A baseball season that started with great hopes and aspirations has yet to satisfy anyone. A team, which before the season started, looked like a Category 5 Hurricane Alert has fizzled off into a Category 1, as the Hurricanes have dropped from No. 2 out of the top 25.
The Hurricanes (15-12, 3-6 ACC), however, still have many opportunities left in which to prove themselves. The first of these will come this weekend, when the team travels to Clemson, South Carolina to play the No. 11 Tigers (15-7, 4-2 ACC).
Both of these two teams ended up finishing fifth in the College World Series last season.
The last time these two baseball teams met, the Tigers ate up the Hurricanes, winning 14-1. The ‘Canes will look to return the favor in this weekend’s three game series.
The past aside, both are high-powered teams, although the Hurricanes have failed to deliver this season. Despite this, if the Tigers make the mistake of sleeping on this Hurricane team, they could find themselves swept away by an offense that is capable of storming past opponents.
In terms of handling the Tiger offense, the Hurricanes will have to look out for Brad Chalk, a player who has a knack for getting on base and making opposing teams pay. Chalk leads the Tigers with a .429 batting average and leads the team with 15 runs scored.
Additionally, the Hurricanes will have to pay attention to Doug Hogan, Marquez Smith and Andy D’Alessio – three guys who swing for power as well as average.
The Hurricane lineup is not too shabby either. The lineup features five guys who are batting over .300. This is a lineup that includes Yonder Alonso and Mark Sobolewski, two power hitters who are also the top two on the team in batting average. This is a lineup that has just begun to click. Despite this, most of the players are putting up impressive statistics. This makes one believe that if this team achieves its true potential, it could be a force.
On the pitching side of things, Clemson features a good starting rotation, but they feature an even better bullpen. The guys to watch will be starter P. J. Zocchi, who has a 3-0 record in six starts and a 2.70 ERA, and reliever Stephen Clyne, who has posted a 3-0 record, a nasty 0.46 ERA and an opponent batting average of .169. Where the Hurricanes may be able to take advantage is with closer Daniel Moskos, who has been unreliable at times.
As for the Hurricanes, starters Jason Santana and Eric Erickson are a lethal one-two punch for any opposition. Santana has posted a 4-0 record with a 1.42 ERA, while Erickson has posted a 3-2 record with a 1.54 ERA. As for the Hurricane relievers, David Gutierrez and Dennis Raben have been the lone bright spots.
The Hurricanes definitely have what it takes to win against elite teams like Clemson, but, in order to do this, they will have to put together a full game-offensively, defensively and pitching-wise. If the ‘Canes can do this, there is no telling how far they can go.
Pravin Patel may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.