The Wolfpacker

January 2015

The Wolfpacker: An Independent Magazine Covering NC State Sports

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44 ■ THE WOLFPACKER BY BRUCE WINKWORTH C onsidering the quantity and quality of the players NC State lost from a year ago, head coach Elliott Avent's unbridled enthusiasm about the 2015 college baseball season might seem a bit puzzling. Avent has read the roster. He knows who's not back from 2014 — first-round draft picks Carlos Rodon and Trea Turner, plus All-ACC catcher Brett Austin foremost among them. Entering his 19th season as the Wolfpack's head coach, though, Avent is not looking back. He's looking ahead. His infec- tious optimism is about the players who are on the 2015 roster, not those who are gone from 2014. Avent knows the Wolfpack will face chal- lenges this season. The Pack will be young, with 19 newcomers on the roster (16 of them freshmen). Expectations will be considerably lower than in the recent past, although that won't necessarily be a bad thing. The re- cently departed cannot possibly be replaced, but their production must somehow be ac- counted for. The offense, by necessity, will have to be stronger one through nine. The pitching staff will need production beyond Friday night. Someone will have to emerge as the starting catcher, the one position on the field with no experienced hands on deck. Faced with all that, Avent doesn't flinch. "It's the players that excite a coach," Avent said. "It's the energy that the players bring. We had a very a positive fall. The chemistry of this team, the camaraderie of this team, the hunger of this team, all that seemed very obvious during fall practice. "The leadership in the clubhouse from guys like Logan Ratledge and Jake Fincher to Andrew Knizner and Preston Palmeiro, that seemed very obvious." Avent's optimism begins with the team's senior leadership. Ratledge and Fincher were members of the same recruiting class that produced Rodon, Turner, Austin and Logan Jernigan — who were all selected in last June's MLB Draft. Unlike the aforemen- tioned quartet, Ratledge and Fincher went undrafted. Both are three-year starters with extensive NCAA Tournament experience, including a pair of Super Regionals and a trip to the College World Series. Fincher will start in center field and Ratledge returns to the middle of the infield, most likely at shortstop after three seasons at second. Both had excellent falls on the field while stepping into key leadership roles in the clubhouse. ■ PREVIEW BASEBALL LOOKING AHEAD, NOT BACK Head Coach Elliott Avent Is Excited About A Young Team That Will Feature 19 Newcomers

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