Yes, I'm doing this now so get over it...
Baseball kicks off February 15 against the Mountaineers from App State, and the accolades for this team are starting to pile up pre-season like they did for the basketball team. Rodon has all ready been named all-world everything and Turner joined him on 1st-team All-American honors on a number of ballots. Pack also received its highest pre-season ranking EVER (FOREVER; FO-RE-VER... just think Sandlot). News comes recently that NC State has now been selected by the coaches of the ACC to win the ACC.
But what does the State team have to offer this season compared to last season. Brett Williams returns to the outfield and whether he takes over center or not (I'm guessing a move to right is in his future) is yet to be determined as is the effects of the surgery that took last year away from him. If Williams's speed comes back at 80% or greater we should see three really effective base swipers (similar to shot botherer) between he, Fincher and Turner. And if this team is going to be able to do one thing, it should be run like the wind. Between Williams/Turner/Fincher the three leading base swipers from the past two years are back and they have an 88% steal rate (83 of 94). Williams only attempted 9 in his last full year out and then one in the single game he played last year, but was never caught and lead the team in steals in 2011. Everyone else can run effectively.
So what should we expect for our line-up (sbas2, help me here):
P: Carlos Rodon
C: Brett Austin
1B: Terran Senay
2B: Logan Ratledge
3B: Sam Morgan
SS: Trea Turner
LF: Brett Williams
CF: Jake Fincher
RF: Bryan Adametz
Weekend Starters: Friday - Rodon; Saturday - Ogburn; Sunday - Jernigan
Weekday Starters: Danny Healey; Anthony Tzamtzis
Freshmen that mean something:
Pitchers - Brad Stone; Karl Keglovitz (seriously, one of these guys could be a weekend starter by the end)
We didn't bring in much of fielders in the freshmen class so don't expect too much beside mop up duty, except to give Austin spot relief during the weekdays.
What did we lose:
A lot of power and a steady senior - Danny Canela, Ryan Matthews, Chris Diaz, Andrew Ciencin and John Gianis. Together they hit 30 of our 44 HRs (yea, yikes), not to mention included our top 2 hitters (Canela/Diaz). Diaz and Matthews are the biggest loss, but no one is going to deny that Canela was pretty clutch himself last year.
How's the schedule looking (RPIs from 2012):
RPI 1 - 100: Appalachian State (33); New Mexico St (40); Florida Atlantic (80); Coastal Carolina (41); Elon (56); Campbell (95); Clemson (30); Wake Forest (39); Virginia (14); UNC Wilmington (43); Maryland (32); East Carolina (35); Virginia Tech (38); Boston College (97); Georgia Tech (28); North Carolina (8); Florida State (3);
RPI 101 - 200: Villanova (187); UNC Greensboro (106); Presbyterian (156); Duke (134)
RPI 200+: Wagner (258); LaSalle (246); UMBC (290); Quinnipac (282); Old Dominion (224); Charlotte (204); Davidson (206)
Of course there will be some movement in these but expect the ACC to be very strong yet again. Clemson loses Schaffer (thank God) and Atlantic division should be the stronger of the two. Carolina is No. 1 pre-season and their pitching staff is probably the best in the nation. That series, if we both hold up, should be incredible. Outside of Charlotte, don't expect any 200+ teams to move up, and we could see a few from the first group slide to the second.
What do I/we expect:
Looking on paper, we could easily be 13-0 heading into conference play, but expect two (2) slip-ups as the team settles in to start conference play at 11-2 against Clempson at home. In conference will be tough, BUT we get Clempson, Carolina and FSU at home. We should be favored in every series and even the one against Carolina if we hold Top-10 when they come to town. Virginia Tech could be a surprise in the ACC given their performances from the past two years.
Rodon should be a bright spot yet again after leading Team USA to become an international star. Turner easily eclipses State's SB record, maybe even before the start of conference play. No reason this team doesn't finish outside the top 4 in the ACC and, at minimum, host a Regional, yet again. Should definitely be in the conversation all year long for the ACC's top team.
Can Jernigan become somewhat consistent?
Can Austin find some power and stay consistent at the plate, maybe actually throw a runner out this year?
Who else will fill the power gap?
Can we get some real pitching outside Rodon?
Who the hell plays 1B?
Can we cut down on the errors that crippled us last year?
Lot of questions, won't have many of the answers until Clempson comes to town.
I love baseball, it's my favorite sport and wonderful for stat freaks. But college baseball is just so much better. Nothing greater sitting in a stadium with 1,000 on a sunny Saturday afternoon. Only problem... no beer.
For a really good evaluation of our team by the pros check out Baseball America capsules of the top 25 teams.