Comeback Wolfpack: NC State relies on rallies in 23-1 start
North Carolina State baseball coach Elliott Avent celebrated the Wolfpack’s first three-game sweep of Miami by doing some yard work and splitting wood.
“Splitting wood always eases my mind,” Avent said Monday.
With his team 23-1, one would think Avent’s worries should be few. But the terrific start has been hard earned. The Wolfpack have won 10 one-run games and they’ve come from behind to win 12, including seven when they trailed after the sixth inning.
NC State was down two runs with one out in the top of the ninth inning at Miami on Sunday before scoring four times for a 6-4 win.
“It’s been a good ride so far,” Avent said. Every game has been close. It’s not like we’re blowing anybody out. If we’re 23-1, the reality also is we could just as easily be 15-9.”
The Wolfpack’s 19-0 start was the best in program history; their only loss was 7-5 to Florida State on March 17. They’re ranked No. 1 in the nation for the second straight week by Collegiate Baseball newspaper and no lower than fifth in the other major polls.
They have a good mix. Returning everyday players Will Wilson (.314, 24 RBIs), Patrick Bailey (.337, 23 RBIs) and Evan Edwards (.306, 7 home runs, 28 RBIs) bat Nos. 2, 3 and 4 and are followed by freshman Tyler McDonough.
McDonough, from Cincinnati, is bidding for national freshman of the year honors. He leads the Atlantic Coast Conference with 40 hits, is third with a .392 batting average and has played error-free in center field.
“I don’t know if I saw him flirting with .400 this time of year, and certainly not hitting out of the 5-hole,” Avent said. “I always call him ‘Charlie Hustle’ or ‘Cincinnati’ just to remind him of Pete Rose. Pete Rose is who he plays like. He plays with a high energy, with a love for the game and passion for the game. We knew we had something special in him.”
Junior college transfer Jason Parker (3-0, 1.19 ERA) heads the weekend rotation, and the bullpen has been solid. Closer Dalton Feeney, who missed last season because of Tommy John surgery, has allowed two earned runs over 16 1-3 innings while recording six saves.
“Even in my best dream I never saw 23-1 coming. That just doesn’t happen,” Avent said. “We play such a demanding schedule. Every game is very, very tough, so I’m just worried about that next one.”
IN THE POLLS
UCLA (17-4), Mississippi State (22-3) and Stanford (15-3) remain 1-2-3 in the D1Baseball.com and Baseball America rankings.
In the Collegiate Baseball poll, UCLA and Arizona State (22-1) follow North Carolina State. ASU, which won 21 in a row to open the season, lost 5-4 in 12 innings at Oregon on Saturday before taking the series with a 7-3 win Sunday.
Dallas Baptist’s Austin Bell was batting .100 (2 for 20) entering Sunday and had appeared in only nine of 17 games. Given the start in left field, Bell broke out in a big way. The redshirt junior tied school records with six hits and nine RBIs in the Patriots’ 30-7 rout, which followed back-to-back one-run wins over the Falcons.
ASA IS ACES
Texas A&M’s Asa Lacy and Chandler Jozwiak combined for 17 strikeouts in a 9-3 win over Kentucky on Saturday. Lacy (5-0) pitched six innings and struck out a career-high 13, including six in a row over the fourth and fifth.
GOING DEEP 5X
New Mexico State first baseman Tristan Peterson hit five home runs in a three-game sweep of Cal State Bakersfield, three coming in a 23-1 win on Saturday. Peterson went 9 for 14 with 10 RBIs in the series. The Aggies have three of the top eight home run hitters in the country — Tristen Carranza (12), Nick Gonzales (11) and Peterson (11). Arizona State’s Hunter Bishop leads the nation with 14.
Omaha beat Fort Wayne 26-0 on Sunday for its 10th straight win, the nation’s longest current streak. Fort Wayne has dropped 18 in a row, the second-longest losing streak behind Saint Peter’s 33 in a row.