NC State baseball team hopes to rebound against UNC

jgiglio@newsobserver.comApril 14, 2014 

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N.C. State pitcher Carlos Rodon works from the mound during the second inning against Duke at the Durham Bulls Athletic Park.

ROBERT WILLETT — rwillett@newsobserver.com Buy Photo

N.C. State started the baseball season with so much confidence; there was talk of a parade to celebrate the national title. After Sunday’s collapse against Duke, there’s only confusion for the Wolfpack.

And that’s the last place the Wolfpack needs to be mentally with the only scheduled meeting of the season with rival North Carolina up next on Tuesday night in Durham.

This game was put together as a showcase for two teams that met in the College World Series last June, and three times in one an epic postseason span, but instead it has devolved into a survival game with implications not for national seeding in the NCAA tournament but merely a spot in the 64-team field.

The Wolfpack (20-15) enters the nonconference game with the Tar Heels (21-15) in the most fragile of psychological states after coughing up a 10-4 lead against Duke in the eighth inning of Sunday’s 11-10 loss.

After Sunday’s loss, star shortstop Trea Turner described the reeling Wolfpack, a top 10 team nationally to start the season but now 12th in the ACC, as a “little bit confused.”

“Anytime we do something good, something else fails us,” Turner said. “We didn’t hit at all Friday night, and Carlos (Rodon) pitched very well. And then today we hit very well, and the pitching kind of failed.

“We haven’t played a complete ball game all year. That’s what is going to happen when you don’t play a complete ball game.”

Sunday’s collapse gave Duke the series and dropped the Wolfpack to 6-12 in the ACC. This game with the Tar Heels, who are 9-9 in the ACC, won’t count in the standings but it could serve as a salvaging point for State’s season.

The Wolfpack is running out of time and chances to save its season, a concept not lost on coach Elliott Avent, who had hoped his team had turned a corner after taking two of three games at Clemson the first weekend of April.

But N.C. State went to East Carolina on April 9 and got shut out, 7-0. The Pack dropped the first game of the Duke series 2-0 on Friday. State won Saturday’s game with the Blue Devils 6-2 and built a six-run lead on Sunday.

“To come back and play this well the last two games just to give it up the way we gave it up – the way we gave it up was absolutely ridiculous – that’s an embarrassment,” Avent said after Sunday’s loss.

The Wolfpack has to somehow put the devastating loss behind them and get ready for the Tar Heels. The teams split two games in the CWS, with UNC ending State’s season with a 7-0 victory on June 20.

With so many of the main parts back from last year’s team, N.C. State went into this season with the stated goal of not just getting back to Omaha for the CWS but winning the school’s first national title in any sport since 1983.

There wasn’t any talk of another trip to Omaha or a parade after Sunday’s loss, actually there wasn’t much talk at all, Avent said.

“What are you going to say to the team after something like this?” Avent said. “They know what happened, they feel bad.”

A loss to UNC on Tuesday and that feeling will only get worse.

Laura Keeley contributed to this report.

Giglio: 919-829-8938

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