Logan Jernigan, I feel like I just don't know you anymore. In the past, I could count on you to walk a batter every inning and hit one at least every other frame, all while mixing in a couple of wild pitches. Somehow, despite it all, you would work four or so innings and not give up any runs, or maybe one. Opponents, justifiably frightened for their lives, wouldn't manage more than a hit or two, and 25-pitch inning after 25-pitch inning meant us fan types got our money's worth in a three-hour game.
And then 2014 came around. You teased me in your first start, issuing five free passes and pegging a guy in four innings. You threw 93 glorious Ricky Vaughn pitches to record a mere 12 outs. There were three things we could all count on: death, taxes, and Jerny beaning a mascot in the on-deck circle.
But then came act two. You seemed to change. You acted strange. Six innings. Three walks. One hit batter. Ninety pitches brought 18 outs. The bullpen was restless that night after missing out on its expected workout. Was this an aberration, or, dare I even say it: a trend? Start number three: ONE walk. Uno. Een. Twenty-two outs recorded on a mere 77 pitches. A career-high 7.1 IP. A record number of phrases for effect. By god, if Jernigan can walk one solitary batter in 7.1 IP, Omega can suspend the rules of grammar. I've been #jernigancornered.
Jernigan, after pitching the pack to a 3-0 victory over a pretty pathetic Michigan squad, is 2-0 with a 1.04 ERA. The Wolverines fell to 1-6-1 (there is no crying in baseball, but apparently there is tying). N.C. State improved to 8-1 ahead of its CWS rematch with UCLA. The team's third shutout in its last six games dropped the staff ERA to 2.22.
Because my middle name is Doom, I can hardly enjoy this season because I'm already fearing dropping off the national radar after the departure of Carlos Rodon and Trea Turner. If Jernigan keeps throwing strikes, he not only gives the Pack arguably the best 1-2 starters' punch of any team in the nation, he also is very likely to join Los and TT among the ranks of those few who get paid to play a boy's game. Nooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo.
Alas, there is some solace. Without looking it up, who is leading N.C. State in batting average? Turner? Nope. Jake Fincher? Un-uh. Brett Austin? Pshaw. It's freshperson Andrew Knizner. Dude has started all nine games and hit at a .375 clip so far. He leads the team with four doubles and is second with a .500 slugging percentage. He's playing a solid third base so far and is probably the shortstop of the future. Kudos to Elliott Avent for sneaking him out of Virginia (where there's a pretty good baseball program, if you hadn't heard). If there's one knock on Knizner so far, it's that he has yet to draw a walk all season.
Neither has Kyle Cavanaugh, but, like his first-year teammate, the young pup has put up impressive numbers in the early going. He doesn't have quite enough at bats to qualify for team leader in average (.438) or slugging (.500), but he would be first in the former and tied for second in the latter if he did. Those two, along with Brad Stone, the Peterson twins if they're back for their senior season, Jake Fincher is he's a four-year guy, and a stellar recruiting class should keep the Pack in the top 25 next year (Gareth Morgan please don't go pro).
But first, there's unfinished business, with the aforementioned rematch with UCLA being the next step en route to Omaha. Nebraska or bust, baby. Here's to hoping Rodon shoves it knee deep in the Bruins Saturday afternoon. Too bad there does not seem to be a TV option for this one...the Ocho couldn't spare a camera or two and a play-by-play intern?