PC: Pack Talks Miami Win

DURHAM, N.C. -- NC State's Elliott Avent and several players met with the media to discuss the win over Miami that clinched a spot in the ACC title game for the Wolfpack.

ELLIOTT AVENT:  Great game obviously.  Seems like we have a knack for playing these kind of games over here.  I'm sure everybody's sitting there saying what time am I getting home tonight.  Thank God it's Friday and tomorrow's not a work day for some people.  But anyway, just really proud of our team.  They played so well all year.  All year they've hung with some things that you wouldn't believe.  Just a really close-knit group, great leadership.  The seniors have been phenomenal, and if you stick with things in life, then good things can come your way if you keep busting it and just very proud of our players.

Q.  Preston, could you just take us what was going through your head on that final play?
PRESTON PALMEIRO:  Well, when I hit it I knew I had a double, I was just trying to hustle.  And when he threw it in, I could tell it was offline and I knew that they didn't have a shot to catch it so I kept going.  And when I got to third, Coach Hart didn't stop waving me so I just put my head down and kept going.

Q.  Going off of that, Preston, when you're heading in towards the plate and you saw the ball coming, what was going through your head then?
PRESTON PALMEIRO:  Honestly, I was a little worried because if he had caught it, I was out by a good 20feet and I had run all that way.  (Laughter.) But thank God he missed it.  I mean, I was going to do everything I could, you know, jump over him, get around him, I don't know.  I would have found a way to be safe, but I was a little bit worried when I saw the throw.

Q.  Preston, have you ever had a hit like that?
PRESTON PALMEIRO:  Probably not since coach pitch.  (Laughter.)  It was a Little League home run.  But I kept telling people that I was going to end it, and I guess that does the job so I'll take it.

Q.  Tommy, in the 12th inning you got in a little bit of a jam and you got a couple big strikeouts to get out of it.  Could you tell us your game plan with runners on base?
TOMMY DeJUNEAS:  I mean, it's my thing when I pitch, just I try to locate fastballs and just get ahead.  And so when I have guys on base I just try to keep doing what I've been doing all year.  I mean I've been in jams like that before and it's just trying to get ahead and locate.  I tried to do that and I happened to get guys out.

Q.  Question for Jon.  I think the last time I saw you pitch was against Campbell.  How different is the atmosphere against Campbell in the midweek and getting extended against Miami in this?  Was that the best you've thrown this year?
JON OLCZAK:  Yeah, that was the best, the sharpest I've been all year.  The atmosphere was awesome.  State fans, they're awesome and they create an environment that's fun to play in.  The Campbell game was obviously fun.  I'm still trying to do the same things.  I'm trying to get guys out and give a chance to our team to win so that stays the same, but it's definitely fun to walk off here with the Wolfpack chant.

Q.  I have a question for all three.  You're going to play for the ACC title Sunday.  Just describe what that feels like.
JON OLCZAK:  That's awesome.  I don't even know how to put that into words.  We've got a really close group of guys.  We all play hard for each other and we believe in each other the whole way, never any doubts, so we're ready to get after it. 
TOMMY DeJUNEAS:  It's just a crazy feeling.  I mean I know all of us come here because, I mean, this is a winning program and we want to play in games like this.  And making it to the championship, I mean, that's always been our goal and now we're there.  We've just got to keep playing how we're playing.  It's going to be a crazy atmosphere, but just keep playing how we're playing.
PRESTON PALMEIRO:  It's unbelievable.  I think where we were three, four weeks ago, people questioned if we were even going to make it into the ACC tournament and now we have a shot to win it.  That's why we play.  Coach Avent said for the last two weeks we came to NC State to win.  We didn't come here to just play in ACC games, we came here to beat teams like Miami and play against Louisville, Florida State for an ACC championship and that's what we're ready to do.

Q.  Coach, could you just describe to us what the atmosphere was like managing that game?
HEAD COACH ELLIOTT AVENT:  You know, managing, you just try to-- you know, you've got to think, you've got to think a couple innings ahead, you've got to think what you're going to do with every move you're going to make and you've still got more games to play.  So you've got to decide at some point what do you do with this game knowing you've got to play Virginia tomorrow night and possibly a game on Sunday.  But the great thing is our crowd.  I think Jon said it, our crowd was unbelievable tonight.  I mean, they were-- sometimes they're there, you notice there's a lot of people.  Tonight they were there and loud.  They were loud.  That kind of keeps you going a little bit as a team.  We got down 2-0, got down 4-2.  They were pretty special tonight.  Got to give a big, big thank you to our crowd because they had a lot to do with us winning tonight, I think.

Q.  Can you talk about your bullpen a little bit?  6.2 innings pitched, 12 strikeouts, one hit?
HEAD COACH ELLIOTT AVENT:  Our bullpen's been the strength of our pitching all year except for the late emergence of Brian Brown.  He's been good all year but lately he's been phenomenal.  But our bullpen, much like when we went to the World Series, that was our strength even though you had Carlos Rodon.  So our bullpen's been very, very special.

Q.  Coach, just to follow up on that, what Jon did today, an extended relief appearance here on a big stage, I mean, given the ups and downs I guess of his season, how encouraging is that for you guys going forward?
HEAD COACH ELLIOTT AVENT:  It's what we preach with our whole team.  You know, if you look at like Bubby Riley and Chance Shepard have had a lot to do with our success offensively lately.  Josh McLain hasn't played much all year and he came within a whisker of throwing a guy out at the plate.  Got a couple big down and they played outstanding for us.  Brock Deatherage, a freshman, there was a time in the beginning of the conference season when he was just lights-out for us and really gave us a big spark. 
So you just always tell your players you've got to stick with it because people want to get rewarded, and sometimes when they don't get rewarded they kind of like back off.  That's when you're talking about Olczak, I think Coach Foxhall's done a phenomenal job with our pitching staff.  Consistency is everything in a sport because you can have highs and lows because of the failure that exists in our sport.  I just think Coach Foxhall has done a fabulous job not only getting these guys ready to pitch, but communicating with them and keeping them at a place where something like what Olczak did tonight can happen.

Q.  Coach, the pitching staff came out and talked to Tommy a couple times, but you ultimately decided to leave him in.  What was that decision process like whenever you were late in the game?
HEAD COACH ELLIOTT AVENT:  We were always going to leave him in.  We just-- one time we went out there, it was first and third, two outs, thought Miami might try to do something with runners to try to score a run without a pitch to the plate.  That's something we don't practice a lot, and Tommy being a freshman and with the excitement of the crowd and him focused on one thing and one thing only, if the runner were to leave early, something like that.  He just went out there to let him know something could happen, let's just focus, that's all.  We weren't going to take Tommy out.

Q.  Coach, you guys really stymied the Miami offense after the fourth inning because they didn't really threaten until the top of the 12th there when they had the leadoff double.  Was there anything tactically that you changed or saw in their hitters that really helped you keep them off the board?
HEAD COACH ELLIOTT AVENT:  Once again, Coach Foxhall calls every pitch and he's done a great job with our pitching.  We both think Miami's the best offensive lineup we've seen all year, we just think they're incredible.  So I don't know, you have to talk-- he did a great job calling pitches and our guys did a great job delivering the pitches.  It's not an offense you're really going to stymie.  I mean, we got them out, yes, but they had good at-bats, too.  Sometimes you win and sometimes they get you, but it wasn't easy, promise you that.

Q.  Elliott, some plays didn't go well for you tonight and when you saw Palmeiro come around, how excited were you when you saw him come around third and heading for home?
HEAD COACH ELLIOTT AVENT:  Excited until I saw the throw, I think it beat him, you know what I'm saying?  It's really funny, I used to coach third and I send everybody.  Coach Hart coaches third, he's got better sense than I've got, he'll hold people and tonight he sends him, and fortunately for us he dropped the ball.  I don't know whether it short-hopped or not.  I was kind of close.  I can see it but now I can't remember exactly what happened.  I was just glad the ball came out of his glove.

Q.  I know you're not crazy about this format, but now you get a free game tomorrow to play with your pitching and prepare for Sunday.
HEAD COACH ELLIOTT AVENT:  It's not that I'm not crazy about the format, it's just-- there's good things about this format and there's good things about the double elimination 10-team format.  10-team gets more-- or 12-team like the SEC is doing, it gets more people in.  I think the more people you get in here playing, you have a couple chances to play possibly to extend your season.  Because we have a lot of teams here in this league that deserve bids and I'm not going to say it's just eight, but I guarantee you all eight teams that were in this tournament deserve a bid to the NCAA tournament.  It's just a quality, quality league.  But there's good to be said about both.  The double elimination kind of gets you in the mode where if you lose, it changes your format.  You're in the losers bracket, you've got to win more games, kind of like what's going to happen next week.  So there's good and bad.  The good thing, like you said, Joe, is you get to set your pitching up for the following weekend.  That's the one good thing about it.

Q.  Will you save Jon for Sunday?
HEAD COACH ELLIOTT AVENT:  We just got the pitchers together real quickly because I knew I had to come in here, that's why I was a little bit late.  We got the pitchers together.  We're going to try to play well tomorrow.  We're not going to come out here and just try to-- you don't just go out there and no effort.  We may rest some people.  Andrew Knizner, boy, has he caught phenomenally, holy smokes.  I'll go ahead and give him a vote for All-Conference or All-Tournament team if y'all are thinking about that.  He's been phenomenal.  He will not catch tomorrow night.  So we'll do some things like that, but who's going to pitch, I don't know.  We're going to see how many guys we can have ready for Sunday.  But we're going to have to come out and pitch well against a Virginia team or you're going to get run rule.

Q.  Coach, you guys trailed until the bottom of the 9th.  How confident were you in your team being able to make a comeback though?
HEAD COACH ELLIOTT AVENT:  You know, the confidence in this team, we were down I think it was 5-1 to Louisville, I can't remember exactly, and I think it was the last game.  Just the feeling in that dugout is we're going to win.  Next thing I know I looked up and it's 5-5 in the eighth and it's like same thing tonight.  I don't want to put it on one player, this is a team, but leadership is so valuable in sports and you get it from a lot-- a couple guys, a few guys-- our seniors have been phenomenal.  Our seniors have just been great, but Logan Ratledge, he just won't let anybody think about anything but winning.  That's all he talks-- I mean, so every time we were down, that's all I heard was Logan Ratledge keeping everybody going in the right direction.

Q.  Coach, building off of that, not only just come back once but coming back twice, what does that say about your team even more?
HEAD COACH ELLIOTT AVENT:  It's what I said, it's what they've done all year, it's what they've done all year.  Even when we lost nine out of 12, we were playing good.  This is a good league, it's a hard league.  We lost two one-run games to Florida State, two one-run games to North Carolina, and this league will just beat you up.  And then the people you play in the middle of the week, I think we blow a game at East Carolina.  We took the lead bottom in the ninth and they came back and beat us in the bottom of the ninth.  It was heartbreaking, and this team just kept walking ahead, persevering, persevering, sticking together.  And you knew at that point if they could do that, that hopefully the sun's going to smile on you once in a while and we got a little bit of sunshine and we've been running with it.  This team just believes in each other so much and they're playing so well.

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