Pack thinks baseball title

ACC crown has eluded grasp

calexander@newsobserver.comFebruary 14, 2012 

— Elliott Avent has won 556 games in 15 years as N.C. State's baseball coach and taken the Wolfpack to the NCAA tournament 11 times.

But there's still something missing: an ACC championship. The Pack has not won an ACC title since 1992.

If that bothers Avent, he isn't letting on.

"I don't think it stamps you for what your program is about," Avent said Monday. "We've done a good job here at N.C. State. I'm so proud of the consistency with which our guys have gone about their business, both on and off the field and in the classroom. ...

"But championships ... are very, very important. The ACC championship is very special."

The Pack has been close under Avent, reaching four ACC tournament title games. In 2008, State forced a third and deciding game against Georgia in the NCAA Super Regional, one victory away from the College World Series, but lost.

The Pack has just one CWS appearance, in 1968.

"So close, so many times," Avent said. "It gnaws at you a little bit. We're going to get there."

The Wolfpack will open a new season Friday against Marshall at Doak Field. State was 35-27 overall and 15-15 in the ACC last season, again making the NCAA field but being eliminated in three regional games.

Avent said he likes the mix of this year's team. Seniors Andrew Ciencin and Grant Sasser have been named captains - the first time Avent has had team captains in 10 years. State has a quality closer in Chris Overman and a senior centerfielder, Brett Williams, who is one of the country's best defensively.

The recruiting class, ranked fourth nationally by Baseball America, added freshman pitcher Carlos Rodon from Holly Springs and freshman catcher Brett Austin from Charlotte. Austin, a switch-hitter, was a supplemental first-round draft pick by the San Diego Padres last year but decided to play college baseball. Rodon, who helped Holly Springs High win the state 4A title as a senior, was a 16th-round pick by the Milwaukee Brewers and would have gone higher had he not been committed to playing for the Pack.

Rodon, a 6-foot-4 left-hander with a 97 mph fastball, might be the starter Friday.

"This is the best defensive team we have had in my 16 years at N.C. State," Avent said. "And it's the best team speed we've had in my 16 years."

The Pack will open its ACC season March 9 against Georgia Tech at Doak Field. The ACC tournament will begin May 23 and will be in Greensboro. Both dates have been circled by the Wolfpack.

"I think in past years we went into the season kind of feeling it out and kind of seeing where we're going to go from there," Ciencin said. "But this team we've got a goal in mind and I think right now that's the ACC championship.

"We want to get ready obviously for opening weekend but in the long run to be prepared for the ACC tournament. That's where our mindset is. We've been preparing for it."

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