A day before COVID-19 issues cut short his team’s season and College World Series berth, N.C. State baseball coach Elliott Avent said he did not want to “indoctrinate” players regarding the coronavirus vaccine.
Avent, speaking to reporters following his team’s 3-1 loss to Vanderbilt on Friday, said his job was to teach baseball and make sure his players got an education — not to inform them whether to get the vaccine. He also declined to say if he himself was vaccinated.
“I’m not going to talk about that,” Avent said (via USA TODAY). “If you want to talk baseball, we can talk baseball. If you want to talk politics or stuff like that, you can go talk to my head of sports medicine Rob Murphy.”
MORE: NC State ousted from College World Series due to COVID-19 issues
The 25-year N.C. State coach said any potential positive COVID-19 tests among his players were “personal,” adding that he left it to them whether they should get vaccinated.
“My job is to teach them baseball, make sure they get an education and keep them on the right track forward,” Avent said. “But I don’t try to indoctrinate my kids with my values or my opinions. Obviously, we talk about a lot of things, but these are young men that can make their own decisions. And that’s what they did.”
Avent’s comments came after several of his players were placed into COVID-19 protocol, reducing the Wolfpack roster to just 13 players — nine positional players and four pitchers. Only catcher Luca Tresh and right fielder Devonte Brown were in their regular positions after N.C. State shifted its positions into a workable team against the Commodores.
The team was given the option to forfeit Friday’s game to the Commodores, setting up a would-be winner-take-all game on Saturday for a berth in the College World Series final. The players voted to play in the delayed game with a reduced roster, which necessitated five freshman being placed into the batting lineup.
According to a report from d1baseball.com, two unvaccinated players produced positive COVID-19 tests earlier in the week, prompting testing for the entire team — including vaccinated players. The report indicates that round of testing produced four positive tests, all from vaccinated players in the dugout during Friday’s game vs. Vanderbilt.
The team held out hope it could still make the CWS final with a win over the Commodores on Saturday. But the four positive tests prompted the NCAA at 2:10 a.m. ET to release a statement ruling the game a no-contest. With that, the defending champions advanced to the final again, and N.C. State’s season was over:
NCAA Statement from Division I Baseball Committee:
The NCAA Division I Baseball Committee has declared the Vanderbilt-NC State Men’s College World Series game scheduled for Saturday, June 26 at 1 p.m. Central time a no-contest because of COVID-19 protocols. #CWS pic.twitter.com/amxdQwkQ6l
— NCAA Baseball (@NCAACWS) June 26, 2021
The NCAA released several guidelines regarding championship testing ahead of the College World Series, saying fully vaccinated players and other Tier 1 personnel — coaches, trainers, staff, and officials — were exempt from COVID-19 testing and contact tracing. Positive tests among unvaccinated players, however, would necessitate the need for full community testing.
“This is a heartbreaking situation and I’m gutted for everyone involved and for all those that were captivated by the heart and fight of this team,” Avent said in a Saturday statement. “Our medical staff and our players have been incredible this season with all they’ve done to keep us safe and get us ready to play, day in and day out.
“I love this team and this past month, many people that got to watch them, fell in love with them as well. Although we’re all heartbroken, this team will never be forgotten and will live in the hearts of Wolfpack and baseball fans forever.”