Pack’s Turner eager to erase memories of Clemson series in ACC tourney

calexander@newsobserver.comMay 21, 2013 

— Forgive N.C. State shortstop Trea Turner if he has a slight shudder Wednesday night when he takes the field against Clemson.

It’s just that the Tigers’ orange might still have Turner seeing a little red.

The Wolfpack and Tigers face off in the opening round of the ACC Baseball Championship at Durham Bulls Athletic Park. For Turner and the Pack, it’s been some baseball journey since the two teams tangled in early March.

"I’m sure Trea remembers Clemson," NCSU coach Elliott Avent said Monday. "It’s a bad memory for him in a lot of ways."

On March 8, in N.C. State’s first ACC game, the Pack lost to the Tigers 10-5 at Doak Field. More important, N.C. State lost Turner, who stepped awkwardly on the first-base bag trying to beat out an infield hit and broke his ankle on the final play of the game.

The Tigers won the next day 7-4 before the Pack won the series finale 4-1. As Turner put it, "They kind of took it to us in that series. We’ve grown a lot since the last time we played."

Turner missed 11 games in all, the Pack going 5-6. N.C. State also had to deal with injuries to second baseman Logan Ratledge, centerfielder Brett Williams and pitcher Logan Jernigan before getting some healthy bodies back, steadying and reeling off a 15-game winning streak, its longest since 2003.

"We were 3-6 (in the ACC)," Avent said. "The guys got beat up a little bit, had their egos bruised, had their confidence a little bit shattered. It’s easy ... to succumb to that, and I think the leadership and toughness of this team have been special."

The Pack closed with 42 regular-season wins and was 19-10 in the ACC – the runner-up to Florida State in the Atlantic Division by a half-game. Turner, after hitting over .400 much of the season, finished at .383, second in the ACC only to Mike Papi of Virginia, who hit .408.

Turner and sophomore lefthander Carlos Rodon were named first-team All-ACC for the second consecutive season. Tarran Senay, switched from the outfield to first base in his senior season, was a second-team All-ACC selection.

The Pack’s starting pitching has been spotty, but Avent said a deep bullpen has been a "godsend."

"We got on a roll and learned how to win tough games," Rodon said.

The Tigers (39-17, 18-12) lost their last two games of the regular season at Florida State but are 12th in this week’s NCAA Division I RPI rankings. Sophomore right-hander Daniel Gossett (9-3, 2.20 ERA), who will start Wednesday for Clemson, was a second-team All-ACC pick.

"I think we’ll roll with the fact they had Turner when we played them at the beginning of the year, we faced Rodon at the beginning of the year, and we still took two out of three," Clemson designated hitter/utility player Shane Kennedy said Tuesday. "I think we’re going to go with that confidence – we did it once, why not do it again?"

Avent said freshman Brad Stone (2-2, 6.23 ERA), a lefty from Charlotte, would be the likely starter for N.C. State, ninth in the NCAA’s RPI. Stone allowed one run in 4 1-3 innings in the Pack’s 4-1 win over Clemson in March.

A lot could be at stake in the ACCs. A championship for the Pack would be its first since 1992 and solidify its chances of hosting both an NCAA regional and Super Regional.

"We’ve done what we need to do," Avent said. "What we’d like to do more than anything is win an ACC championship. It would mean a lot to our players, it would mean a lot to our program and a lot to our fans.

"So we focus on the ACC championship. And then after that we focus on the national championship."

Alexander: 919-829-8945; Twitter: ice_chip

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