Feb. 8, 2013
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NC State head coach Elliott Avent stressed that this year's baseball team needs to operate as a pack and couldn't afford any "lone wolves," if the squad chooses to live up to its lofty preseason expectations.
Avent met with members of the media Friday at Backyard Bistro to discuss the Wolfpack's upcoming season, one that opens with State ranked higher than ever before.
"It's my 17th season, and I've loved every one of them," said Avent. "We've had a lot of hype surrounding this season, but every one of them has been special. Last year's trip to the Super Regional brought us a lot of attention. That exposure put us in more conversations this offseason, and it's going to mean bigger crowds this year."
How much bigger? Over 900 season tickets have already been sold for 2013, twice as many as a year ago and the most in program history. Avent hopes that number will continue to grow as State approaches opening day on February 15.
"We're hoping to sell out," said Avent. "The crowds were consistently bigger last year, and not just the marquee games. I think our success made it special, but some teams have a style of play that's just fun to watch. We've got that kind of team."
The runaway success of the 2012 season hinged on the maturity of an outstanding freshman class. NC State started three or more true freshmen in 61 of 63 games last year, held a 13-5 record when starting five freshmen, and went 33-14 when starting four or more.
"That class came here and played in a league that's tough on freshmen," said Avent. "I remember Carlos [Rodon] saying that his first game against Marshall was the first time he figured out that he could pitch in college. Of course, I thought he could a little before that, but sometimes it's natural to be a little unsure until you've actually started the journey. The way Brett Austin, Trea Turner, Logan Ratledge, Jake Fincher, Logan Jernigan, and Carlos handled themselves in this league as freshmen, I think they'll handle the expectations this year."
The Wolfpack enters the season as the No. 8 team in the country according to Baseball America, and State graced the cover of that magazine's college preview issue. At media day, a framed poster of the cover was presented to Avent by Baseball America's John Manuel.
"This is probably the most talented team we've had since I've been here, and we've had such great, talented teams," said Avent. "People focus on physical tools, but it's just as much mental. This ball club's very strong in that area. We have high expectations for ourselves, but it's going to take leadership. At the end of the day, we have to be a team. We don't want any lone wolves, we're a pack."