DURHAM — Elliott Avent was never a fan of video reviews in sports.
“I think it slows the game down a lot,” the veteran NC State baseball coach said. “And I don’t think they get it right a lot.”
His opinion on the subject changed dramatically at the 2014 ACC tournament when he Wolfpack’s Trea Turner was called out at the plate trying to steal home in the fifth inning of a play-in game against arch-rival North Carolina.
Replays showed that Turner beat the tag for what would have been the tying run. But because of the rules at the time, the play was not reviewable.
State lost the game by one, denying it a spot in the main tournament bracket and perhaps an NCAA tournament bid. On the plus side, the ACC modified its replay rule as a result of that play.
It’s a change that benefitted the Wolfpack on Thursday.
Trailing by a run and down to its last out in the top of the ninth in an ACC tournament pool play matchup with Wake Forest, State tied the game when Terrell Tatum beat out an infield hit with men on second and third. The second runner, David Harrison, was called out at the plate while also trying to score on the play.
Although the throw clearly beat Harrison, replays indicated that he might have slipped his hand in safely before he was tagged by Deacons catched Logan Harvey.
This time the umpires were able to reverse the call, allowing what turned out to be the winning run to count. The Wolfpack held on in the bottom of the ninth to win 6-5 and advance to the tournament semifinals on Saturday.
It’s an irony that didn’t escape Avent when asked about it in his postgame press conference.
“After the Trea Turner thing, I changed my mind,” he said. “That kept us out of postseason and it was devastating. So I changed my mind and it’s actually worked a lot better than I ever thought it would work.”
In addition to getting more calls right, the current replay rule has had another positive effect on sometimes volatile State coach.
“ It’s saved me a lot of ejections,” he said. “So I’m real happy about that.”
Avent wasn’t exactly thrilled about the workings of the replay system earlier in the game when his catcher, Patrick Bailey, appeared to hold onto the ball long enough to record an out on Wake Forest’s Michael Ludowig before dropping it on second contact.
Upon further review, it was ruled that Bailey did not have control of the ball, allowing Ludowig to score the third run of a four-run second inning.
Avent clearly disagreed with the ruling, confirming his belief that “they don’t get it right a lot.” But because the play was reviewed, he was resigned to the fact that there wasn’t anything he could do about it.
The same can be said for his Deacons counterpart Tom Walter about the decisive ninth inning call — both on the tag at the plate and the bang-bang play with Tatum at first.
“I didn’t even ask for an explanation on that,” Walter said. “All I asked them is if they looked at the play at first too and he said they did. I thought live that he was safe at first, but I thought I would ask that question. Once they’ve overturned it, there is really nothing I can say.”