South Xtra: South Park grad is leader of the Pack

COLLEGE BASEBALL


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As the regular season winds down and Atlantic Coast Conference teams are jockeying for position not only for the upcoming conference tournament but in the national rankings, one constant has remained the same.

Since stepping onto the North Carolina State campus four years ago, South Park High School graduate Tarran Senay has been a steadying force with the Wolfpack. Competing in arguably one of the toughest baseball conferences in NCAA Division I, with four teams ranked among the Top 10, Senay has continued to improve throughout his collegiate career and is wrapping up his final season in Raleigh, N.C.

"He has given us four very good years," said N.C. State head coach Elliott Avent. "He started as a freshman and did a lot of great things for us. He started in left field and got continually better. Last year and into the fall of this year it's as good as I've seen him play left field but we needed him at first base. He was able to make that transition to first base.

"That's what kind of shocked me ... how well he has played first base. He really stabilized a very important defensive position for us. Offensively, he leads us in RBIs and is second in a lot of categories but his biggest thing is leadership. His leadership this year has been welcomed. You never know if it's going to be this good but he's just had a great influence on this team."

A 6-foot, 218-pound right-hander who bats left, Senay has had a big influence on the Wolfpack's lineup ... and opposing pitchers.

Batting from the cleanup spot in the lineup, Senay is hitting .299 (59 of 197) with a team-high 48 RBIs and 94 total bases. His six home runs are tied for the team lead, his slugging percentage of .477 is second on the team and he is third in doubles with 13.

"I think I have the potential to hit for power," Senay said. "I have a couple home runs and some doubles. I think I can hit the gaps, too. My biggest attribute is driving in runs. I like driving in runs, I think I do that pretty well."

Georgia Tech witnessed firsthand just how much Senay enjoys driving in runs.

In a three-game series April 19-21 in Atlanta, Senay batted .411 and drove in nine runs. In the first game of that series, he went 3 for 6 with 2 doubles, a home run and 6 RBIs. His effort that weekend garnered him ACC player of the week for the week of April 22.

"You always feel good when you have games like that," Senay said. "It seems like you can't get out or you can't be struck out. Every time I came to the plate, it felt like the bases were loaded or people were on second and third."

Senay also beat up on Wake Forest earlier this season when he went 7 for 12 in the series with 2 home runs, 4 runs scored and 5 RBIs. In a game March 15 against the Demon Deacons, he went 5 for 5 with a home run and 3 RBIs.

"He's a very tough out," said Avent, who is in his 17th season at N.C. State. "He has power, everybody in this league respects his power. He can change the game with one swing of the bat. He has become a tougher out, not just a guy with power who can change a game but also a guy who doesn't swing out of his zone very often. He's a tough guy with two strikes to punch out."

The Wolfpack are currently locked in an ACC dogfight with Florida State and Clemson atop the Atlantic Division. After a series against the Seminoles this past weekend that concluded Monday night with an 8-4 loss, N.C. State is in third place at 16-10 (39-13 overall), while Florida State is in first at 18-9 (42-10). Clemson is in second at 17-10 (37-15). The Wolfpack wraps up the regular season with a three-game series beginning today against Duke, while Clemson finishes against Florida State.

Getting ready to collide in the conference tournament are North Carolina, Baseball America's No. 3 team in the country, fifth-ranked North Carolina State, No. 7 Virginia, No. 9 Florida State and No. 17 Clemson.

One team Senay and his Wolfpack teammates could face down the road in the NCAA tournament is his hometown Pitt Panthers. Pitt is ranked No. 21 by Baseball America and is looking to wrap up its final season in the Big East by making a trip to the national tournament.

The Panthers will be joining the ACC next season.

"It's going to be pretty weird seeing Pitt vs. N.C. State," said Senay, a technology engineering, education and design major. "It's pretty crazy, pretty weird that my hometown team is going to be in the same conference as N.C. State. I think it was a good move. I think it will make their program better."

The same way that Senay has made the North Carolina State program better.

"You know he has the tools, you know he has the talent but you never know about a young man's work ethic. You never know about a young man's leadership skills," Avent said. "Those things Tarran kind of separated himself as he continued to grow here. Those are the things you never know about a young man. Those are the things that I'll always remember about Tarran Senay."

sportscollegenational

Rick Davis: rdavis@post-gazette.com or 412-263-3789.


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