05/22/13 — Call him 'Grandpa': Pack's Sasser enjoying extra year of eligibility

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Call him 'Grandpa': Pack's Sasser enjoying extra year of eligibility

By Rudy Coggins
Published in Sports on May 22, 2013 1:47 PM

His North Carolina State teammates call him "grandpa." Grant Sasser certainly doesn't mind the harmless teasing.

The sixth-year senior is just happy to be in a uniform these days, helping the Wolfpack baseball team in any way possible.

"It's funny how I've seen what seems like generations come through since my freshman year and everyone calls me a grandfather since I've here so long," Sasser laughed. "This season has been fun, very exciting."

And an unexpected blessing, too.

Sasser didn't pitch last season while he recovered from Tommy John surgery. He wasn't sure if the NCAA would grant him another year of eligibility, so he made the most of it by becoming an extra bullpen coach.

N.C. State head coach Elliot Avent allowed Sasser to stay involved in every aspect of the game and travel with the team. He took younger pitchers under his wing and helped fine-tune their mechanics, and understand the preparation necessary to play in the Atlantic Coast Conference.

Sasser came to the realization that his college career might be over once the Pack was eliminated from the NCAA tournament. He put his fate and fears in God's hands, and hoped the NCAA would rule in his favor.

"I could have sulked about not playing and been mad, but at the same time I just took on a different role and did the best I could with it," said Sasser, who diligently worked out every day to get back into playing shape.

"Every night I went to bed thinking in the back of my mind that I wouldn't get it (the extra year). It was a little nerve-racking, but I just had to wait and see what would happen."

Sasser got the opportunity to suit up again.

Not surprisingly, he's been a key element to the Pack's success this season. The left-hander has logged a 1.27 earned run average (ERA) and compiled a 3-to-1 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 35-plus innings of work on the mound.

Sasser is 3-0 and shares the team lead in saves (6) with Chris Overman. The duo ranks among the league's top 10 in saves.

Avent has called upon Sasser in the early, middle and late innings.

"I've closed a decent amount of games, but there have been times where I've gone in when the starters haven't done well," said Sasser. "I strive to fill all of those roles and accept it whenever Coach Avent calls upon me. My biggest goal is to just help the team in whatever way I can.

"When I've got the ball, I go out there and give them quality pitches and quality innings. We have a lot of guys who can do the same thing whenever your number is called upon."

N.C. State has a team ERA of 3.40.

One of the hottest clubs in the nation, the Wolfpack open the 2013 ACC Tournament today against Clemson in Greensboro. Sasser and his teammates are in the same four-team pod along with No. 1-ranked North Carolina and Miami (Fla.).

The Wolfpack seeks its first ACC tournament championship since 1992 and sixth overall in program history. Sasser and his teammates know they're guaranteed a four-team regional on opening weekend of the NCAA tournament.

"I like our side of the bracket ... definitely hard teams," Sasser said. "We feel pretty good. We definitely want to go after it and not sit back, take it one game at a time which is what we've done all year.

"There are more important innings to go now."