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Opponent Preview: VMI

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Meet the Keydets... State’s opening baseball opponent for the 2021 season

NCAA Tournament Ethan Hyman/Raleigh News & Observer/Tribune News Service via Getty Images

Who’s the Pack playing?

Opponent: Virginia Military Institute (VMI)

Mascot: Keydets | School Location: Lexington, VA | Conference: Southern

2021 Record: 0-0 (0-0, T-1st) | 2020 RPI Rank: n/a

2020 Record: 4-13 (0-0, T-1st) | 2019 RPI Rank: 295

2019 Record: 17-41 (9-15, 7th) | 2018 RPI Rank: 251


When? Where? How do I watch?

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

Game Time(s): Friday, Feb 19 @ 3:00pm | Saturday, Feb 20 @ 2:00pm | Sunday, Feb 21 @ 1:00pm

TV: Friday | Saturday | Sunday

Radio: TuneIn App, GoPack (Friday | Saturday | Sunday)

Live Stats: Sidearm Stats


Tell me about this team

VMI was not a good baseball team in 2019. They were even worse in 2020, checking in as one of the seven worst teams in all of Division I according to RPI. Unfortunately for VMI, the second worst team in the Southern Conference (Furman) killed off their baseball program amid the 2020 pandemic, so things aren’t going to get much easier in an always difficult SoCon. If VMI is to be better in 2021, it will need improvement in all areas.

The Keydets do return top hitter rSO CF Will Knight, a preseason 1st Team All-SoCon selection, but lose several other top offensive options (not good, Bob). They return their entire 2020 weekend rotation, but only one of those guys will be making a start this weekend for VMI. The team has plenty of starting options, but will need the bullpen to take a huge step forward if they’re to out-perform their preseason SoCon last-place selection.


Who’s on the mound for these guys?

Friday: LHP Trey Morgan (rFR)

Saturday: LHP Nathan Light (rSO)

Sunday: RHP Ben Capehart (rFR)


Key Players:

Offense

CF Will Knight (rSO) - .431/.484/.586, 7 2B, 1 3B, 7 R, 6 RBI, 5 BB, 7 K, 1-2 SB. A 1st Team preseason All-SoCon pick, Knight is the engine to the Keydets offense. After a decent showing in 2019 as a redshirt freshman, Knight absolutely killed it in 2020.

2B Callen Nuccio (rJR) - .197/.329/.230, 2 2B, 8 R, 4 RBI, 12 BB, 18 K, 5-6 SB. Nuccio had a very good 2019 season (.316/.395/.398, 16 2B, 10 SB), but was off to a bad start in 2020 before the season was cancelled. This will be the third year as the starting 2B for the Waxhaw, NC, native.

LF Cody Warner (rJR) - .246/.352/.295, 3 2B, 8 R, 2 RBI, 10 BB, 12 K, 1-2 SB. Highly talented left-handed hitter, but the power hasn’t shown at the college level yet. Was also a very good high school football player.

SS Zac Morris (rFR) - .204/.291/.327, 1 2B, 1 3B, 1 HR, 8 R, 6 RBI, 4 BB, 9 K, 4-5 SB. Started all 17 games at SS last year for the Keydets.

3B Brett Cook (FR) - Total projection here on my behalf, but for a team that lost it’s starting third baseman, Cook is the right fit at the right time. Stocky, athletic build with a power bat. If the glove can stick at third, he’ll show out.

Pitching

LHP Trey Morgan (rFR) - 0-2, 1 SV, 3.54 ERA, 20.1 IP, 19 H, 8 BB, 13 K. The top returning bullpen arm will move to the Friday starter spot. A small-build pitcher with a rock-back motion and a wicked pick-off move. Not a huge arm, but a very good pitcher.

LHP Nathan Light (rSO) - 1-1, 2.45 ERA, 14.2 IP, 11 H, 8 BB, 16 K. Was the ace of the staff a year ago, although he’ll need to keep the walks down if he’s to continue that success. Has walked 42, hit 8 batters, and uncorked 10 WP in just 64.0 career IP.

RHP Ben Capehart (rFR) - 0-1, 11.81 ERA, 5.1 IP, 9 H, 2 BB, 0 K. Very surprised to see Capehart replace Jewell and Menders in the starting rotation. He must have improved dramatically from a year ago.

RHP Adam Jewell (rSO) - 2-2, 3.86 ERA, 30.1 IP, 28 H, 4 BB, 30 K. A two-year starter who has 17 starts among 21 career appearances. Held hitters to a .239 average a year ago. Maybe the coaching staff figures his stuff will play up out of the bullpen...?

RHP Jacob Menders (rSR) - 0-2, 5.09 ERA, 23.0 IP, 25 H, 11 BB, 21 K. Another two-year starter with 20 starts among 21 career appearances. Started his career at DII Shippensburg University before attending JUCO at Chatahoochee Valley CC where he was 11-1 with a 3.41 ERA in his only season. Uses a nice breaking ball as his out pitch.


Quick! Fun Facts!

NC State is 3-0 all-time against VMI, but the two teams have not met since 2003.

FR Jacob Farrar’s walk-up song is Shania Twain’s “Man I Feel Like a Woman”.

VMI has just three players from outside of the state of Virginia - 1 from North Carolina, 1 from Indiana, and 1 from Alabama.


Prediction

The Friday game gets rained out and moves Saturday to a double-header.

I hate predicting sweeps because they’re so difficult in baseball, but VMI was a bad team in 2020 that lost several of it’s best offensive weapons. State meanwhile returns a ton of talent and experience.

Outcome: State sweeps