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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

NC STATE BOARD OF TRUSTEES APPROVES NEW CONTRACTS FOR AVENT AND SANTORO

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RALEIGH, N.C. – The NC State Board of Trustees approved Friday new contracts for head baseball coach Elliott Avent and head women’s soccer coach Tim Santoro.

Avent’s contract, which was set to expire in June of 2019, has been extended through 2021 with the potential for additional years based on achievement.

“Coach Avent has led NC State baseball for over two decades, and we’re glad he will continue as our leader for years to come,” said Director of Athletics, Debbie Yow.  “He works tirelessly, recruits at a high level, and we look forward to his continued leadership.”

Santoro agreed to a two-year extension to his current agreement, which puts him under contract for five years through 2022.

“Coach Santoro continues to do an exceptional job building our women’s soccer program. He recruits at a high level, has elevated NC State, and this contract reflects our commitment.”
Last season, Avent guided the Wolfpack to a 40-win season, highlighted by hosting an NCAA Regional in Raleigh for the sixth time in program history, all of which have come under his direction. The Wolfpack won its first seven ACC series and tied the program record with 19 conference wins.

NC State finished the year ranked No. 22 in the D1 Baseball Poll, which marks the 16th consecutive season that the Wolfpack has either started or finished the year ranked among the top 25 of a major poll. The Pack also made history with four players selected in the top-10 rounds of the 2018 Major League Baseball (MLB) Draft.

In 2013, he led the Wolfpack to the College World Series (CWS) and has taken NC State to the NCAA Tournament in 17 of his 22 seasons at the helm, including 14 of the last 16 seasons.

Avent is the winningest head coach in program history and is just one of 17 active NCAA Division I baseball head coaches with 1,000 or more career wins. The 2019 season will be his 23rd leading the Wolfpack.

“NC State has always been where my heart is, and I’ve spent the better part of my professional life striving to build a program our campus, alumni, and community can share a sense of pride in,” said Avent. “There is a tremendous amount of pride that connects our players and staff, both past and present. Together we have amassed years of sustained success that has created such a passionate and loyal fan base.

“I look forward to leading the Wolfpack for years to come maintaining the consistency that has become a hallmark of NC State baseball.”

Last season, Santoro led NC State to the NCAA Second Round with a 15-5-2 record, marking the most wins for the program since 1995. The campaign was highlighted by a third-place finish in the ACC regular season standings and the program’s first ACC Championship semifinal appearance since 1995.

“I’ve enjoyed my time at NC State and in Raleigh and am so thankful to Debbie and the administration for having faith in me to continue building on what started a few years back,” said Santoro. “While we’ve made some great strides, there’s still so much more to accomplish and I’m just excited for the opportunity to keep leading a top ACC program that’s part of a great institution, in a great city and surrounded by great people.”

The women’s soccer team finished with a final RPI of 23, setting its best mark in program history since the NCAA began archiving the stat in 2000. The Wolfpack improved 11 spots from 2016 when the team earned a then program-best RPI of 34, and has made a 197-spot improvement from 220th in 2015.

NC State also clinched back-to-back ACC Championship berths for the first time since 2003-04 and earned consecutive NCAA Championship appearances for the first time since 1995-96.

The Pack additionally finished 21st in the final United Soccer Coaches poll, 23rd in Soccer America’s and 16th in Top Drawer Soccer’s, marking the first back-to-back top 25 finishes for the program since 1991-92.

Santoro is in his sixth season leading the women’s soccer program and was the NSCAA Southeast Region Coach of the Year and a finalist for National Coach of the Year in 2016.

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NC State basketball completed their NBA Combine-like testing this week

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If you’ve followed our site through the years, then you know that NC State does an annual NBA-Combine like testing called ‘BAM.’ This is where they test speed, strength, and agility and get back precise data, which shows their offseason improvements.

They did this under Gottfried as well, but something tells me that the data that is returned is going to be utilized a bit better under Keatts. Here is a full explanation of what they went through…

And here is a little video (and some pictures) of the process…

We’re working on getting some numbers back, but as of right now it seems as if Keatts is keeping this data close to the vest. We’ll update you when we know more…

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Trea Turner’s power / speed combo puts him in MLB history books

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Former NC State (and current Washington Nationals) SS, Trea Turner, is having what has become a historic season.

So why hasn’t there been more hype around the 25-year-old?

Well, last year in an injury-shortened season (412 ABs), Turner was on an even torrid pace. He batted .284, hit 11 HRs and stole 46 bases. That was coming off a 2016 season where, in just 324 ABs he hit an insane .342 with 33 HRs and 33 steals.

Those type of numbers have made some see his 2018 numbers as a sort of letdown.

After last night’s big game (2-5, HR, 3 RBIs) Turner is hitting .268 with 15 HRs in 504 ABs. He’s also stolen 32 bases. While he’s shown a better pace in the past, the current pace is actually good enough to land him in the MLB record books.

Trea Turner is already showing historic power/speed combo numbers, but his past numbers show, this might just be the beginning of what is possible for the young SS.

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Detroit Tigers promote Brock Deatherage to A-Advanced & he keeps raking

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We told you just a few days ago that former NC State OF Brock Deatherage was lighting up the minor leagues.

Well, we weren’t the only ones who thought so.

Yesterday, Deatherage was promoted by the Detroit Tigers from Class A to Class A-Advanced.

 

It seems as if the Tigers are fast-tracking Brock at this point. If he hits well for Lakeland, he could start next season in AA, and if that happens, he could see the majors by the end of next season. But again, it all comes down to him continuing to hit like this.

The good news is, in his first at-bat with the new club, Deatherage hit a laser-beam of a triple into the right-center gap.

We’ll keep you updated on how he fares in the coming weeks.

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