Who’s the Pack playing?
Opponent: William & Mary
Mascot: Tribe | School Location: Williamsburg, VA | Conference: Colonial Athletic
2018 Record: 15-29 (3-15, 9th) | 2018 RPI Rank: 225
2017 Record: 32-25 (15-8, 3rd) | 2017 RPI Rank: 120
2016 Record: 31-31 (14-9, 2nd) | 2016 RPI Rank: 88
When? Where? How do I watch?
Location: NC State’s Doak Field at Dail Park, Raleigh, NC
Game Time: Friday, May 4 @ 6:30pm | Saturday, May 5 @ 6:30pm | Sunday, May 6 @ 1:00pm
Radio: WKNC 88.1 in Raleigh
Live Stats: http://www.sidearmstats.com/ncsu/baseball/
Tell me about this team
This is unfamiliar territory for William & Mary. For a program that posted three RPI Top-100 finishes in five years and hasn’t finished lower than 172 in RPI this century, this season is something of an anomaly. Couple that with a 3-15 conference record after four Top-3 Colonial Athletic Conference finishes in the last five years, and... well... what the hell is going on with this William & Mary team?
Well, the team lost three of it’s top five hitters from 2017, including Cullen Large (2017 5th round MLB Draft pick), and the two that have returned (Brandon Raquet, Ryan Hall) have seen their production drop off a cliff (Raquet has gone from .337/.433/.506 in 178 AB to .188/.278/.313 in 80 AB and Hall has gone from .308/.383/.481 in 214 AB to .237/.347/.367 in 169 AB). The team as a whole went from a .283/.363/.414 slash line in 2017 to a .218/.305/.307 slash line this year. To put in perspective how bad the Tribe offense has been this year: of players with over 50 AB on the year, only three have an OBP of over .340 (with the high being .352), NC State has 11 players that fit that profile, with only two of those players being below .370 in OBP. Brock Deatherage has more stolen bases (14) as an individual than William & Mary has as a team (13), and his 73.7% success rate is better than the Tribe’s 52.0%.
The pitching staff also lost a lot, losing two-of-three weekend starters (including 2017 3rd round MLB Draft pick Nick Raquet), as well as their top reliever/midweek starter (Nick Brown, 32nd round MLB Draft pick). Despite the losses, this year’s staff is actually doing pretty similar, if not slightly better, than a year ago (5.08 ERA/.264 OBA/1.43 WHIP in 2017, 4.35 ERA/.264 OBA/1.42 WHIP in 2018), with several fresh faces stepping into key roles and performing well. But again, sustained performance/moderate improvements on the mound won’t mean squat if your offense can’t push runs across the plate.
The Tribe are 0-10 against RPI Top 100 teams this year, although seven of those were one-run games (bad luck), including four combined losses to Clemson and Virginia. Oddly enough, they’ve allowed double-digit runs in games five times this year, but none of those five were by RPI Top 100 teams. Go figure.
In their last 10 games overall, William & Mary is just 1-9, with the lone win coming against RPI #294 Norfolk State.
SS Zach Pearson (JR) - .265 BA, .301 OBP, .346 SLG, 162 AB, 5 2B, 1 3B, 2 HR, 22 R, 23 RBI, 5 BB, 23 K, 3-6 SB. Believe it or not, this is actually an offensive breakout year for Pearson; he hit under .200 each of his first two years at William & Mary. Pearson has an impressive .982 Fielding Percentage this year at the SS position. Has a hit in five of the last seven games, including three multi-hit performances.
C Hunter Smith (JR) - .247 BA, .296 OBP, .431 SLG, 174 AB, 6 2B, 1 3B, 8 HR, 21 R, 31 RBI, 10 BB, 45 K, 0-2 SB. Smith is an all-or-nothing hitter, either slamming home runs or striking out... unfortunately for him, he’s done more of the latter. His SLG% has increased every year he’s been in Williamsburg, but his BA and OBP have dropped each year. A good defensive catcher, he’s gunned down between 34.4% of attempted base stealers over the last two years.
OF Ryan Hall (SR) - .237 BA, .347 OBP, .367 SLG, 169 AB, 14 2B, 1 3B, 2 HR, 27 R, 17 RBI, 23 BB, 47 K, 1-1 SB. Hall was a 2016 2nd Team All-CAA selection (as well as being named to the 2016 Charlottesville All-Regional Team) and a 20173rd Team All-CAA selection. As stated earlier, this is a dude who has been productive throughout his entire career and then this year just - boom - nothing. He has been hitting better over the last 8 games, cutting down on strikeouts and going 8-for-32 (.250) with 2 2B, HR, 4 R, 2 RBI, 4 BB, and 4 K. Yeah, I know that’s not lighting the world on fire, but I told you these guys don’t have a lot going offensively.
1B Colin Lipke (JR) - .221 BA, .315 OBP, .374 SLG, 131 AB, 9 2B, 1 3B, 3 HR, 12 R, 13 RBI, 14 BB, 35 K, 2-3 SB. I can’t believe I’m even previewing a guy with these numbers, especially a first baseman, but I felt like I should add one more hitter here. Lipke is a Greensboro, NC, native and JUCO transfer from Guilford Tech (he went to Ragsdale HS).
LHP Bodie Sheehan (JR) - 2-6, 3.75 ERA, 1.18 WHIP, .277 OBA, 72.0 IP, 78 H, 33 R, 30 ER, 7 BB, 54 K. Sheehan, who has been a weekend starter since his freshman year, is the Tribe’s Friday night starter this year. He’s not an overpowering pitcher, but he has a nice low-effort delivery and knows how to fill up the zone. He’s gone less than six innings in only two of his 11 starts this year.
RHP Wade Strain (SO) - 2-3, 6 SV, 3.43 ERA, 1.45 WHIP, .279 OBA, 39.1 IP, 41 H, 18 R, 15 ER, 16 BB, 37 K. Strain was the Tribe’s closer until moving to the weekend rotation three weeks ago, taking Jacob Haney’s spot. Since moving to a weekend starting gig, he’s had two decent starts, but got had major issues against Hofstra in his last outing (2.0 IP, 3 H, 5 R, 5 ER, 1 BB, 2 HBP, 2 K). He’ll be starting Saturday’s game.
RHP Chris Farrell (RS-SO) - 2-3, 3.79 ERA, 1.63 WHIP, .272 OBA, 40.1 IP, 41 H, 21 R, 17 ER, 25 BB, 31 K. Farrell, William & Mary’s Sunday starter, has been a bit of a mixed bag this year. Three of his ten starts have lasted just two innings, and he’s yet to go more than five innings in any start, but he’s given up more than two earned runs in just two starts. He missed all of his freshman year with an injury, so I’m guessing that the staff is still cautious with his pitch counts. Control has been an issue for him this year with 25 BB, 10 HBP, and 9 WP in 40.1 IP.
RHP Jacob Haney (FR) - 1-6, 1 SV, 3.97 ERA, 1.20 WHIP, .220 OBA, 47.2 IP, 37 H, 23 R, 21 ER, 20 BB, 38 K. Started the year off in the weekend starting rotation, including a few very good starts, but was moved to the bullpen in mid-April. Since moving to the pen as a long reliever, he’s put up impressive numbers: 9.2 IP, 3 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 2 BB, 10 K.
RHP Michael Toner (SR) - 0-1, 0 SV, 2.32 ERA, 1.13 WHIP, .233 OBA, 31.0 IP, 28 H, 11 R, 8 ER, 7 BB, 41 K. Toner missed all of 2017 (I’m assuming an injury, but I can’t find anything to confirm that), but he’s been a completely different pitcher in 2018 than he was previously. Prior to this year, his career numbers were good, not great: 39.0 IP, 51 H, 32 R, 24 ER, 10 BB, 27 K. Toner has been excellent this year.
Quick! Fun Facts!
I’m battling through some awful sickness right now, so we’re skipping on fun facts this week. Sorry, y’all.
Okay... Here, wait. I’ll give you one:
William & Mary has a two-way player (RHP/INF) named Nick Butts... Heh. “Butts”.
Facing a pitching staff consisting of almost entirely right-handers (only 3 LHPs on the entire roster - one of which has only thrown 3.2 innings on the year) might be just what a slumping NC State offense needs to finally break out. Sheehan will be a tough match-up for the Pack hitters on Friday night, but State’s offense should be able to scratch enough against him to eek out a win. Saturday and Sunday will be the opportunities for the State’s offense to really start clicking again.
The Wolfpack sweeps the series with increasing margins of victory in each successive game.