April 28, 2011
Game Notes (PDF)
RALEIGH, N.C. — After beginning the year at 10-10 overall and 1-5 in the Atlantic Coast Conference, NC State had a big hole to climb out of. Twenty-two games later, the Wolfpack can finally see some light at the end of the tunnel.
Against the most difficult portion of its schedule, NC State won 14 of its last 22 games and heads into this weekend’s ACC series with Maryland at 24-18 overall and 9-12 in the conference. With three conference series remaining — vs. Maryland and Florida State at home, and at Boston College to end the regular season — a .500 finish or something close to it is clearly within the Pack’s grasp.
“We’re playing very well right now, the best we’ve played all year,” NC State head coach Elliott Avent said. “We’ve played ourself into a position where all of our goals are attainable We believe that our fate is in our own hands. We just need to take care of business the rest of the way.”
The series vs. the Terrapins will be this Friday, Saturday and Sunday at Doak Field at Dail Park. Game times are 6:30 p.m. on Friday and Saturday, and 1 p.m. on Sunday.
All three games will be broadcast live on WKNC-FM (88.1) and will be available on-line with videostreaming on GoPack.com’s All-Access package. Live stats will be available on Gametracker. Just click the Gametracker icon on the baseball schedule page on GoPack.com.
The Wolfpack is 29th in the NCAA’s official Ratings Performance Index (RPI), released on Monday, and the Pack’s strength of schedule was ranked ninth. NC State is coming off a pair of weekend series against top 5 opponents — No. 5 North Carolina and No. 1 Virginia — and won four of the six games. Sandwiched between those two series was a pair of dangerous midweek non-ACC games that the Wolfpack won. The Pack has won six of its last eight games.
Through 42 games a year ago, NC State was 26-16, two games ahead of this year’s pace, but was mired in the mid 50s in the RPI. The difference between then and now clearly is strength of schedule and performance against the top teams in the RPI. Avent toughened up this year’s non-ACC schedule, and the Pack is a very respectable 4-5 against the top 10 teams in the RPI.
“I thought last week at Virginia and the weekend before against North Carolina that we played at a level I hadn’t seen previously this year,” Avent said. “Our kids are beat up and tired from a long season, yet they played so hard and with so much intensity and showed a desire that we didn’t see earlier. They’re finally learning how good they can be and just how much work it takes to get to that level. It’s really nice to see.”
Maryland (19-25 overall, 4-17 in the ACC) comes into this weekend having won its last two games, but having lost eight of its last 11, including six in a row at one point and eight of nine. Maryland has lost five of its last six ACC games. The Terps are 4-13 away from their home at Shipley Field.
NC State vs. Maryland — The Series
NC State leads the overall series between the two schools by a 98-52-2 margin. The Wolfpack has won the last three meetings, seven of the last 10, and 16 of the last 22.
In 14-plus seasons since Elliott Avent became head coach of the Wolfpack, NC State leads the series 28-15. NC State is 12-9 vs. the Terrapins at Doak Field at Dail Park in that time, 12-6 at Shipley Field in College Park, 3-0 in Frederick, Md., and 1-0 in the ACC Tournament.
NC State swept the regular-season series at Shipley Field in 2010, winning by scores of 4-2, 7-2 and 22-6. It marked the third time in its last six trips to College Park that the Wolfpack swept the Terrapins at Shipley Field. The Pack also swept Maryland a series in Frederick, Md., played in 2004.
In last season’s series opener, Jake Buchanan pitched a complete-game six-hitter, striking out seven and walking none. Buchanan retired the first 10 men he faced, and 10 of the last 11. Drew Poulk and Harold Riggins hit back-to-back homers in the first inning, Poulk’s a three-run blast.
In game two, Cory Mazzoni went the distance, allowing five hits, striking out five and allowed two runs, one of them unearned. Mazzoni set down 11 of the first 12 batters he faced, and 12 of the last 13. Danny Canela went 3-for-5 and drove in a run, and John Gianis was 2-for-4 with two RBIs.
NC State bashed out 20 hits, including four doubles and four home runs, in the series finale. Pratt Maynard homered twice and drove in five runs, and Riggins and Canela had three RBIs apiece. Riggins finished the series with three homers and five RBIs.
The Pack batted .339 with 10 doubles, seven homers and 33 runs scored in the three-game series, and held the Terps to a .238 average, 10 runs, eight doubles and no home runs.
The Starting Rotation
NC State will send junior righthander Cory Mazzoni (3-5, 4.11) to the mound to start the series opener on Friday. He will opposed by junior righthander David Carroll (5-4, 3.84). Senior righthander Rob Chamra (6-0, 3.55) will start the middle game of the series on Saturday. Maryland will send freshman righthander Brady Kirkpatrick (2-2, 4.79) to the hill on Saturday. Redshirt-junior lefthander Grant Sasser (1-3, 3.29) will take the mound on Sunday for the series finale. Maryland’s game three starter is still to be determined.
Belying his won-lost record, Mazzoni, from Evans City, Pa., has been outstanding this season save for a rocky outing April 1 vs. Wake Forest. In four starts from March 4 vs. Penn State through March 25 vs. Clemson, Mazzoni had a 1.27 ERA with 35 strikeouts in 28 1/3 innings. He earlier struck out 10 or more in consecutive games against Clemson, Wake Forest and Miami, and has struck out 67 in his last 56 2/3 innings.
In his last appearance, April 23 at No. 1 Virginia, Mazzoni worked 7 2/3 innings and allowed three runs on seven hits, striking out four. Mazzoni tossed a complete-game four-hit shutout against No. 15 Clemson on March 25, retiring 16 batters in a row at one point and 20 of 21. Mazzoni fanned a career-high 13 in seven innings March 4 vs. Penn State.
Chamra, from Cranford, N.J., will be making his 12th appearance and his fifth start. He has pitched 38 innings and allowed 17 runs, 15 of them earned earned, on 35 hits. He has struck out 27 and walked 16 while holding opposing batters to a .250 average.
Chamra is 3-0 with a 1.80 ERA in his four starts. His last start was April 23 at No. 1 Virginia, and he pitched seven innings, allowing just two unearned runs on four hits in the Wolfpack’s 6-2 victory. In his last two starts, vs. No. 1 Virginia and No. 5 North Carolina, Chamra has allowed two runs, no earned runs, on eight hits in 12 1/3 innings.
On March 16 vs. George Mason, Chamra started and went 5 1/3 innings, allowing one run on three hits. Chamra also pitched five shutout innings in relief against Clemson on March 26, allowing just one hit, to the last batter he faced.
Sasser, from Fremont, N.C., made his first college start April 10 at Miami and is 0-2 with a 6.55 ERA in three starts since moving into the rotation. Sasser was a staple in the NC State bullpen for nearly two complete seasons before moving into the rotation.
Sasser allowed just two earned runs in 16 1/3 innings in his 10 relief appearances this season. Sasser opened the season by tossing 9 2/3 innings without allowing a run, and 12 innings without allowing an earned run.
A year ago, Sasser was 3-4 with a 3.56 ERA and five saves in a team-leading 26 appearances. In 2010, opponents batted .192 vs. Sasser with runners on base, .182 with runners in scoring position, .237 with two out, .205 with runners on base and two out, and .192 with two outs and runners in scoring position.
Who’s Hot For The Wolfpack
NC State has won six of its last eight games, its best stretch of the 2011 season so far, and several hitters have swung the bats very well of late.
• Right fielder John Gianis is batting .462 (12-for-26) in his last seven games, with five doubles, a home run, seven runs scored and six RBIs in that time.
• First baseman Harold Riggins has gotten hot lately, going 8-for-15 in his last four games, and batting .429 (12-for-28) with two doubles, six runs scored and three RBIs in his last seven games.
• Shortstop Chris Diaz has been one of NC State’s most consistent hitters all season, and is batting .423 (11-for-26) with two doubles.
• Third baseman Andrew Ciencin enters the Maryland series on a seven-game hitting streak and is batting .367 (11-for-30) with a double, a home run and four RBIs during the streak. Ciencin has five home runs and 16 RBIs in his last 18 games.
• Catcher Pratt Maynard is batting .361 (13-for-36) in his last eight games with five doubles, a home run, eight runs scored and five RBIs.
• Second baseman Matt Bergquist is hitting .444 (8-for-18) with nine RBIs in his last four games.
• Left fielder Cameron Conner is hitting .333 (5-for-15) with three doubles, four runs scored and four RBIs in his last four games.
Ciencin On Seven-Game Hitting Streak
Third baseman Andrew Ciencin enters play vs. Maryland with a seven-game hitting streak and is hitting .367 (11-for-30) with a double, a home run and four RBIs during the streak.
The streak is the longest of the season for Ciencin. He has a pair of two-hit games, and a three-hit game during his streak. Ciencin had a career-longest eight-game hitting streak a year ago.
Pratt Maynard had a 12-game hitting streak snapped April 8 in the first game of the Miami series. His 12-game streak is the longest by an NC State hitter this season. Maynard batted .386 (17-for-44) with two doubles, a home run, 10 walks, seven runs scored and eight RBIs during the streak. Earlier this season, the Wolfpack had a 10-game hitting streak from shortstop Chris Diaz and a seven-game hitting streak from center fielder Brett Williams.
Overman Dominates Out Of The Bullpen
NC State has had its share of dominant closers in recent years, from Joey Devine and Sam Walls to Eryk McConnell and Jimmy Gillheeney. Current bullpen stopper Chris Overman appears to be the latest Wolfpack closer in that tradition.
Overman is 6-1 with four saves and a 1.93 ERA for the season. He has appeared in 18 games and worked 32 2/3 innings, allowing 22 hits, striking out 30 and walking just six. Opponents are batting a paltry .198 against him.
The fact is that Overman has been much better than those numbers suggest. In his first outing of the year, Feb. 19 at Elon, he got boxed around for four runs, three earned, on two hits and two walks in 2 1/3 innings. He didn’t appear in another game for nearly two weeks, but he’s been Superman for the Wolfpack ever since.
Overman has not allowed a run in 13 of 17 appearances since getting roughed up at Elon, and is 6-1 with four saves and a 1.19 ERA in those 17 games. He really emerged as the Wolfpack’s main man out of the bullpen with 3 2/3 shutout innings March 22 vs. Northwestern.
He is 3-1 with four saves and a 0.45 ERA in 10 appearances since then. He has allowed one run on 10 hits in 20 innings in those 10 games, striking out 19 and walking three. Opponents are batting .149 (10-for-67) against him in the last 10 games.
Typical for a college closer, Overman has not just been a one-inning pitcher. Several times when needed, he has worked an extended period and still dominated the opposition.
In 4 2/3 innings March 15 against Buffalo, he allowed a solo homer to the first man he faced, then retired the final 14 batters of the game in order, three on strikeouts, to record his third win of the season.
In 3 2/3 innings March 22 vs. Northwestern, he allowed one hit in 3 2/3 shutout innings, retiring 10 of the 11 men he faced to pick up his fourth win.
He worked three innings April 2 vs. Wake Forest, allowing a hit and a walk, and retired nine of the 11 men he faced to record his second save.
On April 5 vs. East Carolina, he pitched 2 1/3 shutout innings, allowing a pair of hits and striking out four.
Rob Chamra Vs. The Top 10
NC State has taken on a pair of top 10 opponents — No. 5 North Carolina and No. 1 Virginia — in a pair of three-game ACC series the last two weekends, and won four of the six games.
Of the four victories by the Wolfpack, the two most impressive pitching performances were turned in by redshirt-senior righthander Rob Chamra, who dominated the Tar Heels on April 17 at Doak Field at Dail Park, and did the same to the Cavaliers on April 23 in Charlottesville.
Chamra shut out UNC on four hits for 5 1/3 innings. He ran into trouble just once, in the top of the fourth, and was bailed out by center fielder Brett Williams’ circus catch and subsequent double play.
UVa scored a pair of unearned runs off Chamra in the first inning the following weekend, but that was all. Chamra allowed no earned runs on four hits in seven innings against the nation’s top-ranked team. In the two games, he pitched 12 1/3 innings and allowed two runs, both unearned, on eight hits.
The series between NC State and North Carolina drew near-record crowds to Doak Field at Dail Park. Friday’s crowd of 2775 was, at the time, the fourth-largest crowd at the Doak since the ballpark was renovated in 2003-04. Two days later, 2828 fans squeezed their way into the ballpark, making that the fourth-largest crowd in stadium history. Had it not been for the severe weather and tornadoes that roared through the Raleigh area Saturday afternoon, the series could have been one of the two most-attended three-game series in stadium history.
Despite the severe weather that afternoon, a crowd of 1727 came out for Saturday evening’s game. The final tally for the three games was 7330, which ranks as the third-largest attendance for a three-game series since the stadium was renovated.
Following NC State’s 3-2 victory over Campbell on April 19, attendance for 2011 stands at 30,664 through 24 dates, an average of 1277 per contest. At that pace, with 10 games remaining, NC State will draw 43,434 fans for the year, which would rank second in stadium history. The stadium record is 48,263 set in 2008. Second on the list currently is 41,846 set in 1995.
Because of final exams, NC State will have no midweek games for the second week in a row. The Pack will return to action next weekend at Doak Field at Dail Park with a three-game non-conference series vs. East Tennessee State. Game times are 6:30 p.m. on Friday and Saturday, and 1 p.m. on Sunday.
As always, please visit GoPack.com regularly for full coverage of all NC State athletics news and events.