Thursday, April 21, 2011

series preview: NC State

Date/Time: April 22-24; 7:00, 1:00, 1:00

TV: Games 1 and 3 on UVA live feed; Game 2 on regional networks

History against the Pack: 66-119-1

Last matchup: NC State 2-1 series win (5-6, 8-4, 6-7); April 2-4, 2010; Raleigh

Last game: UVA 12, Richmond 1 (4/20); NC State 19, UNC-Wilmington 5 (4/20)

Last weekend: UVA swept Duke (10-0, 3-2, 18-4); NC State swept UNC (5-4, 8-7, 10-2)

National rankings:

Baseball America: UVA #1; NC State unranked
Collegiate Baseball: UVA #1; NC State unranked
NCBWA: UVA #1; NC State unranked
Perfect Game: UVA #2; NC State unranked
Coaches: UVA #1; NC State unranked
Composite: UVA #1; NC State unranked

RPI: UVA #1; NC State #30

UVA is #1.  My painstakingly thorough sampling of South Carolina fans find that at least two-thirds of them are whining about it based on the premise that 1) they just beat the previous consensus #1 in a series and 2) strength of schedule (ESSS-EEEE-CEEEE baybee.)  Frankly, I don't care - they can have it if they want.  They don't hand out CWS invitations based on this stuff.  All it is, is a reward for being 38-3 and not 29-7 like the Gamecocks, and if they wanted to be where we are they shouldn't have lost games to Clemson (who UVA swept), Furman (#128 RPI) or the Citadel (#159 RPI.)  Neener.

And it still doesn't get you to Omaha.  Doesn't even help you win the series at hand, and that's a shame because we could use it this week.  NC State isn't quite the crapfest I had them pegged for, but they're not real amazing either, and they could be 0-40 and it wouldn't matter because the Wolfies have UVA's number as badly as Duke lacrosse does.  (Hey, guess who our opponent in that sport is tomorrow.)  Since 2001 - two years before the O'Connor era - UVA baseball has won just one series against NC State.  Every year we have this amazing team and no matter how awesome you are, there's still the guy on the back of the chariot whispering memento mori in your ear.  That's NC State.

Their sweep of UNC last weekend was surprising (and a big help in the standings) but I'm still not especially impressed.  They really, really needed that sweep in order to stay afloat and in tournament contention.  The hitting and pitching are both kinda eh.  They're built around the "two walks and a dinger" model of baseball, which is a little obsolete with the new bats.  Last year they had a murderer's row lineup and a death row pitching staff waiting for execution, and the average NC State game was a 9-6 Pack win.  (For comparison's sake, with UVA it was 7-4.)  The scoring output has gone down by three runs a game, and the improvement in the pitching is only about what you'd expect with the new bats.

UVA batters teed off against soft-tossing Dillon Haviland last week, once they got used to his speed, and should be able to find similar success this weekend.  On Friday, NC State will have Cory Mazzoni trying to counter Danny Hultzen, and Mazzoni is a legit MLB prospect but the only pitcher on the Pack staff with the capability to overpower.  His ERA is a little inflated but his other stats are fine, and he brings a mid-90s fastball.  Mazzoni is the only constant in the rotation.  Nobody else on the staff has yet managed 40 strikeouts - partially because most of these pitchers aren't strikeout-inclined and partly because none of them have pitched many innings, having been shuffled in and out of the rotation.

So, the numbers and everything point to a hopeful sweep.  After the Hultzen-Mazzoni matchup, NC State doesn't have frightening pitching.  Better than Duke, but not exactly CWS-quality stuff.  It's possible NC State pulls the ol' switcheroo and uses Mazzoni on Sunday in hopes of stealing one, but that hasn't been their way of things and I don't think they will.  Friday should be a decent pitchers' duel; after that, the potential exists for some lopsided games.  As long as NC State leaves their voodoo dolls in Raleigh.


Note - lacrosse tomorrow against Duke, yes, yes - but look, we played those guys last week and if you watched the game, there's nothing new to learn.  Hopefully the ACC POY returns to action, because the offense is rough to watch with him in there and rough and slow when he's not.

Note two - finally, finally, finally the videos page gets an update.  The Cornell video is finished and available in the library, and you can also see what else I have that awaits.  Unfortunately this is going to be more of an unsteady drip than a running faucet, since I'm still working on the new process and there are a lot more machines, wires, and bits of software standing between a recorded game and a finished highlight video.  Blame AT&T and their bronze-age approach to copy protection; Apple got rid of DRM a long time ago ya fascist neanderthals.

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