Avent: Buchanan to Start Opener

RALEIGH, N.C. -- No. 1 seed NC State head coach Elliott Avent and three of his players met with the media following the Wolfpack's early morning practice. The Wolfpack faces No. 4 seed James Madison in the opener of the Raleigh Regional.

Talk about the advantages of playing at home. How important is it to be in Raleigh, in your own ball park?
Senior first baseman/outfielder Ryan Pond:
We've been on the road for the past two weeks before this and it takes its toll on you. Being able to sleep in your own bed and play at your own field in front of your own fans is huge. Whenever you play in your own park it just makes things easier.

An important part of this team's success has seemed to be because of team chemistry. How important has that been?
Head Coach Elliott Avent: Team chemistry is something every coach wants to develop, but I think it's impossible to have team chemistry without leadership. The leadership that this team has had from some of our seniors has a lot to do with where we are.

Junior outfielder Marcus Jones: We're all different in some way but for the most part we're very much alike. We're around each other so much that we know each other extremely well. We get along extremely well. There wasn't a time we sat down and said we're close. We like being around each other so it just kind of clicked.

Did the seniors and some of the older guys on the team talk about hosting a regional as a goal before they left? Is that a goal that has been discussed before?
Ryan Pond: The goal was to make the regional and to host a regional. We were always on the verge my first three years, we though we might but we were never really sure. To get a regional here just shows how far this program has come and where we stand on a national level.

Talk a little about the way this team has hit this year. It seems like the hitting has really been sort of a rollercoaster throughout the season. Are you hitting as well now as you did, say, during April?
Senior outfielder Matt Payne: The offense has been up-and-down but the pitching has been consistent and when you have good pitching you're always in ball games and I think that gives us an opportunity when we are struggling at the plate. If we can squeeze out a couple of runs we still have a good chance to win.

Ryan Pond: We may not have won as many ball games that we won in April but I think lately we've been swinging it well and getting good at bats overall. You just have to hope for a break here and there and put things together. That's all you can do and then let things fall where they may.

Marcus Jones: I think a big part of it too is we're more relaxed. When we go up to the plate there are really no worries. I think all the fear is out of the door now. Nobody thinks about the bad things that can happen. We just go up there and try to get the job done whether it's putting a bunt down or hitting a ball to move runner over. We believe in ourselves.

Do you guys know much at all about the Dukes of James Madison? Have you been checking them out on the internet or have you been leaving that up to the coaching staff to fill you in?
Matt Payne: I guess we know a little bit about them but we still have to go out there and play good baseball.

Ryan Pond: Just looking at there numbers, most of there guys numbers are better than our guys. They play in a strong conference, the CAA, so you can't overlook them. This tournament is one at a time and you just have to look at the team you're playing that day and go forward from there. You can't overlook anybody.

Is not going to have Jimmy Gilheeney coming out of the bullpen going to be a distraction or do you feel like the team is completely focused on baseball? Also, talk about Eryk McConnell going back to the bullpen in order to close.
Marcus Jones:
I think we have a lot of guys in the bullpen that can come out and get the job done. I think a big part of this team is that we believe in each other. No matter whom it is. We know whoever steps on the mound is going to give us a shot. We're really confident in each other no matter who is pitching.

Elliott Avent: It is a luxury to have McConnell in that role but basically it's a luxury to have Eryk on your team. When the thing happened with Gilheeney we went to McConnell and asked him to go back to the bullpen. Not a lot of guys want to do that, not a lot of guys handle it as well and certainly not with the class in which Eryk accepted it.

How far have you set your pitching rotation? Just for day one or more? Are you thinking about matchups for Saturday at all?
Elliott Avent:
Coach Holiday does that all year. I haven't given the pitching much thought. Holiday is a guy who has done it for thirty years and been anointed by other people as if not the top pitching coach in the country, certainly in a field of two or three.

Tom takes care of that and he sets it up two or three games in advance for every series but for the regional he'll look at it a little differently. Two losses now and you don't get a reprieve, it's over. Tom takes care of it. It's a different time of the year so I don't know how far in advance Coach Holiday is going to go.

I know Jake Buchanan is going to go Friday night. He's a real competitor, a real bulldog and he's a guy we brought along a little slower. We'll talk about Saturday Friday night at about midnight and figure out where we're going to go but it hasn't been established yet.

With Ray Tanner, former NC State head coach and current South Carolina coach coming back to Raleigh, where do you want your teams focus to be? Is there any distraction with Ray coming back to Raleigh?
Elliott Avent:
Coaches never think about that kind of stuff. It's a real fun thing to write about or talk about, but certainly our players don't give it any attention and I'm sure his players don't either. Ray and I have a friendship that started a long time ago and Ray tabbed me to be on his first staff here at NC State. Our relationship goes way back but this is all about baseball and all about the players.

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