N.C. State baseball coach Elliott Avent calls it one of the most challenging years of his Wolfpack career, with 21 new players on the roster, various injuries and limited practice time in the fall.
“But we’re right where we wanted to be,” Avent said this week.
That would be the NCAA baseball tournament, which the Pack missed last year after not being chosen as an at-large team.
“And,” Avent said, “we’re probably playing our best baseball of the season.”
It will take very good baseball to advance through the NCAA’s Columbia Regional. South Carolina is the top seed and will have many of the fans in Founders Park cheering the Gamecocks on. The Pack, seeded third, will face second-seeded Campbell (44-13) in the first round Friday at 1 p.m. (ACC Network) while South Carolina plays No. 4 seed Central Connecticut State.
The Wolfpack (35-19) goes into the regional having won four of the last five games, beating Duke in its ACC Championship opener last week. N.C. State also has wins this season over Miami, Virginia, Boston College, East Carolina, Coastal Carolina, UNCW – all in the NCAA field – in finishing No. 23 in the NCAA’s RPI.
The Camels, No. 13 in the RPI, led Division I in runs per game (9.8) and were fifth in homers (116). They beat ECU three times in the regular season and also had wins over North Carolina, UNCW and Coastal Carolina.
Of note: Campbell and N.C. State did not play this season. The Camels topped the Pack 7-4 last year in Buies Creek – a second game in Raleigh was postponed.
“It’s good to be dancing. That’s what you play for, to dance in the postseason,” Avent said of the NCAAs.
Wolfpack player to watch
LuJames Groover III started all 54 games and was second in batting (.332) while leading the Pack in runs (44) and hits (72) and tying Cannon Peebles for the team lead in RBIs (48). The junior third baseman had a 13-game hitting streak and 34-game on-base streak this season, and was named third-team All-ACC after being a second-team selection last season.
Campbell player to watch
Lawson Harrill was the 2023 Big South player of the year after hitting .374 with 22 homers and 68 RBIs, and going 25-for-25 on stolen bases. The outfielder’s eighth-inning homer tied the score against USC Upstate in the Big South tournament championship game that the Camels won 3-2.
South Carolina’s Founders Park, a $35 million facility, opened in 2009 and seats 8,242 for baseball. The park’s dimensions: 325 feet down the lines and 390 to center, The Gamecocks were 26-7 at home this season.