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Wolfpack Look to Continue Cinderella Run
N.C. State enters the NCAA Tournament as one of the nation’s hottest baseball teams. The Wolfpack really came on strong near the end of the season, going 13-3 in their last 16 games.
During their hot finish, NC State had quite an impressive run in the ACC Tournament last week. The Pack beat Notre Dame, Miami and Virginia in pool play to reach the ACC title game. Although they fell to FSU, 6-2, in the championship game, NCSU players are exuding a ton of confidence.
ESPN analyst Kyle Peterson on @NCStateBaseball : "They are one of the most dangerous teams that's not a one seed in the entire tournament."— Pack Pride (@PackPride) May 25, 2015
NC State (34-21) will open the NCAA Tournament in the Fort Worth regional against Stony Brook (34-14-1) today at 3:30 pm. This will be State’s 11th postseason appearance in 13 years.
TCU (43-11) is the top seed in the Fort Worth regional, and the no. 7 overall seed in the bracket. The Horned Frogs open at their home field with Sacred Heart (23-30-1) today at 7 pm.
Let’s dig deeper to see how N.C. State can stay hot in postseason play and make it all the way to Omaha.
If NC State wants to keep their hot streak alive, they will have to take down the mighty Horned Frogs. TCU was awarded one of the nation’s top eight seeds despite going 0-2 last week in the Big 12 Tournament in Tulsa, Okla.
TCU has gone 17-3 in their last 20 games and boasts one of the nations best pitching rotations. The Horned Frogs run a four-deep rotation, all of who have a consistent mix of command and nasty stuff. TCU’s top three starters are a combined 27-6 on the season, including an 11-2 mark for Preston Morrison.
This TCU team is built on pitching and speed. Exhibiting an incredible stealing percentage of 75% (100-133), the Horned Frogs have great speed from top to bottom. NC State catcher, Andrew Knizner, will have to be on his game behind the plate.
The good news for Wolfpack nation is that NC State presents a decent amount of power at the plate. In fact, NC State has hit as many home runs (49) as all of the other three teams in the regional combined. Coach Elliot Avent’s squad averages more runs per game (5.9), a better SLG (.418) and OPS (.778) percentage than TCU. NC State also has a much higher extra base hit percentage of 30.8% compared to TCU’s 19.8%.
The Wolfpack will need to put this power on display if they want to make a big splash in Fort Worth and beyond. Three players who need to continue to produce at a consistent level are IF Logan Ratledge, C Andrew Knizner and 1B Preston Palmeiro.
Preston Palmeiro, son of former MLB legend Rafael Palmeiro, is the glue that holds this NC State batting order together. Palmeiro’s batting average of .316 ranks third on the team while he ranks first in hits (71) and RBIs (48). Just like his pops, Preston has some power (7 HRs) and a little patience (25 BBs) at the plate.
Wolfpack nation can only hope that their super sophomore can follow in his fathers’ footsteps by making a CWS run. In 1984 for Mississippi State, Rafael Palmeiro hit .415 with 29 HRs and 94 RBIs, and led the Bulldogs to the College World Series, where they finished third. Those are tough shoes to fill, Preston...
Patience is a Virtue
The name of the game in the Fort Worth Regional is base on balls. In 2015, NC State’s pitching staff threw 257 walks. By comparison, TCU’s entire staff handed out merely 114 walks during the season. The most impressive of them all was Tyler Alexander who only walked 8 batters in 78-1/3 innings.
On the other side of the spectrum, NC State will need to be patient at the plate in order to draw these much needed walks. The Wolfpack will need to beat TCU at their own game of small ball.
NC State can’t overlook a Cinderella-esque Stony Brook team who made a CWS run in 2012. Although the Seawolves are just 7-10 all-time in regional games, manager Matt Senk has some Omaha experience. Stony Brook IF Cole Pergaine is a strong representation of patient batting. The senior has walked 47 times in 49 games. Wolfpack SP Curt Britt will need to keep Pergaine off base on Friday afternoon.
As for no. 4 seeded Sacred Heart, Wolfpack faithful should not be too concerned. The Pioneers are 0-6 all-time in regional games and have a losing record on the season. Not to belittle the Pioneers, but they couldn’t even crack .250 at the plate or keep their team ERA below five with the 278th toughest schedule in the country.
NC State controls its own destiny, and they are a very scary 2-seed. Match their confidence with a relatively easier regional and the Wolfpack could find themselves playing June 5-8 in the Super Regionals.