Who’s the Pack playing?
Mascot: Midsize Crossover SUVs | School Location: Rad Harrison Ford, VA | Conference: Big South
2023 Record: 2-6 (0-0, T-1st) | 2023 RPI Rank: 286
2022 Record: 15-33 (8-15, 10th) | 2022 RPI Rank: 258
2021 Record: 23-23 (17-19, 6th East) | 2021 RPI Rank: 167
When? Where? How do I watch?
Location: Doak Field at Dail Park (Raleigh, NC)
Game Time(s): Wed, Mar 1 @ 3:00pm
TV: Wednesday (ACCNX)
Radio: The Varsity Network (Wednesday)
Live Stats: Sidearm Stats
Tell me about this team
Joe Raccuia put together some really good teams over a 12-year run at Radford, including NCAA Regional appearances in 2015 and 2017. Unfortunately, they were paired up in the Nashville Regional in 2015 with eventual CWS runner-up Vanderbilt and the Louisville Regional in 2017 with eventual CWS participant Louisville. That’s bad luck, especially for the 2015 squad that ranked 14th in RPI.
All that to say that the three years since Raccuia stepped down have not gone well. Karl Kuhn came over after a long run as an assistant coach at Virginia and he was okay in 2020 and 2021, but things went off the tracks last year and Kuhn resigned immediately after the conclusion of the 2022 season amidst a second university investigation into him. He’s now an assistant coach at Charleston Southern.
Insert Alex Guerra, a former Radford player (he started his college baseball playing career at Greensboro College) and assistant coach. His assistant coaching tenure with the Highlanders includes that 2015 season before spending the last seven years at James Madison. He was the recruiting coordinator during his previous two years on the Radford staff and during his entire run with the Dukes. Guerra is responsible for bringing in a lot of talent to both programs during his time there - including recruiting 2022 1st round pick Chase DeLauter at JMU - and that’s a skill that’s going to be necessary as the Radford program is again in rebuild mode.
As for this year’s team, well, would you look at that...
SO OF Cameron Pittman (.790 OPS, 14.9 BB%, 7.4 K%), SR C Julian Rojas (.870 OPS, 7.5 BB%, 16.2 K%), and SR OF/INF Tanner Barrs (.722 OPS, 14.8 BB%, 14.8 K%) are back to lead an offense that has to replace four key pieces. SO INF Avery Spencer (.897 OPS, 7.1 BB%, 14.3 K%) and SR INF Zack Whitacre (.837 OPS, 9.6 BB%, 13.6 K%) were great last year before both being lost to injuries, so their return should be a boon for the lineup. Virginia transfer SO INF Tristan Shoemaker should be an instant difference maker. FR INF Sully Tibbs looks like a potential early contributor - plus that’s an awesome name.
The pitching staff must replace 43 of 48 starts from a year ago, which is a daunting task. SR RHPs William Flanagan (0-4, 6.63 ERA, 36.2 IP, 12.4 BB%, 16.1 K%) and Alex Perkins (0-0, 1.35 ERA, 6.2 IP, 7.4 BB%, 11.1 K%) are the only two returnees to have registered starts a year ago, and also the only two returning pitchers to have registered an ERA below 6.90 on the year. Getting a full year of Perkins back at full health will help immensely (he was 2-1 with 6 SV and a 2.86 ERA in 2021), but the Highlanders are going to need a lot of help from their first-year arms. To that end, four transfers (2 D1, 1 D2, 1 JUCO) enter the program - with JR RHP Scott Rouse (D2 Ohio Dominican; 3-6, 4.06 ERA, 77.2 IP, 6.2 BB%, 22.4 K%) being a logical weekend rotation choice - and are joined by four freshman arms - with RHP Dylan Howard an intriguing arm to watch.
The team is taking their lumps early. After winning 2-of-3 from Iona in their season opening series, they’ve lost five straight to UNC, Wagner (x3), and Virginia Tech. It’s always a good strategy to test yourself early - and maybe it’ll pay off in a top heavy Big South where there’s plenty of room for upward mobility - but this isn’t going to be an overnight rebuild.
Making matters worse for Radford in the short-term is that CF Cameron Pittman (.943 OPS, 12.1 BB%, 12.1 K%) left Sunday’s game versus Wagner after being hit by a pitch and didn’t play against Virginia Tech on Tuesday; he’s not expected to play Wednesday, either.
Who’s on the mound for these guys?
Wednesday: LHP Collin Williams (FR)
C Garrett Pancione (FR) - .412/.476/.706, 14.3 BB%, 23.8 K%, 0-0 SB. Earned Big South Freshman-of-the-Week honors in his first collegiate baseball week. That’s getting things going right. The numbers say he’s been a bit lucky, but he’s mashing right now.
SS Tristan Shoemaker (SO) - .294/.478/.529, 25.0 BB%, 33.3 K%, 2-3 SB. Former highly rated recruit who transferred in from Virginia. The slash line looks great, but he’s striking out a ton and has committed six errors already this year.
2B Zack Whitacre (SR) - .222/.313/.407, 12.5 BB%, 15.6 K%, 1-3 SB. Former JUCO transfer is in his 2nd year as a starter for Radford. Not a power threat, but a solid hitter. His peripheral stats are great and he went 4-for-8 combined against UNC and Virginia Tech so far this year, including a HR against UNC.
LHP Collin Williams (FR) - 0-0, 0.00 ERA, 1.0 IP, 33.3 BB%, 16.7 K%. This will be the first career start for the freshman in what is likely to be a Johnny Wholestaff game for the Highlanders.
LHP Carter Seabrooke (JR) - 0-0, 0.00 ERA, 6.0 IP, 14.3 BB%, 42.9 K%. Native Canadian who spent his last three years in JUCO ball at the College of Central Florida. Has tossed two innings in each of his three outings and has thus far been fantastic. I’d expect to see him in this one.
RHP Clay Clatterbaugh (FR) - 0-0, 2.08 ERA, 4.1 IP, 9.5 BB%, 19.0 K%. Can’t really tell you a lot about him, but he has the best numbers (aside from Seabrooke) of the guys who didn’t pitch against VT on Tuesday - and there were seven Radford arms thrown at the Hokies.
Quick! Fun Facts!
Radford 1B Tanner Barrs has walked eight times in seven games at a 28.6 BB%. The 6-footer only has four home runs in four years with the Highlanders, so this is kind of interesting.
The Radford game notes for this one says that Pittman “averaged 11.1 strikeouts per at-bat” in 2022, which seems impossible, but who am I to question math?
Surprisingly, the Highlanders do not have a single player from the state of North Carolina.
After a run of eight players drafted in the four years between 2012-2015, Radford has had only three players drafted in the six years since.
Working in Radford’s favor in this one is tossing a guy out there that State won’t have a scouting report on, as well as being able to follow him up with two of their better relievers. If they can get three quality innings out of Williams and a pair each out of Seabrooke and Clatterbaugh, an upset could be had.
Working against Radford here is that two of those guys are freshmen and NC State was able to save two innings of relief pitching Tuesday afternoon thanks to a slaughter-rule early ender.
Outcome: State wins