RED PITCHER PAGE 5
SHORTSTOP PAGE 4
ASSISTANT COACH PAGE 3
2 RED BASEEBAL • 2013
The boys of summer return to Doak STORY BY LUKE NADKARNI | PHOTO BY NATALIE CLAUNCH
ast season, a host of key players took the N.C. State baseball team on a wild journey. The spring of 2012 included 43 wins, a second-place finish in the ACC, an NCAA Tournament berth and a come-frombehind win against Vanderbilt in the Raleigh Regional before coming up a little bit short against top-ranked Florida in the Super Regional round. Many of those players are returned this season and are hungry for more. They include sophomore pitcher Carlos Rodon, the lefty phenom who posted a 9-0 record and a 1.57 ERA to earn the ACC’s Pitcher of the Year and Freshman of the Year awards. Sophomore third baseman Trea Turner stole 57 bases in 2012, shattering the Wolfpack’s single-season record. Senior outfielder Tarran Senay hit six home runs, drove in 32 runs, and delivered what turned out to be the hit that sent the Pack to the Super Regionals.
State also returns solid relief pitching in senior left-hander D.J. Thomas, senior righthander Chris Overman and sophomore lefty Travis Orwig. But not every contributor is back. Fan favorite outfielder Ryan Mathews took his 17 homers and 62 RBIs from 2012 to the Oakland Athletics. The Pittsburgh Pirates drafted speedy shortstop Chris Diaz in the 11th round. Sure-handed infielder Andrew Ciencin, whose .994 fielding percentage was the highest among regular Wolfpack starters, graduated in 2012. Other key players from last season who are no longer on the team include Vance Williams, John Gianis and Danny Canela. Despite the loss of some talent, head coach Elliot Avent said he’s not worried. “You never just ‘replace’ anybody,” Avent said. “Instead, when someone leaves, it becomes an opportunity for someone else to step up and do great things.”
One of those players is sophomore catcher Brett Austin. The Charlotte native was third on the team in doubles with 17 and drove in 37 runs in 2012, splitting time behind the plate and in the outfield. He also made just three errors in 62 games. Austin is likely to be the team’s full-time catcher this season. Senior infielder Grant Clyde and senior outfielder Bryan Adametz are two other players who may get more chances to contribute this season. The new players in the starting lineup will be expected to play the same type of baseball as their predecessors. “The offensive philosophy is the same,” assistant coach Chris Hart said. “[In] some games we’ll hit a bunch of doubles and homers, and there will be others where we may have to manufacture a run in the fifth inning.” The loss of some talent has not affected how people outside Raleigh view the Wolfpack.
State is ranked No. 8 in the NCAA’s Top 35. That’s good for second-highest in the ACC; archrival North Carolina checks in at No. 2. Avent said the team has been getting ready for the season just as it always has. “We’re approaching everything the same way,” Avent said. “Your ranking does not define how you practice.” That methodical approach has earned Avent the respect of his fellow coaches. The Pack was picked to win the ACC in a preseason coaches’ poll, edging out Carolina 10 votes to nine for the Tar Heels. Avent said all the talk is just that — talk. He said that it was up the players to prove themselves. “It’s easy to be told how good you are,” Avent said. “But we need that desire to be great from our players. The question I ask them is, do they want to be as great as people say they are?” That is the million-dollar question.
Hart brings talent to Pack
2013 • RED BASEEBAL
Assistant coach Chris Hart, middle, is perhaps the team’s most important asset.
STORY BY LUKE NADKARNI | PHOTO BY NATALIE CLAUNCH
he Wolfpack wouldn’t have been nearly as successful last season without a talented group of freshmen that included pitcher Carlos Rodon, who was named a finalist for the Golden Spikes award, and third baseman Trea Turner, who turned into a stolen base machine for the Wolfpack. While all of those underclassmen’s accolades were well-deserved, fans should save equal praise for the man responsible for bringing them to Raleigh. Assistant coach Chris Hart is a textbook example of hard work and patience paying off. After graduating from Florida State University in 2003 following a four-year career for the Seminoles, Hart served as the hitting and third base coach for one year at St. Petersburg College in Florida. In the summer of 2004, Hart worked for the Loudoun Rangers of the Shenandoah Valley League, a wooden bat league for college players. He left there to join the Wolfpack family; 2013 marks his ninth season as a member of State’s staff. “A couple of jobs were open here,” Hart said.
“I started as the director of operations, then “We can’t call them, we can’t text them, we became a volunteer assistant and just worked can’t talk to them. Most of it is through their my way up through the staff.” high school coach. But if I see a kid I want, I’m Today, Hart wears many hats for the Wolf- going to do my best to get him on campus.” pack. He is in charge planning each team pracHart is proving to be very good at his job. tice, as well as coaching hitLast season, the Wolfpack ting and the team’s catchers. boasted the No. 4 recruiting “He just wanted to coach class in the country as rated so badly,” head coach Elliot by Baseball America. Since Avent said of Hart. “As a diHart began serving as an onrector of operations, he didn’t field coach seven years ago, get to be on the field.” nine State players have earned Off the field, he is Avent’s All-ACC honors and 11 have chief recruiter, a position he’s signed professional contracts. Elliot Avent, held since 2010. “He’s been tremendous,” baseball head coach “Chris Hart has been unAvent said. “He’s always eibelievable for our program.” ther on the road recruiting Avent said. “Nobody works harder than him.” or making phone calls. His work ethic is reHart acknowledged that recruiting is no sponsible for getting us a top recruiting class.” walk in the park. With the NCAA’s strict rules Hart’s own career at the high school, college limiting coaches’ contact with prospective and professional levels probably doesn’t hurt players, a coach who’s too aggressive can get his coaching and recruiting prowess, either. his team in deep trouble. He was a star at Clearwater Central Catho“We’re not allowed to do much,” Hart said. lic High School in Florida and was named to
“Chris Hart has been unbelievable for our program.”
the state’s All-Star team as a senior in 1998. That same year, he was honored as the state’s American Legion Player of the Year. He was then drafted in the 46th round by the Boston Red Sox, but opted to go the collegiate route instead. He struggled with injuries early in his career but bounced back to have a productive senior year for a Seminoles team that made it to the NCAA Super Regionals. Hart saw action in every FSU game that year, hitting four home runs and knocking in 35 RBIs. Hart’s versatility as a coach was foreshadowed in Tallahassee. In college, he played seven of the nine positions in the field, with pitcher and center field being the only exceptions. Now, with the Wolfpack ranked in the Top 10 as the season begins, Hart and the rest of the team are primed to build off of last season’s Super Regional appearance. “Step one is believing you can do it,” Hart said. “And I think we’re at that stage.”
4 RED BASEEBAL • 2013
Turner’s productivity guides Pack STORY BY JONATHAN STOUT | PHOTO BY NATALIE CLAUNCH
ophomore shortstop Trea Turner is re- setting up the ground ball better at shortstop,” turning after a stellar freshman season, Turner said. “I think it would be a more comwhich saw a Super Regional berth for fortable year.” the Wolfpack and summer stint with the USA Though he spent time at second base this collegiate National. summer with Team USA, the sophomore said If there’s one thing Turner knows how to do, he wants to stay at the shortstop position at it’s to get on base. He’s fast and can swing the the next level. bat. He’s essential to State’s success, whether Comfort and consistency are things the in the batter’s box, on the base paths or guard- team will look to build on following last ing the infield. year’s incredible run to the Gainesville Super Last season, the then-freshRegional. man phenom led the nation in “One thing we have over stolen bases with 57. Twentylast year’s team is we kind of nine were consecutive steals know how to win,” Turner to open the season. said. “Going into this seaHis lightning fast speed son I think we know what to helped the Lake Worth, Fla., expect and that we can win native steal five bases in one every single game.” game against Clemson last The bar has been set high season, becoming only the this season, as the Wolfpack sixth player in Atlantic Coast is ranked No. 9 in the country Conference history to accomand picked to take the ACC plish the feat. in a preseason coaches’ poll. “I like getting on base, steal Turner said the team’s exTrea Turner, within the next few pitches, periences from last season sophomore shortstop get to third, and then a sac fly should help the team in 2013 scores me,” Turner said. “I reand beyond. ally like to put pressure on the other team and Whether it’s with his glove, bat or quick feet, make it so they feel uncomfortable. I think just Turner should continue to make his, and the being on base leads to bigger innings.” Pack’s, presence felt. Turner started all 63 games last season at “We don’t have to [think] ‘Maybe we’re third base, hitting .336, the 10th-highest aver- going to win this game, maybe we’re not,’” age in the ACC. Turner said. “We think we’re going to win, He finished with five home runs, 13 doubles and that’s a demeanor that a lot of teams have and 43 RBI. that get to Omaha.” This season, Turner will make the switch to shortstop, his natural position. “I’m more comfortable with the throw and
“I like getting on base, steal within the next few pitches, get to third, and then a sac fly scores me.”
STORY BY DANIEL WILSON | PHOTO BY NATALIE CLAUNCH
n a team stacked with talented up“Mentally, I improved a lot,” Rodon said. “In perclassmen, it was a freshman who high school, I considered myself a ‘thrower,’ contributed the most to a success- but just by playing one year [of college baseful 2012 baseball campaign that ended in the ball], you can learn so much.” Super Regional in Gainesville, Fla. Rodon will throw against some of the toughNow a sophomore, 2012 ACC Pitch- est teams in the NCAA, including No. 2 North er of the Year and Freshman of the Carolina, No. 11 Florida State and No. 21 Year Carlos Rodon w i l l assume t he Georgia Tech. role as N.C. State’s number one starter. After falling to the Tar Heels despite Rodon’s “[The team’s ‘ace’] is a nice title, but I have scoreless nine-inning performance in 2012, to go out there [and pitch],” Rodon said. “It the Wolfpack will have to take advantage of means nothing until I actually go out there, the hurler’s tenacity throughout the confercompete and win some games. We will see ence schedule if they hope to live up to the prewhat happens this year.” season coaches’ poll hype and win the ACC. Rodon, a preseason All-American, made his “Expectations are nice, but they do not mean mark in the previous season early on, striking anything until you get on that field,” Rodon out the first three batters he faced in his debut said. “I am looking forward to getting on the against Marshall University field and seeing how it plays and earning his first colleout.” giate win. In his first start, The southpaw’s potential he pitched five scoreless inwas evident throughout his nings against UNC Wilmhigh school years. After ington, striking out three leading Holly Springs High batters. School to the NCHSAA 4-A The Holly Springs native, State Championship game, one of only two undefeatRodon was selected in the ed pitchers in the NCAA, 16th round of the Major dominated throughout the League Baseball draft by Carlos Rodon, course of the season, finthe Milwaukee Brewers. sophomore pitcher ishing with a 9-0 record. Rodon chose State over the Rodon led the conference possibility of playing for the with 114.2 innings and a 1.57 ERA. He also Class-A Wisconsin Timber Rattlers or going struck out 135 batters, placing him second in to junior college to speed his progress toward the ACC and tied for third nationally. the pros. “When I get out on the field, I try to compete “I have heard stuff about junior college, and to the best of my ability,” Rodon said. “I have I have been asked about it a lot,” Rodon said. “I great teammates behind me. It is not just me had never thought of it once. I was 100 percent winning the games. The whole team is win- certain of going back to school.” ning the games.” Rodon said that while the team wants to acRodon’s longevity will play a major factor in complish many things in 2013, the one overthe team’s success. His complete games against arching goal is simple: returning to the College Maryland and Duke last year proved that he’s World Series for the first time since 1968. more than capable of going the distance. “The goal is not to get to Omaha,” Rodon Another key to his success in 2013 will be his said. “Our goal is to win the whole thing.” maturity from having a season under his belt.
“When I get out on the field, I try to compete to the best of my ability.”
2013 • RED BASEEBAL
Rodon looks to avoid sophomore slump
6 RED BASEEBAL• 2013
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Despite the hype around the program’s 2013 campaign, head coach Elliott Avent doesn’t like to dish in the expectations others have set for the Wolfpack. Rather, he’s excited about the hype not only surrounding N.C. State’s program, but each team in the state of North Carolina. In a state that doesn’t have any Major League-level teams but boasts some successful minor league clubs, such as the Durham Bulls, the TripleA affiliate of the Tampa Bay Devil Rays, college baseball is the talk of the town for the upcoming summer. “It is neat to have that kind of exposure to a place where I think baseball grew up,” Avent said. Not only is the Wolfpack a top-tier team hailing from the top of the Carolinas, with a preseason ranking of No. 8 in the country, rival North Carolina is ranked as the No.
1 team in the land in Baseball well. Appalachian State, who America’s poll. The Heels are took down the Wolfpack in its ranked second in the College first series of the season, was Baseball Preseason top-40. picked to finish fourth in the Avent said he takes satisfac- Southern Conference in its tion in the attention the state preseason media poll. has garnered leading up to the State split the season series start of the season. against East Carolina last “That means that North season. Elon, another in-state Carolina is alive,” Avent said. opponent State will see, is “Baseball has been a big sport currently picked as the Southin the state of ern ConferNorth Caroe n c e ’s f a lina since I vorite in the was a little preseason boy. I think coaches’ poll. to have this Among the kind of flavor Wolfpack’s and this kind in-state Atof national lantic Coast attention in Conference North Carobaseball oplina and the ponents are Elliot Avent Triangle [is D u k e a nd baseball head coach good].” Wa ke ForThe baseball prominence est. State won both series last in the Tar Heel state doesn’t season in sweeps. stop in the Triangle. The “So many good baseball state is filled with promi- teams in the state is what nent baseba l l programs makes our schedule so tough. from the mountains to the outer banks. East Carolina is ranked in the top—40 as STATE continued page 7
“So many good baseball teams in the state is what makes our schedule so tough.”
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continued from page 6
We play the ACC schedule and then the teams we play within the state, they’re so good.” These in-state opponents, along with other North Carolina foes such as UNCGreensboro, UNC-Wilmington, UNC-Charlotte and Davidson will challenge the Wolfpack this season. The Palmetto state is no slouch either. South Carolina is also producing programs that will present the Wolfpack with a challenge this season. Coastal Carolina is also a national top-40 team this season. The Chanticleers were picked to finish first in the Big South Conference’s South Division and had 12 first place votes to finish atop the conference in its preseason poll.
The Pack lost to the Chanticleers, 3-2, in their only meeting last season at the Coastal Carolina University Invitational. Clemson
will also be on the Pack’s ACC calendar The last time football swept the state was in 2003, and the current men’s basketball’s only in-state loss this season came in a rematch with Duke at Cameron Indoor. With what Avent describes as the most talented team the Pack has had since he’s been here, State is poised to get over the hurdle, especially against North Carolina, and
PRESEASON NATIONALLY RANKED TEAMS IN THE CAROLINAS: No. 2 North Carolina No. 7 South Carolina No. 8 N.C. State SOURCE: N.C. STATE ATHLETICS
prevail as the Carolina’s top team.
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