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    TIM PEELER: Pond Riding Unprecedented Hot Streak at Plate
     
     

    BY TIM PEELER

    RALEIGH, N.C. Ryan Pond can’t believe how much has come out of such a, well, nothing conversation.

    But ever since he hit the Doak Field at Dail Park batting cages with former Wolfpack All-America Aaron Bates a few weeks ago, he’s been on a tsunami-sized hot streak that has lifted his .211 batting average to a scorching .323 for the season.

     

    “The ball has gone from looking like a golf ball to a beach ball,” Pond said.

     

    All it took was a little reassurance from Bates, Pond’s former roommate who now plays for the Double-A Portland Sea Dogs in the Boston Red Sox organization.

     

    “I hit with him early one morning when he came through from spring training,” Pond said. “He told me that my swing looked fine, and I told him it felt fine. He just told me to keep doing what I had been doing in the past, to work one at-bat at a time and don’t worry about the stuff you can’t control. He told me he went through an 0-for-16 streak as a junior and was able to come out of that. And I thought, if he can do it, so can I.

     

    “The day after I hit with him is the day that I sort of started on this hot streak.  He really didn’t tell me anything to do differently, but I guess Aaron can take a little credit for it.”

     

    That’s a better explanation than changing his at-bat music from one Jimmy Buffett song to another, which Pond did earlier in the season.

     

    In the nine games since that batting-cage conversation with Bates, Pond is hitting .472 with four doubles, two home runs and 15 RBIs. He was recently named both the ACC Offensive Player of the Week and the National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association’s National Hitter of the Week.

     

    For good measure, the day he won those awards, he hit a tape-measure shot over the highest part of the center-field scoreboard.

     

    “I really haven’t ever been on a streak like this,” said Pond, who hopes to continue his streak in this weekend's three game ACC series with Duke. “I have never really seen the ball like I am seeing it right now. I kind of hope it won’t end.”

     

    Not bad for a guy who started the season with the worst slump of his career, which included an 0-for-16 streak that forced him into a left-field platoon. His struggles reached rock bottom after the North Carolina series, when he was 0-for-8 against the third-ranked Tar Heels and dropping his average down to .211.

     

    “I really can’t pinpoint why I was struggling,” said the senior out-fielder/first baseman. “I talked to the coaches and they told me to stick with it. They said they knew I was a good hitter for three years and that I should not try to do too much.

     

    “I just think I was pressing too much.”

     

    Now, he has returned to being an offensive centerpiece for the Wolfpack, which has had to rely on strong pitching for the first third of the season, behind the arms of Clayton Shunick, Eryk McConnell, Eric Surkamp and a full complement of relievers and mid-week starters.

     

    If the combination of hitting, pitching and defense continues, Pond believes the Wolfpack can go far in the post-season.

     

    “I think the sky is the limit with this team,” Pond said. “From day one, people have been talking about our pitching, and pitching is what wins championships. We have started to add a little hitting and the last couple of weeks you can see how dangerous we can be. I think if we can keep playing one game at a time, going step by step, we can go as far as any team in NC State history.”

     

    For the Wolfpack, that would mean the second trip to the College World Series in Omaha, Neb. It’s been 40 years since second-year coach Sam Esposito took his team to the 1968 CWS, in NC State’s only appearance in the college baseball championship.

     

    “Every year we have talked about it and slowly but surely people have begun to believe it,” Pond said. “Some people said they believed it, but I think this year everybody really does and we really have a shot to do it.

     

    “That would be a good going away present for me.”

     

    Pond, who will graduate in May with a degree in Business and Operations, is realistic about his future in baseball. He would certainly pursue a professional career if the opportunity presented itself, but he’s also ready to think about his future.

     

    “I don’t really know what I want to do yet,” Pond said. “I probably should have been thinking about that before now, but I have just sort or been enjoying my time in college. People always tell you that you miss it when you are gone and I put that in the back of my head. I have just been enjoying this last baseball season and this final year of school.

     

    “Whatever happens, happens.”

     

    You may contact Tim Peeler at tim_peeler@ncsu.edu.


     

     

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