RALEIGH — Its a baseball axiom as old as the game: when a premier base stealer gets on first base, the saying goes, its as good as a double.
N.C. State freshman Trea Turner may be taking it a step further. When the speedy third baseman gets on base, if there is nobody ahead of him, it can be as good as a triple.
He gets on base, and Ill hear it from our dugout, and I dont hear that much, N.C. State coach Elliott Avent said. But Ill hear our guys says, Thanks for the triple. They have so much confidence in him.
For good reason.
Turner, a 6-foot-1, 171-pounder from Lake Worth, Fla., is rewriting the Wolfpack base-stealing record book. He also is vying for some ACC records already.
Turner tied the ACC single-game record with five steals in a game last weekend at Clemson and has 41 steals for the Wolfpack (26-12) , which is ranked 21st in the nation by Baseball America and is second in the ACCs Atlantic Division after taking two of three from Boston College this weekend.
Turner leads the nations in steals and broke the Wolfpack single-season record of 30 (Kyle Wilson, 2009) in just 31 games. With 15 regular-season games left, the ACC tournament and an almost-certain berth in the NCAA field of 64, the ACCs single season record of 63 -- set by former UNC star Brian Roberts in 1998 -- is within striking distance.
Turner has been clocked at 6.4 seconds in the 60-yard dash and 4.37 seconds in the 40, sprint times that place him in baseball scouts elite category, and his speed and mindset combine to disrupt opponents.
I dont think Brian [Roberts] had Turners pure speed, said John Manuel, Baseball Americas Editor in Chief. The mindset has to be the same. Trea Turner is always looking to go. And hes never satisfied with just stealing second. Every time he gets on base, hes a one-man rally.
Unsung, but not unseen
Turner was not the most heralded player in N.C. States standout recruiting class that entered school last fall. The group was ranked No. 4 in the nation by Baseball America. The best class in the ACC, it was headlined by catcher Brett Austin, a first-round pick who turned down big money to come to college instead of signing a professional contract, and left-handed pitcher Carlos Rodon, who is 7-0 for the Pack and leads the ACC in ERA.
For Turner, not generating publicity was nothing new. In talent-rich Florida, he hit .478 with 25 steals as a senior at Park Vista High but was not listed among the top 100 players in the state.
Growing up, I was always the smallest kid and people never really thought I could do stuff, make it this far, Turner said. I talked to the Clemson coach on the last day [of the series], and he said if he had known about me, he would have talked to me more. That kind of made my day, knowing that all the hard work I have done is paying off.
The Pittsburgh Pirates drafted Turner in the 20th round last June, but he stuck with the Pack, one only two Division I programs to recruit him.
I wanted to play in the ACC, and both the baseball and the academics [at N.C. State] were perfect for me, said Turner, a chemical engineering major.
Turner has been caught stealing only twice this season, both times when the pitcher threw behind him after he had already taken a step toward second. No catcher has been able to throw him out this season.
Sparking the Wolfpack
Turner, the Wolfpacks leadoff batter, has been the catalyst for an N.C. State offense that has scored 280 runs (7.4 per game), second in the ACC to Virginias 297.
Hes a game-changer, no doubt about it, Avent said. He has no fear any good base stealer has got to have that ingredient. But he calculates everything the number of looks the pitcher is going to give him, the pitchers time to the plate. He considers whether or not he thinks the other team is ready to make the play, the pressure of the game. He thinks its always on the other team, its never on him.
When Turner gets on base, it makes things happen for the batters who follow him. Shortstop Chris Diaz bats second for the Wolfpack and is hitting a team-high .372.
Turner is not just having an impact on the basepaths, though. He has played well at third base and can hurt opponents with his bat as well as his speed. He went 5-for-5 against Boston College on Saturday in the final game of the series to cap a 10-for-18 week that raised his batting average to .355, second on the team.
I would like to be known for more than just being fast, Turner said. I would like to be known as more of an all-around player, not just some that can run. Coach [Brian] Ward and Coach Hart worked with me on what I needed to do with my swing. I fixed a lot of things, and I think that has helped me bring my average up.
For Avent, Turner is more than an all-around player.
Every time I am around him, I am amazed at how smart a player he is, Avent said. He does so many good things. He has a great confidence in himself, but its a quiet confidence. He just does his job and keeps getting better and better. Hes creating things every time he gets on base.
And making his mark, one stolen base at a time.