NC State Baseball Travels To Wake Forest For Key Road ACC Series
April 10, 2003
RALEIGH, N.C. - At 7-2 and in second place in the Atlantic Coast Conference baseball standings, NC State, ranked No. 9 nationally by Collegiate Baseball, hits the road for a key road test this weekend at Wake Forest. The Deacons, ranked No. 20 by Collegiate Baseball, are 20-10 overall and 6-5 in the conference, tied for fourth place with Virginia.
Due to wet grounds at Gene Hooks Stadium on the Wake Forest campus, Friday's game has been postponed and will be made up as part of a doubleheader on Saturday beginning at noon. Sunday's series finale will begin at 1:30. The Saturday doubleheader will be NC State's fifth in the last six weeks.
NC State leads the overall series with Wake Forest 121-96, but the Demon Deacons have ruled the series in recent years. Wake Forest has won the last three meetings with NC State, seven of the last eight, and nine of the last 12. Since 1997, head coach Elliott Avent's first season with the Wolfpack, the Deacons hold a 13-8 advantage in the series. Wake leads 5-3 in that time at Hooks Stadium. The Pack has a 5-4 edge at Doak Field. Wake Forest has won four of four meetings with NC State in the ACC Tournament since 1997.
Last year, NC State won the first game of the three-game set at Doak Field, 5-4, scoring the winning run in the bottom of the ninth inning on an error by Wake third baseman Jamie D'Antona. Wake Forest came back to win the next two games, 8-6 and 13-7. D'Antona atoned for his game-ending error in game one with three hits and five RBIs in the finale.
Junior lefthander Nate Cretarolo (3-2, 5.40) will make the start for the Wolfpack in the series opener in the first game of Saturday's doubleheader. Cretarolo has made nine appearances, five of them starts, and has allowed 44 hits, walked 19 and struck out 39 in 36-2/3 innings. In his last outing, a start April 5 at Duke, Cretarolo allowed three runs, only one of them earned, on nine hits in eight innings. He walked one and struck out five in the Wolfpack's 16-3 victory over the Blue Devils. Cretarolo has allowed just four earned runs in his last 25 innings. Wake Forest All-American Kyle Sleeth (6-1, 2.25) will start the opener for the Deacons.
Redshirt freshman righthander Michael Rogers (7-1, 2.44) will start for NC State in the middle game of the series, the second game of the twin-bill on Saturday. Rogers has made nine appearances this season, all of them starts, and has allowed 58 hits, walked 18 and struck out 62 in 66-1/3 innings. In his last start, April 4 at Duke, he had a peculiar outing in that he had one really bad inning (the third), but was virtually unhittable otherwise. He wound up allowing six runs, four of them earned, on nine hits. He walked none and tied his career high with 11 strikeouts. Five of the six runs and six of the nine hits in that game came in the third inning. Rogers gave up a leadoff single in the bottom of the first before retiring the next nine hitters, then couldn't buy an out in the third as the first six batters of the inning reached base. Duke scored five times in the inning before Rogers settled down and retired 15 men in a row, including seven in a row on strikes at one point. He finally tired in the eighth and allowed back-to-back two-out doubles. The Wolfpack won 9-6. Tim Morley (2-2, 4.58) will start for Wake Forest.
Junior righthander Vern Sterry (8-0, 2.24) will start the series finale on Sunday. Sterry will be making his 10th appearance, all of them starts. He has worked 64-1/3 innings, allowed 45 hits, walked 18 and struck out an ACC-leading 82. In his last start, April 6 at Duke, he worked six innings and allowed three runs and two earned runs on six hits. He walked one and struck out seven as the Wolfpack completed a series sweep of the Blue Devils with an 11-4 victory. Sterry now has allowed seven earned runs in his last 31-2/3 innings. He has walked nine and struck out 39 in that time. Wake Forest's Sunday starter is yet to be announced.
WOLFPACK'S BEST START IN 10 YEARS: NC State's 28-7 start to the 2003 season is the Wolfpack's best record after 35 games in a decade, since the 1993 Wolfpack began the year 30-5. The current team is lagging behind its predecessor in the polls, however. By the first week of April 1993, NC State was ranked No. 5 by Baseball America, No. 4 by Collegiate Baseball, and No. 3 by USA Today Baseball Weekly.
QUICK ACC START: At 7-2 in ACC play, NC State has tied for the second-best nine-game conference start in school history. Twice previously, the Wolfpack has begun the ACC season 8-1, in 1955 and 1990. The 1955 team wound up 10-4 in the conference, playing the other seven teams twice each. The 1990 team began the ACC wound up with a 14-7 conference finish, playing the other seven teams three times each.
No previous NC State baseball team, including the 1955 and '91 squads, ever began a season with back-to-back series wins over top 10 opponents the way this year's team did in beating No. 2 Florida State and No. 10 Clemson at Grainger Stadium in Kinston.
Prior to this season, NC State had won six three-game ACC series from opponents ranked in the national top 10. No two of those series ever came in the same season, and certainly not on back-to-back weekends. Furthermore, only one of those series was played away from Doak Field. The last time NC State won a series from a team ranked as high as No. 2 in the country was a sweep of then-top-ranked Georgia Tech in 1990.
PLAYING AWAY FROM HOME: Going on the road is hardly a big deal to this NC State team. The Wolfpack has played 35 games this season, two of them at Doak Field. The other 33 were played at least 18 miles away, including 19 so-called home games played at six different ballparks away from campus.
At 8-3 on the road, NC State already has doubled last year's total of road wins (4). The eight road wins this year mark the most road wins by the Wolfpack since the 1996 team won 10 road games. With 10 road games remaining this season, NC State has an outside shot at reaching the school record of 15 road victories, set in 1990 and tied in 1993.
With 26 wins away from Doak Field already this season, the Wolfpack has tied the school record for wins away from campus. The record was first set in 1993. In all, only four previous NC State teams (1990-91-92-93) ever won 20 or more games away from campus.