Wolfpack Ready for Meeting with Miami
June 6, 2003
RALEIGH, N.C. - NC State has become an easy team to root for in the NCAA baseball tournament.
The Wolfpack has advanced in an oddball season in which its first 30 games were on the road while its field was being renovated, lost its pitching coach, two starting pitchers succumbed to injuries and posted 20 come-from-behind wins.
"In a year or two they may sit back and say, `Wow, how did we really do that?'" coach Elliott Avent said of his players, who take on Miami in a Super Regional best-of-three series starting Saturday.
"When people see you play hard and really care about winning and making your school and city proud, then they are going to respect you," said Joe Gaetti, son of former major leaguer Gary Gaetti. "I don't know how much more the fans can take though. It's not too bad for us when we're playing because we're in some control of it."
The victories improved the Wolfpack to 11-2 in one-run games.
"This team just does not want to win one easy," Avent said. "With as much success as we've had, as well as we've done, you would think we could win one 15-2. I'll just take 8-3, but I guess that's not possible.
"Winning close games makes you win more close games," Avent added. "When you get there and you do it, and then you do it over and over again, you think you are going to win. And thinking you're going to win sometimes helps you win. There is a confidence factor - no doubt."
This is the most attention the Wolfpack baseball program has seen in years, and playing such a big-time name as Miami with a chance to advance to the College World Series should add even more spice for Wolfpack followers.
"We've beaten so many good teams and we've overcome so many obstacles, we're just looking at this as another chance to have some fun," said Morton, the team's star catcher. "I don't think the guys are looking at it as something we've got to prove."
Morton grew up in West Palm Beach, Fla., as a loyal Miami fan. He estimates he's been to Mark Light Stadium rooting for the Hurricanes more than 20 times.
"Now it's dead red. It's Wolfpack all the way," Morton said of his allegiance.
Morton said it has been tough getting recognition the last three years since the program struggled with records of 30-28, 32-29 and 33-26. But this season has been vastly different.
"I didn't even hear about the team before I came here and I was coming to play for them," Morton said. "When you play you want people to know about you. The worst thing is when I used to call back home the guys would say, `Hey, I see you won.' I'd say, `No, that was the Tar Heels.' Now they understand the difference."
The elder Gaetti has missed most of his son's season since he's coaching a Triple A team in New Orleans. And he won't be able to make the trip to Miami this weekend.
No problem, the younger Gaetti said.
"But he's already told his team he's going to need some time off if we go to Omaha. He's going to need a little leave of absence."