RALEIGH, N.C. Thanks to the compacted schedule in college baseball, conference play for most leagues starts the third weekend of the season. That definitely applies to NC State, which opens the Atlantic Coast Conference schedule this weekend with a three-game series vs. Virginia at Doak Field at Dail Park.
Game one was rained out on Friday and will be made up as part of a doubleheader on Saturday, beginning at noon. The series finale will be Sunday at 1:30 p.m.
In the opener, NC State’s Eric Surkamp (1-1, 1.86) will face Virginia’s Jacob Thompson (2-0, 0.00) in a matchup featuring two of the best pitchers in college baseball. NC State’s pitching plans for the remainder of the weekend are still to be determined. Virginia will pitch Pat McAnaney (1-0, 1.50) on Saturday and Andrew Carraway (2-0, 1.64) on Sunday.
All three games will be broadcast on WKNC-FM (88.1) and the broadcasts will be available live on gopack.com through Pack Pass.
NC State vs. Virginia: NC State and Virginia have met 162 times in baseball, with the Wolfpack holding a 104-57-1 advantage in the series. NC State head coach Elliott Avent is 30-14 vs. the Cavaliers, including a 12-3 mark at Doak Field at Dail Park. NC State is 11-5 vs. Virginia since Brian O’Connor became UVa head coach in 2004. NC State took two of three games from Virginia at Charlottesville a year ago. UVa won the series opener 4-2, but the Wolfpack rallied to take the final two games of the series by scores of 10-7 and 8-6. The two teams met again in May in the Atlantic Coast Conference Tournament, with the Cavaliers prevailing 6-1.
Head Coach Elliott Avent: Through games of March 5, NC State’s Elliott Avent held a 422-260 record in his 11-plus seasons at NC State. Avent is the second-winningest coach in school history, trailing Sam Esposito, who went 513-253 from 1967-87. Counting his eight years at New Mexico State, Avent is 647-471 in 19-plus seasons as a head coach.
Poulk Streak At 23: Sophomore second baseman Dallas Poulk went 2-for-5 on Wednesday vs. North Carolina A&T to extend his hitting streak to 23 games. Poulk has hit safely in all six games in which he has played in 2008 and is hitting .346 (9-for-26). He hit safely in the final 17 games of 2007, batting .459 (34-for-74) during those 17 games. Poulk is hitting .416 (47-for-113) during the 23-game hitting streak. Poulk’s hitting streak is the longest by a Wolfpack hitter during the Elliott Avent era. The school record for a hitting streak is 26-game hitting streak by Greg Briley in 1986. Tom Sergio had a 25-game streak in 1995.
Synan Streaking: Dallas Poulk is not the only NC State hitter to carry a hitting streak over from 2007. Junior outfielder Jeremy Synan hit safely in the final three games of 2007, and has hit safely in all six games in which he has played in 2008, giving him a nine-game streak. Synan is hitting .526 (10-for-19) in 2008, and hit .333 (4-for-12) in the final games of 2007. For the entire nine-game hitting streak, Synan is hitting .467 (14-for-30).
Other Hitting Streaks: No one else on the Wolfpack has a hitting streak approaching Poulk's or Synan’s, but outfielders Devon Cartwright and Domonique Rodgers have hit safely in four games each. Catcher Nick Stanley, outfielder Wade Moore and infielder Russell Wilson all have three-game hitting streaks.
Starters/Relievers Breakdown: NC State’s starting pitchers have pitched well through seven games, winning two of three decisions with a 3.51 ERA. The bullpen, however, has been outstanding, also going 4-1 with a 1.86 ERA and three saves.
Hits Per Inning: NC State pitchers have allowed more than one hit per innings pitched just twice all season, the second game of the February 23 doubleheader vs. Appalachian State and Wednesday’s game vs. North Carolina A&T. The Wolfpack has allowed fewer hits than innings pitched four times.
Inning-By Inning: Through eight games, NC State has scored 13 runs in the fourth inning and batted .371 with a .514 slugging percentage and a .465 on-base percentage. The fourth has by far been the Wolfpack’s most productive inning this season. The Pack has scored nine runs in the seventh inning, batting .364 with a .394 SLG and a .425 OBP. In the first inning, when the top of the lineup is guaranteed to hit, NC State has scored eight runs, batted .429 with a .486 slugging percentage and a .500 on-base percentage.
Conversely, the Pack has scored four runs in the eighth inning with a .241 batting average, a .345 SLG and a .361 OBP.
Starting To Hit: With a .314 team batting average through eight games, NC State has swung the bats well this season, but that is especially true in the last four contests, all Wolfpack victories. In games against North Carolina A&T and The Citadel in Charleston the weekend of March 1-2, and midweek games at home March 4-5 vs. Valparaiso and North Carolina A&T, NC State is hitting .331 (46-for-139) with 10 doubles and three home runs. The Pack scored 34 runs in the four games.
Long Homestand: This weekend’s games against Virginia mark the continuation of one of NC State’s two longest homestand of the season, 11 games over a 16-day stretch. The Wolfpack will play an 11-game homestand from April 2 vs. Elon through April 16 vs. Radford.
Breakout For Cartwright: Devon Cartwright had just two at-bats in the first four games of the season, then got a start March 1 vs. North Carolina A&T and has made the most of it. In four starts since then, Cartwright is hitting .375 (6-for-16) with two doubles, a home run, six runs scored and five RBIs.
Career Day For Martin: Drew Martin’s reputation is as a good-fielding, light-hitting infielder. He began the 2008 season on the bench, but after two games he was put in the lineup February 24 vs. Appalachian State at third base to shore up the Wolfpack’s infield defense. He also has contributed with the bat, hitting .389 with two doubles and five RBIs in six starts. His first game in the lineup, he had a career-high four hits in as many at-bats, doubled, and tied a career high with three RBIs.
Jones Clears The Bases: Marcus Jones was deadly with the bases loaded March 5 vs. North Carolina A&T. In the first inning he hit a bases-loaded double to drive in three runs. In the fourth, he belted a bases-loaded triple, giving him a career-high six RBIs for the day. He came up with the bases loaded again in the eighth inning, and during his at-bat, Aggies pitcher Marquis Fink unloaded a wild pitch that scored two runs, thanks to the gutsy baserunning of Wade Moore.
Five Ribbies For Pond: March 1 vs. North Carolina A&T in Charleston, S.C., Ryan Pond hit a three-run home run, a sacrifice fly and a run-scoring groundout to drive in five runs, one shy of his career high for RBIs. Pond drove in six runs May 6, 2006, when he hit for the cycle vs. Longwood.
Wilson Beginning To Swing Hot Stick: Russell Wilson soon will be splitting his time between baseball and spring football, but in the time he has devoted exclusively to baseball, Wilson has batted .429 and has hit safely in all three of his starts. In his last two starts, March 1 vs. North Carolina A&T and March 4 vs. Valparaiso, Wilson had five hits in nine at-bats, going 2-for-5 vs. A&T and 3-for-4 vs. Valpo.
Shunick Lights Out From The Pen: He may not stay in the bullpen for long, but junior righthander Clayton Shunick has probably been NC State’s most effective pitcher through seven games. In two extended appearances out of the bullpen, Shunick has pitched nine innings and allowed just one run, unearned, on seven hits, no walks and nine strikeouts. He has held opposing hitters to bat .212 and has allowed just three baserunners to reach scoring position.
Shunick began the 2007 campaign in the bullpen, but was not nearly as effective. In 30 2/3 innings out of the bullpen a year ago, Shunick was 3-2 with a 7.04 ERA. In 22 innings as a starter, he was 3-1, 4.91.
Gillheeney Also Effective In Relief: Sophomore lefthander Jimmy Gillheeney is another Wolfpack pitcher who has had past success as a starter yet has been lights out in relief in 2008. In three appearances, Gillheeney has allowed just three hits and three walks in 6 2/3 innings. He has struck out 10. On March 2 at The Citadel, Gillheeney struck out the side on 10 pitches in the ninth inning to record his first save of the season. Gillheeney has inherited four baserunners and stranded three of them.
Inherited Baserunners: Through seven games, NC State relievers have inherited 18 baserunners and allowed just four of them to score. Kyle Rutter has stranded five of six inherited runners, and Jimmy Gillheeney has stranded three of four. Jake Buchanan and Joey Cutler both have inherited two runners and stranded both.
Coming Soon: Following the Wolfpack’s series this weekend vs. Virginia, Quinnipiac will be in town March 12 for a 3 p.m. midweek game, and then the ACC season will continue with eighth-ranked Miami coming to Doak Field at Dail Park the weekend of March 14-16. Game times will be 6:30 p.m. on Friday, 2 p.m. on Saturday and 1:30 p.m. on Sunday.
Attendance News: Through five home games, NC State has drawn 6080 fans to Doak Field at Dail Park, an average of 1,216 fans per game. Should that figure hold for the remainder of the season and it should go up as the weather gets warmer and the conference season heats up NC State will finish with its second-best season ever for average attendance. The Wolfpack averaged 1,308 per game in 1995. A year ago, an average of 1,176 fans per game came through the turnstiles at the Doak, which currently stands as the second-best average in school history.