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2020 NC State Baseball Preview - Part IV: Non-Conference Opponents, First Half

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We’re closing in on the start of the college baseball season, so let’s take a look at the team

NCAA BASEBALL: JUN 02 Div 1 Championship Greenville Regional - East Carolina v North Carolina State Photo by Greg Thompson/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

With the 2020 season within sight, now is as good of a time as any to take a look at the NC State Wolfpack squad that will hit the diamond this spring.

  • Part I of this series was a look back at the 2019 season and the players who are now gone.
  • Part II took a look at the returnees from that 2019 team.
  • Part III was a look at the newcomers for 2020.
  • Part IV here will take a look at the non-conference schedule and opponents in 2020.
  • Part V will review the ACC schedule and opponents.

So let’s get started!

Non-Conference Opponents

(For a look at the schedule, head on over to GoPack.com)

This article will cover the first 8 of 16 non-conference opponents in 2020, which also happens to account for exactly 13 of the 26 non-conference games on the season.

Let’s take a look!


James Madison

Conference: Colonial

Game Dates: February 14, 15, 16

2019 Record: 31-26 (11-13) | 2019 RPI: 163

Brief Outlook:

The Dukes return nine of their top ten hitters from a year ago, including all seven batters who hit over .250 on the year, so the offense shouldn’t be an issue in 2020. Leading the charge again will be SO 3B Trevon Dabney (.306/.457/.494, 14 2B, 6 HR, 24 HBP, 17-23 SB), SR 1B Brady Harju (.295/.358/.469, 9 2B, 9 HR), SO 2B/DH Kyle Novak (.303/.389/.378, 9 2B, 22 BB, 18 K), and SR INF/OF Fox Semones (.257/.371/.348, 11 2B, 14-17 SB). JR C/UT Michael Morgan will be looking for a bounce-back after a down 2019 - he was really good in 2018. SO SS Nick Zona and JR OF Conor Hartigan will also add quality bats as they’ll be returning from injuries that cost them large chunks of 2019. On the mound, the starting rotation should be pretty easy to figure out... at least in theory. Only five pitchers started games last year for JMU, and three of them return. JR RHPs Nick Stewart (4-5, 2.74 ERA, 1.23 WHIP, .220 OBA, 72.1 IP, 61 K) and Justin Showalter (1-3, 3.72 ERA, 1.30 WHIP, .229 OBA, 36.1 IP, 30 K) are all but set in stone as weekend starters, while rJR RHP Michael Bechtold (2-2, 5.67 ERA, 1.93 WHIP, .280 OBA, 33.1 IP, 25 K) will need to find the strike zone more consistently to earn a spot himself. rSR LHP Brett Ayer (4-1, 2.52 ERA, 1.19 WHIP, .188 OBA, 35.2 IP, 52 K) and JR RHP Grayson Jones (2-1, 2.91 ERA, 1.56 WHIP, .233 OBA, 21.2 IP, 29 K) will lead a bullpen that lost its top two arms from a year ago to the MLB Draft.

2020 Projected Record: 29-27 (12-12)

NCAA Tournament Bound?: No


Longwood

Conference: Big South

Game Dates: February 18

2019 Record: 11-41 (5-22) | 2019 RPI: 289

Brief Outlook:

SR SS Antwaun Tucker (.297/.376/.420, 6 2B, 3 HR, 13-14 SB) and SR IF Nate Blakeney (.247/.297/.355, 14 2B, 2 HR) are two of the top returners to lead the offense. A pair of freshmen (C Justin Looney and INF Zach Stanko) should be impact players immediately for the team, as should be JUCO transfers JR INF Ricky Jimenez and rSO OF Andrew Gorham. SR RHP Tyler Morgan (2-6, 3.83 ERA, 1.42 WHIP, .243 OBA, 56.1 IP, 71 K) returns as the staff ace. Outside of Morgan, the pitching staff is a major weak point and will need to improve dramatically if the team hopes to get out of the Big South cellar. A few freshman could help here, including RHPs Michael Tolson and Andrew Potojecki.

2020 Projected Record: 17-36 (7-20)

NCAA Tournament Bound?: No


Tennessee Tech

Conference: Ohio Valley

Game Dates: February 21, 22, 23

2019 Record: 22-32 (9-21) | 2019 RPI: 237

Brief Outlook:

Four talented hitters, including three power bats, return for Tennessee Tech in 2020. JR INF Jason Hinchman (.278/.420/.697, 11 2B, 24 HR), SO INF John Dyer (.330/.420/.581, 13 2B, 11 HR), SR OF Anthony Carrera (.271/.391/.538, 9 2B, 15 HR), and SO INF Nathan McMeans (.294/.374/.365, 12 2B, 21:13 BB:K) return to lead the lineup. FR INF Brett Roberts and FR C Luke Jones should be early contributors, as should JUCO transfer OF Paul Steffensen. SR RHP Mark Leonard (2-4, 6.43 ERA, 1.46 WHIP, .268 OBA, 63.0 IP, 60 K) is the lone weekend starting pitcher to return in 2020. SR RHP Jacob Cole (2-4, 2 SV, 4.75 ERA, 1.35 WHIP, .273 OBA, 47.1 IP, 44 K), JR RHP Tyler Sylvester (0-3, 3 SV, 3.45 ERA, 1.47 WHIP, 31.1 IP, 30 K), and rJR LHP Nic Dye (2-1, 3.80 ERA, 1.18 WHIP, .221 OBA, 23.2 IP, 33 K) will lead the bullpen - assuming none of them move into the starting rotation. The pitching staff will again be in search of arms to add quality depth. FR LHP Ty Fisher and FR RHP Christian Herberholz should be high contributors in their first seasons on campus.

2020 Projected Record: 23-30 (16-14)

NCAA Tournament Bound?: No


UNC-Wilmington

Conference: Colonial

Game Dates: February 25, May 12

2019 Record: 32-31 (12-12) | 2019 RPI: 148

Brief Outlook:

UNCW will have to replace sensational SS Greg Jones - a 2019 MLB 1st round pick who went just a few spots after Will Wilson - but the team does return its next top six hitters, so the offense should be plenty potent. SR 3B Cole Weiss (.305/.387/.434, 13 2B, 4 HR), rSR RF Kep Brown (.273/.343/.449, 15 2B, 8 HR), and JR CF Noah Bridges (.263/.324/.390, 11 2B, 4 HR, 17-20 SB). The team will also count on talented SO UTIL Brooks Baldwin (.239/.311/.372, 15 2B, 4 HR, 7-8 SB) to take a big step forward in his second year on campus. Finding capable replacements for the three departed starters in the lineup will be the key. If the 7-8-9 slots can’t produce, it’ll be a rough year for the Seahawks. SR RHP Luke Gesell (5-5, 3.59 ERA, 1.10 WHIP, .221 OBA, 92.2 IP, 72 K), JR RHP Landen Roupp (6-3, 2 SV, 3.47 ERA, 1.29 WHIP, .232 OBA, 80.1 IP, 91 K), rJR LHP Zarion Sharpe (3-3, 1 SV, 4.21 ERA, 1.26 WHIP, .220 OBA, 57.2 IP, 61 K), and JR RHP Gage Herring (0-6, 5.30 ERA, 1.78 WHIP, .245 OBA, 37.1 IP, 45 K) each started at least 11 games last year. Adding to the competition for the weekend rotation is rSO RHP Brody Lawson (3-1, 4.78 ERA, 1.32 WHIP, .225 OBA, 37.2 IP, 43 K), who himself started seven games a year ago. Whichever two of those five don’t get the starting nod will join rSR Breydan Gorham (1-1, 1 SV, 4.58 ERA, 1.02 WHIP, .205 OBA, 37.1 IP, 31 K) to form the basis of the bullpen. The 2020 UNCW Baseball team will also feature the younger brothers of former NC State players Stephen Pitarra (FR C Kevin Pitarra) and Brock Deatherage (SR RHP Blake Deatherage). If Deatherage (2-0, 6.75 ERA, 1.59 WHIP, .256 OBA, 32.0 IP, 18 K) can consistently throw strikes, he’ll find himself as a key piece of the bullpen for this team.

2020 Projected Record: 32-24 (18-6)

NCAA Tournament Bound?: Yes


Iowa

Conference: Big Ten

Game Dates: February 28

2019 Record: 29-24 (12-12) | 2019 RPI: 106

Brief Outlook:

Iowa was a good but not great team in 2019, dropping eight of their last ten games - including two of three in the Big Ten tournament - to miss a regional bid. JR INF/DH Izaya Fullard (.307/.376/.422, 8 2B, 5 HR, 22:25 BB:K), SR 1B/RF/DH Zeb Adreon (.299/.388/.462, 11 2B, 2 HR), SR C Austin Martin (.294/.369/.396, 10 2B, 2 HR, 21:29 BB:K), and SR OF Ben Norman (.251/.335/.396, 12 2B, 6 HR, 14-16 SB) return to form the heart of the order for the Hawkeyes. Redshirt-junior 1B Tanner Padgett (.310/.341/.417, 6 2B, 1 HR) and SO INF Brendan Sher (.301/.392/.422, 5 2B, 1 HR) were productive contributors last year who are poised to take on larger roles in 2020. The big issue is that three of the team’s best hitters (Fullard, Adreon, and Padgett) are natural first basemen. Getting those guys into the lineup at once might be a bit of a struggle (thus why Padgett was more of a reserve bat last year and Adreon saw time in RF). Gigantic All-Iowa-Everything freshman Peyton Williams is just going to add to the logjam at first base, but his hitting ability will force his way into getting ABs. Other newcomers who could make an impact are freshmen UTIL Sam Link, C Tyler Snep, OF Paul Vossen, and JUCO transfer OF Dylan Nedved. The weekend rotation should already be set with the return of SR RHP Grant Judkins (4-7, 2.72 ERA, 1.23 WHIP, .230 OBA, 82.2 IP, 65 K), rSO LHP Jack Dreyer (1-0, 2.45 ERA, 1.55 WHIP, .207 OBA, 7.1 IP, 11 K), and SR LHP Cam Baumann (4-5, 5.29 ERA, 1.79 WHIP, .294 OBA, 64.2 IP, 54 K). Judkins and Baumann started a combined 29 games last year, while Dreyer was the team’s Saturday starter to begin the year but then missed the entirety of the remainder of the season after being injured in his second start. Dreyer was considered a Top-20 2020 MLB Draft prospect before the injury. A trio of returning RHPs will lead the bullpen: rSR RHP Grant Leonard (2-3, 14 SV, 3.37 ERA, 1.37 WHIP, .275 OBA, 34.2 IP, 37 K), SO RHP Duncan Davitt (2-1, 5.22 ERA, 1.68 WHIP, .261 OBA, 39.2 IP, 50 K), and SR RHP Trace Hoffman (5-2, 2 SV, 6.49 ERA, 1.23 WHIP, .275 OBA, 34.2 IP, 26 K). Davitt has the potential to push his way into the starting rotation. Redshirt-junior Hunter Lee - a former JUCO transfer - should add depth to the pitching staff after missing essentially all of 2019 with an injury. FR RHP Sam Goodman is a talented newcomer to watch.

2020 Projected Record: 35-18 (15-9)

NCAA Tournament Bound?: Yes


Purdue

Conference: Big Ten

Game Dates: February 29

2019 Record: 20-34 (7-16) | 2019 RPI: 217

Brief Outlook:

After a 2nd place Big Ten finish in 2018, Purdue started and ended the 2019 season about as bad as you could hope. A 1-10 start and 2-8 finish... but they were still just 17-16 in the middle, so it’s not like the bookends doomed the team. Offense was a major issue. Six of nine regulars hit under .225 with OBPs under .325... that’s not good. In 2020, the Boilermakers return two their three good hitters from a year ago in SR CF Skyler Hunter (.307/.385/.417, 10 2B, 6 3B, 20:27 BB:K, 7-9 SB) and SR C Zac Fascia (.277/.351/.396, 10 2B, 4 HR, 19:27 BB:K), so that’s a start, but they’re going to need a lot more help. There is an injection of talent for this year, including freshmen INF Tyler Brandenburg and OF Mike Bolton Jr and JUCO transfers INF Kyle LaPlante and OF Miles Simington, but the team will need those newcomers (and returning guys) to step up right away. The starting rotation will feature rJR RHP Andrew Bohm (0-9, 5.54 ERA, 1.60 WHIP, .265 OBA, 65.0 IP, 73 K) and JR RHP Trent Johnson (3-3, 1 SV, 2.83 ERA, 1.03 WHIP, .201 OBA, 60.1 IP, 73 K), but will need to find a third quality arm. The bullpen will start with JR RHP Bo Hofstra (2-2, 7 SV, 1.62 ERA, 1.38 WHIP, .208 OBA, 39.0 IP, 47 K), rJR LHP Matt Moore (5-0, 4.18 ERA, 1.29 WHIP, .250 OBA, 28.0 IP, 35 K), and SO LHP James Kulak (2-1, 5.61 ERA, 1.67 WHIP, .291 OBA, 25.2 IP, 27 K), but will need to develop more depth and quality to lift the team out of the funk that was 2019 and back to a level approaching what the team did in 2018. To that end, several newcomers (freshmen RHP Jett Jackson and LHP Connor Ayers, SO JUCO transfers RHP Ricky Castro and RHP Eric Hildebrand) and a couple arms returning from injuries that cost them all of 2019 (rFR LHP Jackson Smeltz and rSR Trevor Cheaney (2018: 1-2, 1 SV, 4.50 ERA, 1.38 WHIP, .218 OBA, 40.0 IP, 44 K)) should help tremendously.

2020 Projected Record: 26-30 (8-14)

NCAA Tournament Bound?: No


Minnesota

Conference: Big Ten

Game Dates: March 1

2019 Record: 27-27 (15-9) | 2019 RPI: 64

Brief Outlook:

Similar to Purdue, Minnesota went from an unbelievably great 2018 (43-15 overall, Big Ten Champions) to a disastrous start in 2019. Unlike the Boilermakers, however, after the similarly horrid start (2-11, including being swept in a three-game series by NC State in Raleigh), the Golden Gophers turned things around (25-16, 15-9 in the Big Ten). Offense was a bit of the issue in 2019, as the team topped six runs in a game just 14 times in 54 games. Back from that offense are JR OF Easton Bertrand (.252/.327/.490, 9 2B, 4 3B, 6 HR), SO 2B Zack Raabe (.271/.337/.316, 5 2B, 7-7 SB), rJR 3B Jack Wassel (.243/.356/.378, 11 2B, 4 HR), and power-hitting rSR SS Jordan Kozicky (.237/.320/.485, 14 2B, 11 HR). Redshirt-junior OF Drew Hmielewski (.281/.366/.393, 3 2B, 1 HR, 4-6 SB) should take on a bigger role to help fill the shoes of the departed top two hitters from last year, and All-American JR RHP/OF Max Meyer (.256/.323/.314, 4 2B) is a candidate for increased ABs. Northwestern transfer JR C Jack Kelly (.296/.378/.423, 4 2B, 10:16 BB:K at NU) and JUCO transfer JR INF Ronald Sweeny (a high school teammate of Meyers) lead an impressive recruiting class should help to fill the void, a class that also includes freshmen 1B Sam Ireland, UTIL Kyle Bork, and INF Drew Stahl. On the mound, the team returns Meyers (5-3, 2.11 ERA, 1.02 WHIP, .202 OBA, 76.2 IP, 87 K) and JR RHP Patrick Fredrickson (2-5, 5.59 ERA, 1.66 WHIP, .259 OBA, 48.1 IP, 45 K) to the starting rotation. Fredrickson had serious sophomore slump after being the Big Ten Pitcher-of-the-Year as a freshman, battling injuries and ineffectiveness. JR RHP Joshua Culliver (3-4, 4.64 ERA, 1.56 WHIP, .285 OBA, 64.0 IP, 51 K) and JR RHP Sam Thoresen (4-3, 5.24 ERA, 1.64 WHIP, .192 OBA, 46.1 IP, 69 K) have plenty of starting experience, having started 25 games between them in 2019. SO RHP J.P. Massey (0-1, 5.40 ERA, 1.52 WHIP, .174 OBA, 25.0 IP, 31 K), JR LHP Ryan Duffy (1-2, 4.68 ERA, 1.71 WHIP, 270 OBA, 32.2 IP, 30 K), and JR LHP Bubba Horton (2-0, 3.06 ERA, 1.64 WHIP, .238 OBA, 17.2 IP, 19 K) will lead a bullpen which has to replace it’s nine-game closer from last year. Arizona State transfer rSO RHP Drake Davis figures to carve out some innings, as could FR RHP Sam Ireland.

2020 Projected Record: 34-19 (15-9)

NCAA Tournament Bound?: Yes


Coastal Carolina

Conference: Sun Belt

Game Dates: March 4

2019 Record: 36-26-1 (15-13) | 2019 RPI: 60

Brief Outlook:

The 2019 Sun Belt Conference Tournament Champions have a lot of key losses in personnel to replace in 2020. The offense returns just two of the ten players who started over 12 games last year. Those two guys are SR INF (and Raleigh native) Scott McKeon (.340/.399/.484, 18 2B, 5 3B, 3 HR) and JR OF Parker Chavers (.316/.435/.612, 9 2B, 4 3B, 15 HR, 39:47 BB:K, 10-12 SB). SR OF Morgan Hyde (.365/.400/.500, 2 2B) and rJR OF Jared Johnson (.299/.417/.448, 4 2B, 2 HR) are poised to move into more prominent roles. The pitching staff also has to replace its two pitchers who started the most games last year, but do welcome back JR RHP Zach McCambley (6-3, 5.21 ERA, 1.51 WHIP, .277 OBA, 67.1 IP, 76 K) and SO RHP Nick Parker (2-1, 6.07 ERA, 1.63 WHIP, .280 OBA, 46.0 IP, 46 K), who combined to make 19 starts a year ago. The bullpen, an overall weakness of the 2019 squad, also loses its top arm from last year. JR LHP Trevor Damron (2-1, 4.67 ERA, 1.67 WHIP, .280 OBA, 34.2 IP, 45 K) and SO RHP Alaska Abney (3-4, 3 SV, 5.72 ERA, 1.79 WHIP, .282 OBA, 39.1 IP, 41 K) are the top returning bullpen arms. The newcomers for 2020, however, are phenomenal and will build towards big things down the road. On offense, JUCO transfers C Alex Gattinelli and INF Fox Leum are mashers, and C Hunter Ashburn should contribute immediately. Among the talented freshmen, 1B/3B Zack Beach, INF Eric Brown, UTIL J.T. Killen, OF Makenzie Pate, and OF Kyle Westfall are all names to watch in the future. Redshirt-freshman Walt Richardson could also make an impact this year. On the mound, graduate transfer SR RHP Chase Antle (1-5, 7.56 ERA, 2.01 WHIP, .267 OBA, 33.1 IP, 47 K at Bowling Green) has the stuff to contribute in some capacity, as does JUCO transfer JR LHP Josh Jarman. Redshirt-freshman RHP Jacob Maton is a bit of a wildcard. He was a highly rated recruit coming out of high school, but missed all of last year with Tommy John Surgery. Freshmen LHP Jonathan Blackwell, RHP Casey Green, and RHP Will Smith will be early contributors.

2020 Projected Record: 31-25 (20-10)

NCAA Tournament Bound?: Yes