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    NC State Baseball To Play In Keith LeClair Classic
     
    Righthander Eryk McConnell will start for the Wolfpack on Friday against West Virginia.
    Righthander Eryk McConnell will start for the Wolfpack on Friday against West Virginia.
     

    Feb. 23, 2006

    RALEIGH, N.C. - Ranked 18th in the latest Collegiate Baseball poll, the NC State baseball team travels to Greenville, N.C., this weekend to play in the Keith LeClair Classic at Keith LeClair Stadium in Greenville, N.C.

    Named after the former East Carolina head coach who stepped down in 2002 after contracting Lou Gehrig's Disease, the LeClair Classic features teams from six schools-- NC State (10-1), East Carolina (5-2), UNC Wilmington (5-1), West Virginia (3-0), Penn State (0-3) and Virginia Tech (2-0).

    There will be three games per day, with each of the six schools playing three games. NC State will face West Virginia on Friday at 1:30 p.m., Penn State on Saturday at 10 a.m., and UNCW on Sunday at 4 p.m.

    All three games will be broadcast live on WKNC (88.1 FM), and will be available on-line at gopack.com through Yahoo's subscription service.

    THE STARTING PITCHERS: Redshirt-sophomore righthander Eryk McConnell (2-1, 2.12) will start against West Virginia in Friday's weekend opener. McConnell, a transfer from Western Carolina, has made three strong appearances this season, establishing his spot in the Wolfpack's weekend rotation. Less than two years removed from Tommy John ligament transplant surgery. McConnell has allowed just nine hits in 17 innings. He has walked two and struck out nine, while consistently inducing groundball outs. In his start, February 4 against Delaware State, he pitched six perfect innings, retiring 14 men on ground balls, including the first seven men he faced. He made just 59 pitches, 44 of them strikes. Against Hofstra a week later, he got seven outs on ground balls and retired 10 of the last 11 men he faced. He allowed three hits, walked one and struck out five. Last weekend against Nebraska, he allowed four runs on six hits in five innings, but was more the victim of some well-placed hits than an offensive assault by the Huskers. He walked one and struck out two in a 4-3 loss.

    Junior righthander Gib Hobson (2-0, 4.50) will start Saturday against Penn State. This will be Hobson's 26th career start for the Wolfpack, including his 21st of the last two seasons. This season he has made three appearances, all starts, and has allowed seven runs, all earned, on 16 hits in 15 innings. He has walked six and struck out 12. Last Sunday at The Citadel, he worked five innings and allowed two runs on five hits. He walked one and struck out four.

    Senior lefty Jason Duncan (3-0, 3.86) will start the final game of the weekend for NC State. This will be his second career appearance against UNCW. Last April 13, he worked four scoreless innings at Doak Field to receive credit for the Wolfpack's 8-4 victory. Duncan has made three starts this season and worked 14 innings. He has allowed six runs on 14 hits in 14 innings while walking five and striking out 12. Last weekend against Richmond, Duncan allowed three runs on five hits in five innings. He walked two and struck out six.

    NC STATE VS. WEST VIRGINIA: The Wolfpack holds a 6-2-1 advantage over the Mountaineers in the overall series between the two schools. The Pack was scheduled to play West Virginia last February in Charleston, S.C., at the 2005 Homewood Suites Shootout, but the game was rained out. The two teams last met February 16, 2001, at Doak Field, a 2-1 victory for NC State. Daniel Caldwell started and allowed just one unearned run on six hits in seven innings. Matt Butler drove in one run for the Wolfpack, and Mike Prochaska scored the game-winner on the front end of a double steal. NC State has won five in a row against West Virginia.

    NC STATE VS. PENN STATE: NC State has a 1-3 record in the overall series with Penn State, but this weekend's meeting with the Nittany Lions is the first for the Wolfpack since an 8-2 defeat in 1927.

    NC STATE VS. UNC WILMINGTON: NC State holds a 53-12 lead in the series with UNC Wilmington, including a 13-2 mark in the last 15 meetings. The Wolfpack defeated the Seahawks twice a year ago. NC State won 6-0 on March 9 at Brooks Field in Wilmington behind six innings of nearly perfect baseball from lefthander Branden Knapp, who retired 16 of the 18 men he faced. Knapp faced the minimum 18 batters in his six innings on the mound. Matt Payne worked three scoreless innings for his first save. UNCW made the return trip to Doak Field on April 13, riding an 11-game winning streak and having won 17 of 18 games since losing to the Wolfpack in Wilmington. NC State scored five runs in the bottom of the second inning and went on to record an 8-4 triumph. Jason Duncan pitched four shutout innings, retiring 12 of the 15 men he faced and not allowing a runner to reach scoring position to get the win. Sam Walls struck out all three men he faced in the ninth. Matt Camp, Aaron Cone and Ramon Corona had RBI doubles in the big second inning. UNCW's last win in the series was March 23, 2004, a 1-0 victory at Brooks Field.

    NC STATE IN THE RANKINGS: After a 9-1 start, NC State has begun to climb in the national polls. Collegiate Baseball, which did not rank the Wolfpack in its preseason poll, now has the Pack at 18th, the highest of any of the national baseball polls.

    Baseball America and the National College Baseball Writers Association (NCBWA) both have NC State ranked at No. 20, while The Rosenblatt Report ranks the Pack 24th. Sports Weekly/ESPN has not issued a coaches poll since its preseason poll in late January.

    THE ACC IN THE RANKINGS: As it climbs in the national polls, NC State is looking to join four of its ACC brethren among the nation's elite. Clemson, Georgia Tech, North Carolina and Florida State all are currently in the top 10 in three polls; and Clemson, Georgia Tech and North Carolina all are in the top 10 in a fourth poll.

    Collegiate Baseball, which had five ACC teams ranked 11th or higher in its preseason poll, has four ACC teams ranked seventh or higher this week: Clemson at No. 2; North Carolina at No. 5; Florida State at No. 6; and Georgia Tech at No. 7. NC State is No. 18 in the CB poll, and Miami is No. 27.

    The NCBWA has Clemson third, North Carolina fourth, Georgia Tech fifth and Florida State sixth. The Wolfpack is No. 21, and Miami is No. 29. For the third consecutive week, the Rosenblatt Report ranks Clemson at No. 3, followed by Georgia Tech at No. 4, North Carolina at No. 5 and Florida State at No. 8. NC State checks in at No. 24. TRR does not rank Miami.

    Baseball America ranks just three ACC teams in the top 10, with Clemson ranked No. 1, followed closely by Georgia Tech at No. 3 and North Carolina at No. 4. Baseball America has Florida State ranked 14th, and NC State at No. 20. BA has not ranked Miami at all this season.

    MANGINI (.730) = RIDICULOUS: While the entire NC State lineup has hit the ball with authority thus far in 2006-- five hitters are batting .378 or better-- sophomore third baseman Matt Mangini has lent new meaning to the expression"en fuego"with his performance through 10 games. Mangini earned National Player of the Week honors the first two weeks of the season, going 11-for-13 with a double, five runs scored and seven RBIs during the Delaware State series; and 9-for-12 with a double, two triples, eight runs scored and seven RBIs a week later against Hofstra.

    Although he has"cooled off"slightly since the first two weekends of the year, Mangini still is batting .730 (27-for-37) with three doubles, three triples, 16 runs scored and 21 RBIs through the first 10 games of the season. That is ridiculous.

    LOTS OF OFFENSE: After 10 games, NC State is batting .405 and averaging 13.5 runs per game. The team slugging percentage is .620 and the team on-base percentage is .518.

    Those are the conventional numbers, but consider the following stats from the Wolfpack's first 10 games:

    •NC State scored in 55 of 83 offensive innings.

    •NC State has had consecutive-inning scoring streaks of six, five, six, 14, and six innings.

    •The Pack had baserunners in 76 of the 83 innings, and had runners in scoring position in 63 of 83 innings.

    •In 35 of 55 scoring innings, NC State put a crooked number on the scoreboard, scoring two runs in an inning 17 times, three runs in an inning nine times, four runs in an inning twice, five runs in an inning three times, and had one inning each of six runs, seven runs, eight runs and 10 runs.

    •The Wolfpack has gone as many as four consecutive plate appearances without a man reaching base just eight times in 10 games, including one streak of seven consecutive plate appearances, one streak of five consecutive plae appearances, and five streaks of four consecutive plate appearances.

    •The Pack has gone down in order in an inning, three up and three down, just seven times in 83 innings.

    DOUBLE-DIGIT SIX PACK: In scoring 10 runs or more in each of its first six games this season, NC State tied the school record for most consecutive games of double-digit scoring. The Wolfpack accomplished this feat three times previously, in 1984, 1999 and 2002.

    MORE DOUBLE DIGITS: NC State has scored 10 runs or more in seven of its first 10 games, putting the Wolfpack on pace to challenge the school record of 27 games with double-digit scoring, set in 1998.That team also scored in double digits seven times in its first 10 games, then went on to break the old record of 26 double-digit games, set by the 1988 team, which holds the school records for runs in a season (571), home runs in a season (123), highest team batting average (.346) and highest team slugging percentage (.591).

    EXCLAMATION POINT: NC State capped off two impressive weekends of offense on February 12 with a 23-3 blowout vs. Hofstra. In addition to tying the school record for hits in a game with 27, the Wolfpack scored a season-high 10 runs in the first inning (NC State's first 10-run inning since a a14-run second inning on February 24, 2002, vs. Coppin State), scored in all eight offensive innings (didn't need to bat in the bottom of the ninth), and had hitters record back-to-back outs just four times in 61 plate appearances the entire game. Wolfpack hitters went 9-for-18 with two out and 19-for-40 with runners on base, and had the leadoff hitter reach base seven times in eight innings.

    WALLS RETURNS IN STYLE: After sitting out the first six games of the season with a slightly pulled groin, junior righthander Sam Walls made his season debut February 17 vs. Nebraska in the first round of the Homewood Suites Shootout in Charleston, S.C. Walls made his 2006 debut memorable by pitching three shutout innings against the third-ranked Huskers. He allowed one hit, which he erased with a double-play ball. He struck out three and did not go to a three-ball count on any of the nine hitters he faced. Two days later against The Citadel, Walls pitched the ninth inning and struck out the side on 10 pitches.

    NINTH-INNING LIGHTNING: NC State was able to do virtually nothing February 17 against Nebraska All-America righthander Joba Chamberlain, who limited the previously red-hot Wolfpack to a pair of hits in 7 1/3 shutout innings. Huskers closer Brett Jensen, also a preseason All-American (16 saves, 1.96 ERA in 2005), did not fare so well in the bottom of the ninth. Aaron Cone drew a one-out walk, and pinch-hitter Jeremy Synan hit the first pitch he saw from Jensen to left field for a two-run, opposite-field home run. One out later, Matt Mangini drove Jensen's first offering to left for a solo homer the other way. The rally fell a run short in a 4-3 loss, but the Wolfpack, which trailed 4-0 when Jensen entered the game in the ninth, had the potential tying run at the plate when the game ended.

     

     

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