Who’s the Pack playing?
Opponent: New Jersey Institute of Technology (NJ Tech or NJIT)
Mascot: Mountain folk of... | School Location: Newark, NJ...? | Conference: America East
2023 Record: 4-3 (0-0, T-1st) | 2023 RPI Rank: 32 (whaaaaat??)
2022 Record: 26-27 (15-15, T-2nd Div B) | 2022 RPI Rank: 168
2021 Record: 27-24 (23-17, 2nd Div B) | 2021 RPI Rank: 108
When? Where? How do I watch?
Location: Doak Field at Dail Park (Raleigh, NC)
Game Time(s): Fri, Mar 3 @ 3:00pm | Sat, Mar 4 @ 2:00pm | Sun, Mar 5 @ 1:00pm
Live Stats: Sidearm Stats
Tell me about this team
This is an experienced team that’ll be facing off with NC State this weekend with a chance to be the best one of Robbie McClellan’s five years at the helm of the NJIT program, and that includes the 2021 squad that won the America East Conference Tournament and made the Fayetteville Regional.
The Highlanders have played a solid schedule thus far (at Davidson, vs Purdue) and have shown well with a 4-3 record despite being 0-2 in one-run games. The challenging slate continues for them as they play at NC State, Missouri, and VCU over the next three weekends.
NJIT’s lineup lost some key bats from last year’s squad, but the returning guys have been pulling their weight. The offense as a whole has posted an .865 OPS despite relying heavily on a trio of freshman. Some things have remained consistent, like the aggressiveness on the base paths (averaging about 2 stolen base attempts per game). The one thing that jumps off the page is the increase in power as NJIT is averaging a home run per every 20.8 at-bats whereas last year that number was one per 32.5 ABs. That’s a huge jump and will be a big boon for the team should they be able to continue that all year.
On the mound, the starting rotation was expected to be solid and they have been even if not with the exact rotation that was expected, and with SR RHP Ryan Fischer not pitching as well thus far in 2023 as he did in 2022. SR RHP Joe Georgini earned the Sunday role and has been solid in that role. That has allowed SR LHP Grant Vurpillat to move to the frequently used stopper role in the bullpen. The question coming into the year was whether or not there were any bullpen arms. So far the answer to that question has been “yes”.
Should the bats continue to mash, the important pieces stay healthy, and the bullpen just be serviceable, this is a team that could easily win the America East Conference and return to an NCAA Regional for just the second time in school history, but with both of those trips occurring in the last three years.
Who’s on the mound for these guys?
Friday: RHP Ryan Fischer (SR)
Saturday: LHP Aidan Kidd (JR)
Sunday: RHP Joe Georgini (SR)
CF Albert Choi (SR - .406/.457/.719, 8.6 BB%, 17.1 K%, 4-6 SB. The 2021 America East Rookie-of-the-Year is off to another solid start this season, currently riding a six-game hitting streak, including a 5-for-5 effort last Friday against Purdue. Fast player who is aggressive on the bases but patient at the plate with a contact-oriented approach at the plate.
SS Ray Ortiz (JR) - .345/.457/.655, 14.3 BB%, 17.1 K%, 2-2 SB. Started off his career at Georgetown before transferring to NJIT ahead of the 2022 season. Was okay last year, but showing a much better approach this year focusing more on pitches in the zone. The power numbers have jumped.
RF Kevin Putsky (SR) - .321/.406/.429, 9.4 BB%, 25.0 K%, 0-0 SB. Lefty bat who had a great year last year despite not being much of a power threat. Has a 10-game hitting streak dating back to last year.
C/1B Luke Longo (SR) - .389/.400/.944, 0.0 BB%, 20.0 K%, 0-0 SB. Has mashed the ball this year, but didn’t play the last two games; it’s unclear why. Aggressive hitter who hunts fastballs, even if out of the zone.
RHP Ryan Fischer (SR) - 0-1, 6.00 ERA, 9.0 IP, 11.6 BB%, 14.0 K%. The reigning America East Pitcher-of-the-Year is off to a rough start. He gave up a pair of homers to Davidson in his first start and his control has been lacking thus far - so expect him to have perfect command Friday, of course.
LHP Aidan Kidd (JR) - 2-0, 0.90 ERA, 10.0 IP, 10.0 BB%, 45.0 K%. Missed a chunk of last year with injury but pitched pretty well when healthy. He’s on another level so far this year. Unafraid to challenge hitters in.
RHP Joe Georgini (SR) - 2-0, 5.40 ERA, 10.0 IP, 2.4 BB%, 14.6 K%. Career bullpen arm who’s a strike-thrower, but not a bat-misser. The control is the same as it ever was (and maybe even a touch better), but he’s gone from a flyball pitcher to a groundball pitcher and the results have been much better (small sample size disclaimer applies). Relies heavily on his curve.
LHP Holden deJong (FR) - 0-0, 1 SV, 0.00 ERA, 5.0 IP, 0.0 BB%, 40.0 K%. Always nice when a not-highly rated recruit shows up and starts shoving straight out of the gate. Has only allowed one of 15 opposing hitters to reach base thus far (via a HBP).
LHP Grant Vurpillat (SR) - 0-0, 3.18 ERA, 5.2 IP, 17.2 BB%, 27.6 K%. NJIT’s go-to bullpen arm this year, although he has 24 career starts. Had control issues in his second appearance of the year against Davidson (1.1 IP, 3 H, 2 ER, 2 BB, 3 K, 2 HBP) but has otherwise been solid (four appearances overall). He’s generally around the plate and is a flyball pitcher.
RHP Aaron Park (JR) - 0-0, 0.00 ERA, 3.1 IP, 11.8 BB%, 35.3 K%. Was pretty awful over his first two years, but has been in the zone more (still not great) this year with better results. The low opponent BABIP might be an indicator that it’s a fluke, but the strikeout numbers say otherwise.
Quick! Fun Facts!
NJIT has yet to play a game outside of the state of North Carolina this year. They opened up the season with a three game series at Davidson and then played a four game series against Purdue in Holly Springs last weekend.
Non-NJIT, but Purdue basically relocated to Holly Springs for two weeks. They’re “hosting” Akron for another four game series at Ting Stadium this weekend.
This is the first ever meeting between NC State and NJIT two programs.
The roster, as you’d expect, is made up of the majority of players from the northeast (NJ, PA, NY, MA... MD, if you’re willing to call it a northeast state). The exceptions are five guys from CA (California, not Canada), three from TX, and one from AZ.
The Highlanders have only produced three draft picks in program history, but one of those made it to the majors: RHP Mark Leiter, Jr, who has pitched for the Phillies, Blue Jays, and Cubs (his current team).
Coastal Carolina is the most talented team that NC State has played thus far, including this NJIT squad, but this is likely to be the best team that the Pack will face before heading into ACC play next weekend.
If the Wolfpack aren’t sharp, this could easily be a series loss.
Outcome: State gets to a thin NJIT bullpen and takes two of three.