N.C. State has unfinished baseball business

Wolfpack is ready for another shot to win ACC championship

calexander@newsobserver.comMay 22, 2012 

— N.C. State’s Andrew Ciencin calls it unfinished business. And he means it.

The Wolfpack has not won an ACC baseball championship since 1992. Two years ago, at the ACC championship in Greensboro, the Pack reached the title game against Florida State only to fall short again.

Ciencin, then a sophomore, had three hits, including a homer, and drove in two runs in the championship game. It wasn’t enough. The Pack led 3-2 in the seventh inning only to have the Seminoles ignite for an 8-3 win.

“It makes you want to go back and get in that championship game and win it,” Ciencin, a team captain, said Monday. “We want a championship.

“We really haven’t accomplished our first goal of the season or done anything yet. The ACC championship is our first goal.”

The Wolfpack goes into the tournament this week as the No. 3 seed, its highest since 1993. The Pack finished 19-11 in ACC play, second in the Atlantic Division to Florida State, is 38-15 overall and ranked 13th nationally by Baseball America.

N.C. State will play its opener Wednesday against Miami (34-19, 16-14 ACC) at 3 p.m. at NewBridge Bank Park in Greensboro. The Pack and Hurricanes were placed in the pool with second-seeded North Carolina and seventh-seeded Wake Forest – no slouches in that foursome.

“Wake Forest is coming off a sweep of Clemson and played well down the stretch to get into the tournament, and Carolina has been on fire for about two months and playing well and pitching so well,” N.C. State coach Elliott Avent said. “You know Miami’s reputation and what they’ve meant to college baseball through the years.”

The Wolfpack and Hurricanes did not play this season, and Avent had been coy when asked if left-hander Carlos Rodon – the ACC Pitcher of the Year and the league’s top freshman – would start Wednesday. Avent said Tuesday night that right-hander Ethan Ogburn would start.

Rodon, from Holly Springs, is 9-0 with a 1.59 ERA and has been overpowering but coming off his shakiest outing of the season. He pitched 6 1/3 innings against Florida State on Thursday, giving up three hits and four runs (three earned) while issuing nine walks.

The Pack won 10-5 in the opener of the final ACC series of the regular season, then dropped the final two games to the Seminoles, the top seeds in the tournament.

“Carlos had his worst game of the year against No. 1 Florida State and still found a way to win,” said senior Ryan Mathews, an outfielder/designated hitter who was named first-team All-ACC on Monday.

“That says a lot about him.”

Ciencin said the two losses at Florida State shouldn’t be damaging to the Pack, much less discouraging.

“It’s a different mentality in the postseason,” the first baseman said. “You’ve got to be ready to roll every out, every pitch. The focus really amps up now.

“Obviously we didn’t play our best those last two at FSU but the past is the past. This team just lets things go.”

Other than thinking about ending that 20-year ACC title drought, that is. The Pack isn’t letting that go.

“It was our goal at the beginning of the season and it has been in the back of our minds all season,” Mathews said.

“We want it, for each other, for everyone.”

Alexander: 919-829-8945

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