Hoos Sweep Pack Nine as the Terrible Continues

T is for Terrible. - USA TODAY Sports

So, how was your sports weekend?

2012-13 will forever be known as the (academic) year of missed expectations for the programs that are the face of the athletic department. The football team lost six games, including blowing a late lead against rival North Carolina, resulting in the ouster of the head coach; the men's basketball team opened the season ranked #6 but sank like a stone from the national rankings and culminated the season with a first round exit from the Big Dance; the women's basketball team finished a disappointing 17-17 campaign with a second round NIT loss.

And now there's baseball, too. Thanks in part to the regression of one preseason all-American and the injury to another, the Pack nine find themselves mired in a four-game losing streak after getting swept at Virginia this weekend. The team has gone from among preseason ACC favorites, with all sorts of Omaha buzz, to eighth in the overall standings. They are 3-6 in the ACC and 0-3 against the dadgum SoCon, for chrisakes. With sub-40 RPI rankings according to both Warren Nolan and Boyd's World, the Pack are a bubble team at best.

After going 9-0 as a freshman and finishing among the top three in voting for the Golden Spikes award, given annually to the nation's top collegiate baseball player, Carlos Rodon has struggled mightily with his command during a season-long sophomore slump. The stuff is still there: opponents are hitting just .173 off of him and Rodon has a ridiculous 62 strikeouts in 36 innings pitched. But, he has also walked 17 and hit four batters while yielding five gopher balls. His record is a middling 2-2; his ERA stands at 4.75.

Rodon walked six and hit a batter Friday, as he was unable to protect a slim 1-0 lead. The bullpen imploded after he left the mound and the Pack dropped the opener of the series 8-2 with the big lefty getting a no decision.

The Pack are just 5-6 since Trea Turner's injury. Turner appeared as a pinch hitter in Saturday's 4-3 loss and stayed in the game as the designated hitter, but the speedy shortstop did not see action Sunday, which suggests that his ankle did not respond well to coming back from his injury ahead of schedule. Turner was 0-for-2 in his return but did drive in a run. The Pack managed just seven hits and failed to draw a walk in Saturday's game, and only one hit went for extra bases, a Brett Austin double.

The Pack got stuck on three runs again Sunday, dropping the series finale 6-3. As in Friday's game, the bullpen, which has been a strength for most of the season for the Pack, could not hold the Hoos at bay after being called on in a close game. Josh Easley and Karl Keglovits coughed up a combined four runs without recording an out. The Pack pen opened the season with 11 wins in their first 11 decisions but have been tagged with the loss in three of the four games of the current losing streak.

The Elliot Avent weird lineup antics continued this weekend, as Brett Williams, who had sat three of the last four games, returned to centerfield and Jake "Any Way On" Armstrong, who is second on the team with a .455 on base percentage (and first among players not name Turner), was benched for the first two games of the series in favor of two guys who I will refrain from naming. (But let's note that those two guys have on base percentages of .270 and .269, respectively.) The Pack are scoring about four runs a game less without Turner atop the order, so it is a bit of a head scratcher as to why Avent would further handicap the team by removing a guy who actually gets on base from the lineup.

N. C. State is 3-6 in league play despite already having two of its more favorable series matchups: Clemson at home and Wake Forest on the road. The series at Virginia was probably the toughest matchup the Pack will face, as they get UNC and FSU at home. Boston College and Duke, which look like must-sweep series, are on the road. After a midweek road tilt against a solid UNC-Wilmington squad, Maryland is up next and at home. Anything short of winning two out of three against the perennial conference bottom feeder just piles doom on top of doom.

Austin will be pivotal against run-happy Maryland, which has attempted 70 stolen bases in 23 games. Charlie White has 20 steals already on the season. Austin has thrown out just 13.2% of would-be thieves, so it will be particularly important that Rodon and crew cut out the free passes, as many of them will turn into doubles. The series opens at 6:30 on Friday and all three games are available on ESPN3.

Here are the current standings with the most recent rankings from the coaches' poll (the Pack are a good bet to drop out when the next rankings are released).

Atlantic Division

Overall Record

ACC Record

Florida State #5

22-2

7-2

Clemson

15-8

5-4

N. C. State #18

16-9

3-6

Maryland

14-9

3-6

Wake Forest

14-12

3-6

Boston College *

3-17

0-8

*Not good at sports

Coastal Division

Overall Record

ACC Record

North Carolina #1

21-1

7-1

Virginia #13

22-2

7-2

Georgia Tech #11

18-5

6-3

Virginia Tech

18-7

5-4

Miami

19-8

4-5

Duke

12-12

3-6

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