Every N. C. State (2-1) starter had a hit and freshman southpaw Brad Stone pounded the strike zone for five efficient innings as the Wolfpack vanquished visiting Villanova (0-2) 14-3 Thursday afternoon at Doak Field.
Over their first two games, Pack batters had struck out more times (15) than they had collected hits (13) before getting well against the Big East bottom dweller. Nova was just 10-17 in league play a year ago and managed all of 9 home runs in 55 games. (So don't get too excited.)
Trea Turner continued to be the catalyst for the Pack offense, posting his third two-hit performance in as many games. Turner, who is batting .600 on the young season with a .750 on base percentage, drew a leadoff walk to spark a three-run first frame and singled home a run in the Pack's six-run third inning. Sam Morgan, who had a pair of hits and scored twice, stole home as part of the first-inning rally on a double steal with Brett Austin, who later scored on a Jake Fincher groundout. Fincher had a team-high three RBI along with two hits and two runs scored. He is hitting .455 through three games.
Tarran Senay's two-run double was the big blow of the third inning. Senay doubled twice and scored twice while also drawing a free pass. Brett Williams got his first two knocks of the season for the Pack, and Matt Bergquist, a starter once more at second base thanks to the broken hand suffered by Logan Ratledge in the season opener, went 1-for-4 with two runs, a walk, and an RBI.
Stone, a wiry 6-3, 165-pounder freshperson from Charlotte Ardrey Kell, threw 72% of his pitches for strikes in an impressive Wolfpack debut. In his five frames, Stone fanned five and allowed just one run on two hits and a walk. Conor O'Brien (two innings, 0 runs) and Will Gilbert (one inning, 0 runs, two strikeouts) also had successful debuts for the Pack, but Gianni Zayas struggled to find the plate, walking three and hitting a batter in one-plus inning of work. Zayas was charged with a pair of earned runs.
Interestingly, Carlos Rodon, Logan Jernigan, and Ethan Ogburn are the only Pack holdover hurlers that pitched last season and have also toed the rubber this year (Grant Sasser and Josh Easley missed all of last year with injuries). Is Elliott Avent seeing what the young guys have, or have Stone and company already passed the likes of Anthony Tzamtzis, Chris Overman, and Ryan Wilkins on the pecking order?
The Villanova game was moved up from Friday due to an inhospitable weekend forecast for baseball; it's also interesting that Rodon, normally the Friday night starter, did not take the mound. He has had plenty of rest, but perhaps Avent wanted to keep him on his normal routine.
La Salle and Wagner are also in town this weekend for hot round robin action if the tarp stays off the field long enough to get any games in. Weather permitting, the Pack take on La Salle Friday at 3 p.m. Sounds like a good streaming opportunity while you kill the last two hours of your week at the soul-crushing dead-end job.