The Wolfpacker

May 2012

The Wolfpacker: An Independent Magazine Covering NC State Sports

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Page 59 of 79

FIRE ON Junior Shortstop Chris Diaz — he was a big fan — but he didn't want to play in the lengthy shadow cast by his older brother, Jonathan Diaz. Jonathan, NC State's shortstop from A 2004-06, was one of the most popular play- ers in program history. All players want to establish their own identity, and Chris Diaz is no different. Coming to NC State while his brother's career was still fresh in everyone's memory would make that all the more difficult. "It was actually a really hard decision," Diaz said of his college choice. "This was the one place I didn't want to come be- cause I didn't want to be seen as Jon Diaz's brother and be compared to him." Three years later, it might be more ap- propriate to compare Jonathan to Chris and not the other way around. That's how good Chris Diaz has been for the Wolfpack in 2012. With less than a month until the voting for the All-ACC team, Diaz is a near lock for first-team all-conference honors. And, All-America notice is not at all out of consideration. Following NC State's three-game sweep of Duke the weekend of April 27-29, Diaz led the team with a .390 average (third in the conference), 19 doubles (second) and 44 RBI (tied for third). Defensively, only Chris Taylor of Virginia and Anthony Mel- chionda of Boston College compare with Diaz, and Diaz is better. No shortstop in the conference compares to him as a hitter. As well as Diaz has played this season, he's taken his game to another level en- tirely in the nine games since head coach Elliott Avent elevated him to the second 60 ■ THE WOLFPACKER spot in the batting order — and he's taken the rest of the Wolfpack with him. Avent inserted Diaz between third base- man Trea Turner and catcher Danny Canela in the lineup for the first time on April 15 in the final game of NC State's three-game series at Clemson. The results have been incendiary, especially for opposing pitch- ers. In the next nine games, Diaz batted .553 (21 for 38) with nine doubles, three stolen bases and 13 RBI. The players surrounding Diaz in the lineup benefitted from his presence as well. Turner hit .486 (17 for 35) in those nine games, with two homers, nine RBI and five steals. Behind Diaz, Canela and cleanup hitter Ryan Mathews hit the cover off the ball. Canela batted .387 (12 for 31) with two homers and 10 RBI. Mathews went .333 (14 for 42) with three doubles, two homers and 11 RBI. "I think [hitting second] makes a big difference for me," Diaz said. "I'm get- ting a lot more pitches to hit, especially with guys like Canela and Ryan Mathews behind me, power threats. The pitchers would rather pitch to me and get me out and not have me on base for those guys. So pitchers are coming right after me now. It's a lot better than when I was hitting third or fifth. They were pitching around me a lot more." As a team, NC State went 7-2 and aver- aged more than eight runs per game after Diaz moved up in the lineup. The team batting average rose 11 points in the nine games since Diaz made the move. "We got so much better when we moved Chris up in the lineup to the two hole," Avent said. "He's patient and like most great hitters he's not afraid to hit with two strikes, so he gives Trea Turner a chance to Has Sparked The Wolfpack BY BRUCE WINKWORTH s a senior at Apex High School three years ago, Chris Diaz was not sure he wanted to play baseball at NC State. Not that Diaz didn't like the Wolfpack

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