A win over NC A&T won’t do much to move the needle in terms of NC State’s NCAA Tournament resume, but a loss to the 209th ranked RPI team would blow a hole in the Wolfpack’s chances and put even more pressure on State’s remaining ACC schedule.
The Aggies moved over to the Colonial Athletic Conference this year after a one year stay in the Big South in 2022. Prior to that, the program spent it’s entire existence in the MEAC, including a pair of conference titles and two other top three finishes in the conference over their final four seasons there. Ben Hall really has done a great job with that program.
Last year’s lone season run in the Big South was brutal as A&T struggled to a 3-21 conference mark and 269 RPI. Those struggles, though, have helped the team take a big step forward this year. The Aggies are winning a lot more of the close games (11-9 this year in games decided by 3 runs or fewer or extra innings contests; 9-16 in 2022) that eluded the team last year. That’s a huge difference maker.
Oddly enough, it’s not the experienced lineup (six returning starters from last year) but NC A&T’s rebuilt pitching staff that has been the biggest contributor. The lineup’s main issue is a lack of a true identity. There’s little power and not much speed, but overall they’ve done a decent enough job - although they’ve only scored seven runs over the last four games, so they’re currently in a funk.
The pitching staff, while improved, is still not a strength. They’re a middle-of-the-road group in the CAA, which is nothing to scoff at even if it sounds like I am. Aggies pitchers have pounded the zone more this year (4.26 BB/9 this year; 5.05 BB/9 last year) with a cascading positive effect. The biggest impact, though, is the staff’s ability to hold on to late leads and close out games with swingman Xavier Meachem (1-1, 5 SV, 5.06 ERA, 37.1 IP, 14.0 BB%, 23.6 K%) being the primary contributor there.
A&T isn’t an easy out as they are 5-6 against Top 100 RPI teams, including a win over RPI #39 Northeastern and pushing UNC in a 6-4 loss earlier this year. This is a game NC State has to win, though, to keep the NCAA Tournament hopes afloat.
First pitch is set for 2:00pm with the game being on the ACC Network Extra (ACCNX) digital broadcast.