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    Tony Haynes: Wolfpack Tries to Bring it Home



    Raleigh, N.C. The last time NC State hosted an NCAA baseball regional, the games were played an hour away from the Raleigh Campus. With Doak Field in the midst of a massive renovation in 2003, the Wolfpack and three other teams took the NCAA Tournament to the cozy confines of Fleming Stadium in Wilson.


    Of course, one of the main reasons NC State athletic director Lee Fowler, baseball coach Elliott Avent and several boosters wanted so dearly to modernize Doak was to put the Pack program in a better position to be one of the 16 teams to host a first round NCAA Regional.


    Is that dream about to become a reality? Could be.


    Not only does NC State now have an NCAA-worthy facility and a loyal fan base, it also has the most important ingredient: a team that quite possibly could be good enough to be considered one of the top 16 seeds in the country.


    Heading into this weekend’s non-conference games against Campbell and High Point, the Wolfpack’s fast-rising RPI is up to No. 8. Throw in the nation’s 14th most difficult schedule and a membership in one of the top conferences in college baseball, and you have the makings of a team that could get some home-cooking when the NCAA postseason party commences in late May.


    “It definitely could happen,” Fowler said. “We’ve got to keep winning and moving up. It’s important to end up in the top 12 or so to make sure that your bid is serious. I’ve talked to the chairman of the committee, Larry Templeton, and he gave me the parameters of what we needed to do to have the opportunity to host. He says it really comes down to how your team finishes. If you’re in the top 10, it’s pretty easy to get a regional."


    Fowler and NC State associate director of athletics Dick Christy have been working to put the finishing touches on a bid that must be submitted to the NCAA no later than May 16. The 16 host sites will mostly be determined by merit. But there are also financial considerations. While No.1 regional seeds almost always host, there have been instances where No. 1 seeds have traveled to the home of schools that have either made more competitive financial bids or simply had more suitable facilities.


    If NC State’s bid is rejected, it won’t be because the financial commitment falls short of what is needed.


    “There’s no question about that,” Fowler said. “If we don’t get it, it won’t be because of the money we bid. That’s the way it should be because you have a great advantage of moving on in the tournament if you play at home. You want to give your student athletes the best chance to win and hopefully get to the College World Series.


    Now 30-13 overall and 15-8 in the ACC, NC State has won 16 of its last 20 games. The Wolfpack is in a good position to finish second in the ACC’s Atlantic Division and fourth in the league overall. Still to come are ACC road series at Maryland (May 9-11) and highly-ranked Florida State (May 15-17). After that, the Pack will be one of eight teams participating in the ACC Tournament, May 21-24 in Jacksonville, Florida.


    When that’s over, the Pack hopes to be back at Doak Field at Dail Park, a ballpark that is virtually brand new following the renovations that were completed in full for the 2004 season. The old Doak would have been hard-pressed to live up to NCAA regional standards.


    “It really limited us,” Fowler admitted. “We definitely wanted to host and as we built the facility, we really wanted to make sure that there were no limitations to that process.”


    The fact that the ACC’s top three teams Miami, Florida State and North Carolina are also the top three teams in the RPI is both a blessing and a curse for NC State. On the positive side, the strength at the top of the league can only help the Wolfpack’s overall computer ranking. The one concern is that the selection committee has rarely awarded the ACC four host sites on the first weekend of regional play.


    “That’s why we need to be up higher than just 16th,” Fowler said. “We need to be up in the top 12 or top 10 so there’s no way they can’t give you one. Anytime you give the committee a chance to make the right decision you have a lot better shot. Like anything else, winning is good and losing is bad. We need to keep winning. Elliott has done a good job of building this team from the early stages to where they are now.”


    Another local team that will also warrant consideration for hosting a regional is East Carolina, which is ranked 10th in the RPI this week. It’s quite possible that ECU and NC State will be competing against each other in the bid process when the committee pieces together the NCAA field on May 26. In that regard, the Pack has a feather in its cap since it took a pair of close games from the Pirates this season.


    This weekend, Campbell will be in for a 6:30 game on Friday before High Point comes to town for games on Saturday and Sunday. At this point, every win is important, whether it comes against a non-league opponent or Florida State.


    The opportunity to host a regional is within NC State’s grasp. Now it’s up to the Pack to bring it home with a strong finish.


    Note: Lee Fowler will talk more about NC State's bid to host an NCAA regional on Inside Wolfpack Sports, Sunday at 10:30 on WRAZ Fox 50 in the Triangle.



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