What a difference a weekend makes.
Last week, we were viewing this series with NC State as another easy sweep, but then the Pack decided to go and sweep highly ranked UNC last weekend. On top of that, one of our astute readers reminded me that Brian O’Connor has never won a series against NC State. So now would be a good time to go and dissect the 2011 version of the North Carolina State Wolfpack.
Many believe that NCSU is on the bubble to get in the NCAA field of 64, but that was before last weekend. Either way, they sit at 22-16 on the season with an 8-10 mark in the ACC and 3-9 on the road. The Pack’s has had some big wins on the season outside of the Tar Heel sweep last weekend, including wins over Coastal Carolina and two over Clemson. But they also have some pretty bad losses against Elon, two to Penn State, two to Duke, and UNC-Wilmington. The parity is why most people believe they are still on the outside looking in.
Offensively, they are pretty decent at the plate, with a team average of .276 and a on base percentage of .373 (as compared to the Hoos .312 and .401). The big 3 that do the most damage for the Pack are C/INF Pratt Maynard (.353, 3 HR, 29 RBI), INF Chris Diaz (.341, 2 HR, 15 RBI), and OF Brett Williams (.276, 4 HR, 17 RBI). Defensively, they have a fielding percentage of .972 with 40 errors, which is just below the Wahoos .982 fielding percentage and 26 errors. While NC State is better in these two categories than UVa has seen at home since Florida State came to town last month, they are still not in the realm of the elite.
Just like the Cavs, North Carolina State is still toying with their pitching rotation a little. Friday will see Junior righty Cory Mazzoni take the hill. He is 3-4 on the season with a 4.19 ERA, 72 K, and 26 BB. He is a 1st sign pitcher that can strike out a lot of people, but also works himself into some tight situations. Saturday’s probable pitcher is lefty Grant Sasser, who has only started 2 games and has come in to the rotation after Danny Healey and Josh Easley started giving up runs in bunches. Grant is 1-2 with a 2.42 ERA, 22 K, 8 BB, most of them in relief. Sunday will see Rob Chamra on the hill. He is another long reliever who is seeing time in the starting rotation. While he is 5-0, he has a 4.35 ERA, which shows that he gets a TON of run support when he is pitching. Like most series left in the ACC, Virginia will have a huge advantage when it comes to pitching.
Now I’m going to make a bold statement. If there is one game that Danny Hultzen is going to have problems in, it will be this one. Not saying he will, but with three ACC starts after this on (@ Boston College, Miami, and @ UNC), this one just seems to the the last series before the players get into playoff mode. In addition, with Scott Silverstein pitching against Richmond, Will Roberts should be good and rested for his Sunday appearance. Look for the Hoos to take 2 of 3 with either the 1st or the 3rd game going to NCSU. Side note, it will be good to see the Hoos on TV for the first time this year Saturday.