Lots of attention put on the future of the State football program this week, but baseball got A LOT of love too.
Avent College Coach of the Year Award
After State’s run to the College World Series, and leading Team USA throughout the summer, Elliott Avent was named College Coach of the Year.
The leader of our Pack, Elliott Avent, as been named USA Baseball's College Coach of the Year. pic.twitter.com/qI0eHZHbFO
— #Pack9 ⚾️ (@NCStateBaseball) December 16, 2021
A year in which he went to his second College World Series, saw a dozen players get drafted and received the Regional Coach of the Year award, Avent has proved he can grow the program to be something special. Avent currently is sitting at 926 victories, while having coached 37 All-Americans.
Players Creating Buzz
This week, Perfect Game USA talked 2022 Draft, in which they game love to four Wolfpack members.
Sam Highfill: Just with CWS performance alone, Highfill has become a legend in Raleigh. 2021 saw him go 9-2 with a 3.66 ERA. A near 4-1 K-BB ratio, batters hit .224 off of him. Ironically enough, while he is a pitching stud, his 3 for 4 performance BATTING, is what got folks in WPN buzzing during the Pack13 game. There is no doubt, with another solid season, Highfill’s name could be rocketing towards the top of scouts’ list.
Chris Villaman : Used more as a long reliever for parts of last season, Villaman should get the day two nod behind Highfill this year. He ended up with a 5-2 record and 4.35 ERA last year, while holding batters to .204 BAVG. His aggressive pitching nature leads to a solid 5-1 K-BB ratio. Should be fun to see what he can do as a starter this year.
Josh Hood: Hood is one of many new transfers to the program, and might be the one with the most buzz. In his freshman year at Penn, he was the unanimous Ivy League Rookie of the Year, going .331, 8 HRs, 42 RBIs with 25 extra-base hits. Unfortunately, with Ivy Leagues shutting completely down for COVID, Hood was forced to stay fresh in Coastal Plains and Cape Cod League. If he can get back into a groove, he’ll provide the perfect replacement for Torres at short, while giving ample pop to this lineup.
Dom Pilolli: Another transfer, this time from UNC-Charlotte. Outfielder that, similar to Hood, had a ridiculous freshman campaign. Pilolli made the Freshman All-American team with hitting .403 (!), which was sixth-best among freshman nationwide. Slowed down a bit his second year, before a season-ending injury. There is no doubt that he’ll; A) Create highlight reel catches in left field and B) Provide a steady bat in Avent’s lineup.
Four of the Top 5 players in NC have committed to play for NC State Baseball in 2024
With the recent commitment of Anderson Nance, NC State has now secured commitments from 4 of the top 5 players in the state North Carolina for the 2024 class.
Rankings Updates Coming Soon
2024 Class is up this week
Full Release Coming Tomorrow pic.twitter.com/uAcTXANcKr
— PBR North Carolina (@PrepBaseballNC) August 22, 2022
Nance, who committed on Friday, was the biggest get. He was ranked #1 overall and possesses a low to mid-90s fastball and plus secondary pitches. He projects to be a front-line starter at some point in his career.
They also have a commitment from the #2 player in the state, Drake Purvis, who is a 6’0, 175lb lefty who can get his fastball into the 90s.
The #3 player in the state for 2024 is Truitt Manuel, a 6’2, 195lb RHP/OF who is also a star football player for Hendersonville.
Truitt Manuel (2024 Fletcher, NC) went 5-inning no-hit innings while running the heater up to 90-mph. Breaker has horizontal action with some teeth. Struck out 11 and did not walk a batter. #UBC #NCState commit @PG_Coastal pic.twitter.com/qtWaCsp5oN
— Perfect Game Scout (@PG_Scouting) June 23, 2022
The #5 player in the state is another RPH named Kaden Morris, who is a monster at 6’8, 220lbs. Morris committed in mid-August.
I’m excited to announce my commitment to continue my athletic and academic career at NC State university! I appreciate the coaching staff at NC State for giving me this opportunity. Thank you to God, my parents, coaches, and everybody else that helped me get here. Go pack!🐺 pic.twitter.com/zc2OuFSZEk
— Kaden Morris (@KadenMorris2024) August 17, 2022
As you can see, NC State baseball is putting together a class of elite pitching prospects for 2024, all of whom come from North Carolina.
The #1 player in North Carolina for 2024 has committed to play baseball for NC State
The rich keep getting richer.
NC State baseball is building an elite recruiting class for the 2024 season (more on that later), and they recently added to it with the commitment of Anderson Nance. Nance is a SS/RHP who is ranked #1 in the state.
🚨 BREAKING NEWS 🚨
— Kaleb Houchins (@kalebhouchins3) September 2, 2022
Nance plays some SS, but profiles as a front-line starting pitcher, with a low to mid-90s fastball and a dirty 12-6 curveball. Obviously, as he grows into his frame the velocity will only increase, making Nance a kid with high strikeout potential down the line.
Here is what Prep Baseball Report had to say…
“His athleticism stands out on the mound and he also plays shortstop when not pitching. He features a heavy fastball with life through the zone and a hard, downer breaking ball that has created issues for hitters, and the chaneup has the makings of a solid third pitch. The arm speed is above average and his stuff should only get better in the future. Nance is also ranked as the 27th best prospect in the PBR Overall Rankings.”
Anderson Nance was impressive for Team Carolina yesterday. Fastball up to 92.
More high end arms going today.
— PBR North Carolina (@PrepBaseballNC) July 30, 2022
Former Pack star Knizner needs to step up if he wants the Cardinals catching job next year
Andrew Knizner was a career .300 hitter for NC State (2014-16). He also was seen as an elite backstop, with a strong arm and the ability to manage a pro pitching staff.
These are the reasons that the St. Louis Cardinals traded their other prospects at catcher and settled on Andrew Knizner as the eventual heir to Yadi Molina’s throne.
Molina has spent 18 years with the Cardinals and is destined for the Hall of Fame, but he’s made it clear that this year is his last. That means that St. Louis needs to start prepping the next man up.
That next man has been Knizner all season long. When Molina has gone down with injuries, its been Knizner who has stepped in. However, in the small sample size, the former Wolfpacker hasn’t shown much offensively.
Knizner is batting just .221 with 1 home run in his 190 plate appearances. And while Yadi is only batting .219 with 2 homers himself, he’s also 40 years old and one of the top defensive catchers in the game (still).
Knizner is going to get more opportunities down the stretch. The Cardinals are 5 games up in the central and a likely lock for the post-season. That means that they are going to have an incentive to rest Molina for the playoffs.
This could be Andrew Knizner’s last chance to prove he’s up for the task of replacing Molina next season. If he can get hot and regain the form he showed in the minor leagues, then its likely that St. Louis won’t make a move for a catcher in the offseason. But if he continues to flounder at the plate, there’s no guarantees.
Here is Cardinals coach Oliver Marmol talking about Knizner’s struggles:
In his 5+ seasons in the minors, Knizner batted .303 with a little pop. Add that to the fact that he’s always been a good defensive catcher, and you can see why they were so high on him. But it’s been over 3 years now and Knizner is hitting just .205 in the majors for his career.
Usually, when a prospect comes up from AAA, you can expect their major league ceiling to be their minor league average, especially for an experienced prospect drafted out of college. Their average can be expected to fall up to 30 points due to the quality of pitching they are seeing on a nightly basis.
Knizner’s .100 point drop from AAA to the majors lets you know that something is off. He’s had multiple seasons to get used to major league pitching, but he’s failed to make the adjustment. Now he comes into his age 28 season, a year where most players hit their statistical peak. It’s time he either adjust or be passed over.
Will having his back against the wall push Knizner to elevate his offense? We hope so, because if not, the once promising back stop could be destined for a career back-up role (at best), or head back to the minor leagues (at worst).
Keep an eye on him this final month of the season and let’s hope the former Pack star can turn things around.
REVIEW: My NC State ‘Slobbering Wolf’ New Era hat was delivered!
When New Era finally announced that they were coming out with a ‘Slobbering Wolf’ fitted hat, I was excited. Finally, a fitted Wolfpack hat I was excited about.
I’m a hat guy. Partly because I like the shade they produce, and mostly because my hairline ain’t what it used to be. That said, I couldn’t really find a NC State hat I loved.
This was nice, but when I’m rocking NC State gear, I like to have a red option, and best red option was the ‘block S’ 59Fifty, which is fine, but nothing special.
That’s why when the retro ‘Slobbering Wolf’ option hit the shelves, I didn’t waste a second. I scooped it up in my size and waited.
Yesterday, it finally came.
It’s better than expected.
It’s what you’d expect from a modern 59Fifty New Era fitted. A higher crown baseball cap, but not as high and boxy as they were a few years back. But the retro logo is perfect, and they also added the green lining under the brim for another retro touch. Most modern hats have grey under the brim, as opposed to the green which they used years ago.
If you were holding out on ordering one of these, you need to get on it (link to purchase). They are selling out fast. They only have a few left in size 7 and 7 3/8. However, they seem to have a lot left for you out there with the giant domes (size 8). Everything else is sold out.
Will they run another batch of these or was this a one-and-done? Who knows, but for those of you that slept on it, you’d better hope they make a comeback.