The first inning went down Sunday like so many others involving North Carolina State shortstop Trea Turner.
Turner led off with a walk, pestered North Carolina starter Kent Emanuel for a few pitches and then stole second base with two out. Tarran Senay followed with a single to left field and Turner scored.
Wolfpack 1, Tar Heels 0.
“I know what I can do, and that's why I put a lot of pressure on myself,” Turner said. “Because I know how I can affect a baseball game.”
That walk and another in the Wolfpack's 8-1 win gave Turner 37 on the season. The stolen base was his 28th. The run was his 66th scored.
The impact, in general, was what North Carolina State has come to expect from the sophomore out of Lake Worth, Fla.
Turner has been the table-setter the past two seasons for the Wolfpack offense. A tough out at the plate and an obnoxious presence on the base paths.
Heading into a College World Series matchup with UCLA on Tuesday night at TD Ameritrade Park, Turner is hitting .376 on the season with a stunning .461 on-base percentage.
“I don't care how I get there — error, walk, hit by pitch, base hit, whatever,” he said. “I just want to be on base, because I know that helps out my team a lot. I know I put a lot of pressure on pitchers and teams' defenses.”
Turner's stolen base total is actually down from a year ago, when he swiped a nation-leading 57 as a freshman All-American. Turner stole 29 straight to start his college career and was caught only four times in 2012.
There's some savvy base running involved, obviously, but much of it is pure speed. According to his North Carolina State bio, Turner has been clocked at 6.36 seconds in the 60-yard dash.
That speed was what caught Wolfpack coach Elliott Avent's attention when most everybody else failed to show interest in Turner coming out of Park Vista High in Lake Worth.
Avent has admitted ever since that North Carolina State probably has gotten more than they thought out of him.
“I wanted to play in the ACC or SEC, and this was basically the only school that gave me an opportunity,” Turner said. “I wanted to play at the highest level of baseball and kind of prove that I belonged.”
He not only belongs, but is maybe right there with pitcher Carlos Rodon in terms of value to the Wolfpack (50-14). When Turner was out briefly in March with an ankle injury, North Carolina State went 5-6.
Sunday marked the 110th time in 117 career games that he reached base at least once. Business as usual at the CWS.
“I put pressure on myself all year to kind of make things go, so it's just another baseball game — different ballpark, more fans — but it's the same game,” Turner said.
Turner got a glimpse of the College World Series when he watched the championship series between Fresno State and Georgia in 2008. Turner was in Omaha for a high school tournament when his team was given tickets.
“I never thought I would be playing in it,” he said. “It's kind of weird now. But it's definitely a special feeling and I wouldn't have it any other way.”
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