RALEIGH — While Sunday night was anticlimactic for one of the most exciting series of the year for both N.C. State and North Carolina baseball, both coaches came away with a better sense of where their program is headed.
Because of ACC rules, the game cannot be made up because all series must last a maximum of three days. With the series starting on Friday night, Sunday’s contest could not be moved to a later date.
As for the game, the cancellation of a game on ESPNU was heartbreaking for N.C. State coach Elliott Avent.
“It’s disappointing because it’s State and Carolina, so you want to play,” Avent said. “It’s on national TV, so that would have been great exposure for our program. … It was a chance to showcase what it’s like to play here at State.
“I could sense in our players that they really wanted to play and I know they’re disappointed.”
Carolina coach Mike Fox kept his words to a minimum about his thoughts on the cancellation, but voiced frustration with the decision.
“All three games should have been played, they just should have,” Fox said. “It couldn’t have been played tonight because the conditions weren’t right. But it was not Coach Avent and I’s decision, so I think I just need to leave it at that.”
After the Wolfpack’s 15-game winning streak came to an abrupt halt in a 7-1 loss to the Tar Heels thanks to eight strong innings from Kent Emanuel, Avent’s squad responded with a 7-3 handling of Carolina thanks to a 10-strikeout performance from Carlos Rodon.
With both teams’ aces proving why they are considered to be the best in the ACC, the lessons learned for Avent came when he saw his team’s excitement to play in the rubber match Sunday.
“What I learn is what my players teach me,” Avent said. “The fact that they really wanted to play tonight tells me that they are confident. That’s good to know as a coach. We must really think we’re pretty good because we understand how good they are and still wanted to play this game.
“Carolina is the No. 1 team in the country. If they’re that good, that means we must be pretty good, too.”
As for the series, Fox said it was a challenge both mentally and physically for the players with two sellout crowds that culminated in the highest single-game attendance on Saturday with 3,123 fans.
“Without question this was one of the most difficult series we’ve had this year,” he said. “Not only are they a terrific opponent who’s been playing well and very confident, but it was also a hostile atmosphere. It was a tough series, no question.”
While many fans are already pondering when the next showdown will be between the two top 10 teams, Fox believes it will most certainly come during the ACC tournament.
“The ACC sets the schedule for the tournament, so if I had to guess I bet we’ll be paired against one another,” Fox said with a laugh. “… I hope it does happen because our players were really looking forward to today’s game.”
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