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Opponent Preview: Bucknell

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Meet the Bison... a mid-tier Patriot League team

Bucknell v Butler Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images

Who’s the Pack playing?

Opponent: Bucknell

Mascot: Bison | School Location: Lewisburg, PA | Conference: Patriot

2018 Record: 17-27-1 (13-11-1, 3rd) | 2018 RPI Rank: 214

2017 Record: 21-28 (10-10, T-3rd) | 2017 RPI Rank: 228


When? Where? How do I watch?

Location: Doak Field at Dail Park (Raleigh, NC)

Game Time(s): Friday, Feb 15 @ 3:00pm | Saturday, Feb 16 @ 2:00pm | Sunday, Feb 17 @ 1:00pm

TV: ACC Network Extra (Friday | Saturday | Sunday)

Radio: WKNC 88.1 in Raleigh, GoPack All-Access

Live Stats: Sidearm Sports


Tell me about this team

Bucknell is a solid, if unspectacular, Patriot League team, but nothing great outside of league play. Their last overall winning season came in 2015 (a 24-22 effort, but one that still finished under .500 in conference play), when they were still a low-200’s RPI team. This season should fall roughly in line with what the Bison program has done over the last several seasons: battle for 3rd place in conference behind Army and Navy and push for a .500 overall record.

The offense returns six primary starters from a year ago and should be primed for an increase in production, although I wouldn’t hold your breath on a power surge (the Bison only hit 14 total home runs as a team in 2018, but the players accounting for 13 of those do return). FR C/1B Kendall Pierson is a big left-handed bat who could add some pop to the lineup. The Bisons also lose their only player from a year ago who reached double-digits in stolen bases.

The pitching staff has one solid starter (SR RHP Jeff Gottesman) and one solid reliever (JR RHP Nate Grisius), but everything else is completely questionable either from a lack of innings or poor past performance. FR RHPs Steven Walker, Andrew Funovits, and Austin Odell should offer some help.


Who’s on the mound for these guys?

Friday: RHP Jeff Gottesman (SR)

Saturday: LHP Jack Grabek (SR)

Sunday: RHP Jack Simpson (JR)

Key Players:

Offense

3B Dominic Toso (SO) - .284 BA, .383 OBP, .459 SLG, 148 AB, 15 2B, 4 3B, 1 HR, 32 R, 21 RBI, 22 BB, 36 K, 1-3 SB. A Freshman All-American a year ago as a DH, he’ll take over an infield position this year.

OF JohnPaul Bell (JR) - .250 BA, .333 OBP, .445 SLG, 128 AB, 6 2B, 2 3B, 5 HR, 22R, 23 RBI, 16 BB, 37 K, 5-5 SB. Bell is a two-year starter and led the team in HR last year. The preseason All-Patriot Team selection should be the starting center fielder.

2B/SS Evan Madigan (JR) - .290 BA, .348 OBP, .393 SLG, 145 AB, 10 2B, 1 3B, 1 HR, 19 R, 19 RBI, 10 BB, 30 K, 3-5 SB. Madigan has split time between 2B and SS over his first two seasons, but should be the primary SS this year.

1B/OF Luke Hartman (JR) - .256 BA, .447 OBP, .336 SLG, 125 AB, 4 2B, 3 3B, 0 HR, 26 R, 19 RBI, 41 BB, 24 K, 2-3 SB. Hartman, who led the team in OBP last year, should be the starting right fielder this year.

Pitching

LHP

RHP Jeff Gottesman (SR) - 5-4, 2.85 ERA, 1.18 WHIP, .217 OBA, 20.1 K%, 9.5 BB%, 72.2 IP, 57 H, 33 R, 23 ER, 29 BB, 61 K. A preseason All-Patriot League selection, Gottesman is the top returning arm on the team. He’s started 26 games in his career for Bucknell.

LHP Jack Grabek (SR) - 2-3, 6.39 ERA, 2.23 WHIP, .291 OBA, 17.3 K%, 23.2 BB%, 49.1 IP, 51 H, 37 R, 35 ER, 59 BB, 44 K. Has made 25 starts in his career, but wildness (113 BB, 15 WP, 22 HBP in 124.1 IP) has been a constant issue.

RHP Jack Simpson (JR) - 2-6, 1 SV, 6.31 ERA, 1.64 WHIP, .297 OBA, 12.7 K%, 8.2 BB%, 45.2 IP, 57 H, 39 R, 32 ER, 18 BB, 28 K. Made six starts a year ago. Not a strikeout pitcher, but can be effective.

RHP Nate Grisius (JR) - 0-0, 1 SV, 2.28 ERA, 1.01 WHIP, .232 OBA, 14.7 K%, 13.8 BB%, 23.2 IP, 19 H, 7 R, 6 ER, 15 BB, 16 K. The top bullpen arm for the Bison. Like so many members of the pitching staff, control can be an issue (15 BB, 7 WP, 5 HBP last year).


Quick! Fun Facts!

How many times have the Wolfpack and Bison met on the baseball diamond? Well, that’s apparently up for debate. NC State claims a 4-0 all-time record again Bucknell, while the Bison claim to be just 0-1 against the Pack.

NC State won the last matchup (the only undisputed one) between the two schools, 5-2, back in 2016. No current Wolfpack players played in that game.

Six of the nine Wolfpack hitters who played in that first meeting between Bucknell and NC State are now playing minor league baseball.

Bucknell only hit 14 home runs as a team last year, a figure that two returning Wolfpack players (Will Wilson and Evan Edwards) eclipsed each on their own a year ago.

The Bison have one native North Carolinian on their roster in SR 1B Miles Moore from Asheville, who started 22 games last year for Bucknell and was 2nd on the team with 3 HR.

NC State holds a 15-7 record all-time in season openers under head coach Elliott Avent.


Prediction

Outside of Gottesman, Bucknell has no real proven effective starting pitching. Making matters worse, the Bison only have one proven effective bullpen arm. Going up against ACC hitters with that many question marks can be tough.

NC State will be starting two JUCO transfers (JR RHP Jason Parker on Friday, SO LHP Canaan Silver on Saturday) and a pitcher who started only one game a year ago (SO LHP Nick Swiney on Sunday), so the opportunity exists for the Bucknell bats to get going early against arms that are unproven at this level and/or in these roles. The Wolfpack have plenty of arms in the bullpen, though, that they shouldn’t have to ride an ineffective pitcher for too long if that’s the case.

Gottesman and Grisius will keep the Bison in the Friday game, but Saturday and Sunday should be an opportunity for the Wolfpack bats to put up some impressive offensive numbers as they wear down the Bison bullpen.

Outcome: Pack sweep the series and get the 2019 season off on a good note.