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2023 NC State Baseball Preview - Part IV: Non-Conference Opponents

A first look at the 2023 Wolfpack baseball season

COLLEGE BASEBALL: APR 26 East Carolina at N.C. State Photo by Nicholas Faulkner/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

We’re less than a month out from the 2023 college baseball season, so let’s take a look at the NC State Wolfpack team that will take the field this season. We’ll attempt to do this in a four-part series again (just trying to cover my rear in case life gets in the way):

Let’s get this thing started!

Non-Conference Opponents

(For a look at the schedule, head on over to


Conference: Northeast

Game Dates: February 17, 18, 19

2022 Record: 17-34 (12-15) | 2022 RPI: 245

Brief Outlook:

Craig Noto enters Year 2 in his attempt to build up the historically weak Seahawks program. Since 1999, Wagner has only posted two seasons ranking inside the Top 200 in RPI, with one of those being a 192 ranking in 2009 and the other being the extreme outlier that was the 2018 season where the Seahawks finished #76 in RPI. Wagner will get a boost with the return of four of their top five hitters from a year ago. Seniors RF Dante Faicchio (.916 OPS, 9.3 BB%, 12.0 K%), CF Maimu Kobayashi (.838 OPS, 8.9 BB%, 15.2 K%), 1B/OF Griffin Selby (.838 OPS, 10.5 BB%, 20.9 K%), and INF Cody Bey (.838 OPS, 9.6 BB%, 10.3 K%) should provide a nice base while the lineup works its way out around them. Replacing four-year starting SS Mike Ruggiero will be the hardest task.

Pitching will be the big question mark. Theoretically, the entire weekend rotation returns in SO RHP Frankie Wright (6-4, 6.04 ERA, 67.0 IP, 9.9 BB%, 15.2 K%), SO RHP Daniel Merkel (0-9, 7.15 ERA, 50.1 IP, 16.9 BB%, 10.8 K%), and JR LHP Eli Shedd (3-0, 1 SV, 2.25 ERA, 32.0 IP, 11.3 BB%, 22.6 K%), but the production will need to increase dramatically if success is to be found. Wright and Merkel will be entering their sophomore years which should bring with it a bump in effectiveness, and Shedd appeared to turn a corner late last year (12.0 IP, 6 H, 4 BB, 16 K over his last two starts), but he’ll need to show that was no fluke. Wagner used a lot of arms in 2022 with not much success. For better or worse, the Seahawks return 85.0% of their innings pitched from last year. Transfers JR RHP Julian Chabot (Everett CC) and SR RHP Alec Burnett (Univ. of Indianapolis) should provide reinforcements to make up for - and most likely provide improvement on - the lost arms.

2023 Projected Record: 23-29 (15-15)

NCAA Tournament Bound?: No

Coastal Carolina

Conference: Sun Belt

Game Dates: February 22

2022 Record: 39-20-1 (21-8-1) | 2022 RPI: 29

Brief Outlook:

After missing out on an NCAA Regional appearance in 2021, Coastal bounced back by making the Greenville Regional in 2022, marking the 17th time the Chanticleers have participated in the last 21 postseasons. The team will need to replace a lot on offense, though, if they are to making that 18-of-22 this year. A trio of returning seniors will lead the way in OF Graham Brown (.922 OPS, 10.9 BB%, 14.4 K%), OF Nick Lucky (.877 OPS, 14.9 BB%, 17.9 K%), and C/OF Kameron Guangorena (.797 OPS, 13.1 BB%, 16.9 K%), but six impact bats are gone from last year’s team - including 1st round pick SS Eric Brown - with those six players accounting for 55 of the team’s 82 home runs in 2022. The Chants hit the transfer market hard in attempting to rebuild the lineup, bringing in six transfers (2 JUCO, 3 D1, 1 D2). At least three of the transfers should capture starting gigs out of the game while the other three figure to play prominent roles for the team. INF Payton Eeles (D2 Cedarville Univ; .990 OPS, 11.1 BB%, 8.4 K%, 27-31 SB) might be the most intriguing of them. The team also brought in four freshman position players, with C Caden Bodine and undersized INF Dean Mihos looking like potential immediate impact players.

Coastal will have to replace their entire weekend rotation from a year ago, which is going to be their biggest challenge as that group (which included 3rd rounder Michael Knorr and 5th rounder Reid VanScooter) combined to go 20-7 with a 3.86 ERA over 242.2 IP with a 5.8 BB% and a 24.3 K%. Those are tough numbers to replace. Gone, too, are nine of the team’s 15 saves from a year ago, including their top three relievers. Righties rSO Riley Eikhoff (4-0, 1 SV, 30.1 IP, 5.8 BB%, 15.8 K%), SO Matthew Potok (4-0, 3.71 ERA, 26.2 IP, 6.1 BB%, 16.7 K%), JR Matt Joyce (4-1, 4.50 ERA, 24.0 IP, 8.8 BB%, 15.4 K%), JR Teddy Sharkey (0-2, 2 SV, 6.19 ERA, 16.0 IP, 13.2 BB%, 15.8 K%), and SR Jack Billings (1-3, 2 SV, 11.66 ERA, 14.2 IP, 15.7 BB%, 19.3 K%) are the only returning arms who crossed the double-digit innings threshold a year ago, but Joyce is set to miss the year after TJS. Five transfers (3 D1, 1 NAIA, 1 JUCO) are inbound to help, but they figure to be less impactful than the positional transfers. Whereas the returning arms are high on strike-throwers, the transfer arms feature a couple high-ceiling, low-floor lotto tickets with questionable control in JR RHPs Alex Edmondson (Clemson; 2-0, 4.66 ERA, 9.2 IP, 18.4 BB%, 34.7 K%) and Bobby McBride (UConn). The group also has a few similar as well as a couple high-floor, low-ceiling guys in rJR RHP Jake Manderson (NAIA Georgetown College; 6-4, 3 SV, 3.19 ERA, 62.0 IP, 7.0 BB%, 28.5 K%) and SR RHP Davis Tyndall (Western Carolina; 0-0, 4.71 ERA, 21.0 IP, 13.7 BB%, 17.9 K%). The wildcard of the transfer group is JR LHP Bryce Shaffer (South Florida State JUCO; 3-3, 1 SV, 3.39 ERA, 71.2 IP, 9.9 BB%, 26.8 K%), who has a funky but effective delivery that allows his not-overpowering stuff to play up. Seven freshman arms will also look to fill in the void of lost 2022 production, with LHP Levi Huesman (17th round pick in 2022) being the star of the class.

This team looks to be a year away.

2023 Projected Record: 28-28 (15-15)

NCAA Tournament Bound?: No


Conference: Missouri Valley

Game Dates: February 24, 25, 26

2022 Record: 39-20 (18-6) | 2022 RPI: 63

Brief Outlook:

The Belmont Bruins have had all of two coaches since the start of the 1969 season. Current head man Dave Jarvis is entering his 26th season at the helm of the program. Last year was one of Jarvis’ best teams, as the Bruins won the Ohio Valley Conference regular season title and finished ranked 63rd in RPI. Unfortunately for Belmont, they missed out on an NCAA Regional appearance thanks to an extra-innings loss in the OVC tournament title game. The Bruins will be making the switch to the Missouri Valley Conference in 2023.

Replacing 2022 OVC Player-of-the-Year CF Guy Lipscomb (5th round pick) will be the tallest hurdle that the 2023 Bruins will face, but it’s far from the only one. Belmont returns only two players who made over 36 PA last year: JR 1B Brodey Heaton (.973 OPS, 6.8 BB%, 22.9 K%) and 3B/DH Mason Landers (.669 OPS, 6.7 BB%, 17.1 K%). SO C Blake Barton (.712 OPS, 13.9 BB%, 16.7 K%) was an OVC All-Freshman Team selection, but he only had 36 PA last year. To fill the void in the lineup, five transfers (4 JUCO, 1 D1) are brought in, with four expected to earn starting gigs, led by JR SS Sam Kirkpatrick (Holy Cross; .672 OPS, 6.2 BB%, 15.3 K%). The JUCO players all put up impressive numbers at their previous stops.

Pitching will be the strength of this team as they return two of three weekend starters. JR LHP Andy Bean (9-1, 4.64 ERA, 85.1 IP, 9.8 BB%, 20.5 K%) was the 2022 OVC Pitcher-of-the-Year while JR LHP Jalen Borders (5-2, 3.04 ERA, 80.0 IP, 12.3 BB%, 17.8 K%) was a 2nd Team All-OVC selection. The team will also need to replace Kyle Brennan and his 31 career saves (14 in 2022), but the team returns four of six relievers who tossed 20.0 or more innings last year. They also welcome back midweek starter SO RHP Jordan Zuger (2-2, 4.50 ERA, 34.0 IP, 11.2 BB%, 13.8 K%), an OVC All-Freshman Team member, who would be a logical choice to slide into the weekend rotation. JR RHP Will Jenkins (2-1, 2 SV, 6.44 ERA, 29.1 IP, 14.1 BB%, 27.4 K%) could be a huge weapon if the control can be reigned in. Auburn transfer SO RHP Cade Granzow should play a significant role.

2023 Projected Record: 30-26 (14-13)

NCAA Tournament Bound?: No


Conference: Big South

Game Dates: February 28

2022 Record: 20-33 (10-14) | 2022 RPI: 227

Brief Outlook:

The Lancers return contact machine rJR INF Eliot Dix (.876 OPS, 11.1 BB%, 13.9 K%), but lose their three other most impactful bats from a year ago. JR INF Hayden Harris (.723 OPS, 10.9 BB%, 17.6 K%) and former VCU transfer rSR INF Gregory Ryan (.812 OPS, 13.0 BB%, 29.0 K%) also return and should play much larger roles in the lineup. Those three returnees are the only ones who notched multiple home runs a year ago, and that combined total for them was just 11. Power will likely be an issue again. Without adding any transfer bats, the improvement will have to come from internal development. Among the freshmen, catchers Mason Balsis and Collin Hughes should get an early opportunity to contribute and improve the backstop position for the Lancers.

Even with the lineup needing a rebuild, the pitching staff will need to make the biggest step forward if Longwood is to find success in the Big South this year. Weekend rotation members rJR RHP Andrew Potojecki (6-6, 5.45 ERA, 67.2 IP, 7.0 BB%, 13.6 K%), SO LHP Kevin Warunek (4-4, 6.41 ERA, 53.1 IP, 8.0 BB%, 10.4 K%), and SR RHP Andrew Melnyk (2-5, 9.57 ERA, 36.2 IP, 11.7 BB%, 12.8 K%) all return, but none of those spots should be guaranteed. Redshirt-junior righty returnees Logan Berrier (0-3, 1 SV, 2.87 ERA, 37.2 IP, 8.6 BB%, 20.4 K%), Dominick D’Ercole (2-2, 4.95 ERA, 40.0 IP, 6.4 BB%, 19.1 K%), and Michael Tolson (0-2, 4 SV, 25.0 IP, 14.7 BB%, 23.9 K%) each flashed promise last year. Bethune-Cookman transfer JR RHP Brenton Fisher (2-3, 5 SV, 4.01 ERA, 24.2 IP, 9.1 BB%, 32.7 K%) should find a significant role on the staff after spending last summer with the Collegiate National Team. Freshmen RHP Wyatt Bunch and LHP Ethan Walker should get opportunities to contribute early.

2023 Projected Record: 23-33 (13-14)

NCAA Tournament Bound?: No


Conference: Big South

Game Dates: March 1

2022 Record: 15-33 (8-15) | 2022 RPI: 258

Brief Outlook:

SO OF Cameron Pittman (.790 OPS, 14.9 BB%, 7.4 K%), SR C Julian Rojas (.870 OPS, 7.5 BB%, 16.2 K%), and SR OF/INF Tanner Barrs (.722 OPS, 14.8 BB%, 14.8 K%) are back to lead an offense that has to replace four key pieces. SO INF Avery Spencer (.897 OPS, 7.1 BB%, 14.3 K%) and SR INF Zack Whitacre (.837 OPS, 9.6 BB%, 13.6 K%) were great last year before both being lost to injuries, so their return should be a boon for the lineup. Virginia transfer SO INF Tristan Shoemaker should be an instant difference maker. FR INF Sully Tibbs looks like a potential early contributor - plus that’s an awesome name.

The pitching staff must replace 43 of 48 starts from a year ago, which is a daunting task. SR RHPs William Flanagan (0-4, 6.63 ERA, 36.2 IP, 12.4 BB%, 16.1 K%) and Alex Perkins (0-0, 1.35 ERA, 6.2 IP, 7.4 BB%, 11.1 K%) are the only two returnees to have registered starts a year ago, and also the only two returning pitchers to have registered an ERA below 6.90 on the year. Getting a full year of Perkins back at full health will help immensely (he was 2-1 with 6 SV and a 2.86 ERA in 2021), but the Highlanders are going to need a lot of help from their first-year arms. To that end, four transfers (2 D1, 1 D2, 1 JUCO) enter the program - with JR RHP Scott Rouse (D2 Ohio Dominican; 3-6, 4.06 ERA, 77.2 IP, 6.2 BB%, 22.4 K%) being a logical weekend rotation choice - and are joined by four freshman arms - with RHP Dylan Howard an intriguing arm to watch.

2023 Projected Record: 21-33 (12-15)

NCAA Tournament Bound?: No


Conference: America East

Game Dates: March 3, 4, 5

2022 Record: 26-27 (15-15) | 2022 RPI: 197

Brief Outlook:

NJIT loses some significant pieces from 2022, but welcomes back a solid nucleus of seniors OF Kevin Putsky (1.058 OPS, 19.8 BB%, 10.9 K%), SR CF Albert Choi (.835 OPS, 12.1 BB%, 13.7 K%), SR INF Jared Donnelly (.748 OPS, 10.2 BB%, 26.5 K%), and SR C Luke Longo (.748 OPS, 12.7 BB%, 24.8 K%), as well as JR INF Ray Ortiz (.795 OPS, 16.0 BB%, 34.4 K%). Longo was also a beast behind the plate, throwing out 13-of-21 attempted base stealers a year ago. Without any transfers, a seven-member freshman class of position players will need to fill in some of the gaps in the lineup.

Big 6’2, 225 lbs SR RHP Ryan Fischer (7-3, 3.97 ERA, 95.1 IP, 5.9 BB%, 23.1 K%) is back to anchor the pitching staff after earning America East Pitcher-of-the-Year honors in 2022. SR LHP Grant Vurpillat (6-4, 2 SV, 5.23 ERA, 62.0 IP, 10.1 BB%, 23.9 K%) and JR LHP Aidan Kidd (0-3, 4.97 ERA, 41.2 IP, 14.1 BB%, 24.1 K%) also return as likely weekend rotation guys. The returning bullpen pieces are all questionable based on last year’s performance, but if that group can come together, the lineup and the starting pitching should be enough to make the Highlanders a challenger in the seven-team America East.

2023 Projected Record: 25-27 (11-10)

NCAA Tournament Bound?: No


Conference: Southern

Game Dates: March 7, 28

2022 Record: 34-30 (12-9) | 2022 RPI: 94

Brief Outlook:

Billy Godwin continues the Link Jarrett momentum rolling in Greensboro, winning the SoCon Tournament with UNCG in 2022 and taking the Spartans to their second regional in the last five postseasons. SO IF/OF Kennedy Jones (1.014 OPS, 7.2 BB%, 15.2 K%) returns to build on a Freshman All-American campaign in 2022, but he’ll have to shoulder a huge load for a team that loses their three best other hitters. The team is set behind the dish with rJR Mitchell Smith (.886 OPS, 11.5 BB%, 17.6 K%) and SR Dallas Callahan (.832 OPS, 14.5 BB%, 12.3 K%) returning, although Smith is most likely to resume his role as the starting third baseman. Junior INFs G.C. Jarman (.787 OPS, 12.4 BB%, 15.4 K%) and Matt Kemp (.844 OPS, 10.3 BB%, 33.3 K%) should also be solid building pieces, but will need to find defensive homes for a Spartans group that returns six starters. The team could use a big step up in production - both offensive and defensively - from their returning starting shortstop, SR Zack Budzik (.691 OPS, 7.3 BB%, 20.0 K%).

Pitching could be a huge issue. Gone are the team’s top two starting pitchers and best all-around arm (6th round pick Alex Hoppe). SO RHP Hunter Shuey (2-2, 2 SV, 5.01 ERA, 50.1 IP, 11.9 BB%, 16.9 K%) and SR LHP Price King (3-1, 4.13 ERA, 48.0 IP, 5.6 BB%, 17.6 K%) are the only returnees to have posted a sub-7.00 ERA. The team is going to need a big step up from JR RHPs Sam Murchison (2-2, 7.36 ERA, 47.2 IP, 11.7 BB%, 18.6 K%) and K.J. Wells (0-3, 7.59 ERA, 21.1 IP, 15.9 BB%, 29.0 K%). The team did bring in five transfer arms (all D1) to help improve the staff. Two among those have ties to the NC State program with SO RHP Brandon Hudson transferring directly from the Wolfpack to the Spartans and JR RHP Caleb Cozart (UNC; 0-0, 1.08 ERA, 8.1 IP, 10.5 BB%, 18.4 K%) being the older brother of NC State C Jacob Cozart. SR LHP Peyton Winebarger (NC A&T; 3-7, 1 SV, 6.00 ERA, 72.0 IP, 14.0 BB%, 21.0 K%) is a logical choice to immediately step into the weekend rotation.

Godwin coached teams can mash, and this one probably will, too. Whether or not the pitching staff comes together will dictate if UNCG can capture back-to-back Regional appearances for the first time in program history.

2023 Projected Record: 29-25 (12-9)

NCAA Tournament Bound?: No


Conference: Colonial

Game Dates: March 14

2022 Record: 27-28 (9-14) | 2022 RPI: 149

Brief Outlook:

SO LF Charlie Granatell (.835 OPS, 12.3 BB%, 13.2 K%), SR C/DH/OF Luke Stephenson (.898 OPS, 10.6 BB%, 24.3 K%), and JR 1B Cole Reynolds (.726 OPS, 14.3 BB%, 20.4 K%) are the key returnees from an overall weak 2022 offense. Reinforcements have been brought in in the form of five transfers (3 D1, 2 JUCO), including an outfielder from Vanderbilt and two infielders from Wake Forest. JR INF James Broderick (Wake Forest; .768 OPS, 14.3 BB%, 21.4 K%) made 18 starts over two seasons with the Deacons, spending all his time in the middle infield; he would seem to be the next man up at shortstop for the Phoenix. Fellow former Demon Deacon rFR 1B Troy McGirt did not appear in a game for Wake last year, but was the top rated first baseman in North Carolina coming out of high school in 2021. Vandy transfer SO OF Kenny Mallory, Jr., is a legacy player for Elon, and was the #4 ranked outfielder in the state of Georgia coming out of high school. SO OF Adam Berry and rJR INF Tanner Holliman showed big bats in JUCO ball and should be early contributors to a lineup that is in need of some pop.

SO LHP Shea Sprague (6-3, 1.89 ERA, 62.0 IP, 5.1 BB%, 16.2 K%) and rJR RHP Joe Savino (2-5, 1 SV, 5.01 ERA, 55.2 IP, 4.0 BB%, 20.6 K%) return to form the basis of what should be a good CAA starting rotation. JUCO transfer JR RHP Ethan Haislip (Brunswick CC; 8-2, 3.39 ERA, 71.2 IP, 8.8 BB%, 25.0 K%) appears to be a plug-and-play rotation arm. JR RHP Ben Simon (2-1, 2 SV, 3.48 ERA, 31.0 IP, 8.2 BB%, 26.9 K%) and rJR LHP Liam Dabagian (2-2, 3.21 ERA, 33.2 IP, 4.9 BB%, 21.0 K%) are the two best returning bullpen arms, but the team is going to need more than just those two to compete. The hope is that SR RHP Joe Sprake can return to full health after missing the 2022 season and return to the form that made him a 1st Team All-CAA pick in 2021 as Elon’s closer (his numbers in 2021: 6-1, 7 SV, 3.18 ERA, 28.1 IP, 10.8 BB%, 19.2 K%). There’s talent, but little proven depth. With good health and some help from the transfers, this team could make some noise in the CAA.

2023 Projected Record: 24-29 (14-16)

NCAA Tournament Bound?: No


Conference: Colonial

Game Dates: March 21, April 11

2022 Record: 34-24 (15-9) | 2022 RPI: 90

Brief Outlook:

The expectation heading into 2022 was that UNCW was expected to compete for the CAA title, but really they were a year away from being something even better. While the former didn’t happen, the latter stays true.

The lineup loses some significant pieces - most notably 2B Brooks Baldwin (12th round pick) - but they do return a good chunk of the lineup led by rSR SS Taber Mongero (.832 OPS, 6.6 BB%, 9.9 K%), rJR LF Dillon Lifrieri (.835 OPS, 6.6 BB%, 14.8 K%), rJR 3B Jac Croom (.756 OPS, 9.7 BB%, 13.6 K%), and SO C Bryan Arendt (.817 OPS, 11.9 BB%, 23.9 K%). The catching gig should be all Arendt’s now that Matt Suggs has graduated, and while his blocking could use some work, the arm is fantastic as he threw out 8-of-13 attempted base stealers last year. Bryan Arendt’s older brother, Jayson, is transferring into the Seahawks program after spending the last two years in JUCO ball at Pitt CC. His bat should be a welcomed addition to the lineup after what he showed last year (1.061 OPS, 19.9 BB%, 19.2 K%). Among the freshmen, INF Brock Wills was the highest rated recruit for the Seahawks, but 1B Tanner Thach might be the best of the group. Thach, who also doubles as a 6’4 220 lbs LHP, was an 18th round pick of the Giants and by all reports crushed it in the fall.

While the lineup should do just fine, it’s the pitching staff that is loaded and a reason why this team should be among the lead pack of the CAA this year. SOs RHP R.J. Sales (6-1, 3.52 ERA, 76.2 IP, 10.9 BB%, 17.4 K%), RHP Zane Taylor (4-1, 4.03 ERA, 60.1 IP, 4.3 BB%, 16.4 K%), and LHP Cyle Phelan (2-3, 4.55 ERA, 59.1 IP, 13.9 BB%, 19.7 K%) all return after excellent results as starters a year ago; Phelan was a CAA All-Rookie Team pick, Sales earned CAA All-Rookie, 1st Team All-CAA, and Freshman All-American honors, and Taylor was snubbed. JR LHP Matt Gaither (2-1, 1.80 ERA, 30.0 IP, 5.2 BB%, 19.1 K%) returns after missing most of last year with an injury, and in case that wasn’t enough, rJR RHP Brett Banks (0-1, 7.63 ERA, 30.2 IP, 16.3 BB%, 23.8 K%) also returns with solid starting experience, although he’ll likely move to the bullpen where his stuff can play up. And in case the Seahawks needed more starting options, rSO RHP Ryan Calvert returns after missing 2022 with TJS (his 2021 numbers: 1-2, 5.13 ERA, 26.1 IP, 12.8 BB%, 23.2 K%). In terms of the bullpen, JR RHP Ethan Chenault (3-4, 5.08 ERA, 39.0 IP, 14.1 BB%, 27.7 K%) returns, as well as a few other arms (rJR RHP Carter Holjes, JR RHP Jacob Shafer) who are bounce-back candidates after down 2022 seasons. Apex native JR LHP Case Stroup (Brunswick CC; 8-3, 3.77 ERA, 59.2 IP, 13.1 BB%, 33.9 K%) joins the staff after blossoming in JUCO ball last year. He should add another big time flex arm to the mix. That’s all without even mentioning any of the five freshman arms who all look promising.

If the lineup can just be average, this team should be able to ride the pitching staff to a conference title. If the lineup is anything more, then this could be a Super Regional level team.

2023 Projected Record: 36-19 (18-9)

NCAA Tournament Bound?: Yes

East Carolina

Conference: American

Game Dates: April 4, 25

2022 Record: 46-21 (20-4) | 2022 RPI: 18

Brief Outlook:

Before I get into anything on the Pirates, someone please explain to me again why this isn’t an annual weekend series with a game in Greenville, a game in Raleigh, and a game at Five County Stadium in Zebulon? Is that we don’t want the sold out crowds, the boost in revenue, or the boost in RPI? Can Elliott Avent and Cliff Godwin just bury the hatchet already and get this thing done? Thanks.

Replacing the production and leadership of 3B/RHP Zach Agnos (10th round pick) and CF Bryson Worrell is going to be a tall task for the Pirates, but they return a strong group to help do it. SO OF Jacob Jenkins-Cowart (.917 OPS, 6.2 BB%, 21.8 K%), SR LF Lane Hoover (.839 OPS, 11.6 BB%, 6.6 K%), and JR 3B Alec Makarewicz (.810 OPS, 9.8 BB%, 24.4 K%) are expected to lead the way. After a down 2022 campaign, JR 1B Josh Moylan (.771 OPS, 15.0 BB%, 21.8 K%) is a prime candidate for a rebound year that’ll see him regain the form which made him a Freshman All-American in 2021. Catcher will be interesting as to whether it’ll be another platoon between JR Justin Wilcoxen and SO Ryan McCrystal, or if one of them can run away with the job. There are really only two spots open (SS and one OF spot), and the SS position appears to be down to a pair of freshmen (Nathan Chrismon, Connor Rasmussen).

The Pirates return 2022 AAC Pitcher-of-the-Year SR RHP Carter Spivey (8-0, 5 SV, 2.83 ERA, 76.1 IP, 6.1 BB%, 24.4 K%) to anchor the rotation, and he’ll be joined by JR RHP Josh Grosz (4-5, 5.65 ERA, 57.1 IP, 7.5 BB%, 24.1 K%). East Carolina does have to replace a ton of starts and innings from Agnos, C.J. Mayhue, Ryder Giles, and Jake Kuchmaner, but SO RHPs Jake Hunter (1-2, 5.18 ERA, 41.2 IP, 4.0 BB%, 24.4 K%) and Trey Yesavage (1-0, 2 SV, 4.50 ERA, 26.0 IP, 15.8 BB%, 37.5 K%) should both step into larger roles. Hunter made a bunch of shorter starts last year and could be stretched out, while Yesavage could be the best pitcher in the conference if he can locate consistently. The above mentioned departed arms suppressed the innings of the 2022 freshmen, so it’ll be interesting to see which ones of those can step up with the added opportunity this year. Among the three freshman pitchers, LHP Zach Root looks to be on the best track to early playing time. In addition to the above, four transfers (3 D1, 1 JUCO) figure to carve out roles in 2023. JR RHP Landon Ginn (College of Central Florida; 10-1, 2.30 ERA, 82.0 IP, 7.8 BB%, 29.9 K%) and rSR LHP Jonathan Childress (Texas A&M; 3-4, 4.61 ERA, 52.2 IP, 10.1 BB%, 28.3 K% in 2021) are potential starting candidates while JR RHPs Tyler Bradt (VMI; 3-5, 2 SV, 6.79 ERA, 54.1 IP, 13.6 BB%, 23.7 K%) and Willie Lumpkin (Winthrop; 3-1, 4 SV, 37.0 IP, 8.0 BB%, 14.2 K%) figure to add bullpen depth, although Bradt was a swing man with the Keydets.

East Carolina desperately wants to shake the “Best Team To Never Make It To Omaha” label, and while this team doesn’t necessarily scream “CWS” on paper, they’ll get their shot at making it happen.

2023 Projected Record: 38-18 (15-9)

NCAA Tournament Bound?: Yes


Conference: Atlantic 10

Game Dates: April 18

2022 Record: 43-13 (20-4) | 2022 RPI: 71

Brief Outlook:

Well, if you read the “Who’s New” portion of this NC State preview series, then you may already have a bit of a feeling in how Davidson is stacking up this year. OFs Trevor Candelaria and Parker Nolan graduated and transferred to the Wolfpack. Back, however, are JR C Michael Carico (1.401 OPS, 16.9 BB%, 12.9 K%), JR 1B/OF Ryan Wilson (1.073 OPS, 16.0 BB%, 11.5 K%), SR SS Jacob Hinderleider (1.057 OPS, 14.3 BB%, 26.3 K%), and SR OF Henry Koehler (.835 OPS, 10.4 BB%, 18.7 K%). That’s a great core to build around, and having one of the best catchers in all of college baseball doesn’t hurt. Replacing Candelaria and Nolan won’t be easy, but the team is not devoid of weapons. JUCO transfer JR INF Nick Calero (College of Central Florida; .942 OPS, 16.5 BB%, 11.8 K%) looks like a plug-and-play bat. The freshman class isn’t huge, but INFs Aidan Rice and Michael O’Shaughnessy look like they could get some early run.

On the mound, the losses are just as big and even harder to replace. Nolan DeVos (5th round draft pick) and Blake Hely leave a pair of gigantic shoes to fill as the pair went a combined 18-4 and pitched 164.0 innings last year. The Wildcats do get back rSO LHP Ryan Feczko (10-0, 3.21 ERA, 73.0 IP, 6.7 BB%, 20.0 K%) who was a Freshman All-American in 2022. With Gabe Levy also gone, SR RHP Bennett Flynn (3-1, 6 SV, 1.41 ERA, 38.1 IP, 11.0 BB%, 37.7 K%) will take the reigns of the closer role all to himself, although he could be far more valuable as a starter. SR RHP Ryan Kutz (2-1, 3.10 ERA, 40.2 IP, 8.1 BB%, 16.8 K%), SO LHP Isaac Fix (1-1, 3.60 ERA, 25.0 IP, 10.9 BB%, 19.1 K%), and SR RHP Will Schomberg (4-2, 2 SV, 4.42 ERA, 55.0 IP, 9.8 BB%, 24.2 K%) also return a lot of productive experience. While all three were key pieces of the bullpen, at least one of them will likely float over to starting rotation roles, leaving the ‘pen a bit bare. The staff will need to rely on development of some previously lighter-used arms, transfer JR RHP Mile Jamieson (Mid MIchigan CC), and the freshman class to fill the void.

2023 Projected Record: 34-20 (14-10)

NCAA Tournament Bound?: No

The Citadel

Conference: Southern

Game Dates: April 28, 29, 30

2022 Record: 26-31 (5-16) | 2022 RPI: 229

Brief Outlook:

The Citadel loses two of it’s best hitters from a year ago, but do welcome back impact bats SR C Travis Lott (.890 OPS, 13.5 BB%, 17.1 K%) and SR INF Noah Mitchell (.823 OPS, 8.6 BB%, 22.5 K%). SR 2B Dylan Costa (.652 OPS, 14.2 BB%, 9.5 K%) and JR 3B Sawyer Reeves (.657 OPS, 9.5 BB%, 11.3 K%) are pesky slap hitters who know how to get on base. SO INF Garrett Dill (.875 OPS, 15.7 BB%, 29.4 K%) impressed in limited action last year and should get an extended look this year, while undersized SR UTIL Luke Montenery (.854 OPS, 15.5 BB%, 20.7 K%) needs more opportunities. Winthrop transfer JR OF Ethan Fewell (.859 OPS, 12.4 BB%, 25.7 K%) has a bat that should immediately force its way into the lineup, while San Diego transfer SO INF Thomas Rollauer figures to be contributor this season.

SR RHP Cameron Reeves (4-7, 3.84 ERA, 89.0 IP, 6.4 BB%, 20.9 K%), JR RHP Ben Hutchins (4-4, 4.15 ERA, 69.1 IP, 10.7 BB%, 16.2 K%), and SO LHP Fisher Paulsen (5-4, 4.93 ERA, 65.2 IP, 13.6 BB%, 17.2 K%) combined to start 39 games last year and figure to make up the rotation in 2023. The team does have to replace staff co-ace Devin Beckley, but starting the season with a pretty set rotation is a nice way to kick things off. The bullpen is the real question as the returning arms battled either ineffectiveness, control issues, or - as far too many did - both. JR RHP Conner Cummiskey (3-1, 4.09 ERA, 22.0 IP, 16.5 BB%, 18.4 K%) was the most effective, but that had a lot to do with good BABIP luck and in spite of the control issues. Finding effective and trusty bullpen arms has to be Task #1 for the Bulldogs coaching staff this spring.

2023 Projected Record: 20-35 (9-12)

NCAA Tournament Bound?: No


Conference: Colonial

Game Dates: May 2

2022 Record: 15-38 (3-21) | 2022 RPI: 269

Brief Outlook:

The move from the MEAC to the Big South in 2022 was not kind tot he Aggies, and they’ll be on the move again this year as they head to the CAA. Helping to ease that transition is the return of rJR INF Anthony Hennings (.798 OPS, 5.6 BB%, 20.2 K%), SO C Canyon Brown (.818 OPS, 6.9 BB%, 20.3 K%), JR RF Camden Jackson (.760 OPS, 9.4 BB%, 15.2 K%), and rJR LF Cameran Brantley (.822 OPS, 14.2 BB%, 21.1 K%). Of course, for the team to improve upon last year, they’re going to need more than just those four producing. The hope is that some other returning players step up, but the coaching staff also brought onboard seven transfers (5 JUCO, 2 D1) to try and instill some instant offense. Gardner-Webb transfer JR INF A.J. Jones (.706 OPS, 9.2 BB%, 12.9 K%) should be a significant contributor.

The pitching staff must replace their best starting pitcher (Peyton Winebarger) and best reliever (Evan Demurias), which is quite the ask. Two weekend starters do return in rJR LHP Daniel Carter (2-7, 6.42 ERA, 54.2 IP, 8.7 BB%, 18.9 K%) and SO RHP Jaheim Brown (1-6, 1 SV, 7.57 ERA, 69.0 IP, 8.0 BB%, 15.0 K%), but everything else is pretty much up in the air. Like in the lineup, the coaching staff here, too, went with a bevy of transfers to try and right the ship. All told eight transfers (5 JUCO, 1 D1, 2 D2) were brought in to build up the pitching staff. SR RHP Luke Brown (Austin Peay) has experience as both a starter and reliever, but likely fits in best with the Aggies as a starter. Redshirt-SR RHP Avery Cain (D2 King Univ.) redshirted last year with NC A&T, but was previously a starter. He also figures to play into the rotation mix.

A&T will have an uphill battle, but can make some noise in a new conference if the pitching can improve from a year ago.

2023 Projected Record: 18-33 (9-21)

NCAA Tournament Bound?: No


Conference: Atlantic 10

Game Dates: May 9

2022 Record: 30-26 (11-13) | 2022 RPI: 219

Brief Outlook:

The Spiders are set to have what should be a prolific offense in 2023 with seven starters returning, as well as a few others who made a not-insignificant number of starts a year ago. Among the returnees are rJR OF Alden Mathes (.965 OPS, 6.1 BB%, 9.7 K%), rSR OF Johnny Hipsman (.879 OPS, 5.5 BB%, 14.5 K%), SO INF Jake Elbeery (.802 OPS, 9.6 BB%, 13.1 K%), SR OF Christian Beal (.789 OPS, 8.6 BB%, 9.0 K%), SO INF D.J. Pacheco (.801 OPS, 9.9 BB%, 23.0 K%), JR INF Jared Sprague-Lott (.829, 11.5 BB%, 16.0 K%), and rJR C Jason Neff (1.069 OPS, 7.4 BB%, 16.7 K%). Neff threw out half (14-of-28) opponents who attempted to steal a base on him last year. Add to that a pair of Duke transfers, a former starting infielder transfer from West Virginia, and a D3 All-Conference player, and this Richmond team should have no trouble putting up runs.

SR RHP Brock Weirather (6-5, 5.54 ERA, 89.1 IP, 6.2 BB%, 16.7 K%) and rJR LHP Jeremy Neff (3-5, 5.63 ERA, 78.1 IP, 13.1 BB%, 23.3 K%) are both returning weekend starters from a year ago and should again retain those roles. Past them is the question. JR RHP Josh Willitts (2-1, 2 SV, 44.2 IP, 12.9 BB%, 24.8 K%) and LHP Mathes (3-2, 3.35 ERA, 43.0 IP, 10.9 BB%, 30.1 K%) would seem logical choices, although Mathes’ prominence as a two-way player may keep him to midweek starting duties only. The bullpen has experience, but is light on production past those arms. It’ll be the pitching staff that decides how far this team goes in the A10 this year.

2023 Projected Record: 33-22 (13-11)

NCAA Tournament Bound?: No