The Wolfpacker

July 2013 Football Preview

The Wolfpacker: An Independent Magazine Covering NC State Sports

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N By Ryan Tice C State baseball coach Elliott Avent grew up a Wolfpack fan and has served in his post for 17 years. There's no doubt that he bleeds red and white, so it's only natural that he compares one great NCSU athlete to other products who once donned the colors the veteran mentor loves so much. ■ Male Athlete of the Year Avent's ace, left-hander Carlos Rodon, is already in rarified air when it comes to where he falls among the school's tradition of star athletes, according to the coach. It's like pulling teeth to get the starting pitcher to talk about himself — he will quickly bring the conversation back to his team — so Avent has to do much of the bragging for the sophomore. However, it's not hyperbole when the skipper puts the 6-3, 234-pounder among the likes of other Pack greats such as David Thompson, Chris Corchiani, Philip Rivers and Russell Wilson, whom Avent also coached on the diamond. Rodon followed a 9-0 rookie campaign in which he was the first freshman to be named one of three national finalists for the Golden Spikes Award with a 10-3 record and 2.99 ERA this spring. The overpowering lefty led the nation with 184 strikeouts in 1321⁄3 innings, while walking just 45. "He is obviously a big part of our program in so many ways," Avent said. "It starts with who he is athletically, he's one of the dominant pitchers in baseball. That's where it begins, you can't ignore any of that, but I don't think people understand totally what really makes Carlos Rodon so special — it's the person Carlos Rodon." Avent can easily rattle off the off-thefield qualities that make Rodon anything but the average college baseball superstar. He talks about how the All-American is especially welcoming to his young fans, as well as those seeking autographs and photographs — although they aren't always necessarily kids. However, the coach likes to start the "what makes Carlos, Carlos" conversation with the fact that the highly touted prospect ever ended up on campus in the first place. Rodon was projected to be picked in the top five rounds of the MLB Draft, but fell due to signability concerns and was selected by the Milwaukee Brewers in the 16th round (491st overall). "Everybody wants to play in the big leagues, and just about everyone wants to bypass college to go play in the big leagues," the coach said. "The Brewers chased him all summer to try to get him to sign — they kept offering him more money and more money. "For him to turn down such a lucrative offer and the opportunity to pursue his ultimate dream took a lot of guts, maturity, courage and insight on his part." Once the spring started, Avent said it was one good thing after another for the freshman. He was impressive when young pitchers are supposed to struggle. If there was a transition phase, it didn't show, and before the season had ended, Rodon was talked about as being deserving of the No. 1 overall draft pick — even though he still had remained humble, he didn't make excuses, he didn't complain. "He just kept working because he knew who he was, he has confidence in his abilities and he believes in himself — those are probably all of the reasons he didn't sign with the Brewers to start with. He had frustrations, but it's about how he handled those frustrations. His stature continued to grow in my eyes as I watched the way he handled those frustrations. He was impeccable." The pitcher called his April 20 start at Georgia Tech the turning point for both Ace On The Hill Carlos Rodon's Dominance Led NC State To Omaha two years of college left before he was eligible to enter his name. Rodon went on to star for USA Baseball's Collegiate National Team in the summer and was named the top prospect on the team by After Rodon threw 114 innings in the spring and logged more action for Team USA, Avent and his staff decided to shut down the lefty this fall. "Whether his arm was tired, his body had to be tired," the coach explained. "There were many parts of his game that needed to be improved. We spent the fall trying to perfect other parts of his game while giving his arm and body a rest. "We brought him along very, very slow." Rodon was still good at the beginning of the 2013 season, but he was not overpowering. Appalachian State tagged him for five earned runs in six innings during his first start. Three weeks later, he was charged with eight earned runs in four and one-third innings of work. About a month after that, he was chased from the shortest outing of his career after he allowed five earned runs and recorded just six outs. "Once you get to a certain level, it's kind of like you never have a bad game and you're not allowed to fail," Avent said. "That's tough to handle at 19 years old. To start out like he did, I think, makes the second part of his season even greater. He himself and the team — the squad entered the game at 30-10, but swept the Yellow Jackets and went 20-6 the rest of the way, with half of those losses in the postseason. "I hit some rough patches, but eventually found the groove," Rodon admitted. "It basically started at Georgia Tech, I started throwing real well and the velocity came later in the season, which helped a lot. That sweep helped out the team a lot, we gained confidence and started playing really good baseball after that point." Rodon entered the game in Atlanta with a 3-2 record and 4.91 ERA through his first nine starts. Meanwhile, including that complete game — Rodon's first of four with at least nine innings pitched — the pitcher went 7-1 with a 1.78 ERA over his final 10 starts, half of which came in the postseason. He tallied 47 strikeouts in the ACC and NCAA tournaments against just seven walks, and recorded a 1.09 ERA. "If you look at the way the season ended, it couldn't have ended any better," Avent said. "He got stronger and was at his best towards the end. That was what we expected, what we hoped for and that's how things worked out. Rodon posted a 10-3 record and 2.99 ERA as a sophomore this spring, and he led the nation with 184 strikeouts in 132 1⁄3 innings. photo by larry blankenship 120  ■  the wolfpacker 120-122.Male Athlete of the Year.indd 120 7/2/13 12:16 PM

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