happen?
"I don't know if I would call it negotiations first off. It basically started a while back when Boston College determined their field was probably not going to be playable for this past weekend because of all of the weather that they have had up there. It was all about their field conditions and not the weather. We had to get the OK for them to travel and I am really grateful for them that they wanted to come to play. Then we had to get league approval then work out all the logistics, [all of the] travel details and that sort of thing. It took a while and a lot of people were involved and we got it done and fortunately we were able to play two of the three games."

Do you expect to pick up another game later this season?
"Oh yes, we are already looking. Our kids deserve it. Our kids deserve to play every game they are allowed to play. That is the way I look at it. That is why they work so hard and they want to play. We will do everything we can to find another game."

Can you discuss what Michael Russell has brought to the plate for the team this season? He's also been productive on the base paths, leading the team with nine stolen bases...
"Michael had a good week. He hit some balls really hard this week especially and had some extra base hits. He had a big double there to clear the bases to get the series started against Miami. This week I think he got six or seven hits and didn't strike out much and had a stolen base and did well on the bases for us. He has an unbelievable motor. Michael just practices hard, plays hard, works out hard and is a very intense kid. He really wants to be good, studies the game and is always watching video of himself hitting and working with Coach Jackson so I am happy to see all the success Michael is having."

Chris McCue got his first save opportunity. What enabled that role and his use out of the bullpen so far this season?
"Chris has really thrown well for us. I tell you he has found his change up and it is serving him well, especially against left handed hitters it sort of neutralizes those guys and he can run his fastball up there 89, 90 up to 91 at times and keeps them honest. He is throwing with a lot of confidence. He is relishing that role coming in a tough spot and we put him in that role starting with Wake Forest and he has pitched pretty well for us."

Can you speak to Coach Forbes's qualities and his handling of the pitching staff?
"I give him complete leeway. He has earned it and deserves it. He has been doing it for a long time at a high level. He is extremely, extremely organized and a good communicator. Our pitchers know exactly what they are doing each and every day. He really holds them to a high level and has taught them personal accountability. He is in there with them a lot, especially in the weight room. I don't know in the time that I have been at UNC that I have had a pitcher throw a bullpen that Coach Forbes has not been there and witnessed one on one. So he has done an incredible job since he has been our pitching coach since 2006 and I have been happy to have him on our staff. That is an understatement if there has ever been one."

What was behind the decision to put weekend starter Hobbs Johnson on the lineup card as the designated hitter last week?
"It is something new that we have thought about doing in the past. Essentially with the DH position, if you have them at the bottom of the order, I'm not exactly sure what we are going to come up against by the time that player comes to the plate and if I wanted to make a change and if I put a pitcher or someone who will not hit in that spot it allows me some flexibility in the order when that guy comes up. We tried it and we may do it again in the future."

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From your perspective what would be the best way for the ACC to handle the divisions and ACC Baseball Tournament with the expansion to 14 teams?
"We have been forced to give some thought to it because there have already been discussions and taken in some regards in the recent future that Notre Dame will join in 2014. So now our 2014 schedule has been completely redone which is a little unfortunate since our 2014 schedule was complete. Now it is going to change. We think that the consensus of most our coaches in the league is to stay with divisions of seven teams with the same names, the Coastal and the Atlantic. I think the decision has already been made about which institution is going to which division. I'm going to say off the top of my head I don't know which those are. Pitt, Notre Dame and Louisville are all going to be playing somewhere. The interesting dilemma is what we are going to do with the ACC Tournament. There are so many different ideas out there. Eight teams, 10 teams, round robin, double elimination. Nothing has been determined. It is an interesting discussion among all the coaches because everyone has their own general idea. If you play at one site you try to find two to eliminate games in the middle of the morning and that sort of thing. It will be interesting to see how all that plays out. I just know that in 2013 it is a round robin at the Durham Bulls Athletic Park. That is all I know about the future of the ACC."

Now that the North Carolina basketball season has come to an end, what was it like for you and the team to watch the hoops season end and how would you introduce the casual fan to the Diamond Heels?
"Gosh, we have played a third of our season already. If you have just been following basketball... we have played 21 or 22 games so far so that is about a third of our season. Obviously we are off to a good start. I hate it to see our basketball team lose. Those kids really, really came together. Watching Marcus Paige grow up this season right before our eyes is really neat to see especially as both a coach and a casual fan. Just watching him get better and better with every game and watching the team get better. I thought they played their hearts out. So, maybe some of the fans will turn to baseball now. We don't know but we hope so. We have a lot of our season to play against some really good competition. We also hope it warms up as well [laughs]."

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