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June 21, 2021

Elliott Avent

Omaha, Nebraska, USA

NC State Wolfpack

Postgame Press Conference

NC State - 1, Vanderbilt - 0

COACH AVENT: I was just sitting out there with Sam Highfill. And he said it best. He said that was a great baseball game. And it was. Two teams playing their hearts out, playing good defense, and two pitchers that were commanding the strike zone and both were very, very good tonight.

Q. Looking at Sam's last four starts, he's doing pretty awesome the last 25 innings. What have you seen the last four starts, including this one, versus the two previous ones in the middle of ACC play -- he had a couple of rough starts. The last four have been outstanding?

COACH AVENT: He's just been really, really -- he's been consistent all year, to be honest with you. He's been really, really consistent all year. And if you talk about the last four starts, obviously everything's amped up a little bit from when you get in the ACC Tournament to Regionals to Supers to here.

And he just keeps getting better and commanding his stuff. But to pitch this kind of game against -- it was pretty obvious to him Jack Leiter was really, really good tonight. Obviously he's one of the top pitchers in the country. I'm sure he's going to be one of the top few picks in the MLB draft coming up.

And he could tell that he was really on tonight and was really -- and we weren't going to get anything. So for Sam to keep this offense at Vanderbilt at bay to allow us a chance, it was like just unbelievable what he did tonight.

Q. Terrell Tatum is a guy that's been through a lot with this program and is really playing good baseball this year. For him to have that moment to hit that home run in this game, just how proud of him are you and how happy are you to see that for him?

COACH AVENT: Obviously that was a big hit for us tonight. And we weren't getting anything off Leiter. I don't know if he looked fastball and got it, but he hit it very, very well. But if you talk about the growth of Terrell Tatum through the years at NC State, just so proud -- his strength, he's put on a lot of strength this year. He's worked very hard.

He's carried around a jug of water all year, not just here but all year, and he's really committed himself with how he eats, his work ethic, and his added strength. And he's turning into a complete baseball player.

Q. Elliott, how do you get your kids -- you as well -- to detach from the importance, the magnitude of these games and just simplify it to its lowest terms?

COACH AVENT: We haven't said much to these players in a long, long time. The most talking we've probably done to these guys is when we were scuffling earlier in the year trying to get the lineup on the field and trying to figure out the pitching.

But for the last two, three months, we haven't said much at all to these guys because they know what they want and they know how hard it is to get and they know how committed they are to one another. And so we just -- I don't think they let any moment become too big for them. So that's them that gets that done. That's not us. And they're just fun to watch play.

Q. Looks like there's quite a big Wolfpack following out there. Seems like there's a bunch of fans. Can you speak to the support you guys are getting out there?

COACH AVENT: That's been unbelievable. I spoke to a gathering with the chancellor yesterday morning or two mornings ago, I can't remember, and we were getting ready to go to practice. It was right before we went to practice. And the Wolfpack Club had a gathering with the chancellor. I spoke to them.

And the players came in at the end as we got on the bus. And Austin Murr, he thanked everybody and he said you know how great it is to be at a venue like this with 22,000 people, but it's obvious how many Wolfpack -- it feels like a home game, he says, with the support we've had.

So it's been amazing. Former players have come out. Fans that have come out. Boosters -- and it's not cheap to get out here. I've been amazed at how many people found their way to Omaha.

Q. Obviously Sam had a fantastic game tonight but he also had a good defense behind him. I was hoping you could say a few words about the opening play Mensik made to really set the tone defensively and prevent Vanderbilt from getting on base?

COACH AVENT: We knew Vanderbilt, they're a great bunting team, they're a great offensive ballclub; they find different ways to score. So, we were playing in a lot of the night.

But when he bunted that ball with one strike, I'm not screaming, but I'm just thinking, let it go foul, let it go foul because I thought it was right on the line and no way he could make that play. But, boy, howdy, did he make an unbelievable play.

But he's done that all year. He's a terrific defensive player. This is a terrific defensive team. And we played great defense tonight.

Q. You mentioned the growth of Terrell Tatum and the work that he's put in. You look at a guy like him or a guy like Jonny Butler who obviously had the big game for you against Stanford, looking at these guys who have been in your program for a number of years and have obviously developed but really put the work in to becoming better baseball players, to see the players that they are now, just how happy are you for them to go from where they were at the start of their baseball careers here to getting to have these moments on this stage?

COACH AVENT: All you coach for is the players. I mean, it's a great profession. It's, one, if you get into it for the right reasons. It gives you so much joy and satisfaction. It gives you heart break sometimes. But the satisfaction that it gives you far outweighs things you have to go through.

And these players have given our staff, it's not just me -- Chris Hart; Clint Chrysler; Joey Holcomb; trainer Scott Ensell, who puts in countless hours; Gabe Button, the strength coach; Jodie Cahoon, our equipment guy, I've never seen him happier -- these players give us such satisfaction and such joy. It's fun to watch these guys, and it's fun to watch them develop as baseball players and as men. And it's such a smart group, and they're fun to be a part of.

Q. I've been watching these zooms, you're all business, I get it, for the most part. But what is this night like for you? How thrilling is this to be this far in this tournament and know you're a couple wins away here?

COACH AVENT: Well, you might say it's a couple wins away, but it's still hard. Every win you get in Omaha is tough, nail-biting. Not only eight of the best teams in the country, but it's the last eight teams in the country and they're here for a reason because they're playing their best baseball of the year. So every win is important. We were here before. I remember this game last time I was here we lost 2-1 to UCLA, and UCLA went on to win the national championship. Every win you get is important, but it's still a long way to go.

Q. Just talk about the chemistry with your catcher and your pitchers tonight, how they were working facing Vanderbilt; and then from a coaching perspective, facing Leiter, what was that like from a baseball fan perspective to see that kind of talent?

COACH AVENT: To answer your second question first, the last three games we faced Kevin Kopps; Brendan Beck, who is the pitcher of the year in the Pac-12, and he's sensational. Then tonight you get Jack Leiter, who's just -- I've been around for a long time, and that's one of the performances I've seen that -- right up there at the top of the performances I've seen.

You talk about Luca Tresh. We can't tell you how proud we are of Luca Tresh. He's a guy that's known for his offense and was a top prospect with the scouts coming into the year and I think they had questions about his catching, maybe. I think he's turned into one of the best defensive catchers in the country.

And I told him all year how he works our pitching staff is so amazing. And I've had nothing but great catchers since I've been here.

I saw Colt Morton, who got a cup of coffee in the Big Leagues. He was here the other day with his dad and his son, he made it out here.

If you talk about Brett Austin, first-round draft pick out of high school. You talk about all these guys that I've had the pleasure of coaching, Patrick Bailey, first-rounder last year. Luca Tresh is right up there with working our pitching staff and giving them the confidence they need to get the job done. So we're all very, very proud of Luca Tresh.

Q. Could you speak to the leverage you get by not having to play until Friday, what type of tactical advantage -- I don't know if it will be an all-hands-on-deck situation for that one game. Does that give you an advantage because you have that four-day break?

COACH AVENT: I just think we need rest. Everybody knows we don't have a deep, deep bullpen. We've battled that all year. So to go in that loser's bracket would have been tough for us. But the main thing I think is the rest right now.

Coach Hart's been sick for probably five or six days. J.T. Jarrett caught the bug a couple days ago. This bug seems to be going around. Cameron Cotter. I've got it a little bit. This bug seems to be floating around. And I think right now it's important for our players to get some rest.

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