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NC State baseball’s Elliott Avent reflects on CWS trip, says no plans to retire as coach

The plane ride home Tuesday from the College World Series, much earlier than Elliott Avent wanted, allowed the N.C. State baseball coach more time to be reflective about his team, the season, all that was accomplished and, yes, what might have been.

Once back in Raleigh, he also quashed a rumor: that he might retire.

“We all say this as coaches, but if a couple of things had gone different, I think we’d be coming home next week with a different story,” Avent said after the team’s return to Doak FIeld and a team meeting. “I think this is a team that could have gone all the way because they were playing so well.

“I told them what they did this year, the journey they took our staff on, the journey they took our fans on ... they need to take this and remember it the rest of their life. What they did, individually, collectively, they should log into their memory bank, because they’re going to have a time in their life when they need to remember that. I have no idea how they did what they did and took us where they took us.”

One-run losses to Kentucky and then to Florida on Monday made it a quick CWS exit for the Wolfpack. The Pack had its chances in both games, leading the Wildcats by a run in the ninth and then leaving too many runners on base against the Gators.

The Pack was seeded No. 10 in the NCAA Tournament but swept through the Raleigh Regional with three straight wins at Doak Field and then beat Georgia at Georgia in three games in the Athens Super Regional.

For Avent, the trip to Omaha, Nebraska, for the College World Series was the Pack’s second in four years and his third overall. The 2021 appearance was cut short by the NCAA, which decided the Pack had to forfeit and leave the CWS because of COVID-19 concerns -- Avent has called it a “travesty.”

N.C. State coach Elliott Avent steps away from a huddle with his team following their 5-4 loss to Florida in game seven of the College World Series on Monday, June 17, 2024 at Charles Schwab Field in Omaha, Nebraska.
N.C. State coach Elliott Avent steps away from a huddle with his team following their 5-4 loss to Florida in game seven of the College World Series on Monday, June 17, 2024 at Charles Schwab Field in Omaha, Nebraska.

One question that arose late this season was if Avent’s 28th year as the Pack’s coach might be his last. The “he-might-retire” chatter grew louder after the Pack earned another trip of Omaha, which he calls a magical place.

But Avent, 68, quickly put that speculation to rest Tuesday. Asked if there will be another season on the Wolfpack bench, he said, “Oh, yeah. Oh, yeah.’

“People have talked about it all year and I just haven’t … it’s amazing, when you don’t give an answer, I love the way people can speculate. That’s probably why you shouldn’t give an answer. And the reason I’ve never given one is not for the speculation, it’s because I don’t know myself.

“I always said I’d retire here when I feel like I’ve done everything I can do, and part of that is making sure this stadium is built. Until that stadium is built, I have no thoughts of retiring.”

Doak Field at Dail Park, opened in 1966, is set to immediately undergo further renovations and upgrades starting this summer. Originally a $15 million project, fundraising by Wolfpack fans now has reached $20 million. New additions will include an upgraded locker room, team lounge and weight room.

Avent, who won his 1,000th career game at State early in the 2024 season, plans on seeing that through. And there will be a recasting of his team, which will lose such stalwarts as pitchers Sam Highfill and Logan Whitaker, outfielder Noah Soles, third baseman Alec Makarewicz and first baseman Garrett Pennington.

“We had 10 guys, next year’s class, move into summer school this morning,” Avent said.

This year’s team finished 38-23, playing its best baseball at the end. The Pack was 18-11 in the ACC, winning series against North Carolina and Virginia, both fellow CWS teams this year..

Many believe Avent did one of his best coaching jobs, molding a team of portal newcomers together and seeing it through such rough patches as the season-ending injuries to pitchers Matt Willadsen and Shane Van Dam, and outfielder Josh Hogue.

“This is what I do and I love it,” Avent said, adding that he would stay at NCSU “as long as I feel like I’m making a difference in their lives and I’m more a help than a hindrance.”

“Right now, they make me feel like that, whether they’re fooling an old man or not. So, no, I have no thoughts of leaving.”