The Wolfpacker

March 2012

The Wolfpacker: An Independent Magazine Covering NC State Sports

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Page 64 of 95

T BY BRUCE WINKWORTH he freshmen have gotten most of the headlines, but perhaps the biggest reasons for NC State to expect a successful baseball sea- son in 2012 is its veterans — es- pecially up the middle. The Wolfpack had one of its best defen- ■ PREVIEW BASEBALL sive teams ever in 2011, and junior second baseman Matt Bergquist, junior shortstop Chris Diaz and senior center fielder Brett Williams are back to anchor what should be a strong everyday lineup. Those three didates in left and right field, respectively. That's a lot of juniors and seniors, and Avent loves juniors and seniors. At the same time, he's not afraid to play freshmen, which is a good thing since the Pack has some of the most heralded first-year players in the country this season. NC State brought in the No. 4-ranked recruiting class in the country this year, according to Baseball America, and those newcomers have gotten plenty of attention. "Our young guys are really good," Avent Blending A Large Group Of Seniors And Juniors With A Talented Freshman Class Is A Key To The Wolfpack's Success The Old And The New said. "My philosophy has always been that the best players play, not the most expe- rienced players. We have a lot of young players who are going to have a big impact on our season." not only formed the backbone of a standout defense, but also ranked among the team's offensive leaders. Diaz batted .306 with 12 doubles and 32 RBI. Bergquist hit .289 with 15 doubles, four homers and a team-best 46 RBI. Wil- liams hit .286 with 12 doubles, six home runs, 35 RBI and nine steals. He led the club in runs scored (46), home runs, hit by pitch (16) and stolen bases. The offensive numbers were good, but the calling card for Bergquist, Diaz and Wil- liams was defense. With those three up the middle, NC State made all the routine plays, executed the defensive fundamentals with aplomb, threw to the right bases and made all the cut-offs and relays. "This is the best defensive team that we've had since I've been here," Wolfpack head coach Elliott Avent said. "An old axiom is that pitching and defense win champion- ships. With the new bats, the importance of defense went up as the efficiency of the bats went down. Two things that should show up every day are speed and defense. We have the best team speed and defense since I've been here." Avent has a cast of veterans to fill in at the corners. Senior co-captain Andrew Ciencin (.257, 12 doubles, five home runs and 35 RBI) moves from third base to first base, and seniors Ryan Mathews and John Gianis have emerged from a crowded field of can- Junior shortstop Chris Diaz anchored a strong NC State defense last year, and he batted .306 with 12 doubles and 32 RBI. PHOTO COURTESY NC STATE MEDIA RELATIONS The headliners of the Wolfpack's recruit- ing class are left-handed pitcher/first base- man Carlos Rodon, ranked by Baseball America as the No. 3 freshman in the coun- try, and catcher Brett Austin, ranked No. 4. Austin was a consensus high school All- American at Charlotte (N.C.) Providence High School last season, and was the 54th player taken overall in the 2011 Major League Baseball Draft. He is the highest- drafted player to enroll at NC State since left-handed pitcher Dan Plesac in 1981. Rodon was the North Carolina 4-A Player of the Year and the Milwaukee Brewers' 16th-round draft pick. The strapping, 6-3, 234-pound freshman from nearby Holly Springs showed three plus pitches and much better command than advertised, dominating State's veteran hitters all fall. He finished fall practice firmly entrenched in the week- end rotation. One other freshman, infielder Trea Turner, will be in the everyday lineup, at third base. A slick-fielding shortstop, Turner moved to third base to accommodate Diaz, the veteran incumbent up the middle. Turner was a 20th-round draft pick of the Pittsburgh Pirates out of Lake Worth, Fla., last June. He possesses exceptional speed and defensive skills. He, Diaz and Bergquist are superla- tive defenders in the infield. "This is the most talented freshman class that I've seen since I've been here," Ciencin said. "You don't really think that they're freshmen just because of how they go about their business. They go out and compete ev- ery day. They've all bought into the winning ■ Quick Facts Head Coach: Elliott Avent, 556-362 at NC State (16th season) 2011 In Review: 35-27, 15-15 ACC Assistant Coaches: Tom Holliday, associate head coach/pitching coach (6th season); Chris Hart (8th year); and Brian Ward (5th year) Returning Starters: 5 Key Additions: C Brett Austin, LHP/1B Carlos Rodon, INF Trea Turner, INF/OF Logan Ratledge, RHP Ryan Wilkins, INF/OF Jake Fincher Key Losses: RHP Cory Mazzoni, C Pratt Maynard, 1B Harold Riggins, RHP Rob Chamra Average: Chris Diaz (.306) Runs Scored: Brett Williams (46) Hits: Brett Williams (68) Doubles: Matt Bergquist (15) Triples: Brett Williams (four) Home Runs: Brett Williams (six) RBI: Matt Bergquist (46) Slugging Percentage: Brett Williams (.445) On-Base Percentage: Tarran Senay (.391) Walks: John Gianis and Tarran Senay (25) Steals: Brett Williams (nine) RETURNING BATTING LEADERS could see action anywhere in the infield, or in left or right field. And no matter where he's played in practice, Ratledge has hit with authority. "I feel like Logan's played every position mindset and team concept. "Carlos slid head-first into first base the other day. I thought Coach Avent was going to kill him, but it just shows their competi- tive nature. That's something you need from freshmen." Austin won the catcher's job over junior Danny Canela (.260, five homers and 25 RBI in part-time action), a talented hitter and receiver. Canela will spell Austin on occasion behind the plate and should log his share of at-bats as the Wolfpack's designated hitter. If anyone in the starting lineup falters, Avent has freshman jack-of-all-trades Lo- gan Ratledge ready to step into the lineup. Ratledge came to State as a shortstop, but ERA: Chris Overman (2.39) Wins: Chris Overman and Ethan Ogburn (six) Saves: Chris Overman (seven) Innings Pitched: Ethan Ogburn (61 2/3) Strikeouts: Ethan Ogburn (47) Appearances: Chris Overman (30) RETURNING PITCHING LEADERS MARCH 2012 ■ 65

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