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Opponent Preview: High Point

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Meet the Panthers... A program looking for a fresh start

COLLEGE BASEBALL: FEB 27 High Point at North Carolina Photo by Andy Mead/YCJ/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Who’s the Pack playing?

Opponent: High Point

Mascot: Mean Kitty Cats | School Location: High Point, NC | Conference: Big South

2022 Record: 0-3 (0-0, T-1st) | 2022 RPI Rank: 230

2021 Record: 14-31 (12-25, 9th) | 2021 RPI Rank: 240

2020 Record: 7-9 (0-0, T-1st) | 2019 RPI Rank: 178


When? Where? How do I watch?

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

Game Time(s): Tues, Feb 22 @ 3:00pm

TV: ACCNX (Tuesday)

Radio: GoPack.com (Tuesday) / WKNC 88.1

Live Stats: Sidearm Sports


Tell me about this team

Here’s what we wrote in Part IV of our season preview series:

After slowly building up under Craig Cozart’s leadership with a run of five straight winning seasons from 2014-2018, including a pair of Top 100 RPI finishes in 2014 and 2015, the Panthers program back slid starting in 2019. A disastrous 2021 campaign cost Cozart his job (his son is NC State freshman catcher Jacob Cozart) and the program now trades hands to long-time Wake Forest assistant Joey Hammond. Hammond steps into a nice situation with six of the top seven hitters returning to the lineup, led by Cole Singsank, Peyton Carr, and Brady Pearre. Last year’s High Point offense averaged 5.8 runs/game and slashed .273/.355/.392. There shouldn’t be much of a drop-off from that. Lenoir-Rhyne transfer Connor Smith and Towson transfer Javon Fields should bolster their lineup depth. On the mound, the Panthers will have to replace their one true starter, Grey Lyttle, who led the team in innings pitched by a wide margin. NC State transfer C.J. Neese is a prime candidate to take over a role in the starting rotation, as is JUCO transfer Patrick Libby. Six-foot-nine Arkansas transfer Louis Stallone should also be a welcomed addition to the pitching staff. If High Point is going to make noise this year, they’ll either need a vastly improved pitching staff or the offense will have to just put up Herculean efforts on an every-game basis.

I will never fault a program for making a coaching change because they feel they can and should do better than recent results... but I will absolutely mock them accordingly for it, when appropriate. High Point firing Craig Cozart after the 2021 season is sort of the college baseball equivalent of ECU firing Ruffin McNeill in football after the 2015 season. While Cozart doesn’t have the huggable quality of McNeill, he’s just as respected in the college coaching community. From 2013-2019, Cozart led High Point to finishes in the top half of the Big South every year, including three second-place finishes. Keep in mind that Campbell is also in the Big South, as was Coastal Carolina up until 2016. As recently as 2018, High Point finished with a 19-8 conference record and came up eight outs shy of the conference tournament championship.

The 2019 team was a drop off from that 2018 senior-laden squad and 2021 was an atrociously bad season, but the team had a lot of young and productive hitters to build off. This just seemed like a hasty coaching change, but who knows - maybe Cozart wanted more time off the job to watch his sons play (in addition to Jacob at State, his eldest son Caleb is a sophomore pitcher at UNC, and youngest son Samuel is a huge 2025 high school RHP who is the #1 ranked player in that class and already committed to Mississippi State).

Okay, enough about past High Point teams. You want to know about the 2022 one that’s about to square off with the Wolfpack, so here’s what you need to know:

They’re 0-3 after getting swept at Jacksonville this past weekend. They lost those three games by scores of 3-6, 9-17,and 3-5. High Point led only briefly on the weekend, leading 7-6 in the 4th and 5th innings Saturday, and leading 3-2 in the 7th inning on Sunday. There were plenty of issues, but the biggest being the Panthers hitters logging only 18 hits over three games while striking out a total of 35 times.


Who’s on the mound for these guys?

Tuesday: RHP Teddy Merritt (SO)


Key Players:

Offense

CF Javon Fields (rJR) - .444/.583/.556, 1 2B, 0 3B, 0 HR, 1 R, 1 RBI, 3 BB, 4 K, 0 HBP, 2-3 SB. The Towson transfer (hey - we talked about him back in 2019!) had quite the debut over the weekend despite the sweep. If the increased patience at the dish is for real, he should be moved up to the leadoff spot for the Panthers ASAP.

3B/DH Peyton Carr (SO) - .364/.500/.455, 1 2B, 0 3B, 0 HR, 2 R, 3 RBI, 3 BB, 2 K, 0 HBP, 0-0 SB. Was one of the top hitters on the team a year ago and is already off to another solid start. Bats cleanup, but really should be the two-hole hitter for them.

1B Cole Singsank (rSO) - .250/.357/.583, 1 2B, 0 3B, 1 HR, 3 R, 3 RBI, 1 BB, 3 K, 1 HBP, 0-0 SB. Northern Durham HS alum hits in the heart of the order for the Panthers. Was named Honorable Mention All-Big South last year when he was the team’s best hitter.

Pitching

RHP Teddy Merritt (SR) - 0-1, 5.40 ERA, 3.1 IP, 2 H, 3 BB, 6 K. The 6’6, 237 lbs Merritt was the first man out of the bullpen in their Friday loss to Jacksonville. Control was a major issue as he uncorked two wild pitches, including one in the 8th that allowed the eventual game-winning run to move into scoring position. The two runs against him were allowed to score by the reliever that followed him, so it was an outing of mixed reviews.

RHP C.J. Neese (rSO) - [No stats in 2022]. Transfer from NC State (was 1-for-3 with an RBI and 2 K as a hitter for the Pack in 2020). Tossed 24.0 innings of 6.38 ERA ball for High Point last year, including three starts, allowing 27 H and 13 BB while recording 20 K. Didn’t pitch in the season opening series, but did appear as a DH and pinch hitter (0-for-4, 2 K). Wouldn’t be surprised to see him on the mound in this one.


Quick! Fun Facts!

Game organizers really missed an opportunity here. They should have scheduled a 2:22pm start on Tuesday, 2/22/22. Alas...

Since 2005, High Point has had 17 players drafted, including three each in 2013 and 2016.

The Panthers have one active MLB player (insert MLB lockout joke) in RHP Andre Scrubb (insert TLC joke), an 8th round pick in 2016 who played the last two seasons with the Astros.

NC State is 17-12 all-time versus High Point.

Since moving up to D1 in 2000, High Point has never reached an NCAA Regional.


Prediction

NC State has two mid-week games this week, so it will be interesting to see how the pitching staff is handled. Chris Villaman didn’t pitch this past weekend - was he saved for a midweek start?

Outcome: A Wolfpack win