Congratulations, Coach Avent & Aaron Bates!!

Just a little baseball news during the All-Star break – after 13 years without winning an ACC Championship or finishing in first place in the conference, NC State Head Baseball Coach Elliot Avent got a big boost to his program when former Wolfpack first baseman Aaron Bates was called up to the major leagues by the Boston Red Sox. (Link to N&O blog)

He struggled to hit the ball in his first couple of games last week, but then broke through with his first major league hit on Saturday. Then Sunday, just before the All-Star break, he broke through, going 3-for-4 with a run, a pair of doubles and an RBI.

You see, until Bates’ promotion, NC State was the only ACC Baseball program that did not currently have a single former player on a major league roster. (Note: Adam Everett was one of Avent’s biggest recruits and currently plays shortstop for the Detroit Tigers; but Everett actually fled NC State’s program and finished his college career playing for Ray Tanner at South Carolina.) This is obviously time to rejoice!

The most recent ACC Sports Journal broke down the players in the MLB by ACC institution and the numbers didn’t look good for the Wolfpack. (The ACCSJ must be inherently ‘negative’ because of their objective factual analysis, right?)

Georgia Tech – 11
Florida State – 9
Clemson – 6
Miami – 6
North Carolina – 5
Maryland – 4
Virginia – 3
Duke – 2
Wake Forest – 2
Boston College – 1
Virginia Tech – 1
NC State – 0 (unless you want to include a player that finished his college career at South Carolina)

In a timely piece, The Wolfpacker ran this feature with Avent titled, ‘We’re on the right track’, despite the fact that half of the ACC’s programs have participated in the College World Series in just the last four years. Of course, when you work for Lee Fowler, one would think that a program that just had its worst season in over 40 years is clearly ‘on the right track’.

I couldn’t help but fall in love the following quote that is CLASSIC NC State – bury your head and refuse to admit reality that cannot be refuted. How can any coach in west Raleigh ever be held ‘accountable’ when the leader of their Department can’t recognize the truth?

Like most coaches, Avent didn’t want to use the word “rebuilding” entering the season, but recognizes now that with the losses of offensive standouts Ryan Pond, Marcus Jones, Jeremy Synan and Matt Payne — along with the departure of pitchers Eryk Surkamp, Clayton Shunick and Eryk McConnell — there was little choice but to start over.

“You never want to use that word ‘rebuilding,’ and deep down it’s hard to admit that’s what happened, but when you lose that many guys, it doesn’t take much to make you realize you’re going to have to go through at least a regrouping period,” Avent said.

On the other hand, you can’t really argue with Avent when he is 100% correct – NC State is NOT rebuilding. To REbuild, one must have built something to begin with. Avent has never won a championship and more of his teams have struggled to simply make the NCAA Tournament in the last half of his tenure in Raleigh than in the first half of his tenure. Based on actual results, NC State is clearly in the lower half of ACC Baseball…but, Lee Fowler would call that ‘progress’ or ‘growth’ and then get mad if anyone would try to figure out HOW?

I am not going to belabor this point any more. If you’ve read this far, then you will certainly enjoy this entry that serves as a nice complement here.

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30 Responses to Congratulations, Coach Avent & Aaron Bates!!

  1. Broccoman 07/15/2009 at 7:17 AM #

    Given how close State was to the CWS the year before (super-regional), is this really a fair statement? Also, they drew the equivalent of a #4 seed, if Sid got a 4 seed for the NCAA, we’d be real happy.

    SFN: So, you have your single season of being ‘close’ to the CWS…and the balance is that this most recent season was the worst season in 40 years. Let’s have them cancel each other out. What are we left with?

  2. Wolf74 07/15/2009 at 7:24 AM #

    This is not really surprising. My son plays for a D1 school and is a rising Junior being watched by scouts from several different clubs and he went through the North Carolina AAU/USSSA/Showcase circuit, WWBA Nationals at Jupiter, and the Perfect Game National at East Cobb. He visited NCSU. He wasn’t impressed by Avent. He liked Guzzo and Waggoner but they were released to apparently hire some pitching coach.

    Being an NCSU graduate (and my wife went there also), the one thing I really noticed was how absent NCSU coaches were around the state and at these events. Maybe they were there but they appeared to keep a low profile in comparison to the other schools. In addition, Avent was not held in high regard by many (maybe most) of the baseball people in North Carolina. Per my observations there was a peeking order. UNC-CH got the players out of NC that they wanted and didn’t go pro (except players whose parents were long time fans or grads of NCSU) and then the rest of the top notch instate playes kind of splintered off to different schools. NCSU appeared to do an inordinate amount of out of state recruiting when North Carolina was a hot bed of HS and Showcase baseball. That eats up recruiting budget quickly and puts you head to head with the instate schools in other states.

    Personally I don’t expect much change. Maybe now, with the recent rule changes and UNC-Ch having just lost one of their top assistants, NCSU can get a few players that would have went to UNC-CH but I would expect some of the ones that would have went to NCSU to go else where and thus almost negating any gains. I expect NCSU baseball under Avent to continue to be a middle of the ACC type team with its ups and downs.

  3. waxhaw 07/15/2009 at 8:06 AM #

    Was Trot Nixon an Avent recruit?

    Is he still playing somewhere?

    SFN: Trot never played at State.

  4. Bubba 07/15/2009 at 8:10 AM #

    Did the Poop Sheet wait till Joey Devine was injured to run this story?

  5. Noah 07/15/2009 at 8:52 AM #

    1) Trot Nixon was a Dick Sheridan recruit, not an Avent recruit. And he retired in 2008.

    2) When was Joey Devine NOT injured? He gave up those grand slams in the playoffs for the Braves and then got traded to the A’s and has had arm problems ever since, hasn’t he?

  6. Hans03 07/15/2009 at 8:52 AM #

    J. Devine is on the DL.

  7. norcalpack 07/15/2009 at 8:59 AM #

    Everett was a Tanner recruit as well. He never played for Avent.

  8. Classof89 07/15/2009 at 9:44 AM #

    One more season like last one, and Avent will join Tarantini as co-leader for “most baffling long range tenure for a bad NC State coach” award.

    Although I don’t believe this was a Fowler hire, it shows a repeat of a failed pattern for us in recent hires. Again, we chose to go with the alumnus and product of the good ole boy network instead of making the best hire based on a national search, regardless of where the coach went to school. Frankly, after recent fiascos (Lowe, Amato, Kerrigan to name just a few), I regard having played for/graduated from NC State as a NEGATIVE, because if you don’t perform, all sorts of emotional loyalty issues get tangled up in what should clearly be a performance based reason for firing you.

  9. WV Wolf 07/15/2009 at 9:58 AM #

    I honestly don’t think it’s quite fair to say we don’t have a single player on an MLB roster when Joey Devine is on the DL with the A’s. And maybe that fault goes to the ACC Sports Journal, I don’t know.

    Just in case people forgot or just didn’t know, last season with the A’s Devine’s 0.59 ERA was the lowest in MLB history among pitchers with a minimum of 40 innings since ERA became an official statistic in 1912. In 45.2 innnings he only gave up 3 earned runs and had a record of 6-1 with a save.

    However, that doesn’t change the fact that we still have a very low number of MLB alumni and that our already mediocre baseball program took a step backwards last year.

  10. tulsapack 07/15/2009 at 10:02 AM #

    In ’08 Devine was easily one of the best bullpen guys in the AL, and I see no reason why he won’t return to that once he’s rehabbed. The Braves handled him very poorly, as part of their decade-long project to produce no useful pitchers for the major league squad.

    All eyes should be on this year for the baseball team; any program can have a letdown year after matching the program’s peak the year before, and their personnel losses were substantial. But the lapses they showed in basic skills, especially defense, baserunning, and finishing ahead of Duke, were inexcusable. And it’s compounded, of course, by having to watch UNC develop into one of the top few programs in the nation; fortunately they haven’t gotten the CWS title to confirm it and we have Oregon State to thank for that.

  11. StateFans 07/15/2009 at 10:29 AM #

    Great points about Joey Devine! We have now moved into a tie for next to last with Duke and Wake Forest. Has the crux of the issue really changed.

  12. SaccoV 07/15/2009 at 10:42 AM #

    Congrats to Aaron Bates, I hope that he can get a spot somewhere (hopefully in Boston) to play everyday. That would be great for the program. A couple of points:

    1) Broccoman, what are you talking about with the “#4” seed crap? I’ve followed each baseball season religiously for the last few years, and even earning the right to host the regional at Doak in 2006 didn’t earn us a “#4” national seed.

    2) Despite Joey Devine’s “success” in the league, can anyone out there tell me the last superstar NC State baseball produced in the Major Leagues? (If the answer to this question is Tim Stoddard, then I think SFN’s point is quite clear.) What happened to all those players over the last five years, Vern Sterry, Colt Morton, etc who were drafted and standouts for us?

    3) Regardless of who we have had or will have in the Majors, the larger point SFN is getting at is that Avent=Sendek, which is a valid and cogent point when assessing how the school is doing with regards to its athletics programs. Avent has reached his ceiling in Raleigh, and it’s time to find a coach who can compete in this league. Also, to this point, Avent was considered one of the top coaches in the league, but mysteriously, the rest of the league got better coaches. It’s hard to believe that in this conference, the other schools would be so audacious as to hire competent and driven individuals to coach their athletics teams.

  13. Dr. BadgerPack 07/15/2009 at 10:56 AM #

    If you want a nice explanation of the worst season in recent history… look at the draft results. Of all the teams that advanced to the NCAA tourney, heck, even the eight that went to the ACC tourney, they all had at least 1 offensive player drafted– and many had multiple.

    State had… 0. And 4 pitchers. A far cry from the previous year, where a significant number of offensive players were selected. That’s the offensive “youth” problem I brought up all season.

    The reason for hope? Many of these young freshmen hitters were drafted out of high school. Riggins and Maynard are absolutely tearing up summer ball (and there are a few more doing nicely). Riggins was recently an all-star selection in his league, hitting in the range of .340 with 8 homers and 40 RBI in 38 games.

    Though he never went to State, Justin Upton was an Avent committ. I suppose you don’t go to college when your drafted as high as he was.

    Chad Orvella made it for a while, but I think his arm imploded (or his head). There was a catcher that I thought made it for a bit last year, but his name escapes me (no, not Landon Powell). And, of course, Brackman will eventually be there provided he recovers from TJS.

    Overall, I think State’s representation in MLB should increase in the upcoming years. I think something like 23 of Avent’s players were drafted in the last five years (a lot of them pitchers, who take time unless they can throw 100mph and their arm doesn’t fall off).

  14. Dr. BadgerPack 07/15/2009 at 11:02 AM #

    SaccoV- I think he was saying it was comparable to a #4 seed in basketball. So, top 16 teams. Of course there is wiggle room in there, as the 16 hosts aren’t necessarily the top 16, as there are hosting issues such as facilities, the bidding process, etc.

  15. BJD95 07/15/2009 at 11:09 AM #

    Our highest-profile draftee (Brackman) doesn’t look likely to make it. He has really struggled in A ball.

    I do think Avent is CLEARLY distinguishable from an embarrassment like Tarantini. Like I said in an article last year, he’s basically “Baseball Sendek” – and I can live with that in a non-revenue sport.

  16. Classof89 07/15/2009 at 11:22 AM #

    Difference from hoops situation is that 15 years ago we were the dominant baseball team in NC, and UNC was an embarassment. Then they fired their coach (Roberts) brought in Mike Fox from NC Wesleyan and the rest, as they say, is history. We have no hope of ever competing for top four finishes in the ACC on a consistent basis for so long as we basically get the leftovers in NC from a recruiting standpoint…

  17. ncsudave 07/15/2009 at 12:10 PM #

    Not that this changes the overarching argument any, but… while Brackman’s numbers don’t look great for A-Ball, he’s doing about as good as you could expect for someone coming off major surgery also making his pro debut. He has control problems, but other than that, he’s been ok. In 78.1 innings, he’s given up a ridiculously high 56 walks. However, he’s just under a hit per inning (77) and just under a K per inning too (76). He needs to cut the walk total in half, which is no small task. But control is generally the biggest issue for pitchers coming of Tommy John surgery. I don’t know that he’ll ever be a dominant lights out start, but I think there’s every reason to believe he can be a solid starter or very good reliever.

    If he can consistently pitch with a whip under 1.40 (compared to his 1.70 now), he should begin to move through the system at a quicker pace. Unfortunately it doesn’t look like that will happen until next year. I think 2009 is basically just a year to let him get some innings on his new elbow. Maybe he can work on his control in winterball, and start in AA next season.

  18. ldr of the pk 75 07/15/2009 at 1:41 PM #

    Agreed that Brackman still has a chance in spite of the major surgery. If he never makes it, he still has a hefty signing bonus to lean on through life.

    SaccoV, I was thinking back to Mike Caldwell, but he was even a couple of years before Tim Stoddard.

    Which brings me to…… All of the memory challenges here in baseball remind me of the similar threads from Basketball etc, etc, etc. Fact is we stink overall in sports regardless of circumstances of any one season.

    We keep watching the proactive programs take stock, make changes when needed, and progress to the level their coaching and player talent can take them. I don’t remember a statement out of Chapel Hill, when Baseball was down, to the effect of “we can’t expect to be on a level of NC State”. Same with Duke in Basketball after our Championship runs. To a lesser extent, same with Wake in Football, Basketball, Soccer, and on and on.

    With the exception of our resurgent Football program, it’s painfully obvious, at all levels of our University, we don’t have the talent to make the proper decisions to advance Nationally in anything pretty much except scandal and graft. Not actually true in regards to particular academic programs, but the news in the media would lead you to think so.

  19. Broccoman 07/15/2009 at 1:42 PM #

    SFN: So, you have your single season of being ‘close’ to the CWS…and the balance is that this most recent season was the worst season in 40 years. Let’s have them cancel each other out. What are we left with?

    It does cancel each other out- but it doesn’t put him in Sid-territory to me. Another season like this one would. Honestly, I have lower expectations for low-revenue sports then I do football/basketball.

  20. Trout 07/15/2009 at 1:45 PM #

    “One more season like last one, and Avent will join Tarantini as co-leader for “most baffling long range tenure for a bad NC State coach” award.”

    Personally, I think that’s harsh and not at all correct. Avent has been at NC State for the 1997 season and on. He made the NCAAT in 97, 98, 99 – and we can say he rode the coat-tails of Tanner’s players to do that, okay. Then, Avent struggled, as NC State missed the NCAAT in 2000, 2001 and 2002. But Avent was able to regroup, and NC State made the NCAAT in 2003 (won the Regional), 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007 and 2008 (won the Regional). That is a FAR cry from the results Tarantini has produced at NC State over the same time period.

  21. PackerInRussia 07/15/2009 at 3:30 PM #

    How long did Adam Everett play at State? Doesn’t the ACCSJ include Damien Wilkins as a former NC State player when discussing former ACC players in the pros? I’ve heard it stated on the radio, so maybe in print they don’t do it. Just an observation; certainly doesn’t take away from the larger point.

  22. GAWolf 07/15/2009 at 3:44 PM #

    I’ve personally seen both Tanner and Avent conduct practice, and I really like Avent over Tanner though I’ll be the first to admit that you can’t take a thing away from Tanner’s coaching ability. I like Avent on a personal level and I think last year was probably just as baffling to him as to anyone. He did have a young squad and the guys he lost from last year were far from just contributors. Sometimes young kids come in and produce immediately, and others require some experience to hone their talent. It’s a crap shoot on which you get and a “rebuilding year with hope” can quickly and unexpectedly turn into a lost year if the young guys that dominate your roster struggle to become accustomed to the college game. I think Avent has earned a bad year at the very least, especially after the run to Athens and the Super Regional just last year.

    I know he was super excited about the kids coming in this past year when I asked him about them. Hopefully those kids will find their place and make huge strides before next season.

    Whoever above said that two coaches were dismissed to hire “some pitching coach” exposed his lack of knowledge of the college game unless he was being facetious. Coach Holiday’s resume as a pitching and assistant coach is second to none. I’ve never met him personally, but his experience with the likes of University of Texas and Arizona State and the results he produced while there says all you need to know about that hire. We’re very, very lucky to have him.

    I’ve met Hart and Ward briefly and they’re both super nice guys. Both were outstanding baseball players in their own right. I find it hard to imagine any of these guys would neglect any recruiting responsibility or neglect any responsibility at all for that matter.

  23. GAWolf 07/15/2009 at 3:49 PM #

    I’d just like to add that you’d be hard pressed to find a guy who has the passion for NC State that Avent has. He loves the place, and I would think that carries over to his team. I truly think there are still a lot of good and very likely great years in Avent’s program. And truthfully minus the anomaly of whatever happened this past season… and I went to some games where we flat out stunk it up so I’ll be the first to admit some things went terribly wrong… I think Avent’s baseball program has been the crown jewel of our major sports programs over the last many, many years.

  24. GAWolf 07/15/2009 at 4:02 PM #

    2009 Summer Updates

    7/12 – Aaron Bates was 3-4 with 2 doubles and an RBI in Boston’s 6-0 win over Kansas City

    7/11 – Aaron Bates gets his first big league hit and RBI against Ramon Colon of the Kansas City Royals

    7/10 – Harold Riggins broke the Madison home run record and is leading the Northwoods League in RBI’s

    7/10 – Pratt Maynard is leading the Coastal Plain League in RBI’s and runs scored

    7/8 – John Lambert has joined the Santa Barbara Foresters of the California Collegiate League

    7/6 – Aaron Bates made his big league debut after being called up by the Boston Red Sox

    7/5 – Grant Sasser was named to the North squad for the Valley League All Star Game

    6/30 – Harold Riggins is hitting .304 with 6 homers and 33 RBI’s for Madison (Northwoods)

    6/30 – Pratt Maynard is hitting .355 with 4 homers and 30 RBI’s for Forest City (Coastal Plain)

    6/17 – Eric Surkamp (4-2, 3.86) threw 5.2 innings for Augusta to pick up the win against Charleston (A)

    6/17 – Matt Camp was 4-6 today and is hitting .340 with 2 homers and 20 RBI’s for the Iowa Cubs (AAA)

    6/17 – Aaron Bates was 2-5 with an RBI tonight and is hitting .355 for the Pawtucket Red Sox (AAA)

    6/15 – Jeremy Synan was 3-4 with a home run and 2 RBI’s for the Greensboro Grasshoppers (A)

    6/15 – Andrew Ciencin will be joining the Forest City Owls (Coastal Plain) for the rest of the summer

    6/15 – JUCO transfer Ryan Mathews is playing for the Waynesboro Generals (Valley)

    6/14 – Aaron Bates is hitting .333 with 2 homers and 4 RBI’s in his first week with Pawtucket (AAA)

    6/14 – Eric Surkamp is 3-2 with a 3.93 ERA with 70 K’s and 12 BB’s for Augusta (A)

    6/14 – Jon Still is hitting .245 with 6 homers and 32 RBI’s for Portland (AA)

    6/14 – Cory Mazzoni is 1-1 with a 5.40 ERA for Slippery Rock (Prospect)

    6/14 – Chris Schaeffer is hitting .269 with 2 RBI’s for Green Bay (Northwoods)

    6/13 – Vance Williams has an ERA of 0.93 in six appearances for Outer Banks (Coastal Plain)

    6/13 – Matt Camp is hitting .316 with 2 homers and 18 RBI’s for Iowa (AAA)

    6/13 – Aaron Bates hit 2 homers and drove in 3 RBI’s in Pawtucket’s win over Syracuse (AAA)

  25. ryebread 07/15/2009 at 6:12 PM #

    I consider last year to have been a bit of an outlier for the baseball team. We were really, really young and the bats just never came together.

    I agree with GAWolf on Holliday. We’re extremely lucky to have him. His first year at NC State, we jumped up and Texas took a hit (and didn’t even make the tournament). I suspect he’ll be turning out fine pitching staffs for years to come — particularly when he gets the recruiting cranked up.

    While I am admittedly envious of UNC’s success at baseball, I’m fine with Avent’s performance (as it’s probably sadly one of the better programs we have). I think we’ve got bigger fish to fry currently in the athletics.

    I would like to see us focus more on in State recruiting. The one criticism that I’ve heard over the years about Avent is that he doesn’t connect well with the local HS baseball scene. There’s too much smoke there for there not to be at least some flame. I think if we did this, we could make some inroads. There’s enough talent here to win big (as UNC has shown) as well as to support other good teams (Wake, ECU, etc.).

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