Can you reflect back on the Tar Heels’ final week of the regular season?
Thu. ACCT: vs. Miami
Fri. ACCT: vs. Georgia Tech
Sat. ACCT: vs. NC State
“Well, we had a mid-week win in there (against Appalachian State), which I thought was really crucial for us coming out of exams getting a 2-0 win. Then the Virginia series was just a tough, hard-fought series which was one of the classics that I think was the best series that I think I have been involved with since I have been in a league against a terrific Virginia team. Coming back after losing the first game to score six runs in the bottom of the 8th to win on Friday was a great testament of our team and our kids for continuing to battle. Then in the last game it was a classic. The proverbial game of inches. We didn’t get it done and I was so proud of my team for continuing to fight back and battle back and obviously we just missed a couple of opportunities to win. But then the Florida State game was I thought what we needed. A sigh of relief a little bit after the game that one, we were able to win and number two, that under the conditions that we did not get anyone hurt, and that it was scripted out pitching-wise just like we wanted. So it was a good end to our regular season I thought.”
The ACC announced that junior Kent Emanuel was honored with ACC Pitcher of the Year while junior third baseman Colin Moran was honored as the ACC Player of the Year. Can you discuss their performances this season and merit for winning these honors in a very deep and talented Atlantic Coast Conference?
“It is a tremendous honor for both of them and well deserved. We would not be where we were without them. [SID] Dave Schmidt told me that since the pitcher of the year award has been in our league there is only one other team that has had both a pitcher and player of the year during that span. So it is a great credit to those two young men. They both were highly touted before the season so to be able to have those pre-season accolades and to be able to back them up during the last 56 games tells a lot about those two -- not about their talent but in their ability to rise to the occasion and I am very proud of them certainly.”
Three other Tar Heels were honored by the ACC as well. senior first baseman Cody Stubbs was on the All-ACC First Team, while freshman outfielder Skye Bolt and pitcher Trent Thornton were honored on the All-ACC Second Team. Additionally Bolt was announced as being selected to participate with Team USA this summer to round out the achievements for the Diamond Heels…
“Again it is great for them to be recognized for their great play throughout the year. It was certainly well deserved for all three of those guys. I am disappointed that Landon Lassiter was not recognized because I thought he had a terrific season and played exceptionally well in league also. There are some great players in our league and whenever you are singled out as one of the best players in the Atlantic Coast Conference it is a great honor because there are some great players in our league. The Team USA folks reached out a while back about an invitation to Skye and it was up to those players to accept those if they so choose and Skye indicated to us that he wanted to accept the invitation and I am glad it all worked out and it will be a great experience for him.”
What went into the decision that you and Coach Forbes made to keep the weekend rotation going with Emanuel, Moss and Johnson in the ACC Tournament?
“Once we were able to choose our day off and we knew we had Florida State scheduled for Monday it was an easy decision for us to take Wednesday off and play Thursday, Friday and Saturday and go with Kent, Benton and Hobbs. That rotation served us well during the regular season and gives us even another day’s rest potentially going into the (NCAA) Regional. Those guys will be fresh and that is what we wanted and so it could not have worked out any better for us in that regard.”
Hobbs Johnson will get the opportunity to pitch against NC State after having his turn in the weekend rotation lost to rain over in Raleigh in the series?
“I would imagine he is pretty excited. I have not heard him say anything and obviously we have been playing and I can’t imagine that he is not excited about the opportunity. It will be a big game with hopefully a big crowd. The fact that we did not play the third game and now we get sort of an opportunity to sort of do that in Durham is pretty cool.”
Can you give your preview of the tournament and the Tar Heels' scheduled opponents? How have the challenges of the tough ACC schedule down the stretch prepared your team for the post-season pressures?
“Miami, Clemson and State are in our pool. Miami beat us during the regular season and they announced that they will pitch [sophomore left-handed pitcher] Andrew Suarez against us. So we will have to be prepared for that. Again these will all be tough games. Miami beat us two years ago during the tournament in Durham and outplayed us. We have to be ready to play at a high level and hopefully this week we will do that.”
“Obviously the bigger games you are in and the better teams you play and the tougher the teams and the better the pitching the more prepared you are going to be. People saying our schedule is back loaded are not on the field taking on Virginia Tech and we did beat Clemson earlier and we did play Miami. I know what it looks like and Georgia Tech and Virginia were tough teams and we had to go to [Atlanta] on the road, but our schedule was tough all the way through. That’s just the way our league is. So I think the hard ball games that we are playing down the stretch and the tough pitches we are having to make and the clutch at bats when our guys are in there they prepare you, or at least they should.”