The Wolfpacker

March 2018

The Wolfpacker: An Independent Magazine Covering NC State Sports

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MARCH 2018 ■ 61 even when his body wouldn't let him. His injuries — from a high school elbow sur- gery, from severe back issues suffered in an offseason car accident and from tendinitis that came from multiple surgeries — have stretched his productivity with the Wolf- pack, so far, over six seasons. He missed pitching his senior season in high school and his first two seasons with the Pack after having Tommy John surgery following his junior year in high school. He redshirted while his teammates, includ- ing Carlos Rodon and Trea Turner, went to the College World Series. In August of that year, he was in a severe accident that forced him to have back surgery to repair several herniated discs. He finally made his Wolfpack debut in 2015, and was the starting pitcher in both the ACC title game and the NCAA regional championship game. In 2016, he had the best outing of his career, tossing 8 2 ⁄3 innings in a victory over Navy in the NCAA Regional, which was key to resting an overworked Wolfpack bullpen and set up the regional title show- down against eventual national champion Coastal Carolina. Piedmonte spent the en- tirety of that game pacing in the dugout and batting cages, unable to sit down in fear of having his back stiffen up. Last season, as a fifth-year junior, he had a team-best 7-0 record and a stellar 2.77 earned run average while making nine starts during the season. That doesn't mean he felt comfortable returning this season. "For some reason, I had more butterflies than usual going into the year," Piedmonte noted. "I know this is the last season in col- lege. It was always in the back of my mind, even last year, that there was a chance for another year." Piedmonte certainly got a great jump- start to the season. He won his first two games as the Wolfpack's Saturday starter, allowing eight hits and two walks in 13 innings of work in wins over Seton Hall and Furman. "The NCAA doesn't always make great decisions sometimes when it comes to giv- ing players a sixth season," Avent said. "But in this case, they did a great job to give him another chance to pitch. He de- serves that." This last chance to play this season — he was already pursuing a potential free-agent minor league deal in case he didn't get a sixth season — filled his heart with joy. It also allowed him to get accepted into graduate school, where he is working on an advanced degree in non-profit management. He accepted an internship with the Mira- cle League of Raleigh, where he worked through the fall and winter, an opportunity to help young players who face challenges similar to his brother's. "That's the kind of person and player Johnny Piedmonte is," Avent said. "Any- body who has played with him knows what he has been through and what he has to put his body through to play. He just takes care of his business. "He is a special individual. He epitomizes everything I think this program stands for." Piedmonte, one of eight seniors on the Wolfpack roster, will play a significant role in his sixth season. The Wolfpack has nine freshman and redshirt freshman pitchers on the staff, all of whom could benefit from his vast experience. Piedmonte's advice to his teammates is fairly simple. "I just tell them to focus on each pitch," he said. "Then the next pitch. Whatever hap- pens on that pitch, good or bad, you have to focus on the next one. "One pitch at a time. It's a long season." And, for Piedmonte, a long career. Piedmonte still has to go through extra ef- fort to get ready to pitch, working with team trainers to make sure his back won't stiffen and his arm doesn't hurt. It takes him longer than most to get warmed up, so he takes an extra-long hot shower before every start and keeps moving throughout the game. Those things don't bother him. "At the end of the day," Piedmonte said, "I love baseball. I could go through hell and I would still do it to be able to play." For himself, for his team and, most im- portantly, for his little brother who can't take the field with him. ■ Piedmonte (center) poses for a photo with his parents John and Tammy Piedmonte and his younger brother David, whom the Wolfpack pitcher credits as one of his biggest inspirations. PHOTO COURTESY PIEDMONTE FAMILY Tim Peeler is a regular contributor to The Wolfpacker. You may contact him at "Anybody who has played with him knows what he has been through and what he has to put his body through to play. He just takes care of his business" ■ Head coach Elliott Avent on Piedmonte overcoming his injuries

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