Pack Baseball Plummeting and other (happier) Notes

Omaha? At this point I just hope we make the ACC tournament.

The N.C. State baseball team's losing streak swelled to six games after a second consecutive ACC road sweep, this time in College Park. Strikeouts at the plate and command issues on the mound doomed the Pack in their last trip to face the Terps as members of the ACC. State never came within three runs of Maryland in the series, losing 10-0, 7-4, and 5-2.

N.C. State batters fanned 37 times in the series, including 17 strikeouts in the Friday opener, en route to averaging a miniscule two runs per game. The Pack (14-8, 3-6) have fanned at least 10 times in five straight games. Pack pitchers are racking up plenty of their own Ks, but the strikeouts are not enough to compensate for a bevy of bases on balls and hit batters. Starting with Carlos Rodon's stinky four-walk, two-hit-batter performance in 4.2 innings on Friday, the State staff issued 16 free passes and plunked eight Terps (16-6, 5-4) in the series. Logan Jernigan actually HBP'd two runs in with bases-loaded HBPs on Saturday. The Pack offense is simply not potent enough to overcome that kind of generosity from the staff.

If there was any good news from the series, it came from the bat of Trea Turner, who homered in each of the last two games of the weekend. Saturday and Sunday combined, Turner was 3-for-7 with three runs scored and added a pair of walks and runs.

The worst news from the series probably came Sunday when, needing a big start to avoid a sweep, Brad Stone couldn't make it out of the first inning. Stone managed just two outs while (of course) walking a pair and hitting a batter before getting the quick hook in favor of Andrew Woeck. Stone's bout of wildness allowed the Terps to take an early 2-0 lead; N.C. State never led in the series.

I keep reminding myself that last year's Omaha squad started the year 4-7 in ACC play. There is a lot of baseball to be played, but, in the difficult ACC, the Pack better turn it around quickly or risk getting buried. Preseason expectations have gone from Omaha to oh my I hope we just make the ACC tournament. After midweek roadies against Campbell and UNC-Wilmington, the Pack finally return to the Doak for a three-game set with Miami. State is 1-6 on its current nine-game road swing.

***

The outlook is considerably better on the softball diamond, where the ladies took two of three from visiting Virginia Tech over the weekend and find themselves just a half game behind Florida State and North Carolina in the conference standings.

The Pack (19-10, 10-4) trailed 2-0 in the opener and were hitless heading into the bottom of the fourth. The Hokies (16-14, 5-6) allowed State to load the sacks without the benefit of a hit and Sara Lippard unloaded them with a grand slam. Molly Hutchison's two-run double in the sixth provided some insurance in the 6-3 final.

Emily Weiman did not have her best game but went the distance despite allowing seven hits and walking four. As has been the case of late, Weiman made big pitches when she had to, limiting the damage despite the opponent frequently generating offensive opportunities.

Courtney Mirabella was not able to hold the Hokies at bay in game two, as she coughed up four runs (three earned) in just two innings. Virginia Tech won going away, 10-4, but Renada Davis did tally her seventh home run of the season in the losing effort.

Lippard and Hutchison were back at it in game three, as Lippard's two-run two-bagger put the Pack up 2-0 and Hutchison's three-run double extended the lead to 5-0. That was more than enough for Weiman, who went the distance to notch her ninth shutout of the season. No one in the nation has more.

After a bit of a slow start, Davis has slugged her way to a 1.075 OPS, though she has struggled a bit in the field. She made three errors in game two and has an .889 fielding percentage on the season.

After a midweek home game with Elon, the State ladies head to College Park to face a Maryland team that has very impressively managed to go 2-24 so far this season. And you thought Virginia was bad.

***

Finally, a few words for the women's swim team, which finished 16th at the NCAA championships. This is notable because it was the second best result for an ACC program (UVa was 11th) and three spots better than UNC. Suck it, Holes.

It was the program's best finish since a 15th-place result in 1983. The ladies had seven all-American swimmers, including first team honors for the 200-medley relay that featured Zina Grogg, Lauren Poli, Ashlyn Koletic, and Riki Bonnema.

Grogg (who attended something called Moon Area High School before coming to State) is the only senior in the group, so the remaining members of the unit should bring home more hardware for coach Braden Holloway in the future.

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