Something is wrong with Ryan Williamson, and NC State's hopes of earning a national seed are also broken. Louisville knocked Williamson out before he could record an out in the second inning and completed a sweep of State, cruising to a 6-1 win. The Pack, playing without skipper Elliott Avent while he recovers from a snake bite, managed just three runs in the three-game set.
Williamson, who dropped to 7-2, was removed from his start against Clemson a week before after noticeably favoring his pitching arm. An MRI showed no structural damage, but the junior lefty was without anything resembling his normal stuff in his short outing against the Cardinals. He was tagged for three hits, walked two, didn't strike out anyone, and gave up four runs. His defense didn't help him out any with a couple of errors in the first. A tape measure homerun off the bat of Drew Ellis ended his day after he faced just two batters in the second.
In Friday's recap, I mistakenly noted that the Ville's Sunday starter is 10-0 on the season. Kade McClure is 10-0, but he's the midweek starter. Yup. These guys have a dude who can't get time on the bump on the weekend and is 10-0. Opponents are hitting a meager .174 against him.
The Sunday starter (duh, stupid clownbogger) is none other than Kyle Funkhouser. If that name sounds familiar it may be because he was a first round pick in the MLB draft a year ago. Because he doesn't like money, he chose to come back for his senior season, have an offish year, and lose all leverage he will have next time around in the draft. But maybe that's a fair price to pay for another trip to Omaha, which the Cards will almost assuredly make.
Funkhouser and his 95 mph fastball were not off on Sunday. He allowed just two hits and a run in seven innings, walking three and fanning eight.
After Johnny Piedmonte (0.1 IP, 2 ER) was inexplicably allowed to throw a ball in a baseball game again, the Pack pen settled down. Tommy DeJuneas, Will Gilbert, Chris Williams, Sean Adler, and Karl Keglovits combined for 6.2 shutout innings. Gilbert did not look particularly good, escaping a jam thanks to some bad base running on a line drive double play, but it is good to see him back on the bump. I'm afraid we might not see Williamson again for a while (and what the hell ever happened to Joe O'Donnell?)
The lone good news from the series is the continued emergence of Evan Mendoza into a star. The converted pitcher extended his hitting streak to 23 games and drove in State's lone run. Mendoza does not hit for power, but he hits THREE FREAKIN' EIGHTY THREE, and that's something right there.
The Pack close the season next week (Thursday-Saturday) at home against rival North Carolina. Even a sweep is likely not going to be enough to secure a national seed after State's struggles on the road against the triumvirate of FSU, Clemson, and Louisville (combined record of 1-6). Win a couple, though, and hosting a regional is surely in the bag (if it's not already), and we can start dreaming on how a strong showing in the ACC tourney might improve those national prospects.
North Carolina will be desperate. Despite the media whores or whoever the hell votes for these things having them in the top 25, the Heels are not in the top 11 of the ACC. If the season ended today, they'd not get an invite to the ACC tournament and will likely need to win two of three next weekend to change that. This predicament was achieved despite getting Pitt and Virginia Tech, by far the worst two teams in the league, on their slate. State got to play neither in the unbalanced ACC.
And, to conclude, oh my goodness Louisville is good. Their lineup is not overwhelming but it's solid, their defense is outstanding, and their pitching is unbelievable. They should start each game down a couple of runs as punishment for their collection of U11 travel team uniforms that burn your eyes, but sweet jeebus can they pitch it and go get it. Still, I hope State gets another shot at them in the tournament on a neutral field, and hopefully with its full complement of pitchers healthy.