Baseball In Big ACC Series At UNC This Weekend
RALEIGH, N.C. — The Atlantic Coast Conference baseball season rolls towards the midpoint this weekend, and NC State faces traditional rival North Carolina in what can only be described as a big series for both teams.
NC State, 20-10 overall and 5-7 in the conference, will be looking to build on the momentum it gained from last weekend’s series win over then-top-ranked Virginia. The Wolfpack has won three games in a row, five of its last six, and six of its last eight. North Carolina, which began the year high in the national rankings, is 20-11 overall and 4-8 in the conference. The Tar Heels had to scramble to salvage its series last weekend at Maryland, scoring four in the top of the ninth to win the rubber game of the series.
The Wolfpack is third in the ACC’s Atlantic Division, and the Tar Heels are fifth in the Coastal, but the real race is for spots in the top eight in the overall conference standings since it’s the top eight that make the ACC Tournament at the end of the regular season. And in that race, NC State is seventh and North Carolina is a game back tied with Boston College for eighth.
So while its still early in the season, it’s not too early for teams to start jockeying for position in the conference standings. The fact that it’s NC State and North Carolina only makes it that much more interesting.
“Since I’ve been here, it seems like it’s been a great series every year,” Wolfpack coach Elliott Avent said. “The guys who grew up around here know what it’s all about before they ever play a game in the series, and the new guys figure it out really fast. It’s a rivalry and it’s a good one.”
All three games will be broadcast live on WKNC-FM (88.1) and on-line on gopack.com through the Pack Pass package.
NC State vs. North Carolina — The Series: The Tar Heels lead the overall series between the two schools by a 149-121-1 margin. UNC has won five of the last eight, and eight of the last 13 meetings.
In 13-plus seasons since Elliott Avent became head coach of the Wolfpack, NC State holds a 22-21 edge in the series. NC State is 13-8 vs. the Tar Heels at Doak Field at Dail Park in that time, 4-11 in Chapel Hill, 1-1 at the USA Baseball Training Complex in Cary, 3-1 in the ACC Tournament, and 1-0 at Durham Bulls Athletic Park.
NC State defeated North Carolina twice in last year’s three-game series at Doak Field at Dail Park, winning the opener 3-0, dropping the middle game 5-2, and then taking the rubber game of the series 9-4.
Jimmy Gillheeney and Cory Mazzoni combined to scatter eight hits in the opener, with Gillheeney allowing seven hits, walking three and striking out 10 in seven innings. Devon Cartwright hit an RBI single in the third inning, and Dallas Poulk provided insurance runs with a two-run triple in the sixth.
Adam Warren and Brian Moran combined on a four-hitter in the second game of the series, allowing two runs on Andrew Ciencin’s RBI single in the bottom of the first. John Lambert allowed just one hit in 6 1/3 innings and struck out 10, but issued nine walks in allowing three runs and taking the loss.
Kyle Wilson homered twice in the finale, driving in three runs, and Alex Sogard and Joey Cutler combined to allow just one run on two hits in 4 2/3 innings out of the bullpen to nail down the series for the Wolfpack.
Avent Surpasses The 500-Win Plateau: NC State’s 6-5 win over top-ranked Virginia on April 2 was the 500th win for head coach Elliott Avent in his 13-plus seasons in Raleigh. Avent became just the second coach in program history to win 500 games at NC State.
Heading into this weekend’s series at North Carolina, Avent has a 728-530 overall record as a head coach, and 503-321 in 13-plus years at NC State. Avent needs 11 wins to pass Sam Esposito and become the winningest baseball coach in NC State history. Esposito went 513-253 from 1967-87.
Double-Doubles: NC State has scored 10 runs or more 13 times and rapped out 10 hits or more 21 times, reaching double figures in both 11 times. NC State has had 20 hits or more five times, and 15 hits or more 10 times. The Wolfpack has scored 15 runs or more eight times, including 32 runs in the season opener vs. La Salle. The Pack has reached double figures for RBIs 10 times, and three times for walks.
NC State has scored 10 runs or more 13 times and rapped out 10 hits or more 21 times, reaching double figures in both 11 times.
The Return of the Cardiac Pack: Twice in the last two weekends, NC State has rallied for multiple runs in the bottom of the ninth inning to send a game vs. a nationally ranked opponent into extra innings. And the Wolfpack went on to win both games.
Trailing Miami 6-1 with two out and no one on base in the bottom of the ninth inning March 27, NC State did the near-imposible — it scored five runs to tie the game and then went on to win in 11 innings. Held to just one run on four hits through 8 2/3 innings, six consecutive Wolfpack batters reached base in the ninth. Five of them scored.
Kyle Wilson walked to start things off, then stole second base. One strike away from ending the game, Dallas Poulk drove a 2-2 pitch to left-center for an RBI double. Also one strike away from ending the game, Drew Poulk singled up the middle on a 1-2 pitch to drive in Dallas Poulk and cut the lead to 6-3. Pratt Maynard singled up the middle to put runners on first and second. Danny Canela walked to load the bases.
Andrew Ciencin, also one strike away from making the final out, hit a 1-2 pitch through the right side of the infield and into right-center for a two-run single. The tying run scored on the same play when catcher Yasmani Grandal threw wildly to second base trying to nab Ciencin, who broke for second on the throw home.
Chris Schaeffer won the game for NC State with a one-out sacrifice fly in the bottom of the 11th inning.
On April 2 in the opener of the series vs. top-ranked Virginia, the Wolfpack rallied for two runs twice in the late innings, in the bottom of the eighth and the ninth against Tyler Wilson and Kevin Arico, to send that game into extra frames.
John Gianis led off the bottom of the eighth with a double off the wall in left field, then trotted home on Kyle Wilson’s two-run homer to left-center. After UVa retook the lead with two runs in the top of the ninth, Danny Canela led off the bottom of the inning with a double down the left-field line, and Dallas Poulk hit the next pitch for a two-run homer to tie the game. The rally took all of four pitches.
NC State won this game with a two-out, RBI single to right by freshman shortstop Matt Bergquist.
Schaeffer’s Big Day: Junior catcher Chris Schaeffer had a career day April 7 vs. Coppin State. In five trips to the plate, Schaeffer homered three times and singled while driving in six runs. The three homers vs. the Eagles matched Schaeffer’s season totals for both 2008 and 2009. Back to the three homers, Schaeffer is the first NC State player to hit three in a game since at least 1997.
The school record is homers in a game is four, set by Jeff Pierce vs. Rider at Chapel Hill’s Boshamer Stadium in 1991.
Schaeffer now has four home runs in his last two games, which he has never done previously. He had just four homers through his first 17 games of the season. The six RBIs mark a new career high for Schaeffer, breaking his old high of five vs. Villanova on March 4, 2009.
Stellar Relief Work: NC State has gotten excellent relief pitching ever since the start of the Miami series back on March 26. In nine games since then, the Wolfpack bullpen has gone 6-0 with a 2.51 ERA in 28 appearances covering 46 2/3 innings. Relievers have retired 118 of 172 batters faced (68.6 percent) in those games, and held opposing hitters to a .253 batting average.
Grant Sasser has been phenomenal out of the pen. In four appearances in the last seven games, he has allowed one run on six hits while striking out eight for a 0.90 ERA. Opponents are hitting .188 against him in that span.
Rob Chamra has a 1.69 ERA in three appearances (5 1/3 innings) over the last seven games. Anthony Tzamtzis is 1-0 with a 2.84 ERA in three appearances covering 6 1/3 innings.
Danny Healey, Mike Russo, Nate King, Mike Clark, Rey Cotilla and John Lambert have combined to make nine appearances and work 10 1/3 innings without allowing an earned run. Healey, Sasser, Roque and Cotilla combined to face 16 Old Dominion hitters March 31 and retired 15 of them, including 13 in a row at one point.
Kyle Wilson Igniting The Offense: Senior center fielder Kyle Wilson has been a classic leadoff hitter for NC State this season. Wilson’s overall numbers say plenty — .414 batting average, 38 runs scored, 11 steals in 12 attempts, .622 slugging percentage and a .529 on-base percentage — but a deeper look at his season is quite revealing.
Wilson has 12 multiple-hit games and eight multiple-run games. He has hit safely in all 27 games he has started, and has had hitting streaks of 14 and 13 games, the latter streak being current.
Wilson began the season by reaching base safely in each of his first five plate appearances, and has yet to go more than four plate appearances without reaching base safely. He has gone four plate appearances without reaching base just four times all season.
Wilson had a season-best streak of eight consecutive plate appearance in which he reached base, covering a three-game span (March 4 vs. Xavier through March 6 vs. Quinnipiac).
Hitting Streaks: Kyle Wilson enters the North Carolina series riding a 13-game hitting streak, the longest current hitting streak on the team, and the third longest hitting streak by a Wolfpack player this season.
Wilson has two of NC State’s longest hitting streaks of 2010. He is batting .382 (21-for-55) with two doubles, four home runs and 12 RBIs during his current hitting streak. Wilson has hit safely in all 27 games he has started, batting .418 (46-for-110). His lone hitless outing came March 14 when he lined out in his only plate appearance, pinch-hitting in the eighth inning at Clemson. Wilson hit safely in NC State’s first 14 games and batted .455 (25-for-55).
Drew Poulk, Matt Bergquist and Pratt Maynard also enter the North Carolina series on hitting streaks. Poulk’s is a seven-game streak, while Maynard and Bergquist both have hit safely in six straight games apiece.
Poulk, who earlier had a 16-game hitting streak, is hitting .333 (11-for-33) with five RBIs during his current streak. Bergquist is batting .450 (9-for-20) with two doubles and four RBIs during his six-game hitting streak. Maynard is hitting .381 (8-for-21) with two homers and six RBIs during his current hitting streak.
Single-Game Career Highs: Through the first 30 games of the 2010 season, several NC State batters have produced or tied single-game career highs, including several that stood since the 2007 season.
Andrew Ciencin — 7 at-bats (2-23 vs. Campbell); 5 hits (2-23 vs. Campbell); 6 RBIs (twice); 2 doubles (twice, tied career high); 3 runs scored (2-19 vs. La Salle, tied career high).
John Gianis — 6 at-bats (3-16 at NC Central, tied career high); 4 runs (2-21 vs. La Salle); 4 hits (twice); 3 RBIs (3-17 at UNCW, tied career high).
Pratt Maynard — 6 at-bats (twice); 3 runs scored (2-19 vs. La Salle, tied career high); 6 RBIs (2-19 vs. La Salle).
Dallas Poulk — 5 runs scored (twice); 4 hits (3-16 at NC Central, tied career high), 2 doubles (twice, tied career high).
Drew Poulk — 3 hits (three times, tied career high); 4 RBIs (twice).
Chris Schaeffer — 4 hits (3-5 vs. Quinnipiac, tied career high); 3 home runs (4-7 vs. Coppin State; 6 RBIs (4-7 vs. Coppin State).
Kyle Wilson — 4 runs scored (2-23 vs. Campbell); 5 hits (2-23 vs. Campbell); 2 doubles (2-19 vs. La Salle); 2 home runs (3-31 vs. ODU, tied career high).
Russell Wilson — 3 runs scored (twice, tied career high); 3 hits (twice, tied career high); 3 RBIs (2-26 vs. UC Irvine).
Easily Surpassing 2009: Several NC State players have either surpassed their 2009 season statistics already or are well on their way to passing their 2009 offensive production as we sit at the midpoint of the 2010 season.
Dallas Poulk’s 43 RBIs and 44 runs scored both mark new career highs, breaking his previous highs of 33 RBIs set in 60 games in 2008, and 37 runs scored, also set in 2008.
Andrew Ciencin, who led the team in batting, doubles and slugging as a freshman a year ago, already has 45 RBIs, 20 more than a year ago. Ciencin has four home runs to match his total from 2009.
Ciencin has 25 runs scored and 44 hits, and needs two more runs and four more hits to match his totals from 2009. He has drawn 13 walks this season, one shy of his 2009 season total of 14.
Kyle Wilson has scored 38 runs with 46 base hits, six doubles and five home runs through 30 games. He already has tied last year’s numbers for hits and home runs, and needs one run and one double to match last year’s season totals.
Chris Schaeffer already has set a new career high with eight homers and 23 RBIs in a season. He hit three homers and drove in 19 runs each of the last two seasons.
With 43 hits, seven doubles, and 31 RBIs, Drew Poulk needs four more hits, three more doubles and five more RBIs to match his 2009 output in those categories.
Russell Wilson has scored 14 runs and hit three doubles, one more run and one more double than he had a year ago. Wilson also has matched his career best with two home runs. He needs four hits and three RBIs to equal previous career bests.
John Gianis has six doubles, two triples and a homer. As a freshman a year ago, he hit two doubles, one triple and no homers.
Harold Riggins already has set new career highs with five doubles and three home runs.