Thursday, April 1, 2010

series preview: NC State

About three weeks ago, I wrote the mini-season preview for this weekend's baseball opponent, NC State. The main takeaways were as follows:

- Can hit.
- Can barely pitch.
- Have two reasonably reliable starting pitchers and still can't find anyone to pitch on Sunday.

This remains true. NC State is a tough team to figure out so far, but a few things, we know. For one, they can hit bad pitching. Partially as a result of having faced some very, very bad-pitching teams (La Salle, notably) they are on top of a lot of statistical categories in the ACC.

There's a lot of drop-off on most of the team once you put them up against ACC competition, but centerfielder Kyle Wilson is legit, as is 3B Andrew Ciencin and RF Drew Poulk. These three are as tough an out as any in the ACC; Wilson has an OBP of over .500 on the season as well as in ACC play, and steals a ton of bases. On the flip side, Drew's brother Dallas has been having an absolute feast on nonconference pitching but is batting .211 in nine ACC games.

There's nobody on this team who's a scary threat to hit one out at just any time, but they get a little bit of power from everywhere in the lineup. In that sense they're nearly UVA's polar opposite at the plate; we try to steal bases and go station-to-station, NC State is content to put guys on base wherever they may and try for fireworks. This works a lot better against the nonconference opponents, but even so, getting runs across the plate hasn't been NC State's problem in the ACC. They have 56, exactly as many as UVA does, and scored a lot more against Clemson than UVA did.

Of course, they also got swept by Clemson, which leads to the big problem: pitching. As I mentioned, they have two more-or-less reliable starters in Cory Mazzoni and Jake Buchanan....both of whom have been shelled this season in ACC play. Nevertheless, those are the two the Pack have the most confidence in for now, and the search continues for a Sunday starter. Danny Healey began the season in that role but got hit so damn bad by crappy teams like Campbell that not only did he get banished to the pen, he has yet to appear against an ACC opponent. Currently, Alex Sogard fills that spot, and though he's actually been marginally better statistically than the other two, the Pack don't have full confidence in him yet - he was yanked against Miami after three innings with trouble spotting his pitches despite giving up just one run.

If we lose a game this weekend, it'll probably be a high-scoring affair blameable mostly on the bullpen. But as long as we can get six good innings out of Hultzen and Morey - not too tough - that should be enough time for our bats to take advantage of the NC State pitching. And it's a very sweepable series, especially if Winiarski stays in this groove. A sweep - the kind where we win all the games, obviously - is what we should hope for, and I think one of these games will be a total blowout.

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