The Wolfpacker

January 2017

The Wolfpacker: An Independent Magazine Covering NC State Sports

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74 ■ THE WOLFPACKER BY BRUCE WINKWORTH S ix everyday starters back from a 38-win regional finalist. Nine key pitchers back from that same team. Quality depth all over the diamond thanks to a nationally ranked recruiting class. Most college baseball coaches would gladly take just one of those three sce- narios. Elliott Avent enters the 2017 col- lege baseball season with all three, which is why the Wolfpack's head coach is so at ease these days. "What's relaxing for a coach is knowing that you've got a lot of guys coming back," Avent said. "Familiarity, a track record, is very relaxing for a coach because you know they've been there and can stay in the moment and perform." Avent's team will face some challenges. First baseman Preston Palmeiro, catcher Andrew Knizner, catcher/designated hitter Chance Shepard, lefty starter Ryan Wil- liamson and jack-of-all-trades relief ace Will Gilbert are all gone. Replacing them won't be easy. At the same time, the re- turning nucleus is deep, experienced and talented. Second baseman Stephen Pitarra (.291 batting average in 2016), shortstop Joe Du- nand (.297, 18 doubles, 41 RBI) and third baseman Even Mendoza (.362, 33 RBI), all juniors, return on the infield. The start- ing outfield of sophomore Brett Kinneman (.296, 13 doubles, six homers, 32 RBI in 34 starts), junior Josh McLain (.300, 19 doubles, 13 steals) and junior Brock Death- erage (.317, 14 steals) returns intact. The Wolfpack lineup is so stacked that freshman infielder Will Wilson and two- way threat junior Tommy DeJuneas both played well enough to win jobs this fall, but found themselves blocked by returnees at every turn. "We have so many options right now," Avent said. "We have players who are good enough to play, but may not get as much time as they might in other years." Even the gaping holes at first base and catcher were filled almost too easily. Ju- nior Shane Shepard (.258, .396 on-base percentage, .461 slugging percentage in 36 games last season) fit in seamlessly at first ■ PREVIEW BASEBALL Proven Roster The Wolfpack Return A Wealth Of Experience

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