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RELEASE: Legendary NC State Coach Sam Esposito Passes Away

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RALEIGH, N.C. – The NC State family suffered a loss last night, as legendary former Wolfpack baseball head coach and assistant basketball coach Sam Esposito passed away. He was 86.

Esposito served as the baseball coach for 21 years, leading NC State to 513 wins during his tenure – the most by any coach in Wolfpack history at the time of his retirement. He was also an assistant coach with the NC State basketball program for 12 years, helping Norm Sloan lead the Pack to the National Championship in 1974 and establish the Wolfpack as a national powerhouse.

“Coach Esposito was the Godfather of NC State Athletics,” said NC State baseball head coach Elliott Avent. “He was at the root of much of the athletics department’s success stories during the ’70s and ’80s. Almost every morning at around 5:30, coaches would gather in Coach Esposito’s office for counsel and advice.

“He and Coach (Jim) Valvano were extremely close and Coach V would tell you that a lot of the success he had here was because of the advice from Coach Esposito. He had a profound impact on all of the coaches and players from Monte Towe, Tommy Burleson, David Thompson, Ray Tanner, Tim Stoddard, Eddie Biedenbach, Chuck Amato, George Tarantini to Bob Guzzo. We owe a lot of gratitude and thanks to Coach Esposito because he was largely responsible for our success.”

Esposito guided the baseball team to its first appearance in the College World Series in 1968. He also led the Wolfpack to four ACC Championships, including the program’s first in 1968.

Under his direction, 69 players earned All-ACC honors and seven players were named All-American. Esposito also coached 12 future major leaguers, four of whom played for at least a decade in the big leagues.

Esposito’s career was more than individual achievements, however. More than anything, he lifted NC State baseball into the national spotlight and made the Wolfpack a national power in baseball for the first time. More importantly, he had a lasting, often lifelong, impact on his players.

“Coach Esposito was my teacher of life,” said South Carolina Director of Athletics Ray Tanner, who played four years (1977-80) for Esposito and was his assistant coach for seven more before taking over the program upon Esposito’s retirement in the summer of 1987. “Baseball was a part, but my journey through life always involved his touch. I never made an important decision unless he gave me guidance. From my first day as a freshman and throughout my professional life, he was my second father. The greatest coach ever–R.I.P.”

“He did so many good things for this university,” said former NC State football head coach Chuck Amato. “He was a great baseball coach and brought the program from mediocrity to what it is today. He was also a great basketball coach and a phenomenal recruiter, bringing in Monte Towe and several other great players helping them win a National Championship. On top of all that, he was a funny man that enjoyed life and we’re going to miss him. It’s a sad day; it’s a very, very sad day.”

The Pack went 11-11 in Esposito’s first year on the job, and has had nothing but winning seasons since. His second team went 25-9, won the ACC championship (which was decided based on standings) and finished third at the 1968 College World Series. He guided the Wolfpack to the first three ACC Tournament championships in 1973, ’74 and ’75.

He became the first coach in school history to win 30 games in a season when his 1981 team went 33-12. Three of his last four teams won 30 games or more, including a 39-16 mark in 1987. His last four teams compiled a .711 winning percentage (135-55).

For 12 years, Esposito worked as the baseball head coach and an assistant basketball coach, helping Sloan establish NC State as a national powerhouse. The Wolfpack won three ACC basketball championships from 1970-74. In 1973-74, Esposito won the national title ring he missed in 1953 at Indiana, helping coach the Wolfpack to a 30-1 record and the 1974 NCAA title.

Following the 1977-78 basketball season, Esposito left Sloan’s staff and began coaching baseball full-time. In the ensuing years, he continued to have a marked effect on both the program and on his players. In his last 10 years on the job (1978-87), Esposito’s teams won at a .677 clip (283-135), including a 32-8 mark in 1984, 35-15 in 1986, and 39-16 in 1987.

In those final 10 years, Esposito coached 22 first-team all-conference players and three All-Americans. He also coached nine future major league players, including Doug Strange, now a special assistant to Pittsburgh Pirates general manager Neal Huntington. Strange played for Esposito from 1983-85, then went on to play 10 seasons in the major leagues with the Tigers, Cubs, Rangers, Mariners, Expos and Pirates.

His son Sammy lettered as a catcher at NC State from 1999-2002.

Reflections from Former Players and Colleagues…

BOB GUZZO
Legendary former NC State Wrestling Coach

“I’m very saddened to hear of Sam’s passing. I was his officemate and I thought an awful lot of him. He helped me a great deal when I first got here and I’m heartbroken.”

DOUG STRANGE (1983-85)
Long-time Major League Baseball Player, In his eighth year as director of player personnel for the Pittsburgh Pirates

“I’m saddened to hear about the loss of Coach Esposito. I have so many memories about him and our teams. Some are funny, some are eye-opening and most all are very meaningful. I would not be where I am today without Coach Esposito recruiting me to come to NC State. I won’t forget the impact he had on me personally, so it’s a sad day.”

DAN PLESAC(1981-83)
Three-time MLB All-Star Pitcher, Broadcaster with MLB Network since 2009

“Sam Esposito was the most influential coach in my baseball career. Leader of men, knew when to slap you on the back and also when to give you an earful. He was passionate about doing things the right way. I can still hear him saying, “Geez, Danny, just throw strikes.”

TIM STODDARD (1972-75)
Current assistant coach at North Central College in Naperville, Illinois, after 22 years at Northwestern University, one of two people in the history of American sports to win an NCAA basketball championship (1974) and a World Series championship (1983 with the Baltimore Orioles)

“Coach Esposito was the most influential man in both my basketball and (most especially) my baseball career. He really helped keep me focused on the now in sports and the things that you can control, not the thing that you had no control over. He made sure that I was getting baseball in during that season and basketball in during that season, not cheating one to get a step ahead of the other. I give him the credit for me accomplishing the things in baseball that I was fortunate enough to achieve.”

MONTE TOWE (1972-75)
Member of the 1974 men’s basketball National Championship Team, NC State assistant coach from 1978-80, 2006-10

“He was a tremendous friend, a tremendous coach and a tremendous person and we will all miss him. All of us that had the good fortune of playing for him or being around him are blessed because of that.”

TRACY WOODSON (1982-84)
Head Baseball Coach at the University of Richmond, Member of the 1988 Los Angeles Dodgers World Series Championship team

“I feel that everything I earned in my baseball career I owe a part of that to Coach Esposito. He handed out a lot of tough love but what I learned in my three years at State will never be forgotten. Our one-on-one conversations I have never taken for granted.”

MIKE CALDWELL (1968-71)
Freshman star of the 1968 CWS team and 1970 ACC Player of the Year, Long-time MLB pitcher who finished second in 1978 Cy Young Award race to NYY’s Ron Guidry

“Sam came in and showed the team how to approach the game like a professional. He kept the workouts simple and we played the game without a lot of trick plays. His game plan was 1, Catch the ball, 2, throw the ball, 3, hit the ball. He was simply a ‘no nonsense’ guy that had a great athletic life and was willing to share some of it with his players. He will be missed by all that played for him.”

BRIAN BARK (1987-90)
Former MLB Pitcher with the Boston Red Sox, Four-time All-ACC Selection

“It was truly and honor to play for Coach Esposito and represent the NC State baseball program, which he invested so much of his life to,” said Brian Bark. “He knew the perfect balance between tough love and encouragement to get the most out of all his players.”

NC State Baseball

3 NC State Players Named to D1Baseball 2019 Preseason All-American Team

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RALEIGH, N.C. – NC State baseball’s Patrick Bailey, Kent Klyman and Will Wilson have been named D1Baseball Preseason All-Americans in advance of the 2019 season.

The Wolfpack is one of just four teams nationally with three players on the team and the only program from the ACC. All three earned a spot on the third team.

Patrick Bailey, So., C

Bailey was a unanimous Freshman All-America selection last season, claiming the honor from all five publications to announce the award, including Baseball America, Collegiate Baseball, D1Baseball, National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association (NCBWA) and Perfect Game.

The Greensboro, N.C., native turned in a stellar rookie season to earn ACC Freshman of the Year. Bailey led all freshmen in the ACC in batting average (.321), home runs (13), total bases (113) and slugging percentage (.604).

He was tabbed a Second Team All-ACC and ACC All-Freshman Team selection, in addition to being an American Baseball Coaches Association (ABCA) All-Region honoree. Bailey set the NC State freshman home run record with 13 long balls in his initial season, eclipsing the previous mark of 12 held by Colt Morton.

The switch-hitting catcher made history against William & Mary, when he became the first Wolfpack player to homer from both sides of the plate in the same game.

Bailey’s .604 slugging percentage led the Pack, was the fourth highest in the ACC and best for a freshman. He logged the second most multi-hit games on the team with 21 and also contributed 11 multi-RBI games, highlighted by two games with five or more RBIs. Bailey threw out 11 runners on the base paths and recorded a .983 fielding percentage.

He earns his second Preseason All-America honor, as he also received the award from Perfect Game.

Kent Klyman, Jr., LHP

Klyman served as the Wolfpack’s top reliever out of the bullpen last season, as he was second on the team with 31 appearances. That mark tied for the sixth most by an ACC pitcher last season.

He led NC State with eight wins to go along with a 2.34 earned run average (ERA). Klyman’s eight wins tied for the second most in the conference. The junior pitcher threw 61.2 innings as a sophomore and also tallied four saves.

The Jamestown, Va., native struck out 67 batters and walked only 25 batters while allowing just 16 earned runs. He sported a 0.00 ERA through his first 12 outings of the 2018 season. Klyman threw a career-long 4.1 innings against Notre Dame and fanned a career-best six batters in 3.1 innings of relief against UNC-Chapel Hill.

He did not allow an earned run in 22 of his 31 appearances and held opponents to a .204 batting average. Klyman was a part of four combined shutouts by the NC State pitching staff last season.

Will Wilson, Jr., SS

Hailing from Kings Mountain, N.C., Wilson secures his third Preseason All-America honor as he also collected the accolade from Collegiate Baseball and Perfect Game. He was recently tabbed one of the top 50 prospects for the 2019 MLB Draft by MLB Pipeline.

He spent the summer as a member of the USA Baseball Collegiate National Team (CNT) and traveled to Cuba with the team.

After claiming Freshman All-America honors from Collegiate Baseball in his initial season with the Wolfpack, Wilson put together a .307 batting average as a sophomore to go along with 53 RBIs and 15 home runs. He was one of seven Wolfpack players to claim All-ACC honors and one of four named to the first team.

The Pack’s shortstop made program history during the season by becoming the first NC State player to claim ACC Player of the Week honors three times in a season. Wilson hit 10 home runs against ACC teams, which tied for the third most in conference games and is the most among returning players. He was named one of 35 semifinalists for the Dick Howser Trophy, which is given annually to the top player in collegiate baseball.

Wilson was also selected to the Brooks Wallace Award Watch List, which is presented to the nation’s top shortstop. He was tabbed National Player of the Week by Collegiate Baseball and College Sports Madness, along with NCBWA National Hitter of the Week during the season.

NC State will open the 2019 season ranked No. 21 in the Perfect Game and No. 22 in the Collegiate Baseball Preseason Polls, which marks the 17th consecutive season that the Wolfpack has either started or finished the year ranked among the top 25. The Pack hosts the Bucknell Bison on opening weekend, Feb. 15-17, for a three-game series at Doak Field at Dail Park.

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NC State Ranked 21st in Perfect Game 2019 Preseason College Baseball Poll

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CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa – After hosting an NCAA Regional for the sixth time in program history last season, the NC State baseball team will begin its 2019 campaign ranked No. 21 in the Perfect Game Preseason Poll, the organization announced Wednesday.

The selection marks the 17th consecutive year that NC State has either started the year or finished the season ranked in the polls.

The Pack is one of five programs from the Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) to appear in the Perfect Game preseason listing.

NC State will play a total of 14 games versus teams ranked in the poll.

Perfect Game announced its preseason All-Americans on Tuesday, as junior Will Wilson was named to the second team and sophomore Patrick Bailey was tabbed to the third team.

The Wolfpack was also ranked in the Collegiate Baseball Preseason Poll announced in December, checking in at No. 22.

NC State opens the 2019 season at home on Feb. 15 against Bucknell. First pitch is slated for 3 p.m. at Doak Field at Dail Park.

2019 NC State baseball season tickets are now on sale and can be found on GoPack.com/Pack9Tickets.

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NC State Lands 2 on Perfect Game Preseason All-American Teams

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CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa – NC State baseball’s Patrick Bailey and Will Wilson have been tabbed Preseason All-Americans by Perfect Game ahead of the 2019 season, announced Tuesday by the organization.

Wilson earns a spot on the second team, ranking among the nation’s top four middle infielders, while Bailey is on the third team as one of the top three catchers nationally.

Hailing from Kings Mountain, N.C., Wilson secures his second Preseason All-America honor as he also collected the accolade from Collegiate Baseball. He was recently tabbed one of the top 50 prospects for the 2019 MLB Draft by MLB Pipeline.

He spent the summer as a member of the USA Baseball Collegiate National Team (CNT) and traveled to Cuba with the team.

After claiming Freshman All-America honors from Collegiate Baseball in his initial season with the Wolfpack, Wilson put together a .307 batting average as a sophomore to go along with 53 RBIs and 15 home runs. He was one of seven Wolfpack players to claim All-ACC honors and one of four named to the first team.

The Pack’s shortstop made program history during the season by becoming the first NC State player to claim ACC Player of the Week honors three times in a season. Wilson hit 10 home runs against ACC teams, which tied for the third most in conference games and is the most among returning players. He was named one of 35 semifinalists for the Dick Howser Trophy, which is given annually to the top player in collegiate baseball.

Wilson was also selected to the Brooks Wallace Award Watch List, which is presented to the nation’s top shortstop. He was tabbed National Player of the Week by Collegiate Baseball and College Sports Madness, along with NCBWA National Hitter of the Week during the season.

Bailey was a unanimous Freshman All-America selection last season, claiming the honor from all five publications to announce the award, including Baseball America, Collegiate Baseball, D1Baseball, National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association (NCBWA) and Perfect Game.

The Greensboro, N.C., native turned in a stellar rookie season to earn ACC Freshman of the Year. Bailey led all freshmen in the ACC in batting average (.321), home runs (13), total bases (113) and slugging percentage (.604).

He was tabbed a Second Team All-ACC and ACC All-Freshman Team selection, in addition to being an American Baseball Coaches Association (ABCA) All-Region honoree. Bailey set the NC State freshman home run record with 13 long balls in his initial season, eclipsing the previous mark of 12 held by Colt Morton.

The switch-hitting catcher made history against William & Mary, when he became the first Wolfpack player to homer from both sides of the plate in the same game.

Bailey’s .604 slugging percentage led the Pack, was the fourth highest in the ACC and best for a freshman. He logged the second most multi-hit games on the team with 21 and also contributed 11 multi-RBI games, highlighted by two games with five or more RBIs. Bailey threw out 11 runners on the base paths and recorded a .983 fielding percentage.

NC State will open the 2019 season ranked No. 22 in Collegiate Baseball Preseason Poll, which marks the 17th consecutive season that the Wolfpack has either started or finished the year ranked among the top 25. The Pack hosts the Bucknell Bison on opening weekend, Feb. 15-17, for a three-game series at Doak Field at Dail Park.

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NC State Ranked 22nd in Collegiate Baseball Preseason Poll

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Junior Shortstop Will Wilson was recently named a Preseason All-American by Collegiate Baseball, and yesterday they released their 2019 Preseason College Baseball Poll, and NC State sits at #22.

After the preseason ranking, NC State has now either started or finished the season ranked for 17 straight years.

Collegiate Baseball 2019 Preseason Top-25

Rank Team (Final 2018 Record) Points
1. Louisiana St. (39-27) 496
2. Vanderbilt (35-27) 495
3. UCLA (38-21) 494
4. Texas Tech. (45-20) 491
5. Stanford (46-12) 488
6. Florida (49-21) 487
7. Oregon St. (55-12-1) 485
8. North Carolina (44-20) 482
9. Louisville (45-19) 480
10. Florida St. (43-19) 479
11. Mississippi (48-17) 476
12. Coastal Carolina (43-19) 473
13. Georgia (39-21) 471
14. Texas (42-23) 468
15. Clemson (47-16) 467
16. Oklahoma St. (31-26-1) 464
17. Georgia Tech. (31-21) 462
18. Cal. St. Fullerton (36-25) 460
19. Texas Christian (33-23) 457
20. Duke (45-18) 453
21. Baylor (37-21) 450
22. N.C. State (42-18) 446
23. Auburn (43-23) 445
24. Missouri St. (40-17) 442
25. Arkansas (48-21) 439

ACC Teams in the Top-25

8. UNC
9. Louisville
10 FSU
15. Clemson
17. Georgia Tech
20. Duke
22. NC State

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