June 6, 2013
RALEIGH, N.C. – At the beginning of last season, NC State baseball coach Elliott Avent welcomed a recruiting class that received national acclaim for the skill it already possessed and the potential it had for the future.
Now, the sophomores and second-year players are getting ready for yet another NCAA Super Regional appearance and have proven to be worth the hype that preceded them.
Obviously, the two players that have garnered the most attention over the last two seasons are sophomore pitcher Carlos Rodon and shortstop Trea Turner because they immediately stepped into the national spotlight.
This season’s Wolfpack has been led by a strong class of seniors, but defined by those two-year players who have known nothing except advancing to an NCAA Super Regional. The current crop of Wolfpackers are the only in the program's history to play in consecutive super regionals, and the first to host.
The run started last year, when the Wolfpack traveled to Florida, and continues this year when the Pack hosts Rice in a best-of-three-game series that is slated to begin on Friday at Doak Field at Dail Park, though incoming inclement weather may delay the scheduled 4 p.m. start. Keep up with any schedule changes on Twitter via @PackBaseball, on the NC State Athletics and Baseball Facebook pages on on www.GoPack.com/baseball.
Turner and Rodon have continued to produce record performances on the basepaths and on the mound, but the framework of the team has been built with sophomores Brett Austin, Jake Fincher, Logan Ratledge and Logan Jernigan and junior college transfers Bryan Adametz, Grant Clyde and Ryan Wilkins.
“We have known all along that this class would produce,” said Avent. “When they came in, everybody talked about [catcher] Brett Austin, Trea Turner and Carlos Rodon. But we also talked about Logan Jernigan, Logan Ratledge and Jake Fincher, Travis Orwig and on down the list.
“They were all great players in that recruiting class that we all knew were going to be a great complement to the players who were getting all the attention. It’s a great class. A lot of toughness, a lot of baseball smarts and a lot of desire to win.”
Austin has been a fixture behind the plate, starting all 61 of the Pack’s games, and catching all 18 innings of the marathon game against North Carolina in the ACC Championship. Fincher, hitting just behind lead-off batter Turner, has proven to be a tough out all season long, reaching base in all but two games, while also making 61 starts. He made the biggest play of last weekend’s NCAA Raleigh Regional with his run-saving catch against Binghamton that ended up No. 1 on SportsCenter’s Top 10 last Friday.
Clyde and Adametz are seniors, getting double credit for injecting leadership and energy into the lineup. Adametz built the ACC's longest active hitting streak over the final two weeks of the regular season, before having it snapped at 15 in the regional.
Clyde has earned a reputation as perhaps the toughest player on the team after knocking his two front teeth loose when a batting practice grounder hit him in the face a month ago. The native Texan rallied with a mouth guard he found in the training room, started the game, and contributed a double despite the overwhelming pain.
Turner believes he and his recruiting classmates offer more than just copious talent to the lineup.
“A lot of us come from winning programs,” Turner said. “I think that’s a big attribute coming into NC State, coming from a winning team and knowing how to win. We are trying to make that a habit this year. I think all of us bring that to the table.
“We aren’t nervous under pressure. We know what it takes to get where we are going. I think that is a huge deal.”
The upshot, of course, is that the sophomore class has already produced over the last two years, and will be experienced and capable when they elevate to upperclassman status next year.
“We have been pretty successful as a class so far,” said Rodon, who is sure to get attention from professional scouts every time he pitches for the rest of his career. “We still have a ways to go this year and next year.
“It’s going to be amazing.”