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Opponent Preview: Evansville

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Meet the Purple Aces... NC State’s season opening foe

NCAA BASEBALL: APR 05 Evansville at Western Kentucky Photo by Steve Roberts/ Icon Sportswire

Who’s the Pack playing?

Opponent: Evansville

Mascot: Violet Playing Cards | School Location: Evansville, IN | Conference: MVC

2022 Record: 0-0 (0-0, T-1st) | 2019 RPI Rank: n/a

2021 Record: 28-27 (11-16, 7th) | 2021 RPI Rank: 175

2020 Record: 5-11 (0-0, T-1st) | 2019 RPI Rank: 195


When? Where? How do I watch?

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

Game Time(s): Fri, Feb 18 @ 3:00pm | Sat, Feb 19 @ 2:00pm | Sun, Feb 20 @ 1:00pm

TV: ACCNX (Friday | Saturday | Sunday)

Radio: GoPack.com (Friday | Saturday | Sunday) / WKNC 88.1

Live Stats: Sidearm Sports


Tell me about this team

Well, we just covered that in Part IV of our season preview series. Copied below for your convenience.

Evansville has had their moments in the sun in program history, including making a pair of regional appearances in the early/mid 2000’s, but that last regional appearance was in 2006 and aside from a regular season Missouri Valley championship in 2014, it’s been more bad than good lately. The Purple Aces will need to replace two of their best all-around hitters in Troy Beilsmith and Kenton Crews (both outfielders), but they do return their next six best bats from a year ago, including their top two home run hitters (Tanner Craig, Danny Borgstrom). Freshmen outfielder Cade Thornton should be in instant-impact player in the lineup and JUCO transfer Chase Hug offers an intriguing skillset. CSU-Bakersfield grad transfer Evan Berkey (2021 2nd Team All-Big West) will be a plug-and-play starter in the infield. A pair of freshman catchers (Chase Taylor, Evan Waggoner) should duke it out for the starting gig behind the dish. On the mound the team returns two-thirds of the weekend rotation, including top arm Shane Gray, as well as erratic closer Jakob Meyer. All told, Evansville returns eight-of-nine pitchers who tossed 20 or more innings last year, so experience shouldn’t be an issue. Nathan Hardman, Nate Kujawski, and Aussie Kieren Hall are a trio of JUCO transfer righties who should bolster the bullpen depth. Freshman righty Ryan Schneider should also be an impact arm, while the pitching staff should be bolstered by the return of Garrett Presko.

Take some time and go back through the rest of the season preview series:


Who’s on the mound for these guys?

Friday: RHP Shane Gray (SR)

Saturday: RHP Nick Smith (SO)

Sunday: RHP Shane Harris (rSO)


Key Players:

Offense

INF Tanner Craig (SR) - .299/.384/.547, 14 2B, 0 3B, 12 HR, 31 R, 47 RBI, 25 BB, 68 K, 3 HBP, 1-2 SB in 2021. Big righty bat with lots of power, but also very prone to striking out.

OF/3B Danny Borgstrom (SR) - .266/.387/.487, 6 2B, 1 3B, 9 HR, 33 R, 29 RBI, 29 BB, 30 K, 3 HBP, 0-1 SB in 2021. Lefty hitter who turned a corner in the brief 2020 season and carried that forward to 2021. Showed a lot of pop last year, but there’s next to no speed in his game.

INF Evan Berkey (JR) - .324/.427/.500, 9 2B, 2 3B, 4 HR, 23 R, 18 RBI, 20 BB, 23 K, 7 HBP, 6-11 SB in 2021. Grad transfer from Cal State-Bakersfield where he was a 2021 2nd Team All-Big West selection. Can play all over the infield, so provides some defensive flexibility for the Purple Aces.

OF Cade Thornton (FR) - Freshman who I think will have the most impact for them this year of their position players, so watch him not even play.

Pitching

RHP Shane Gray (SR) - 6-3, 3.38 ERA, 88.0 IP, 74 H, 35 BB, 73 K in 2021. Gray is the D1 Baseball pick for Missouri Valley Conference Pitcher of the Year honors. He likes to pitch up in the zone and features a breaking ball that he hides well. He’s not overpowering, but he’s a good pitcher.

RHP Nick Smith (SO) - 0-1, 10.29 ERA, 7.0 IP, 11 H, 7 BB, 8 K in 2021. 6’4 righty who missed two months of last season. He had a great summer where he was the Perfect Game Collegiate League Pitcher of the Year.

RHP Shane Harris (rSO) - 1-0, 9.00 ERA, 14.0 IP, 17 H, 6 BB, 10 K in 2021. Pitched on the same summer league team as Smith. His results weren’t as great as Smith’s, but still much better than what he did for Evansville in 2021. Harris is a former transfer from Louisville, although he sat out his one season there (2020) due to injury.

RHP Jakob Meyer (JR) - 5-1, 6 SV, 3.68 ERA, 29.1 IP, 22 H, 21 BB, 31 K in 2021.

RHP Garrett Presko (rJR) - Did not pitch in 2021 due to Tommy John Surgery and only appeared in three games in the shortened 2020 season. As a freshman in 2019, he pitched well to a tune of a 4.29 ERA over 21.0 IP, allowing 19 H and 10 BB with 20 K. His return could be key for this pitching staff.


Quick! Fun Facts!

This is the first-ever meeting on the diamond between NC State and Evansville.

Evansville has played 107 games all-time against current members of the ACC (they’re 45-62 in those games), with 55 of them coming against Louisville (28-27).

The Purple Aces don’t have a single player from the state of North Carolina (not a shocker), but they do have a dude from Australia, mate! RHP Kieren Hall.


Prediction

It’s the opener and State loses a ton, but this is a team the Wolfpack should overmatch. Please don’t kill me if I jinx it (I probably did).

Outcome: NC State sweep