Wednesday with Mike Fox

Lassiter

The No. 1 Tar Heels began their season is dominating fashion, in recording two wins over Seton Hall and one over Coastal Carolina by a combined score of 25-3. Next up is a weekend home series against Stony Brook. Inside Carolina caught up with the head coach Mike Fox on Wednesday ...

This Week
Sat. vs. Stony Brook
Sun. vs. Stony Brook
Sun. vs. Stony Brook II
Coach Fox, can you give your perspective on the first weekend of the season?
"That was the most important thing, we were able to open up our season. Opening Day was sensational. It was probably one of the best ones since I've been in at UNC in terms of the weather, the crowd, atmosphere and the result of the game and how well Kent [Emanuel] threw. It was a great start to our season."

How did it come about that the Coastal Carolina game got scheduled with a short turnaround from the weekend?
"Our goal is to always play every game that we are allowed to play. That is what the kids want to do and we are committed to doing that. So as soon as we knew we were only going to be able to play Seton Hall two games, Coach Forbes and Jackson both immediately went on the internet and started searching. The fact that there are so many Division I programs in North and South Carolina, we found Coastal had canceled a game and Coach Forbes put in a call and they said sure. It came together pretty quickly and easily."

Every year the Diamond Heels have a mantra of pitching and defense. To that end, you were able to get a number of freshmen pitchers onto the mount…
"That was important that we try to get those kids on the mound as early as we possibly could and the game Sunday allowed us a chance to do that and bring them in with the least amount of pressure that we could. So we have a comfortable lead and we could run Trent [Thornton], Reilly [Hovis], Taylore [Cherry] and get their first inning under their belt as Tar Heels and I am glad that we were able to get that on Sunday."

Looking back on the complete game, shutout performance by Kent Emanuel on Opening Day against Seton Hall, the most interesting thing was that he felt that he had room to improve after the game. Can you discuss his performance from your perspective?
"Well, he was good enough. I can't believe he wasn't that ACC Pitcher of the Week or even shared it with Buck Farmer at Georgia Tech. I am more upset with that because I think he should be recognized - there are not too many kids who on Opening Day throw a complete game shutout. He was typical Kent. He gives us a chance to win. We were struggling to score runs and he keeps us in the game. A lot of first pitch strikes and he makes them swing. He didn't strike out a whole lot but doesn't walk any either. It's a typical Kent Emanuel performance. I am glad he was able to finish. I don't think we have anyone else who could make that play to end the game. He is a terrific athlete and one of the best fielding pitchers we have and that showed on the last play of the game."

What have you seen early on in terms of the leadership and chemistry in the clubhouse and the dugout?
"This team really seems to get along and really care about each other. That does start with our seniors and I have to give them a lot of credit for that. Everybody else is just adjusting and recognizing their role and place on the team right now. That is really important. This team works really hard and well together. You have to start with that because that gives you a chance to have a good season."

Landon Lassiter has started off the season at second base and got a hot start with the bat, but committed three errors so far. How as a coach do you approach a player to improve defensively at a new position while keeping their confidence up?
"The best way for me to keep their confidence up is to write their name in the lineup. You will know when maybe the coaches don't have the confidence, or the faith or trust in you when your name is not in the lineup. They have to start with that then they have to build within. We can only do so much to build kids up. They have to believe in themselves. Landon is the last freshman that I would be concerned about as he does not let a whole lot of things bother him. You can see that when he gets a hit he is the same. He does not change. I think that will serve him well. He is going to be really good player for us and a very good defensive player. He is adjusting to playing second base as he had not played it much. He has been a shortstop all his life and there is a difference. He will figure it out. He really wants to be good."

Speaking of freshmen, another freshman has impressed so far in outfielder Skye Bolt, batting 8-for-12 and making plays in the field.
"It is always good to see those young players in the lineup get off to a good start. It does build their confidence. As we know confidence is tied to performance in a lot of ways. He had a good first two days for us and made a terrific play on the ball he caught in foul territory [on Friday]. I know people are going to focus on the number of hits that he got but I thought that was one of the most impressive plays for the weekend for us. It shows you his athleticism and speed and he will have to continue to build on that."

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Do you have an update on Hobbs Johnson's injury status? Astute baseball fans get very nervous when they see forearm injuries ...
"It is nothing serious. The word I am getting back is that it is a strained flexor tendon. A little tight and so I don't know what his status is for this weekend. He got treatment yesterday. He is probably doubtful for this weekend. We are not going to do anything to rush him back certainly this time of the year. It is not anything serious. He will be able to recover and get treatment with us and he will be back on the mound soon."

This season it appears that the baseball program has headed up a program under Michael Beale, in Marketing, to emphasize that there aren't obstacles for fans to enjoy coming out the Bosh. Can you discuss the focus on improvements and what fans can expect this season?
"I don't think there has been many obstacles in the past. I think this year we have made more of a conscious effort just to promote the fact that ‘hey it's pretty easy parking.' I think that we are the one sport on our campus that our parking is easiest for. We have eliminated the problem with getting out of the deck slowly after games. We are having fireworks on four Saturday nights of ACC games. Obviously our new video board is going to enhance the experience and new concessions and new types and styles of food during the ACC weekends. So again I think Michael has done a terrific job and I think Opening Day Friday showed that."

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