NC State moves to 2-0 after a 1-0 victory over William & Mary
Sophomore Carlos Rodon (6-2) strikes out nine as Elliott Avent's squad records its 19th win in its last 20 contests.
As Elliott Avent heads into his 10th year as NC State's head baseball coach, his coaching legacy with the Wolfpack is beginning to take shape, a legacy of victories and of individual and collective achievement.
NC State has had just 16 head coaches in 100 years of varsity baseball, and only three of them coached the Wolfpack longer than Avent, whose 338 career victories rank him third in the history of the program. Avent has taken the Wolfpack to six NCAA regionals and one NCAA Super Regional. He has coached eight All-Americans. NC State has produced five first-team All-Americans, and Avent coached three of them. His players have earned first-team All-ACC 17 times and made second team all-conference 10 times. Major League Baseball has drafted 30 of Avent's players, including two of them twice. Avent was named ACC and National Coach of the Year in 2003, and was selected for the USA Baseball coaching staff in 2004.
The past three years, Avent's achievements have come at a fast and furious pace. Three NCAA Tournament appearances, four All-Americans, an NCAA Regional championship, an NCAA Super Regional berth, 13 All-ACC players, a new ballpark, a contract extension, ACC and National Coach of the Year honors, and a spot on the USA Baseball coaching staff -- all of that has come Avent's way in the past three years.
The 2005 campaign was the latest in a string of wildly successful seasons for Avent and the Wolfpack, which finished the season with a 41-19 record and its third NCAA appearance in as many years, the sixth in Avent's nine years in Raleigh. After dropping two of its first three ACC series, the 2005 Wolfpack battled its way back into national contention by winning each of its last eight weekend series, seven of them in conference play, and did not lose a midweek game all season for the first time in 11 years. NC State went 27-4 at home, the Pack's second most home wins ever and the third best winning percentage ever at Doak Field. The Wolfpack had just two losing streaks all season, both losing streaks lasting just three games.
Numerous players had standout individual seasons for the Pack in '05. Junior closer Joey Devine won five games and saved 12, making him the first NC State reliever ever and just the third in Atlantic Coast Conference history to record 10 or more saves in a season three times. Devine finished his career as NC State's all-time leader in appearances with 87 and saves with 36. He averaged 12.3 strikeouts per nine innings in his career, 13.3 K's per nine innings in 2005. Devine became just the sixth NC State player and the 23rd in ACC history to earn first-team all-conference honors three times. The Atlanta Braves capped his incredible season by selecting him in the first round, with the 27th overall pick, in the 2005 First-Year Player Draft.
Sophomore first baseman Aaron Bates had one of the greatest offensive seasons in school history. Bates batted .425 for the season, the second highest single-season average ever by a Wolfpack hitter, and led the Pack in virtually every offensive category except stolen bases and triples. Bates, who missed the ACC batting title by just two points, batted an even .500 over the final 24 games of the season, and .470 over the final 32 games. Bates was a first-team All-ACC pick, and later was tabbed third-team All-American by Baseball America and Collegiate Baseball. Junior catcher Jake Muyco joined Devine and Bates on the first-team all-conference team, and freshman second baseman Ramon Corona was named to the second team. Sophomore righthander Gib Hobson tossed NC State's first no-hitter in 12 years in early March and was named National Pitcher of the Week. And freshman Andrew Brackman joined the Wolfpack at the conclusion of baseball season and quickly emerged as a dominant starting pitcher, posting a 4-0 record with a 2.09 ERA in 10 appearances, all of them Wolfpack victories. In June, Muyco and Bates joined Devine as Wolfpack players taken in the MLB draft, both of them taken in the eighth round, Muyco by the Cubs and Bates by the Marlins. Senior righthander Phil Davidson signed a free-agent minor league contract with the Kansas City Royals.
The 2005 season was NC State's second in newly renovated Doak Field, which was rebuilt over the 2003 and 2004 seasons at a cost of more than $5 million. The new ballpark -- which features offices for the coaching staff, a modern locker room and lounge for the players, indoor batting cages, new and expanded dugouts, and a modern new press box -- provides the Wolfpack's players with all the comforts and ameneties one would expect from a first-class college facility.
That's a big year, but Avent should be used to that by now. In 2004, his Wolfpack made its second consecutive trip to the NCAA Tournament, and two NC State pitchers -- Vern Sterry and Michael Rogers -- earned All-America honors for the second year in a row. Rogers and Sterry joined reliever Joey Devine to make NC State the first school in Atlantic Coast Conference history to have three pitchers make first-team All-ACC in the same year.
Sterry and Rogers formed one of college baseball's most lethal 1-2 pitching punches. They won nine games apiece, often with minimal run support, and were 6-4 against ranked teams, including a 3-1 mark against teams in the top 10, and 2-1 against teams ranked No. 1. On May 15, 2004, they made college baseball history when each pitched a complete-game victory over the University of Texas at Disch-Falk Field in Austin. The doubleheader sweep marked the first time in the 108-year history of the Texas program that the Longhorns had lost both ends of a doubleheader at home.
In June, the Oakland Athletics made Rogers their second-round pick and the 49th player taken overall in the Major League Baseball draft. The San Diego Padres picked Sterry in the eighth round. First baseman David Hicks went in the 36th round to the Toronto Blue Jays, and righthander Daniel Caldwell signed a free-agent contract with the Chicago Cubs.
Over the summer of 2004, Avent served on the USA Baseball coaching staff. Devine and trainer Darren Dereu also were with Team USA, which won the 2004 FISU World University Gold Medal in Tainan, Taiwan.
If 2004 and 2005 were eventful, what can you say about NC State's 2003 season? On the field, the Wolfpack overcame season-long adversity to crack the national top 10 and advance to the NCAA Super Regionals for the first time ever. The on-field success led to numerous Wolfpackers earning individual recognition for outstanding seasons, including three pitchers who were named All-Americans.
Avent reeled in his share of individual accolades. He was voted Atlantic Coast Conference Coach of the Year in a vote of the league's coaches, Atlantic Region Coach of the Year by the American Baseball Coaches Association, and National Coach of the Year by CollegeBaseballInsider.com. Following the season, NC State Director of Athletics Lee Fowler rewarded Avent with a four-year contract.
Despite all the awards and honors, despite all the success of the last two years and of Avent's eight years at NC State, he remains essentially unchanged. His approach to the job, his unyielding enthusiasm, the way he interacts with his players and staff, his tireless work ethic and his unbridled passion for NC State, all of that remains the same.
"When I first came here, I said this was the only job I ever wanted, and that is more true today than ever," Avent said. "I've been an NC State fan all my life, and that will never change, so this job means more to me. NC State baseball is all about tradition, and I'm very proud to be a part of that tradition."
Avent became NC State's head coach on August 14, 1996. He took the Wolfpack to the NCAA Tournament each of his first three seasons and has kept the program competitive throughout his tenure. He won 121 games (43, 41 and 37) his first three seasons, and after a three-year absence from the NCAA regionals, he led the Pack to 122 wins (45, 36 and 41) the last three seasons. He has averaged more than 37 wins a year in his nine seasons on the job, has won 40 or more games four times, has taken the Wolfpack to the finals of the ACC Tournament twice, and has had 30 players picked in the MLB June draft.
NC State baseball has always been about tradition and excellence, and those have been the hallmarks of Avent's tenure as well. In addiiton to making five NCAA Tournament appearances in his nine years, Avent's teams have produced 27 All-ACC players, 10 All-Americans and six Freshman All-Americans. At 338-212, he is already the third winningest coach in school history.
Avent's tenure at NC State began with a magical season in 1997. Avent guided the '97 Pack to a 43-20 overall record. The Wolfpack won a school-record 13 consecutive ACC games and posted an 18-1 record in the month of April to set new school records for most wins and best winning percentage in the month of April. Avent's 15 regular-season conference wins were the third most ever by a first-year coach in the ACC. The magic-carpet ride continued for Avent and NC State all the way to the NCAA South II Regional at Tuscaloosa, Ala., where the Wolfpack finished third behind then-top-ranked Alabama and ninth-ranked Southern Cal.
Avent's 1998 team was nearly as successful as its predecessor. Despite heavy personnel losses, the Pack kept on winning, running up a 41-23 overall record and finishing third at the NCAA West Regional at Palo Alto, Calif. In 1999, NC State jumped from the gate quickly, winning 17 of its first 18 games, including 14 in a row at one point. The Pack won five of its last seven regular-season games, and then won a pair of games in the ACC Tournament to nail down the program's 12th NCAA Tournament appearance in 14 years.
Before coming to NC State, Avent spent eight seasons (1989-96) at New Mexico State University, where he compiled a 225-213 record and left as the second-winningest coach in school history. Avent took over a New Mexico State program that school administrators were considering dropping and guided it to its greatest success ever. Four times in eight years he led the Aggies to 30 victories, once more than all previous coaches in school history combined.
Avent kept busy off the field at New Mexico State as well, especially in raising funds for the NMSU baseball program. In 1996, he assisted the New Mexico State athletics director in lobbying the New Mexico General Assembly for funds to renovate the baseball facility. As a result of their efforts, the legislature awarded NMSU a $1.7 million grant for the renovation. And because of Avent's success on the field, New Mexico State began fully funding the baseball program with the full NCAA allotment of 11.7 scholarships, beginning in the 1996-97 school year.
Avent began his coaching career as an assistant coach at North Carolina Wesleyan under former Old Dominion head coach and current Wolfpack assistant Tony Guzzo from 1981-82, helping lead the Bishops to a two-year record of 62-28, and a fourth-place finish in the 1982 NCAA Division III World Series. He followed Guzzo to Virginia Commonwealth in 1983 and worked there for one season. From 1984-85 Avent was an assistant coach at Louisburg (N.C.) Junior College under Hall of Fame coach Russ Frazier, an NC State alumnus.
After his two seasons at Louisburg, Avent joined Joe Breedon's staff at William & Mary in 1986 and stayed there two years. In 1988, he returned to Raleigh to join Ray Tanner's first staff at NC State and helped guide the Wolfpack to a then-school record for wins and a 45-16 overall record. He went to New Mexico State the next year.
Avent has been married to the former Amy Barnes since July 24, 1999.