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NC State drops weekend series at Florida State, hosts NC A&T Tuesday

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Rubber match went 17 innings in an evenly matched series

Miami v. NC State baseball, ACC Tournament Travis Long/Raleigh News & Observer/Tribune News Service via Getty Images

NC State dropped their series at Florida State over the weekend, two games to one. The Wolfpack are now 11-8 overall and 1-4 in the ACC, while the Seminoles are 13-6 and 4-2.

In the series opener on Saturday, Florida State pounded the Pack, jumping out to 10-0 lead before winning by a final margin of 13-5.

The Friday game was pushed to Sunday creating a double-header thanks to the Tallahassee weather. In the first game Sunday, NC State returned the bashing favor by topping the Seminoles, 15-4.

The second Sunday game and series finale was an evenly matched affair, so much so that it went 17 innings before the Noles walked off the game on a one-out solo home run by freshman Jaime Ferrer. A 5th inning Wolfpack error allowed the Seminoles to jump out to a 3-0 lead, and that error would come back to haunt the Pack in the extra-innings game.

Highlights from the series:

  • The return of Tommy Tanks. Tommy White hit a pair of home runs in the first game Sunday, giving him 11 on the year now, and he had a hit in all three games.
  • Payton Green hit a pair of home runs in Saturday's game, the first two homers of his career, while going 4-for-11 over the weekend.
  • Dominic Pilolli went 4-4 Saturday with a home run and had a hit in all three games (6-for-13 on the weekend).
  • Over the last two games, Josh Hood went a combined 7-for-10 with 3 2B and a HR.
  • Gino Groover went 6-for-15 over the weekend.
  • Matt Willadsen pitched well in Game 2, going 6.0 IP, 5 H, 3 R, 3 ER, 3 BB, 7 K. Baker Nelson picked up the three-inning save, allowing one run while striking out three.
  • Logan Whitaker went 3.1 scoreless innings to start the series finale, allowing just one hit while walking two and striking out four.
  • Chris Villaman was at his best in Game 3, striking out 12 Noles over five scoreless innings. He allowed four hits and three walks, but worked out of any jam he found himself in. You have to wonder if he’ll get moved to the Sunday starter role this coming weekend.
  • Florida State is as talented of a team as there is in the ACC and is currently ranked 7th in RPI. NC State went blow-for-blow with them over the weekend.
  • NC State worked an error-free game in the second game of the series, just the fifth error-free game of the year for the Pack.

Lowlights from the series:

  • Dropping to 1-4 in ACC play is never ideal.
  • Defense, again, cost the Wolfpack a win, and that win cost NC State the series win.
  • NC State worked an error-free game in the second game of the series, just the fifth error-free game of the year for the Pack.
  • Wolfpack hitters struck out 46 times over the weekend. Granted, that was over an innings total that is closer to four games than three and against arguably the best pitching staff in the conference, but it was still a concern.
  • Letting Willadsen top 120 pitches in a second straight start, especially this early in the season, is not ideal. Maybe he does have a rubber arm, but he’s tossed 94+ pitches in each of his five starts this year. That’s an unsustainable workload.
  • Sam Highfill was scratched from his start over the weekend, without much of an explanation for why.

NC State is back at it on Tuesday, and speaking of, here’s your opponent preview...


Who’s the Pack playing?

Opponent: NC A&T

Mascot: Farming Enthusiasts | School Location: Greensboro, NC | Conference: Big South

2022 Record: 9-10 (0-0, T-5th) | 2022 RPI Rank: 263

2021 Record: 22-32 (17-15, 3rd MEAC Southern) | 2021 RPI Rank: 254

2020 Record: 7-9 (0-0, T-1st MEAC Southern) | 2020 RPI Rank: 255


When? Where? How do I watch?

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

Game Time(s): Tues, Mar 22 @ 6:00pm

TV: ACCNX (Tuesday)

Radio: GoPack.com (Tuesday)

Live Stats: Sidearm Stats


Tell me about this team

I’m going to cop out a bit on this one and paste in here what we wrote about NC A&T in our season preview article, but that’s for good reason.

NC A&T is making a big move in 2022, switching conferences from the MEAC to the Big South. In the immediate, that’s likely to be a painful transition. From 2004-2011 under former coach Keith Shumate (now the head coach at Norfolk State) and from 2017 to now under current coach Ben Hall (we’re removing the awful Joel Sanchez years and the first couple years Hall had to rebuild), the Aggies posted an impressive 160-111 record in the MEAC. The Big South is going to be a different beast, and a tough non-conference slate will make matters worse. Making the transition tougher will be having to replace six of their top hitters from a year ago. The only hitter of note returning for 2022 is OF Cameron Brantley. As solid of a player as Brantley is, he’s going to need a lot of help to make this lineup produce with the step up in competition this year. A&T welcomes nine position player transfers to campus, led by 1B Tyshawn Barrett, the 2021 USA South Conference Player of the Year. Barrett will step in immediately as the Aggies’ first baseman. Joining him from Peace University is fellow infielder Alec Seaton. A&T also took a couple transfers from rival NC Central in the form of INF Cort Maynard and C Chet Sikes. Also joining the mix is power-hitting JUCO transfer Bret Mersman (Mott CC) and former highly regarded prep prospect Sabin Roane (Old Dominion). Jackson Hull is a freshman who has an opportunity to contribute early, either as a hitter or pitcher, or both. Fellow freshman OF Jarian Pinkney has some serious pop in the bat. The weekend rotation will need to be all but rebuilt, with Derek Martinez being the only returning starting pitcher. Martinez never made it through the fifth inning in any of his 11 starts in 2021, though, so they’ll need a much improved version of him in 2022. Xavier Meachem showed some promise last year and should get a look at the rotation, as should lefty Peyton Winebarger. Winebarger is the only returning pitcher on the staff who had an ERA under 6.00 last year, and his was 5.57, so not great. The bullpen also loses stud reliever Evan Gates and will need vast improvement. The pitching staff will need to rely on a bunch of freshman arms stepping up, but also brought in some transfers to help, including a pair from King University (Avery Cain, Jake Delisi). Pitt CC transfer logan Jarosz will be asked to shoulder a significant load. Among the freshmen, Jaheim Brown, Evan Demurias, Bryson Galloway, Darius Robinson, and the aforementioned Hull are names to watch.

Now the reason I wanted to paste that (aside from being lazy) is because the Aggies have exceeded expectations thus far despite having some formidable questions to answer and despite key transfer Tyshawn Barrett struggling to adjust to D1 pitching (.138/.257/.172, although a ridiculously low .154 BABIP says he’s much better than the numbers and deserves more ABs) and some other expected bats not producing to the levels you’d expect. Some unexpected players have shown up huge with the bat (Anthony Hennings, Xavier Bussey, Camden Jackson) to make the lineup solid.

The pitching staff, which I wholly expected to be the weak link of the team, has been (all things considered) great. Peyton Winebarger has looked like a staff ace who can square off with any opponent, while Daniel Carter and Logan Jarosz have shown enough to believe that the weekend rotation can hold up for them. The bullpen, though... that’s been the gamechanger this year. A huge question mark has as many as six reliable arms they can turn to. If those arms can continue to produce as they have, they’ll give A&T a chance in every game.

A&T started off the year 0-4, but are 9-6 since including a win over an Appalachian State team that’s currently in the RPI Top 100. Big South play starts this coming weekend (with a familiar foe to NC State this year, Longwood). The schedule gets a lot tougher for the Aggies (starting today), but so far so good, and we may be looking at a team that can make some noise in their new conference.


Who’s on the mound for these guys?

Tuesday: RHP Jaheim Brown (FR)


Key Players:

Offense

1B Cort Maynard (rJR) - .286/.405/.643, 7 2B, 0 3B, 6 HR, 19 R, 16 RBI, 6 BB, 21 K, 8 HBP, 0-1 SB. Transfer from rival NC Central (that probably makes some stomachs churn). Has already matched his HR total from a year ago. Has also been plunked 19 times over the last two years (in 280 PA).

3B Anthony Hennings (rJR) - .379/.433/.483, 3 2B, 0 3B, 1 HR, 11 R, 11 RBI, 6 BB, 17 K, 1 HBP, 2-4 SB. Transfer from Elon where he only accrued 25 plate appearances over two years. Surprise contributor - although I’m sure the coaching staff wouldn’t say that.

RF Xavier Bussey (rSO) - .354/.388/.494, 3 2B, 1 3B, 2 HR, 13 R, 17 RBI, 4 BB, 13 K, 1 HBP, 4-6 SB. Local kid from Garner. Spent the 2020 season in JUCO ball at Pensacola State where he stole 22 bases in 23 games, but hasn’t shown that proclivity on the bases yet at A&T.

LF Cameran Brantley (JR) - .279/.457/.441, 3 2B, 1 3B, 2 HR, 17 R, 8 RBI, 18 BB, 18 K, 3 HBP, 2-3 SB. Started his career at UNC, but barely played and then went the JUCO route. A complete hitter from the left side, he’s A&T’s best offensive weapon.

Pitching

RHP Jaheim Brown (FR) - 1-1, 1 SV, 1.88 ERA, 24.0 IP, 27 H, 7 BB, 23 K. From Louisburg HS where he was a multiple sport athlete, including the QB of the football team. High 80’s, low 90’s fastball.

RHP Isaiah Brewington (SO) - 1-0, 0 SV, 3.46 ERA, 13.0 IP, 13 H, 6 BB, 16 K. Second-year player from Clayton. Has had a huge turnaround from last year (22.74 ERA, 6.1 IP, 15 H, 12 BB, 6 K). Heavily used arm (9 appearances already), but holding up incredibly well.

RHP Jake Delisi (rSO) - 0-1, 1 SV, 2.92 ERA, 12.1 IP, 14 H, 5 BB, 9 K. Transfer from D2 King College in Tennessee. His effectiveness with A&T is a bit surprising considering he was not very good at King. A&T is using him as a reliever, though, and that may explain why.

RHP Michael Crayton (FR) - 0-0, 0 SV, 1.93 ERA, 9.1 IP, 7 H, 1 BB, 6 K. 6’4 freshman righty has been a boon for the Aggies’ bullpen as seven of his eight outings have resulted in scoreless efforts. A bit of a late bloomer, he’s one of those kids whose recruitment was significantly derailed due to missing almost all of 2020.


Quick! Fun Facts!

NC A&T is one of four Division 1 baseball schools with the nickname “Aggies”. Can you name the other three?

NC State is 23-0 all-time versus NC A&T.

Unlike some other NC-based teams on State’s schedule, A&T is a roster very much built on home-state players. Outside of the North State, the Aggies have four players each from Virginia and Florida, and one each from South Carolina, Georgia, Michigan, and Arizona.


Prediction

State will be running Garrett Payne out to the mound in this one, and given the high number of arms State had to use on Sunday, the coaching staff will likely be looking for him to go deep into the game. Either that or hope the offense jumps out to a big lead early so they can utilize a bunch of the lesser-used bullpen arms to save Payne for relief work this weekend vs Georgia Tech.

Outcome: State wins.