Baseball Update: Pack Scoring the Runs

Jake Armstrong is used to dusting himself off. - USA TODAY Sports

N.C. State is plating 12.7 runs per game since getting blanked in its opener.

Three N.C. State hurlers pitched to contact en route to a 95-pitch shutout of North Carolina A&T Wednesday. Pack pitchers allowed just three hits but fanned just three in the lopsided 15-0 final. The win came on the heels of a trip to Elon Tuesday that saw the Pack prevail 12-7. The Pack have won three straight after dropping their season opener against Canisius.

Applying the transitive property of sports despite its total irrelevance makes the win over the Aggies seem like, well, something. A&T beat Radford, Radford beat Georgia Tech, so N.C. State is like a million runs better than Georgia Tech which, if true, really is something.

Temple transfer Patrick Patterson took the fourth turn in the rotation for State, suggesting he is currently viewed as the team's midweek starter. His results--5.2 innings, 3 hits, 0 walks, 2 strikeouts--were the best of any State starter so far this season, which suggests that wild thing Logan Jernigan and sophomore Brad Stone, who scuffled against Elon, best be looking over their shoulders. Patterson's twin brother, Eric, followed in relief and went 2.1 perfect innings. Jon Olczak finished the shutout; he allowed a walk that was erased on a game-ending double play.

Trea Turner, Logan Ratledge, and Andrew Knizner all enjoyed two-hit days; Ratledge drove in four while Turner and Knizner plated a pair of runs apiece. My apologies, at least on this day, for questioning Elliot Avent's placement of Ratledge in the middle of the order. The junior second sacker went yard twice, which was one more home run than he had in his career coming into the game. Mr. HBP Jake Armstrong was, of course, hit by a pitch, but he also punished a ball rather than letting it punish him, going yard for his only hit of the game to double his career dinger total. The Pack hadn't homered all season. Armstrong also took a pair of walks and has a ridiculous .733 on base percentage and 1.566 OPS in the early going.

Brett Austin, who walked and scored thrice, continued to get some time off behind the plate. After two straight games without donning the tools of ignorance, he started at the dish but eventually moved to right field before being replaced entirely. Preston Palmeiro got his first action since opening day and delivered a hit and a walk as a sub at DH.

Two of the big question marks to begin the season involved who would man the corner infield spots. Knizner has started every game at the hot corner and is batting .313 with a team-high three doubles. In the early going at least, it appears he will be able to replicate the performance of Grant Clyde before likely moving over to shortstop to take Turner's spot next year. Armstrong has gotten the most play at first base and has to be in the lineup somewhere due to his on-base skills. Kyle Cavanaugh has also gotten some time at first base and hit quite well: 4-for-9 with a double and two RBI. Palmeiro has only seen garbage time so far, but he is 1-for-2 with a walk. Going from question marks to what appears to be quality depth on the corners is a nice problem to have.

Lester Salcedo had two of A&T's three hits.

N.C. State had given up 26 total runs in 11 games before facing Elon last year. The artists formerly known as the Fighting Christians pasted the Pack in a head-scratching 24-12 final. Elon, which won the Southern Conference tournament last season and advanced to the finals of the Charlottesville regional, opened the season with a pair of wins over Cincinnati. Given the quality of opponent and the Pack's recent history in the series, escaping Elon with a 12-7 win is no small feat.

The Pack put up 12 runs thanks to multiple-hit performances from Austin, Turner, Cavanaugh, Knizner, and Bubba Riley, who counted a triple among his hits. Good plate disciple contributed as well; the team drew seven walks to just three strikeouts (and added five HBPs with two, of course, coming courtesy of Armstrong). Turner stole three bases and is 5-for-5 on the season.

Stone struggled a bit with his command, walking two, hitting a batter, and uncorking a pair of wild pitches in his 5.1 innings. He was also tagged for six hits and four runs, all earned. Joe O'Donnell made his collegiate debut behind Stone and appeared to suffer from some first-game jitters; he needed 71 pitches to get 10 outs due to pitch-count inflating walks and strikeouts. He had five of the first and six of the latter en route to yielding three runs. Will Gilbert struck out Chris King for the final out of the game.

Tyler McVicar homered for Elon.

The Pack return to action Friday through Sunday; they'll be trying to avenge a 2013 loss to another SoCon foe, Appalachian State, a team that spoiled the season opener last year, winning 6-3 in Raleigh. The Mountaineers are off to an 0-4 start but they have played nothing but SEC competition. One of their losses came by just a run against Arkansas; they lost by two at Tennessee.

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