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NC State baseball’s Alec Makarewicz, an ECU transfer, still has eyes on reaching Omaha

Change isn’t always for the better, but for N.C. State’s Alec Makarewicz it appears to have been.

A year ago, when the 2023 NCAA baseball tournament began, Makarewicz was a fixture in East Carolina’s lineup. The Pirates began NCAA play against Oklahoma in the Charlottesville (Va.) Regional and Makarewicz was at third base.

But Makarewicz earned his business management degree at ECU, then decided he wanted to use his final year of college eligibility elsewhere, entering the NCAA transfer portal after the season.

“It was a goal of mine to graduate, so once I graduated obviously I wanted to try something new, kind of keep working on getting better,” Makarewicz said this week. “Trying something different was the biggest thing for me.”

East Carolina’s Alec Makarewicz (99) celebrates hitting a homerun in the eighth inning during ECUís 13-7 victory over Texas in the Greenville Super Regional at Clark-LeClair Stadium Friday, June 10, 2022.
East Carolina’s Alec Makarewicz (99) celebrates hitting a homerun in the eighth inning during ECUís 13-7 victory over Texas in the Greenville Super Regional at Clark-LeClair Stadium Friday, June 10, 2022.

After four years at ECU, after starting 183 games for the Pirates, he left for N.C. State and the ACC.

“It was really just a closer move for me,” he said of the decision. “Obviously, a bigger conference, so that was definitely a factor, too, looking to face some higher caliber pitching and working on my approach. That was the biggest thing.”

Things don’t always work out smoothly for those who go into the portal. Some hit the mark; some miss badly.

“Nowadays, more so than ever, players have a lot of options,” NCSU coach Elliott Avent said Monday. “When you’re younger, the grass always looks greener, right? When you get older you realize there’s a lot of brown grass out there, as well. … Nowadays, with everything at their disposal, they have a lot of choices.”

The grass has been pretty “green” for the guy they call “A-Mak” at N.C. State.

The Florida native goes into NCAA play — the Pack (33-20) faces Bryant on Friday at Doak Field — hitting a team-leading .376. The switch-hitter has 19 homers and has batted in 71 runs, with a slugging percentage of .724 and on-base percentage of .438. Again, all team highs.

Makarewicz, a second-team All-ACC selection, was named a semifinalist for the 2024 Dick Howser Trophy, given to college baseball’s player of the year.

“It was pretty easy,” he said of the transition to N.C. State. “I’ve played in a lot of college games and played with a lot of different kinds of players. I think a lot of guys respect how hard I’ve worked and they were pretty accepting when I got here.”

Makarewicz is almost 15 pounds bigger than he was at ECU, where he hit .258 last season. At 6-2 and 234 pounds, he has shown more power to the opposite field.

The Pack’s infield had a new look this season with Makarewicz at third base and another graduate transfer, Garrett Pennington, at first. Shortstop Brandon Butterworth is a transfer from Western Carolina and second baseman Luke Nixon a freshman.

Pennington, who came to NCSU from Wichita State, is a .345 batter who has 14 homers and 59 RBIs and a team-high 23 doubles.

But it’s not just the numbers, Avent said.

“What Makarewicz and Penningon did more than anything was they gave us professionalism, gave us maturity,” he said. “They’re a big reason that locker room stayed the way it was and kept together.”

The Pack’s resiliency, in turn, impressed Makarewicz. There were injuries and illnesses — starting pitcher Matt Willadsen hurt his arm on the first day of practice — but the Wolfpack found different ways to win, whether it was a quality start from a freshman pitcher or a walkoff homer from a player hitting .217.

“They stay very calm and collected, I feel like, in high-pressure situations,” Makarewicz said.

East Carolina’s Alec Makarewicz (99) celebrates with Zach Agnos (14) and Ryder Giles (3), right, after hitting a homerun during ECUs 13-7 victory over Texas in the Greenville Super Regional at Clark-LeClair Stadium Friday, June 10, 2022.
East Carolina’s Alec Makarewicz (99) celebrates with Zach Agnos (14) and Ryder Giles (3), right, after hitting a homerun during ECUs 13-7 victory over Texas in the Greenville Super Regional at Clark-LeClair Stadium Friday, June 10, 2022.

One high-pressure situation for Makarewicz was the Pack’s April 23 game at East Carolina and a return to “The Jungle.” He was not welcomed warmly by all the ECU faithful in an overflow crowd at Clark-LeClair Stadium, nor did he expect to be.

Makarewicz had an early homer and two hits in the game but the Pirates won 10-6. That over, it was on with the rest of the season as the Pack earned the No. 10 overall seed in the NCAA tournament and is hosting a regional for the first time since 2018.

This week, Makarewicz and his Wolfpack teammates gathered at Sports & Social, a restaurant at The Fenton in Cary, to watch the NCAA baseball selection show. The NCAA announced the 16 host sites for the tournament on Sunday night, taking away some of the drama — ECU and North Carolina also are hosting.

In 2022, the Pirates were ever-so-close to winning the NCAA Super Regional in Greenville. ECU, after winning the first game, led 7-2 late in the second game before Texas rallied for a 9-8 victory.

Texas won the third game easily and the ticket to the College World Series.

That’s still Makarewicz’s goal — getting to Omaha, Nebraska, playing for it all. This is his last shot and he’s taking it with the Wolfpack.

“We’re playing really well,” he said Monday. “We’re swinging it well, the pitchers are working hard, we’re pretty fresh. Everyone is just ready to go.”