Ryan Pond's tiebreaking two-run double in the seventh inning led North Carolina State past James Madison 6-2 on Friday night in the Raleigh Regional at Doak Field at Dail Park.
Pond, who had struck out with a runner in scoring position earlier in the game, pulled the ball down the left-field line to score catcher Chris Schaeffer and shortstop Tommy Foschi with the game's decisive runs.
I didn't agree with starting Jake Buchanan today, but, clearly, Tom Holliday knows what he's doing. It was evident early on that Buchanan was going to give the Pack a quality start, as he was getting ahead of hitters and locating his off-speed stuff. Thanks to that performance--and Joey Cutler's outstanding relief work--we're set up beautifully for the rest of the weekend. Here's hopin'.
Steven's Sac Bunt Irk Level:
(My man Spanky called for one in the 2nd--second!--inning, which was nice. But Avent's call for one in the 5th after a man had just walked on four consecutive balls...)
"I think the thing that stands out the most with me is as an assistant coach there for [Sammy Esposito's] dad and then being a head coach we not once bid for a regional, not once, and we had some pretty good teams," Tanner said.
"It was a matter of the administration at that time not being committed enough and maybe the facility wasn't good enough. So we've come a long way, and I say 'we' as an alum. So I'm excited for N.C. State to be hosting right now."
"The one thing that stands out for me from an emotional standpoint (is) we finally, the Wolfpack, finally got a chance to host, and it's been a long time coming."
It's unfathomable how we could let someone like this get away. Wait--no it isn't. I'm talking about NC State here.
Much of this new view is detailed in "Moneyball," the best-seller that takes the reader behind the scenes of Oakland`s 2002 draft when the A`s turned over the apple cart in talent selection.
"That was a great book," Tanner said. "I can`t say I agree with every single thing they do (in evaluating talent), but when it comes to the value of on-base percentage, taking walks and scoring runs, it opened my eyes. Those guys know what they`re doing."
[Quick aside: Elliott Avent has done a fine job of constructing lineups that walk frequently. NC State's national ranking in total BBs since '02:
2002: 22nd 2003: 10th 2004: 100-something (like everybody from the year prior was gone) 2005: 29th 2006: 7th 2007: 6th 2008: 33rd
We just haven't had the wealth of power hitting that Tanner has had at South Carolina.]
With guys like Andrew Crisp (.302/.356/.360) and Harley Lail (.235/.308/.358) hitting at the back end, their lineup isn't as deep as it has been in the past, but the middle's premium quality makes this easily the best offense in the regional.
Baseball America projects both Smoak and Havens as first round draft picks, and Darnell is expected to be gone by the 3rd.
What with all that power hitting, they generally don't bother to run, and they aren't very successful when they do (31 stolen bases on 53 attempts; 58.5% success rate).
IP HR/9 K/9 BB/9 K/BB ERA dERA Nick Godwin 86.3 0.52 8.0 2.3 3.5 3.02 3.57 Blake Cooper 85.3 0.95 5.3 2.4 2.2 4.22 5.11 Will Atwood 75.7 1.43 7.3 3.7 2.0 5.47 5.92 Sam Dyson 44.0 0.61 8.8 5.3 1.7 3.27 4.90
These are the guys people seem to think will make or break South Carolina this weekend (which you could say about anyone's starting pitching, but moreso about USC's starters, or something). According to Gamecocks beat writer Scott Hood, Sam Dyson will get the nod against Charlotte, which I guess means Tanner is saving Nick Godwin for a potential winner's bracket game against NC State. It gets shaky for USC after that, as neither Cooper nor Atwood have been very good this year; Atwood's been absolutely hammered.
I just checked; the reserved seating is gone, but you can still reserve yourself a spot on the grass hill. If this regional is half as fun as the Wilson regional, you're gonna want to be there. Get tickets here!
The Dukes, coming off a 22-31 season in 2007, earned a 2008 postseason berth Saturday by virtue of a 6-1 victory over Towson in the Colonial Athletic Association championship game. JMU (38-17) is the fourth seed in a Raleigh, N.C., regional and will meet top-seeded North Carolina State (38-20) at 7 p.m. Friday.
The Dukes' likely starter will be Phelps, a Lord Botetourt High School graduate, who was a spot starter until the final two weeks of the season.
Let's hope he's brought his poor control to Raleigh.
The Dukes offense looks quite good on paper, ranking in the top 30 nationally in batting average and slugging percentage. But as I like to emphasize around here, without the proper context, we can't be exactly sure of what we're seeing. Contextual information for college baseball is frustratingly limited, so this is about the best I can do to (roughly) qualify those raw numbers: JMU played a weak schedule in a conference that rates as the 9th-best in the country, all the while playing in a hitter-friendly environment. I don't mean for you to put a big mental dent in their numbers, but those are just a few factors to bear in mind. (That goes for the Wolfpack, too, which also plays in a neutral-to-hitter-friendly environment.)
The two teams' peripherals (HR, K, BB rates) are comparable, but NC State has done a much better job suppressing hits in general and extra base hits in particular. The high average and power numbers posted by JMU's opponents suggest that the Dukes throw a lot of hittable pitches; the staff's strikeout rate isn't nearly enough to offset those flaws. Lord help Spanky if these guys end up playing South Carolina at some point this weekend. Based partially on the difference between their ERA (5.64) and their defense-independent ERA (4.86), I suspect that Madison's defense is somewhat lacking in range, and that doesn't help, either.
IP HR/9 K/9 BB/9 K/BB ERA dERA Kyle Hoffman 81.7 1.0 8.2 2.9 2.8 6.28 4.57 Kurt Houck 76.0 0.71 8.4 3.2 2.6 4.86 4.19 Justin Wood 67.7 1.3 5.8 1.7 3.4 5.19 5.26
Hoffman and Houck have strikeout rates that are decent enough, but Wood relies on control, and he's been hit hard by opponents (.814 OPS against, 10 HRs allowed, 3.5 XBH allowed per 9IP).
Key members of the bullpen...
IP HR/9 K/9 BB/9 K/BB ERA dERA Turner Phelps 71.0 0.89 10.5 4.8 2.2 3.80 4.63 Kevin Munson 31.7 0.0 9.7 2.6 3.8 2.27 2.38 Trevor Knight 27.0 0.67 13.7 2.7 5.1 6.00 2.39
Munson and Knight have combined for 9 of JMU's 13 saves this season; both have outstanding peripherals. Phelps could end up starting a game this weekend, as he did start a handful during the season. If they can get to Munson and Knight with the lead, they're in good shape ... but getting to that point is kind of the problem.
#1 North Carolina State (38-20) vs. #4 James Madison (38-17) #2 South Carolina (38-21) vs. #3 Charlotte (43-14)
Top Prospects: 1B Justin Smoak, South Carolina (#8); SS Reese Havens, South Carolina (#29); 3B-OF James Darnell, South Carolina (#58); RHP Clayton Shunick, North Carolina State (#170).
Outlook: North Carolina State finished second in the ACC Atlantic with an 18-11 record, then went 1-2 in pool play and was bounced from the conference tournament. Led by junior Clayton Shunick (7-5, 2.12 with 100 SO and 21 BB in 89.1 IP), the Wolfpack is 26-8 at home and figures to be a marginal favorite over South Carolina. The Gamecocks are spearheaded by juniors Justin Smoak (.377/.502/.745 with 21 HR), Reese Havens (.363/.490/.637 with 16 HR), and James Darnell (.310/.385/.584 with 18 HR). North Carolina Charlotte (Atlantic 10) and James Madison (Colonial) possess outstanding records but come from weak conferences and were automatic invites.
The winner of the Athens Rouge Regional will face the winner of the Raleigh Regional in the Super Regionals the following week.
The numbers in parentheses in the prospects section are Baseball America's draft prospect rankings.
Templeton said the decision to award the ACC a fourth host site did not necessarily come down to a debate between North Carolina State (which won the bid) and Georgia Tech, which had a slightly stronger RPI and won the head-to-head meeting against the Wolfpack in the ACC tournament, but finished 3 1/2 games behind NCSU in the regular season standings.
"There was a debate with a number of schools for spots. I don’t know that I would say that it came down to a debate between two ACC teams for that last spot," Templeton said. "Certainly Georgia Tech had an attractive bid, they’ve been a great host for us in the past, but we’re happy with the ACC bids . . . North Carolina State’s overall record, their finish in the conference, and certainly their financial bid and certainly their facility (were determining factors)."
More to come.
Here are a few opposing hitters to watch this weekend:
AVG OBP SLG Brett Sellers JMU .414 .473 .752 Alex Foltz JMU .371 .476 .574 Steven Caseres JMU .349 .440 .749 Rob Lyerly UNCC .367 .422 .705 Chris Taylor UNCC .343 .432 .635 Justin Smoak USC .377 .502 .745 Reese Havens USC .363 .490 .637 James Darnell USC .310 .385 .584 Phil Disher USC .309 .390 .614
But he quickly became something of a cult hero after joining the Adelaide 36ers of Australia's National Basketball League in late December.
"Not only is he a great player, but one of the friendliest and most approachable players we've had at our club," said Paul Bauer, operations manager for the 36ers. "He was a huge hit with our fans. Our attendance figures went through the roof after the fans caught a glimpse of Julius ...
"And he took it all in his stride. A great on-court showman and an even better teammate."
In 12 games with the 36ers, Hodge averaged 24.6 points, 9.1 rebounds and led the league with 5.9 assists a game. The 6-foot-7 guard scored 39 points in one game, and had 25 points, 12 rebounds and 13 assists in another.
Tommy Foschi's ejection forced Russell Wilson to come in cold and play second base while Dallas Poulk moved over to short stop. Result: epic fail. I have never seen errors come in such quick succession before. Pat Ferguson had a hard hit ball to deal with, but that play should have been made regardless; he didn't position himself in front of the ball, and once in skipped out of his glove, it was past him. Russell Wilson's error was the result of some horrific footwork, while Poulk's was just a lack of concentration.
Eric Surkamp was excellent once he got through a bit of first inning trouble, and the offense did its job and forced Tech to go to its bullpen early. Alas.
NC State ranked 16th in Division I men’s basketball attendance for the 2007-08 season, the ninth straight year that the Pack has ranked in the top-20. An average of 15,043 fans came to the RBC Center for 16 home games, the highest average since the arena’s inaugural season, 1999-2000, when an average of 16,535 fans came to cheer on the Pack.
“The support of the Wolfpack fans is invaluable to our team,” said head coach Sidney Lowe. “It’s one of the things I loved most about playing for NC State, and now it’s one of the things I love most about coaching at NC State.”
Can we make ourselves a trophy for this, or would that be taking it too far?
He's hitting .473/.573/.851 with 16 homers, and he's pitched 7 & 1/3 innings this season, allowing three hits, no runs, and striking out 10. Recap:
Buster Posey didn't need to do anything more to convince Florida State baseball fans he is the nation's best player. Or North Carolina State coach Elliott Avent for that matter.
But for good measure, Posey delivered a towering triple in the eighth inning and then shut down the Wolfpack from the mound in the ninth to lead the third-ranked Seminoles to a 1-0 victory on Friday night.
It was FSU's first double-digit loss of the season and the three hits represented a season low for the Seminoles.
"You might call that a little piece of humble pie," FSU coach Mike Martin said. "They just took it to us in every facet. They got good pitching."
With Clayton Shunick starting tonight, we couldn't be in better position to take this series.
TSW urges caution, and rightfully so, but I think I need a little go crazy right now. Plus I have one of those irrational good feelings about this team. (Efforts to quantify this feeling are as yet unsuccessful.)
-- Lunatic fringe assemble! In case you've not heard, Lee Fowler will be on 850 The Buzz on Friday at 8 AM, and he is going to field a few questions from listeners (verbal high fives from Tar Heel fans are also acceptable). So take a break from your blogeratin' or whatever it is you people do while on your internets and let Lee know what's on your mind.
It took half the season for North Carolina State's engine to rev up under new coach Tom O'Brien. The Wolfpack won four of their last six and quietly found a star in junior tailback Jamelle Eugene. He rushed for 100 yards in three games down the stretch. O'Brien always develops a good offensive line. Let's see how NC State survives early road games at South Carolina and Clemson. If the Wolfpack show any proficiency on the ground, watch out.
You can also find a breakdown of the Atlantic division here. JP Giglio takes an early look at the Pack, too.
"We will be leaving the Humanitarian Bowl in Boise," Swofford said. "They provided some excellent experiences for our teams. I think if you talk with our teams they've enjoyed being there. It's a little different kind of bowl experience than a lot of places but our schools, coaches and athletic directors have wanted to move that particular game back more in our geographic footprint."
Houston Regional 1. Rice 2. NC State 3. Texas 4. Texas-San Antonio
That's what we get for such a healthy RPI? It's rather difficult to conceive of a more horrifying scenario than having to travel all the way to Texas needing to knock off three teams playing in their home state.
"For me, I walk up there to my music, it's a fun thing,'' said North Carolina shortstop Garrett Gore, who recently changed his tune from Phil Collins' "Sussudio"...
Hunh. Phil Collins.
Ah, I've just got to have her, have her now I've got to get closer but I don't know how She makes me nervous and makes me scared But I feel so good if I just say the word Sussudio just say the word Oh Sussudio, oh
Whatever works, I guess, although I can't say this puts me in an "I am so ready to hit some fucking dingers" mindset. More of an "I'm gonna go hit a soft blooper and hug my first base coach" mindset. Must be why he changed it.
-- It appears that the crown jewel of the athletics department--I'm talking about the bass fishing team, naturally--has begun its slow descent into mediocrity. The May edition of the Collegiate Bass Anglers Association poll:
The NCAA tournament field was revealed last night and it did not include NC State, which was a little disappointing but hardly unexpected. Despite missing out on the post-season, the year went about as well as could have been expected for a team that had to replace an outstanding pitching staff as well as three batters that OPSed .900+ in 2007. That was no small undertaking, and the fact that the team was competitive throughout the conference season and still managed to reach the ACC championship game (aided by some timely bad weather, sure) is commendable. After all, this was a really young team.
Let's take a look at how the 2008 roster breaks down by class:
# %Tot FR 7 35% SO 6 30% JR 2 10% SR 5 25%
By plate appearances:
PA %Tot FR 488 28.1 SO 598 34.5 JR 40 2.3 SR 609 35.1
Underclassmen accounted for more than 60% of State's total plate appearances this season, and as you might figure, injecting that much youth into the lineup made for a significant drop off in production. Last year's team was the best hitting bunch in the program's history, posting a .273/.357/.441 line (AVG/OBP/SLG)--a .798 OPS. In 2008, the Pack offense hit .229/.310/.356 (.666 OPS; how ominous!), a 132-point dip in OPS.
The hitting by class:
PA AVG OBP SLG OPS FR 488 .269 .337 .415 .752 SO 598 .193 .288 .310 .598 JR 40 .219 .359 .469 .828 SR 609 .231 .306 .344 .650
Bolstered by Alyssa Allbritten's strong debut, the freshmen were easily the best hitting group, while the seniors were a bit worse than the overall numbers. So it appears that NC State won't be hurt quite so badly by graduation this off-season. Shanna Smith's production (.322/.440/.593) will be missed, but the other two seniors who ranked in the top ten in plate appearances, Ashleigh Davis and Blair Harkey, OPSed a modest .512 and .490, respectively.
Here are the ten most frequent hitters in 2008:
CL PA AVG OBP SLG OPS Shanna Smith SR 220 .322 .440 .593 1.033 Alyssa Allbritten FR 189 .348 .416 .658 1.074 Allison Presnell SO 166 .255 .356 .362 .718 Kristine Bechtholdt SO 166 .166 .236 .366 .602 Blair Harkey SR 163 .200 .242 .248 .490 Ashleigh Davis SR 145 .222 .274 .238 .512 Lauren Peters SO 137 .144 .211 .161 .372 Claudia Cooper SO 122 .219 .364 .354 .718 Alyssa Ishibashi FR 117 .265 .328 .324 .652 Lacey Holm FR 109 .210 .275 .270 .545
Seven of the ten players listed above are underclassmen; that's a lot of youth thrown into the fire. With a bit of maturation this off-season, the offense should be good enough to get NC State back to the NCAA tournament in 2009.
-- The baseball team's 1 PM Saturday matchup with Maryland will be televised by Raycom, which I assume means you can find the game on FSN South. There's a good piece in the N&O today about pitching coach Tom Holliday:
Holliday worked with Shunick on his arm angle, on his delivery and on getting his elbow up. They worked on improving his breaking ball and changeup, and on honing his split-finger pitch.
"His split is major league," Holliday said. "No one has hit it on the nose this year."
Shunick has been the Pack's starter on Fridays for ACC series and will be on the mound today as State (33-15, 15-8 ACC) plays the first of three games at Maryland (28-24, 8-19). Freshman Jake Buchanan (1-1, 2.51) will start Saturday, and Sogard (3-1, 2.70) will go Sunday.
Buchanan replaces Eric Surkamp, a junior lefty who made the All-ACC second team last season but has had his ups and downs during this campaign. Senior right-hander Eryk McConnell was the Sunday starter, but his struggles caused Holliday to turn to Sogard.
Holliday said Surkamp (4-2, 4.81) has a small flaw with his release point that causes wildness but also may be fighting "junior-itis" -- too many thoughts about being eligible for the Major League Baseball draft after the season and trying to impress pro scouts.
Surkamp's walk rate has jumped considerably, from 2.5 BB/9IP in 2007 to 4.3 BB/9IP in 2008. But he's also striking out more guys--10.7 K/9 this year versus 7.9 K/9 last season--which makes up for some of the increased wildness. He's also been unlucky with regard to hits on balls in play.
While Surkamp misses a lot of bats and maintains a good K/BB ratio despite the control issues, the same can't be said for McConnell, who is both walking more batters and striking out fewer guys since moving from the bullpen to the rotation:
K/9 BB/9 2007 6.0 1.9 2008 4.1 3.3
It's tough to be a successful starter with peripherals like that.
-- Softball won its ACC tournament opener against Georgia Tech yesterday on the strength of more great pitching from the groundball machine herself, Lindsay Campana. Have I mentioned lately that she kicks ass? The Pack will face UNC at 5:30 this evening.
-- JP Giglio paints a pretty bleak picture for ACC football in 2008.
Spring 2003: the football team is basking in the afterglow of its landmark Gator Bowl victory, the basketball team is moving slowly toward another NCAA tournament appearance, and the baseball team is putting together its finest season in years. And I'm probably sitting in some windowless, freezing classroom in Harrelson. Good times. *single tear*
That baseball team, as you may recall, won an NCAA regional (I was there!), the only one of Elliott Avent's teams to do so. (They'd go on to lose the Super Regional in the excruciating style that seems to define NC State athletics, but I won't get into that.)
Anyway, what I've been wondering is: how does the 2008 baseball team stack up with that one? Pretty well, actually.
G RS RA Diff ExpW-L ActW-L OneRunGms SOS 2003 63 433 330 103 40-23 45-18 12-3 86 2008 48 321 190 131 36-12 33-15 6-6 65
As with most aspects of baseball analysis, this issue isn't a clear cut one, but it's generally agreed that for the most part, a team's record in one-run games is random. While it is true that certain traits can make some teams more adept at winning one-run games than others, the bottom line is that you need a lot of luck in order to achieve a good record in such games.
It looks as though the 2003 Wolfpack were a bit lucky in close games, which helps explain why they outpaced their expected win-loss record by five wins. This year's team has a more typical record in one-run games.
The most important thing here, though, is run differential. The '08 Wolfpack has the better differential--and has managed it against a tougher schedule--which points to a stronger overall performance thus far.
''Right now, everyone in Chicago is making lineups, 'Call up this guy, call up that guy,''' Guillen said. ''If we had 50 people allowed on the roster, we could do that. That's what ticks me off about Chicago fans and Chicago media -- they forget pretty quick. A couple of days ago, we were the [bleep]ing best [bleep] in town, now we're [bleep].''
''We won it a couple years ago, and we're horse[bleep],'' Guillen said. ''The Cubs haven't won in 120 years, and they're the [bleep]ing best. [Bleep] it, we're good. [Bleep] everybody. We're horse[bleep], and we're going to be horse[bleep] the rest of our lives, no matter how many World Series we win. We are the bitch of Chicago. We're the Chicago bitch. We have the worst owner -- the guy's got seven [bleep]ing rings, and he's the [bleep]ing horse[bleep] owner.''
North Carolina State stands to gain from Coastal Carolina dropping a big series at Georgia Tech. The Chanticleers don’t face many significant tests in the Big South, so a late-season series against a good ACC team like Tech could be used as a barometer by the selection committee. If Coastal loses its No. 1 seed, N.C. State would seem to be in line to pick it up, and potentially to host a regional as well. With No. 2 North Carolina also likely to be a regional host at the USA Baseball Training Complex in Cary, it seems unlikely the committee would put two of its 16 regionals in Wake County, N.C., but the Wolfpack is on its way to earning a regional host spot.
NC State sits at #12 in the RPI, Coastal Carolina at #10. Big game against #28 UNC-Wilmington on Wednesday.
PROJECTED STARTERS: Brandon Costner, Jr., F; Ben McCauley, Sr., F; Courtney Fells, Sr., W; Julius Mays, Fr., G; Farnold Degand, Jr., G.
If J.J. Hickson pulls out of the draft, the entire offensive equation will change. But unless that happens, the Wolfpack has to hope Costner reverts to the productive scoring ways (16.8 ppg) of 2006-07. Either way, the addition of the 6-2 Mays should improve team quickness and provide more perimeter scoring punch. The bench could be a plus, if Dennis Horner, Tracy Smith and Trevor Ferguson just make average offseason improvements.
OVERVIEW: The pressure is beginning to mount on Sidney Lowe as he enters his third season, and there's no question that a healthy Degand is the key to the Pack's progress.
Much more on Tudor's piece to come. For now, take a look at the adjusted conference standings, which are based on efficiency margin:
Sophomore Darrion Caldwell, an NCAA All-American wrestler who asked for his release from North Carolina State University, has been granted permission to speak with three schools, including Rutgers, where he would like to continue to wrestle and possibly try to resume his football career.
It remains to be seen, however, whether or not N.C. State officials will release Caldwell from his wrestling scholarship commitment. If they don't, Caldwell's father, Kevin, said his son will still transfer.
Caldwell is N.C. State's first All-American since 1996. A two-time NCAA qualifier and owner of a 62-9 career record, Caldwell won his second straight Atlantic Coast Conference championship this season. He also placed fifth in the NCAA Tournament at 149 pounds. As a 141-pounder, Caldwell was named the ACC's 2006-07 Wrestler of the Year. He is the jewel of N.C. State's program.
In an e-mail Jordan sent to Kevin Caldwell on April 3, the coach wrote in part: "I am extremely frustrated that every time a smaller program like ours begins to make a move nationally, the big boys swoop down and try to steal our guys. Darrion has been bombarded with calls from other schools from the big conferences. It is illegal and immoral. I intend to fight for Darrion and my program."
Kevin Caldwell refuted that allegation, stating that Darrion has not been in contact with any other university.