This Week With Mike Fox

Inside Carolina caught up with the head coach of the Diamond Heels after the team's series victory at Boston College to improve to 18-13 (7-8 ACC). Up next is a five-game game home-stand -- North Carolina A&T, Coastal Carolina and then a series against Wake Forest.

Can you recap the Tar Heels' last week?
"It was overall a good week for us. Certainly to rebound from our previous week and to have a big mid-week win against a good Wilmington club and the series in Boston was challenging on many fronts with the travel and the weather. We were pleased certainly to win the series but disappointed in letting the Saturday game get away from us. I am very proud of our ball club in responding and getting a big win (Sunday) to win the series."

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The bullpen had eight walks on Saturday in the extra innings game. What happened in the game?
"You know it happens. It just happens in this game some times. Certainly, not to make excuses, but the conditions there were difficult there with the wind and the pitchers were warming up in left field in the bullpen and we bring them in the game and it is a scenario for them with the background and throwing into the teeth of the wind - those guys just could not find the strike zone. I think that the important thing is Reilly Hovis, we give him the ball the next day and he is lights out. They tell you sometimes that experience is what you get when you don't get what you want. There is no truer statement than that some times. We may not have gotten a win out of it but we hopefully gained some valuable experience out of it that will help us – and already helped us on Sunday – but also down the road."

The Diamond Heels only committed one error against Boston College last weekend after committing eight last weekend against Duke. What were your observations on the improvement in the field in Boston in much worse weather conditions?
"Yes, it was really important for us. I think our players gained some confidence in the scenario that you just mentioned. The one error you mentioned that we made – well I think we made more than the one that hit the box score as we rushed a throw from the mound that Jack [Geraghty] didn't have to and then another ball that was hit really hard that handcuffed Wood Myers that would have been a touch play anywhere. I thought our outfielders for the most part were really, really good. I thought Skye Bolt made the catch of the weekend in the middle of the game Sunday with the score tied. If the ball went over his head they take the lead and the game may not have played out like it did. We have to continue to improve defensively and this weekend was hopefully a good step towards that.

Speaking of getting things going – Landon Lassiter appears to be heating up at the plate. To what do you attribute his turnaround?
"Landon has had some tough luck and started off slow and recovering from his foot injury. Then when he did hit some balls hard it is just baseball and some of them were not falling for him. Then it is frustration and you are pressing a bit but I don't think that Landon ever lacked for confidence – especially in the batter's box. He played well defensively after we set him out for a couple of games at third to just let him kind of regroup. I think it all goes hand in hand. Then a strange thing happens - tells you all you need to know about this crazy game [of baseball] - he doesn't have a single extra base hit all season then he hits two in one inning – the same inning. Go figure. But that was really, really good to see. That came at a really good time for us because we needed it."

How important was getting the weekend off on the right foot with a complete game shutout by Trent Thornton on Friday in the opening game of the series?
"We did really need that. It helped us beyond just the win on Friday but helping us the rest of the weekend with our bullpen. It was one of those things where the wind was blowing in and it was a matter of Trent being able to use his great stuff and letting them swing the bat. And as you mentioned earlier they played good defense behind him and got a little bit of a lead where he did not have to be so fine with all of his pitches and just kind of pitch to contact which is not something that he normally does. But it was important for him to go for three or four innings on Friday. Certainly a great outing for him."

One of the Tar Heels who had a spectacular week was senior Tom Zengel - he knocked in 10 this week.
"Tommy is just a great story. As has been written about seeing a senior having the success that he has had staying with it and it is so nice to see him have the success. He has always been very team oriented and that keeps up as a senior. He pulls hard for his teammates and it has never been all about him. I think that helps you through the process, the fact that he is helping us, continuing getting better and gaining his confidence. Staying in there against lefties and he's gotten some big swings of the bat for us with the home run and the doubles - that has been very important for our team and I think everybody associated with our program has been very happy for him."

Zac Gallen started the Sunday game against Duke, where he was unable to finish the first inning, then started the Tuesday game against UNC-W before taking the mound on Sunday against Boston College. Can you discuss the psychology of getting a starting pitcher back out on the mound quickly after a disappointing outing to get back on track?
"I thought that was important for Zac just to get him back out there against Wilmington and just try to flush his start against Duke. You don't want kids to sit around and think about it for too long. Zac is an important part of our team and our pitching staff. Yesterday against BC it was very, very critical for him to give us four or five innings, I thought, and he made some big pitches when he needed to and he got out of a couple of jams with some big pitches. You can tell he had some confidence back after his start against Wilmington and he did exactly what we needed him to do to help the team win."

Adrian Chacon has earned some playing time at first recently. What makes him a good fit there?
"Adrian has some versatility and played some third base before he got to North Carolina with the transition to first. Of course he is one of our other catchers and started the season back there. Kids who can play multiple positions always give us a lot of options and it helps them get on the field. He could be a very good first baseman. He is a good player with a nice swing and just needs some confidence. He is learning how to hit at this level. I thought his hit of the execution of the slash was very important in that inning where we scored seven runs. Just to move the ball on the ground - got a ball in the hole and made some things happen for us. He is going through that trial and error of hitting that freshmen do and trying to figure it out. He is a really good kid, works hard and has a chance at being a really good player."

The team has a full week here, a five-game homestand this week. Can you preview the coming week for the Diamond Heels?
"It will be nice to be at home all week certainly. Of course most importantly we want it to warm up as well. Here comes a really, really tough stretch for us for the next three weeks. Just this week and the following two with five games a week and all the kids have on them academically. This is a tough three or four weeks for baseball players trying to manage their academics with these night games and playing five games a week. That is something that we tried to challenge them with this morning and yesterday. It will be nice to be at home and we need to try to build on yesterday and our offense appears to be gaining some confidence and hopefully that will help us this week."

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