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Opponent Preview: UNC-Wilmington

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Meet the Seahawks... They’re good, but just how good is the question

NCAA Basketball: NCAA Tournament-First Round-Virginia vs North Carolina-Wilmington Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Who’s the Pack playing?

Opponent: UNC-Wilmington

Mascot: Seahawks | School Location: Wilmington, NC | Conference: Colonial Athletic

2018 Record: 20-11 (4-2, 3rd) | 2018 RPI Rank: 88

2017 Record: 30-29 (16-8, 2nd) | 2017 RPI Rank: 138

2016 Record: 41-19 (16-6, 1st) | 2016 RPI Rank: 29


When? Where? How do I watch?

Location: Brooks Field, Wilmington, NC

Game Time(s): Wednesday, Apr 11 @ 6:00pm

TV: Some type of internet broadcast offered by UNC-W

Radio: WKNC 88.1 in Raleigh

Live Stats: UNC-W Stat Broadcast


Tell me about this team

By UNC-W standards, this is a pretty poor team. That’s not meant as a knock on this 2018 Seahawks club, but more of a compliment to the program that Mark Scalf has built over the course of 26+ years in Wilmington. Since the turn of the century, 14 UNC-W teams have finished in the Top 60 in RPI, with only one team (last year’s 138th ranked RPI team) finishing outside of the Top 100. That’s impressive.

But as to this year’s squad, it’s a tough one to gauge. Less so because of the roster and more so because this is a program rebounding off of a relatively poor 2017 showing and playing a very poor schedule this year. UNC-W’s strength of schedule ranks way down at 144th, but it is very heavily back-loaded. The final eight games of the regular season are against RPI Top 50 teams, while they’ve only played five games (1-4 record) against such teams to date. The Seahawks have played 19 of their 31 games this year against teams ranked lower than 150 in RPI; they’re feasting against that competition with a 16-3 record, but it makes it hard to tell just how good this team really is.

The strength of this team is on the mound. The Seahawks pitching staff features a strong weekend starting rotation, especially now that FR RHP Gage Herring has settled into the the Sunday starter role. JR RHP Alex Royalty and FR RHP Landon Roupp are the Friday and Saturday starters. As a staff, UNC-Wilmington pitchers have a collective 3.20 ERA with 285 K in 276.0 IP, holding opponents to a .224/.310/.313 slash line.

Seahawks hitters are slashing .269/.353/.417, being led by a couple studs (Mason Berne, Ryan Jeffers) in the heart of the lineup - two of the six regulars that make up a solid-but-not-spectacular offensive unit.

Key Players:

Offense

1B Mason Berne (SR) - .372 BA, .467 OBP, .664 SLG, 113 AB, 9 2B, 0 3B, 8 HR, 21 R, 33 RBI, 18 BB, 28 K, 1-2 SB. The former 2nd Team JUCO All-American is having himself a breakout year as a senior, obliterating the .256/.339/.422 he slashed as junior. With his size, power, and improved BB-to-K ratio, he’ll be selected in this year’s draft. He currently has a 12-game hitting streak going, with hits in 18 of his last 19 games.

C Ryan Jeffers (JR) - .343 BA, .504 OBP, .525 SLG, 99 AB, 13 2B, 1 3B, 1 HR, 22 R, 25 RBI, 31 BB, 14 K, 1-1 SB. Jeffers is a Raleigh native who played at Sanderson High School. The big 6’4, 225 lbs right-handed hitter - a 2017 1st Team All-Colonial selection - is a legit MLB prospect, although his future at the next level will probably be at 1B or RF rather than behind the plate.

SS Greg Jones (FR) - .274 BA, .393 OBP, .381 SLG, 113 AB, 4 2B, 1 3B, 2 HR, 24 R, 9 RBI, 13 BB, 30 K, 7-11 SB. Like Jeffers, Jones is a former prep standout in State’s backyard, having played at Cary High School. The leadoff man for the Seahawks, Jones was a 17th round selection in the 2017 MLB Draft by Baltimore. He’s had a few growing pains adjusting to the college game, but Jones is a legit prospect.

Pitching

LHP Blake Morgan (RS-JR) - 1-0, 0.51 ERA, 0.79 WHIP, .167 OBA, 17.2 IP, 9 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 5 BB, 11 K. Morgan will be making the start for the Seahawks in this game, and it will be his first start of the season. The former NC Central (2015) player, by way of Pitt Community College (2017), and former Durham Riverside High School standout has been fantastic on the mound this year in relief.

RHP Austin Easter (SR) - 3-1, 1 SV, 0.37 ERA, 0.86 WHIP, .174 OBA, 24.1 IP, 15 H, 2 R, 1 ER, 6 BB, 25 K. Easter has always been effective out of the bullpen during his career in Wilmington, but he’s taken things to another level as a senior. He’s only allowed two extra-base hits (both doubles) this year. For his career has a .214 OBA.

RHP Clark Cota (JR) - 3-0, 8 SV, 1.23 ERA, 0.68 WHIP, .120 OBA, 14.2 IP, 6 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 4 BB, 29 K. Cota started out at UNC-W as a position player only after recovering from Tommy John Surgery, then transitioned to a two-way player last year (where he actually did pretty well with a .273/.333/.545 slash line with 3 HR in 33 AB), before becoming a PO (pitcher only) this year. The dude can pitch, that’s for sure, and he’s locking down opponents as the Seahawks closer. He’s a hard thrower with an over-the-top delivery. Definite MLB Draft prospect.

RHP Austin Warren (SR) - 4-0, 0 SV, 1.33 ERA, 0.79 WHIP, .162 OBA, 20.1 IP, 12 H, 3 R, 3 ER, 4 BB, 25 K. The former JUCO transfer had a less-than-stellar first year in Wilmington, but has been great so far in 2018. He hasn’t allowed a run in his last five appearances.

RHP Alex Royalty (JR) - 3-2, 2.68 ERA, 1.17 WHIP, .211 OBA, 40.1 IP, 32 H, 18 R, 12 ER, 15 BB, 49 K. While extremely doubtful that we see him in this game as he’s the staff’s weekend ace, it’s still worth calling out Royalty as another Raleigh native (Millbrook High School) playing a big role for UNC-Wilmington.


Quick! Fun Facts!

NC State holds a 68-19 record all-time against UNC-Wilmington.

The only common opponent thus far between the two schools this season is Campbell. NC State won both games against the Camels by scores of 21-4 and 4-1, while UNC-W downed them 8-3.

DEATHERAGE CAGE MATCH!!!! Brock Deatherage’s younger brother Blake plays for the Seahawks as a relief pitcher and reserve infielder. Blake struck out Brock last season in their only head-to-head matchup, so I’m sure Brock will be looking to take out some aggression and revenge against his brother in this game. Hit him with the chair, Brock!!!

Shoutout to the UNC-Wilmington team staffer who went all-in with the circle game on the team photo

Bottom left... you the real MVP, bro

Prediction

With so few games against top resume-building competition and trying to secure an at-large NCAA bid should they fail to win the Colonial, I expect UNC-W to throw every available arm against State in this one. Unfortunately for NC State, the Seahawks have a number of very good bullpen arms to run out there.

David Harrison gets the nod on the mound for the Wolfpack in this one, but I’d anticipate a quick hook should he falter.

Expect this to be a low-scoring game, but ultimately the Wolfpack bats will prevail in a 4-3 victory for State.