Starting Pitching Advantage: Miami
Chris Hernandez earned ACC Player of the Week honors after last Friday’s lockdown of the Duke Blue Devils. He pitched a complete game two-hitter while giving up one measly run and striking out 6. Jason Santana will usually give you 5 or 6 solid innings on Saturday and the Canes have won in his last 3 outings. Eric Erickson has been put on a strict pitch count by Jim Morris ever since his switch to being the Sunday starter and has not lasted long in many games. Nonetheless, his pitch count has increased in each of his last three starts. He had a rough start last weekend, but only half of his six runs given up were charged to him. Junior Jake Buchanan and sophomore Cory Mazzoni are the Wolfpack’s two primary starters. They both have put together 3-1 records this year; Buchanan owns a 3.58 ERA while Mazzoni’s is 5.00. NC State’s third spot in the weekend rotation has been up in the air throughout the year, but senior lefty Alex Sogard is likely to pitch on Sunday after a decent start in his last appearance against Wake Forest.
Bullpen Advantage: Miami
The Canes’ bullpen may be the team’s greatest strength. David Gutierrez, while proving recently that he is indeed human after getting roughed up by Fordham on St. Patrick’s Day, has still been phenomenal overall. Most of the Canes’ top middle relievers, including E.J. Encinosa and Daniel Miranda have ERA’s under 3 and opponent’s batting averages around or below .200. While redshirt junior righty Rob Chamra provides a formidable option for the Pack out of the pen, he doesn’t get much help. Only two players have recorded a save for them, one of them being two-sport athlete Russell Wilson (who also quarterbacks the football team). The Wolfpack bullpen is extremely vulnerable, and don’t be surprised if they fail to hold on to leads or keep games close late in this series.
Catcher Advantage: Miami
Second team All-American preseason selection Yasmani Grandal has played up to those standards. He’s hitting .347 on the year and leads the team with an on-base percentage of .489. He also drove in the winning run in the ninth in Miami’s last victory, which came in come-from-behind fashion against Duke this past Sunday. Starting for NC State at catcher will be junior Chris Schaeffer. He’s been off to a stellar start hitting .400. However, a similar start to last season culminated in some subpar numbers at the end of the year once ACC play was in full swing. You have to question the pitching he’s faced against schools like La Salle, Quinnipiac, North Carolina A&T, and North Carolina Central. For example, La Salle gave up 65 runs to the Wolfpack in their inaugural 3-game series of the season, including a 32-run scoring feast on Opening Day.
Infield Advantage: NC State
It’s really difficult to determine which team is better offensively. The stats offer a strong argument for the Pack, but the schedules say otherwise. While Miami was playing an out-of-conference series against a top 10 team in Florida, NC State was dropping double digits three games in a row against Quinnipiac. The Wolfpack infield is led by senior second baseman Dallas Poulk who is hitting .398 and slugging .747 with his team lead in homers. Andrew Ciencin really produces out of third base with a .382 average and 33 RBI. They also have an exciting starter at shortstop in freshman Matt Bergquist and a local product out of Florida Christian High School in Danny Canela who catches and plays first. For the Canes, Harold Martinez has made immense contributions to the team’s run production. He’s leading the rest of the lineup in homers, RBI, and slugging. Scott Lawson isn’t too far behind him and went 3-for-4 in a losing effort to UCF on Tuesday, and freshman Stephen Perez has not missed a game this season at shortstop. Frankie Ratcliff has received a hefty increase in playing time as of late and has been leading off the lineup for the orange and green recently. Miami is also slightly better than the Wolfpack defensively as that is not the strength of this group for NC State.
Outfield Advantage: NC State
Another strength of the NC State position players is their versatility. A number of their players get time at various positions, including Russell Wilson (who, when he’s playing baseball, plays some centerfield, some middle infield, and does some pitching out of the pen) and senior Kyle Wilson who is listed by the team as an IF/OF but is mostly inserted into the DH slot. Kyle Wilson is the team’s lead-off man and fits all the criteria for a successful one. He leads the team in hitting, on-base percentage, and stolen bases. The Canes’ Chris Pelaez has cooled off a bit, but has still maintained his average enough to lead Yasmani Grandal for the team lead by the slimmest of margins. Centerfielder Zeke DeVoss has been moved to the bottom of the lineup over spring break
Intangibles Advantage: Miami
The series will be played at Doak Field at Dail Park in Raleigh, NC. However, the Wolfpack is 2-4 in games against ACC opponents while the U is 5-1 within the conference. Sure, Miami just lost a game against UCF, a team they beat convincingly earlier in the year, but NC State is also coming off a mid-week loss against Campbell in Buies Creek, NC.
David Furones may be contacted at email@example.com.