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Opponent Preview: NC Central

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Meet the Eagles... They’re going to surprise in the MEAC

NCAA Football: North Carolina Central at Duke Jim Dedmon-USA TODAY Sports

Who’s the Pack playing?

Opponent: NC Central

Mascot: Eagles | School Location: Durham, NC | Conference: MEAC

2019 Record: 5-7 (0-0, T-1st Southern) | 2018 RPI Rank: 290

2018 Record: 28-24 (12-14, 4th Southern) | 2018 RPI Rank: 226

2017 Record: 22-28 (12-11, 4th Southern) | 2017 RPI Rank: 252


When? Where? How do I watch?

Location: Durham Athletic Park (Durham, NC)

Game Time(s): Wednesday, Mar 6 @ 4:00pm

TV: None :(

Radio: WKNC 88.1 in Raleigh, GoPack All-Access

Live Stats: Sidearm Stats


Tell me about this team

First, let’s take a look at what was said about NC Central from our 2019 Season Preview:

Central is a competitive MEAC program, but typically struggles when stepping out of conference play against bigger opponents. The Eagles graduated quite a bit of experience from last year’s team, but do return JR 2B Corey Joyce (.358/.456/.542, 15 2B, 6 HR, 27 SB) and JR OF Carter Williams (.307/.407/.521, 13 2B, 5 3B, 6 HR, 12 SB). Both Joyce and Williams were Freshman All-Americans in 2017 and followed those performances up with solid 2018 campaigns. Joyce, in particular, had a stellar 2018, being named the MEAC Player-of-the-Year. JUCO 1B Vinny Bailey, JUCO OF Josh Brammell, and FR OF Nick Fajardo should step in and contribute immediately. SR RHP Chris Kernan (5-4, 2 SV, 2.85 ERA, 1.13 WHIP, .228) is the top returning arm and should be the Friday starter for the Eagles. RS-SR LHP Justice Sampson (2-4, 6 SV, 3.95 ERA, 1.41 WHIP, .271 OBA) also returns, but the pitching staff loses four of its top arms. FR RHPs Ryan Miller, Jonathan Peacock, and Brett Pope should get an opportunity for innings early. 2019 Projected Record: 19-35 (10-14). NCAA Tournament Bound?: No

Not a whole lot to add to that. Bailey and Fajardo have stepped up big-time at the plate for Central.

The Eagles are a team that likes to push the issue on the bases when given the opportunity, although if a top end catcher like NC State’s Patrick Bailey can shut them down in their first couple attempts, they’ll calm down and not risk the outs.

Central’s pitching has been incredibly solid so far with Chris Kernan, Ryan Miller, and Brendan Bell forming a starting rotation that should serve them incredibly well come MEAC play.


Who’s on the mound for these guys?

Wednesday: RHP Austin Vernon (SO)


Key Players:

Offense

SS Corey Joyce (JR) - .282 BA, .463 OBP, .538 SLG, 39 AB, 3 2B, 2 3B, 1 HR, 12 R, 5 RBI, 10 BB, 10 K, 5-6 SB. Joyce was the 2018 MEAC Player-of-the-Year when he slashed .358/.456/.542 and stole 27 bases. The 2017 Freshman All-American is the best all-around hitter on the team.

LF Carter Williams (JR) - .280 BA, .368 OBP, .420 SLG, 50 AB, 4 2B, 0 3B, 1 HR, 8 R, 5 RBI, 7 BB, 11 K, 4-4 SB. Williams has been a 2nd Team All-MEAC selection each of his first two seasons with Central and was a Freshman All-American in 2017. He’s a dangerous hitter.

1B Vinny Bailey (JR) - .294 BA, .455 OBP, .441 SLG, 34 AB, 2 2B, 0 3B, 1 HR, 6 R, 5 RBI, 8 BB, 12 K, 0-1 SB. Central’s not a team that’s going to mash a lot of home runs, but Bailey is one of the few players on the team who is a long ball threat. Thayer Thomas’s former high school teammate mashed 15 HR last year in JUCO ball at Louisburg College.

CF Nick Fajardo (FR) - .314 BA, .467 OBP, .371 SLG, 35 AB, 2 2B, 0 3B, 0 HR, 9 R, 1 RBI, 9 BB, 9 K, 2-2 SB. The freshman from right down the road at Jordan HS in Durham has been a steady early producer for the Eagles. The top-rated incoming player for the Central, Fajardo will be a key part of this lineup for the next several years.

2B Trey Maslin (JR) - .302 BA, .415 OBP, .326 SLG, 43 AB, 1 2B, 0 3B, 0 HR, 6 R, 15 RBI, 5 BB, 8 K, 3-4 SB. Maslin, a smaller dude originally from Franklin HS, is a bit of a surprise contributor for this team as he was a back-up in JUCO ball at Walters State CC prior to joining the Central program.

Pitching

RHP Austin Vernon (SO) - 1-1, 2 SV, 1.13 ERA, 0.50 WHIP, .077 OBA, 46.4 K%, 7.1 BB%, 8.0 IP, 2 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 2 BB, 13 K. The 6’8 righty from Knightdale will be making his first start of the year (and third of his career). He’s been excellent so far this year showing vast improvements from his freshman year where he was 1-1 with a 5.85 ERA and 19 BB in 20.0 IP.

RHP Ryan Decker (JR) - 1-0, 0 SV, 0.00 ERA, 0.55 WHIP, .133 OBA, 9.4 K%, 3.1 BB%, 9.1 IP, 4 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 1 BB, 3 K. Decker made 20 appearances on the mound as a freshman in 2017 with mixed results (0-1, 6.57 ERA in 24.2 IP), then all but disappeared from the staff a year ago throwing only 5.1 IP in making only 6 relief appearances. He did throw 2.0 innings in Tuesday’s loss to Presbyterian, though.


Quick! Fun Facts!

They won’t be quick enough! I’m late! There’s no time!


Prediction

This is a game that NC State should win - and one that it really can’t afford to lose (State really can’t afford any losses to sub-200 RPI teams). The Wolfpack hold the advantage in every aspect and should rightfully flex their muscles in this game; however, the NC Central program isn’t the doormat that it used to be. This is a team that won’t get rolled over and will fight for the entirety of any game they play. If State overlooks them, they could be in for a close one.

Outcome: NC State wins 9-3