Saturday, December 10, 2016

The Unofficial Scorer’s All-Wolfpack Baseball Team 1981-2016 — Third basemen

This is the fourth post in The Unofficial Scorer’s All-Wolfpack Baseball Team, 1981-2016. Today, we look at third basemen.

To recap how this team was selected, current players and players who finished their eligibility prior to 1981 were not eligible. Players who began their college career before 1981 but finished in 1981, ’82 or ’83 were eligible, with their pre-1981 achievements more or less grandfathered into this. This affected several players from the 1981 and ’82 teams.

At the end of the day, both objective analysis and subjective opinion played a role in determining who made this team. I’ve taken painstaking care in going over this to make sure I’ve included everyone who is worthy. If, however, I left off a deserving name, it was wholly inadvertent. And if your favorite player did not make this team, it was not intended in any way to diminish that player. NC State has had more than its share of great players. I couldn’t list everyone.

Coming Wednesday: Shortstops.

• Third Base — Tim Tracey (1993-94)
Tim Who? There will be some names on this team that no doubt will leave many current Wolfpack fans scratching their heads, not because these guys couldn’t play but because they played before NC State baseball attained the popularity it currently enjoys. Lights were first erected at Doak Field in 1995. The stadium wasn’t renovated until 2003-04. Those two events marked a turning point in the popularity of the program. Prior to that, however, NC State baseball was a comparatively anonymous endeavor. Attendance at the Doak was mostly paltry — the average per-game attendance most years was in the mid-triple digits and never passed 1,000 until lights went up in ’95 — but not because the product on the field didn’t warrant any love. Quite the opposite, in fact. Tim Tracey was a stud third baseman with a deadly line-drive stroke to the opposite field. He came to NC State from Massasoit Community College in his hometown of Brockton, Mass., and quickly established himself as the Wolfpack’s starting third baseman. He earned first-team All-ACC honors as a junior in 1993 when he batted .357 with 13 doubles, three triples, eight homers and 47 RBIs. He posted a .429 on-base percentage and slugged .538, helping that team win a then-school-record 49 games, a mark that stood until the 2013 team won 50 and went to the College World Series. He followed that with an even better season in ’94, yet somehow didn’t make first- or second-team all-conference despite hitting .379 with 24 doubles, five triples, four homers, 51 RBIs, a .452 on-base percentage and a .559 slugging percentage. Tracey finished his two-year stint with a .368 career batting average, good for third in school history at the time and still an impressive seventh, a .441 on-base percentage and a .553 slugging percentage. He played on two excellent power-hitting teams — the 1993 Wolfpack hit 62 homers and slugged .463, while the ’94 team belted 105 homers and slugged .544 — and he batted in the middle of the lineup for both. A big guy at 6-foot-5 and 220 pounds but with deceptive athleticism, Tracey made all the plays at third base. He had a quick step towards the line, soft hands and a strong, accurate throwing arm. In particular, he came in and easily gobbled up those slow rollers that eat up so many college third basemen. At the plate, the righthanded hitter wore out the right-field line, repeatedly ripping screamers into the corner. And at the old Doak Field, where right field was about 15 feet lower than home plate and the world occasionally seemed on the verge of tipping over, balls hit into the right-field corner were a sizable advantage for the home team. It should be noted, also, that Tracey’s shots to the opposite field were not balls he sliced because of a late swing. He hit pearods, straight line drives off his bat, down the line and into the corner. Tracey’s anonymity with Wolfpack fans comes from 1.) playing just two years and 2.) playing before NC State baseball became a local fan favorite. His anonymity has nothing to do with the caliber of his play.

• Second Team — Paul Borawski (1989-92)

Paul Borawski’s career took some time to get off the ground, but once airborne, he was a standout. He was a part-time player as a freshman in 1989, seeing action in 34 games, almost all as a back-up. He batted .253 with six doubles, a home run and nine RBIs. He then missed all but 10 games of his sophomore campaign for academic reasons. This is a touchy subject and I don’t want to cast the wrong light on Borawski. He was eligible to play by NC State standards. He was eligible to play by Atlantic Coast Conference standards. Hell, he was eligible to play by NCAA standards. At almost any other school in the country, he would have played that spring without so much as a whisper of academic problems. Unfortunately for Borawski, he was not eligible to play by head coach Ray Tanner’s standards, and consequently he sat out until the end of the spring semester. Once final grades were posted, he returned to action and batted .391 with a .417 on-base percentage and a .478 slugging percentage in 24 plate appearances. Yes, that’s a tiny sample size, but in this case it proved to be a harbinger of things to come. In 1991 and ’92 Borawski was one of the all-around best and most consistent players in the ACC, helping NC State win a combined 94 games and an ACC championship while advancing to two NCAA regionals. Borawski batted .351 as a junior in ’91, belting 23 doubles, two triples and 12 home runs, with 56 RBIs. He drew 30 walks and sported a .429 on-base percentage. He slugged .595. He also stole nine bases in 10 attempts. His 23 doubles are still tied for eighth in a single season in school history. On a team that won 48 games and scored 7.27 runs per game, Borawski ranked second in hits (91), second in doubles, second in home runs, second in RBIs, second in total bases (137), third in on-base percentage, second in slugging percentage, and third in steals. Shockingly, no one on that team made first-team All-ACC (go figure), and Borawski somehow didn’t make second-team all-conference, either. His numbers tailed off a bit in 1992, but he made the All-ACC second team after hitting .304 with 17 doubles, a team-leading 15 home runs, 52 RBIs, 59 runs scored and 15 steals in 16 attempts. He led the team with 44 walks, which led to a .413 on-base percentage. Again, he ranked among the team’s offensive leaders in almost every category, on a balanced club that won 46 games, scored 7.1 runs per game and won the school’s last conference championship in baseball. Borawski finished second in hits (75), third in doubles, second in RBIs, second in total bases (137), fifth in on-base percentage, second in slugging and second in stolen bases. The 1991 and ’92 teams were loaded with star players — Matt Donahue, Jeff Pierce, Pat Clougherty, Vinny Hughes, Andy Barkett, Jeff Meszar, Terry Harvey, Jamie Wolkosky, Sean Drinkwater, Chris Long, Scott Snead, Greg Almond. There just wasn’t enough spotlight to go around. Some players got lost in the shuffle, Borawski included. As a result, not many people understood just how good he was until he was gone.

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