Shaky start for NC State baseball in 3-0 loss to Canisius

jgiglio@newsobserver.comFebruary 16, 2014 

— You can take N.C. State’s loss to Canisius in its baseball opener Sunday one of two ways.

It’s February, still winter with snow in the parking lot even, and there are 55 games left. No reason to panic.

Or you can be concerned the No. 5 team in the country lost 3-0 at home to a Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference team despite Carlos Rodon, perhaps the best pitcher in school history, being on the mound.

Wolfpack coach Elliott Avent chose the latter.

“I put a lot of stock in one game,” an irritated Avent said. “That game counts, it was real and it was who we were today and it wasn’t very good.”

N.C. State didn’t pick up where it left off last season in Omaha, Neb., in the College World Series. There were two errors and a couple of “almost” defensive plays, like the fifth-inning single by Jesse Kelso that hit off of the glove of Wolfpack first baseman Kyle Cavanaugh, which led to a run.

The Golden Griffins’ second run, in the third inning, came after new left fielder Bubby Riley couldn’t grab a ball at the warning track.

Canisius, on the other hand, was in midseason form with its defense, especially shortstop Ronnie Bernick and second baseman Jose Tarralba. The Golden Griffins won 42 games in 2013 and were in the Triangle in North Carolina’s regional for the NCAA tournament.

“They made great plays,” Avent said. “They’re a veteran team. That’s a good baseball team.”

The two-game series only came about after the Wolfpack’s trip to Santa Barbara, Calif., was scotched by the winter weather. Avent called around and wanted to find a strong team.

He got one and after one loss, one that might help knock some reality into an N.C. State team which is straddling the line between confidence and overconfidence.

“Maybe we’ve heard too much about how good we are and maybe we’re not that good,” Avent said.

Junior shortstop Trea Turner, who went 3-for-4 with three singles, credited Canisius for playing well. He said it’s part of the new reality for the Wolfpack, which won 50 games last season and made the CWS for the first time since 1968.

“Everybody is going to bring their best game and try to beat us because we have that target on our back now,” Turner said. “They played a very good game.”

Rodon, who went 10-3 in 2013, hit three batters and gave up back-to-back doubles to start the game.

Rodon, who has a 2-2 career record during February and 16-2 during other months, said he wasn’t consistent enough to win.

“My command overall today was up and down, in and out and real inconsistent,” the junior left-hander said.

Rodon, who gave up four hits, struck out six and threw 96 pitches in six innings, said he agreed with Avent about the importance of the loss.

“The 56 regular-season games you play, they lead to getting to the postseason,” Rodon said. “Every one of those games means a whole lot.”

The only silver lining for N.C. State? Last year’s team opened with a loss, with Rodon on the hill, and look how that turned out.

N.C. State will host Canisius again at 1 p.m. Monday. Like Sunday’s game, admission will be free and there will be general seating for all fans.

Giglio: 919-829-8938

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