Who’s the Pack playing?
Opponent: Seton Hall
Mascot: Pirates | School Location: South Orange, NJ | Conference: Big East
2017 Record: 29-24 (10-8, 4th) | 2017 RPI Rank: 93
2016 Record: 38-20 (10-8, 3rd) | 2016 RPI Rank: 143
When? Where? How do I watch?
Location: NC State’s Doak Field at Dail Park, Raleigh, NC
Game Time: Friday, Feb 16 @ 3:00pm | Saturday, Feb 17 @ 2:00pm | Sunday, Feb 18 @ 1:00pm
TV: ACC Network Extra (ESPN3/WatchESPN/whatever it’s called these days)
Radio: WKNC 88.1 in Raleigh
Live Stats: http://www.sidearmstats.com/ncsu/baseball/
Tell me about this team
Seton Hall did one of those weird things from 2016 to 2017 where they won a lot fewer games, but were actually much better in their on-field performance. That’s what happens when you play a better schedule, particularly out of conference. So what should be expected of the Pirates in 2018? Probably something similar to their 2017 results. There’s enough returning to be hopeful for an increase in wins and a potential run at a Big East title, but also enough question marks to worry about a second straight season with a drop in wins.
The 2018 Seton Hall squad returns 4-of-8 positional starters from a year ago, including their top three hitters, along with 2-of-3 starting pitchers from their weekend rotation and two of their top three bullpen arms. That sounds good, but those hitters didn’t exactly light up the stat sheet last year in a pretty weak Big East Conference, and the one weekend starter lost was the team’s lone 1st Team All-Conference representative. But let’s take a look at who is back for Seton Hall.
1B Matt Toke (SO) - .321 BA, .411 OBP, .378 SLG, 156 AB, 5 2B, 2 3B, 0 HR, 20 R, 25 RBI, 24 BB, 27 K, 2-4 SB. Call him Choke-and-Poke Toke. Seriously, think a heftier version of Stephen Pitarra. The kid is an OBP machine, but he’s not going to take you yard. Slap-hitting 1B: the wave of the future!
C/OF Mike Alescio (SR) - .298 BA, .372 OBP, .416 SLG, 161 AB, 14 2B, 1 3B, 1 HR, 24 R, 20 RBI, 16 BB, 39 K, 12-15 SB. Played mostly OF last year, but likely the starting C this year. Not great at throwing out baserunners. Decent bat and can steal a base himself.
OF Ryan Ramiz (SR) - .277 BA, .378 OBP, .387 SLG, 191 AB, 10 2B, 4 3B, 1 HR, 37 R, 19 RBI, 31 BB, 34 K, 17-19 SB. Probably the best all-around offensive threat for the team. Was a 2nd team All-Big East selection in 2017 and a Preseason All-Big East selection coming into this year.
SS Al Molina (SR) - .254 BA, .324 OBP, .365 SLG, 189 AB, 13 2B, 1 3B, 2 HR, 23 R, 22 RBI, 19 BB, 48 K, 2-5 SB. A transfer from Coastal Carolina via the JUCO route. A talented player, but one with some pretty big holes in his offensive game.
After those guys, there’s not much offensively returning for this group... I mean at all. That’s a concern for them, especially with a lack of any obvious impact newcomers. JUCO OF Nick Dabrio will be expected to play a big role, but he can’t be expected to shoulder that big of a load.
LHP Cullen Dana (JR) - 5-3, 3.40 ERA, 1.41 WHIP, .262 OBA, 79.1 IP, 79 H, 36 R, 30 ER, 32 BB, 81 K. Two-time 2nd Team All-Big East performer, as well as a Freshman All-American in 2016 and a preseason All-Big East selection this year. Pitched in the Cape Cod League last summer. Will likely be their Friday starter. This kid is good and could present some serious problems for State.
RHP Shane McCarthy (SR) - 3-7, 5.13 ERA, 1.64 WHIP, .315 OBA, 59.2 IP, 76 H, 43 R, 34 ER, 21 BB, 46 K. A 2015 Freshman All-American and 2nd Team All-Big East selection, 2016 1st Team All-Big East selection, and a preseason All-Big East selection this year. Had a horrible year last year (by his standards), but was still an 18th round selection in the 2017 draft by the Cardinals. This guy has talent, and I’d expect him to pitch much better than last year.
RHP Andrew Politi (RS-JR) - 0-3, 3.13 ERA, 1.22 WHIP, .232 OBA, 23.0 IP, 19 H, 9 R, 8 ER, 10 BB, 41 K. This is who I’m predicting to be their third weekend starter. Things clicked last year for him. If he’s not a weekend starter, he’ll be one of the top relievers.
RHP Matt Leon (SR) - 1-1, 3.13 ERA, 1.19 WHIP, .171 OBA, 31.2 IP, 20 H, 15 R, 11 ER, 17 BB, 36 K. A top bullpen arm for Seton Hall over the last three years. Can be prone to bouts of wildness, though.
RHP Rick DeVito (SO) - 1-0, 0.00 ERA, 0.95 WHIP, .122 OBA, 15.0 IP, 6 H, 1 R, 0 ER, 8 BB, 20 K. I have no idea why this kid didn’t pitch more last year. I’m guessing he got injured since he only pitched a single inning in conference play. Either way, he flashed potential and should get more innings.
LHP Matt Ponsiglione (JR) - 1-0, 1.88 ERA, 1.13 WHIP, .245 OBA, 14.1 IP, 13 H, 3 R, 3 ER, 3 BB, 13 K. Another guy who flashed some potential in non-conference games, but was hardly seen in conference play. Given the lack of lefty pitchers, I’d expect to see him get his fair share of opportunities.
RHP Billy Layne, Jr (RS-SO) - 3-1, 4.33 ERA, 1.54 WHIP, .282 OBA, 20.1 IP, 24 H, 15 R, 10 ER, 7 BB, 16 K. Potentially their midweek starter, but could also be their third weekend guy if they choose to keep Politi and Leon in the bullpen. A 37th round pick in 2015 out of high school by the Rangers. Yet another guy who hardly pitched in conference play.
Dana and McCarthy (ha! Isn’t that special...) are nice pieces to build around, and having Politi and Leon back is also helpful, but what happens to the bullpen if one of those latter two is moved to a starting role? Will they be as effective? Can DeVito, Ponsiglione, and Layne be effective in more innings and in higher leverage situations? Much like on offense, there aren’t any apparent impact newcomers, but most likely guys would all be freshman: John Barone (RHP), Ryan McLinskey (RHP), and/or Hunter Waldis (RHP).
Quick! Fun Facts!
This weekend will be the first ever meeting between the two baseball programs.
Seton Hall started playing baseball in 1863 and has a 2,115-1,334 all time record.
The Pirates have 17 NCAA Tourney appearances (last in 2011), including making the College World Series in 1964, 1971, 1974, and 1975.
The program has only had 3 head coaches since 1948.
Craig Biggio and Mo Vaughn both played on the 1987 Seton Ball baseball team. The team, unsurprisingly, won the conference that year.
Aside from Biggio and Vaughn, other notable Major Leaguers from Seton Hall: Danny Coombs (played in MLB from 1963-1971), Rick Cerone (1975-1992), Johnny Briggs (1964-1975), Bill Henry (1952-1969), Jason Grilli (2000-2017), Matt Morris (1997-2008), Ted Lepcio (1952-1961), Charlie Puleo (1981-1989), John Valentin (1992-2002), Richie Zisk (1971-1983), and Zack Granite (MLB debut in 2017).
All-Name Team Alumni: Pepper Peploski, played 1 MLB season (2 games for Detroit in 1913).
Their assistant coach, Giuseppe Papaccio (I’m not sure, but I’d bet) can make a mean pizza.
He might have just been a part time player in his career up to this point, but Sebastiano Santorelli will straight up steal your girl with this mustache:
After a close win in the Friday opener, State rolls Saturday and Sunday to make the sweep on opening weekend.