In a Monday presser, Elliot Avent didn't rule out pitching Carlos Rodon on three days' rest in Tuesday's ACC tournament play-in game against rival Carolina. He did as much last summer in the College World Series, though it didn't work out very well for the Pack. Nonetheless, a loss is likely it for N.C. State's season and Rodon's career with the Pack; will Avent take the chance of losing to UNC with his best weapon watching from the bench?
UNC's expectations were not quite as lofty as N.C. State's this year, but it's been a down year for both clubs. The Tar Heels (32-23, 15-15), like the Pack (32-22, 13-17), probably need to at least get a win today to feel safe that an NCAA bid is forthcoming. (For what it's worth, Avent said he believes State is in the NCAAs with a win today.)
UNC lost two of its three weekend starters from a year ago, but that's not the reason for its struggles. The Heels have a 2.92 team ERA and a deep staff without even one single pitcher with an ERA over 4.30. What the Heels lack is power; the team has hit 24 long balls and just four triples all season. To put that homer total in perspective, consider that Colin Moran and Brian Holbertson combined for 25 by themselves a year ago. State, not a huge power team in its own right, has 30 homers and 13 three baggers in one fewer game than the Heels.
Über-hyped Skye Bolt is a great example of UNC's power outage: he batted .321 last year with a .491 slugging percentage. This year: .246 and .319, respectively. And I just guaranteed that he goes 4-for-4 with two homers today. You're welcome.
Rather than the chick-approved long ball, this game will probably come down to small ball, defense, and who can throw the freakin' ball over the plate. Both teams gave away outs with sacrifice bunts 31 times this season (and State's number would have been 4,239 sac bunts if Avent had his way). Both teams run (67 stolen bases apiece) but neither team runs a lot; the Pack have a better success rate on the bases (80% to 73.6%). State was actually better defensively in terms of errors made (nine fewer) and double plays turned (39-31), but errors hurt State more (35 unearned runs allowed to 25 for the Heels). Heel hurlers have a distinct advantage in the throwing strikes department, walking 3.49 per nine innings compared to 4.14 for the Pack staff. But if you take out Logan Jernigan, who is surely not going to be allowed to get anywhere near a baseball today, State's staff looks a bit better at 3.85 walks per nine.
These teams really look a lot alike (but our guys have souls, which is something you can't see).
The game is available through your RSN; first pitch is slated for 11 a.m. Georgia Tech and Wake Forest follow at 3 p.m.