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NC State Baseball

'It's one of the greatest feelings that I've ever been a part of:' Avent, Tatum on Supers

June 10, 2021

For the first time since 2013, NC State will play in a Super Regional this weekend. In order to get to Omaha, the Pack will have to get through top-seeded Arkansas in Fayetteville. 

Elliott Avent and Terrell Tatum spoke to the media following Thursday’s practice, here’s a full breakdown of everything they had to say.

Elliott Avent

Opening Statement

I’m just happy to be here. It’s a great ballpark, tremendous baseball environment that will be seeing in a short period of time. It’s a great fan base with very kind people that love their Razorbacks. We’re very happy to be here. 

How important has Reid Johnston’s consistency to get results and pitch deep into ballgames been, and how important will that be Friday against Arkansas assuming he pitches?

Yeah, he’s going tomorrow night. He’s been doing that for a long time. He’s a very steady, non-emotional pitcher who competes very well. You might not see it outwardly as much sometimes, but he’s a great competitive spirit. He probably has the makeup of most of our guys on this team. 

Has your path ever crossed with Arkansas coach Dave Van Horn, and what do you know about him?

Yeah, he’s a great coach. I’ve been a part of USA Baseball for a long time, including coaching the national team this year. Matter of fact, [Arkansas infielder] Robert Moore is coming with our team this year. He’s had a great career. We’ve both been around a long time, and I’m looking forward to coaching against him. 

What have you looked at with Arkansas relief pitcher Kevin Kopps and what are some of the unique challenges of facing him?

He’s gotten so much publicity lately for what he has done for this team all year. As we get to the postseason it becomes more recognizable and gets more attention. What he has done has been unbelievably amazing. But you can’t look at a ballclub that you’re going to play in the postseason and look at one player. They’ve got a great ballclub. They’ve got a lot of great pitchers. This isn’t just going to be against Kevin Kopps, this is going to be against a great Arkansas team. He’s one of many good players on this team. 

What keyed NC State’s turnaround and why are you all hot right now?

I don’t know if there was a turnaround, to be honest with you. We got off to a rough start, we understand that. But like the SEC we have a good league. Everybody is good. We started conference play probably before we were ready to start conference play. Georgia Tech came in extremely hot and played a great weekend. Then we had a good series against Miami, but they got the best of us. Louisville was just hot as fire when they came to Raleigh. We started really playing good against Louisville, and we have played good ever since. We just weren’t quite ready to open the season, but what our guys have done since then after a 1-8 start with three home series has been such a remarkable thing for me to witness. I’ve been here a long time and seen a lot of games, and what this team has done has truly been amazing to me. 

What do you make of Arkansas’ lineup?

It’s a good lineup, a very good lineup. We’ve been watching film ever since it was determined that we were going to play Arkansas, and they’ve got a good lineup all the way through. A lot of power, a lot of home runs and different guys, just like our team, can do it on different days. 

What kind of relationship have you built with student manager Harrison McKinion, who formed a bond with NC State in 2013 as an 11-year old cancer patient, and how much does he mean to this team?

A very special relationship not only with Harrison but his whole family. He overcame unbelievable odds. He wasn’t going to make it, as you said. Years ago around Christmas time I started my relationship with him, and it’s just been a remarkable turnaround. Now he’s in college going to NC State and is one of the managers on our club. It’s just very, very rewarding to see where he is in his life right now and what he has overcome. 

Did you ever think that it would come full circle like that?

No, you never envision those things, but it’s great to see. 

What kind of season has Terrell Tatum, whose dad played football at Arkansas, had for you, and what do you think of him as a player?

Well since he’s standing right in front of me, I’m going to have to tell you a bunch of great things about Terrell Tatum. But you’re gonna be talking to him next. He not only had a great regional, he’s had a great year for us. He’s a tremendous person with an unbelievable amount of ability. When you’re a scout and you see players like Terrell Tatum and his kind of eye-popping tools, he can do it all but it’s more about getting to know Terrell and his character and makeup and how he’s pushed himself this season to become one of the top players in the country. 

Have you ever played in a stadium like Baum-Walker, and how do you prepare the team for that type of crowd?

I don’t think you can ever prepare for anything like that. As hard as you try to prepare, you can’t really do it. It comes down to the players. Our players have overcome a lot of things. Playing in front of no people, I think, is the hardest thing for a baseball player to do. We went through that with COVID last year at the end and the beginning of this season. Playing in front of no fans is the hardest thing. But all baseball players want to play in front of crowds. You’d rather have them pull for you than against you, but you still want the crowd there. I think it’s going to be something they’ll look forward to, and I’m sure there will be some jitters early. But you’ve got to settle into the game. That’s why the majority of our team and the leadership of our team will hopefully take over there. 

What have you seen from Arkansas catcher Casey Opitz and his abilities behind the plate?

Tremendous catcher. He epitomizes the word catcher. He is really good, surely one of the best defensive catchers in the country. That’s always a plus when you’ve got a complete ballclub like Arkansas, you’re never going to be successful without somebody behind the plate that does his job. He does his job back there. He’s just another one of the components that make Arkansas not only one of the best teams in the country, but a lot of people consider them the best team in the country. 

Terrell Tatum

I covered your Dad when he was at Arkansas. Have you been to Arkansas very much, and what do you think about playing your Dad’s old school? 

I think it’s pretty full circle for me, because my brother also went to school here in 2013. He was redshirted as a freshman. If someone had told me four years ago when I started this thing ‘To get to Omaha, you guys have to go through Arkansas,’ I would have told them they were lying. It’s unbelievable to go up against my Dad’s alma mater and a school that both my parents and my brother love so much to get to where we want to go. 

Will your family be able to come to the Super Regional?

Yes, I think they’ll be getting in here either tonight or tomorrow night. They’ll definitely be here for the game. 

Can you talk about this team, how it started and how you guys have been so hot lately? 

It was a really rough start for us. 1-8 to 4-9 was something none of us really saw coming or expected. But I feel really stuck together as a team, wanted to push each other and make sure we all knew inside how good we were, and that it was just going to take time for us to make sure that we could get there. To be on this postseason run that we’re on, I think, is something all of us saw coming and we knew that we could do it. We just had to make sure we stuck to it and stayed together. 

You guys played in a really good atmosphere in Ruston last weekend, now it will be a bigger atmosphere this weekend. How exciting is it to play in an atmosphere like this with all the fans? 

It’s one of a kind here, I would say. I’ve actually spent a lot of my time watching the Arkansas games and a lot of the SEC baseball games. So seeing the crowds that they all pull and all the fans that show up for them day in and day out is unbelievable. So to see that Arkansas, being ranked the No. 1 team unanimously throughout the whole season, I can’t imagine what this weekend is going to bring for us. To say the last, excited is a word I would use. It’s going to be so much fun. 

Do you feel like it’s an advantage for you guys that you’re going to have fun and play, and the pressure to play well in front of fans falls on Arkansas?

I would have to say that I agree with that. In my mind, the way I think about it, no one expects us to come out of this Super Regional. So it’s not really any pressure on us. We’re just here to play baseball, play the game that we know and that we love, and have as much fun as we can. 

How much time have you spent in Fayetteville? 

The last time I was here was eight years ago, in 2013. I didn’t really make many trips to Fayetteville growing up at all.

Reid Johnston is pitching tomorrow, can you describe what it’s like playing behind him? 

It’s a great feeling when Reid gets on the mound, because you know he’s going to go out there and compete in the zone every single pitch. He’s one of the most consistent guys that I’ve played with, one of the most consistent guys that I’ve seen come through this school. To know that Reid’s going to go out there, I know that we’re going to go out there and have a chance to win the ball game.

Their pitcher is Patrick Wicklander, have you seen a lot of him? 

I have not. I only saw a brief stint of Wicklander through the SEC Tournament, but I have not seen much film on him yet. 

Did you have any thoughts of coming to Arkansas to play, or did you always want to chart your own path? 

I’ve always wanted to do my own thing, I would say. But if they would have come knocking on my door, I would have definitely had it as an option in the back of my mind, but no one from here came looking for me. 

Does the fact that Arkansas didn’t recruit you give you a chip on your shoulder for this weekend? 

I would have to say no. Not at all. It doesn’t really bother me at all. I don’t think much of it. 

How excited are you guys to be there and have a chance to go to Omaha? 

It’s one of the greatest feelings that I’ve ever been a part of. Through the past four years that I’ve been here, I’ve been to two regionals, minus last year that we weren’t able to be able to play through. So being in those two regionals, the first year we lost the opening game and in Greenville we went 0-2. Those two feelings were just unbelievable, and we were just really pressing. I feel like we were pressing really hard to get out of the regional. I feel like this year, we just went into the regional to play baseball rather than make it through the regional. So it took a lot of the pressure off of us, and we just went out and played the game that we love. 

Elliott Avent has said over and over this year how much he loves this team and how special it is in comparison to some other teams. Why do you think he continues to tell you guys that? 

I think it’s him being honest. For me, personally, I don’t want to speak for the other guys on the past four years, but for the guys I’ve played with, I think we all agree this is one of our favorite teams that we’ve been on. For me personally, this is my favorite team over the past four years. I’ve never been closer to the guys on the team as I am now. I couldn’t imagine what it would have been like if we weren’t as close as we were. 

What have been your impressions of Kevin Kopps? 

My impression is that he’s really good. He’s shown that he’s one of the best pitchers if not the best pitcher in the country. Especially to do it out of the bullpen, which I think is so much harder for guys, because they don’t really know when they’re going to pitch, so it’s a lot tougher for them. For him to come out of the bullpen every time he’s called upon and shut teams down is unbelievable. For us to prepare for that, we’ll go back and probably watch some film on him and their starters, and figure out an approach to what we’re going to do for him that day. 

How much does being named First-Team All-ACC mean to you? 

It was one of the better feelings I’ve had being here. I’m not really into accolades or anything like that, but I would say that to be named on the First-Team All-ACC, it shows more than just the performance. You show that people are putting in hard work. Saying that, [Tyler McDonough] wasn’t named First-Team All-ACC, which I thought that he should have been. It shows that even though you put in the work and you have the numbers, it’s sometimes about different things, I would say. Jonny Butler is another thing. Jonny has had an unbelievable year. He’s been looked over the whole year. I feel like Jonny should be in the eyes of a lot more people. 

'It's one of the greatest feelings that I've ever been a part of:' Avent, Tatum on Supers

1,408 Views | 2 Replies | Last: 4 mo ago by wolfpack1437
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I found it really surprising that we haven't watched film on Kopps or Wicklander yet. Figured they were focused on those guys all week
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I'll add that an Ark player said in his interview that they hadn't watched film on us yet either. Must be that both coaches don't want to overwhelm guys with the scout
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