Daniel Wilson returns to provide his thoughts on the progress of NC State baseball heading into the Wolfpack’s series with No. 1 Louisville.
Note to self: when making something with “weekly” in the title, make it weekly. On that note, my apologizes for skipping out on last week’s edition of W.W.
Obviously, a lot has happened since the preview of the Wake Forest series. NC State sits at .500 in the Atlantic Coast Conference standings, 12-10 overall, after dropping two of three against the Demon Deacons and winning two of three against Miami.
The Season So Far
The Wolfpack is appearing less and less like the No. 6 team in the country as D1Baseball projected it to be or even a team that is justifiable for top-25 status. However, State’s season looks like it will end on a much easier slate than how it had begun.
NC State head coach Elliott Avent has admitted to have possibly scheduled the early non-conference games too hard with many conference contenders such as Richmond, Austin Peay, and UNCW before getting into the mix of the ACC schedule. On that note, the long and short of it is that having that t0ugh of a schedule should have been perfect for exactly that reason.
The teams that have come in outside of the ACC slate are teams that the Wolfpack could easily come across in the Regionals and Super Regionals, and this isn’t a concept foreign to State fans that follow the “#Pack9.” An easy example is when the team faced eventual national champion Coastal Carolina in the 2016 Raleigh Regional after defeating the Chanticleers in the second game of the 2016 season.
Despite the excuse of needing the tough competition to prepare for the ACC, the Wolfpack shouldn’t be happy with flirting with an overall .500 winning percentage after coming in as one of the top teams in probably the toughest division in college baseball. That hasn’t stopped the team from striving for success.
State is currently on a two-game losing streak, but don’t tell that to the Pack. In the last two games with their backs against the wall, the players not only showed a strong tenacity in the batter’s box but also emitted an energy of, as cliched as it sounds, a hungry pack of wolves.
As head coach Elliott Avent mentioned after both losses to Miami and Campbell, the players pressed onward with the confidence knowing that they would win. If not from strong opposing defenses, especially in Tuesday’s contest against the Camels, the Wolfpack could have easily walked off with those victories rather than losing and finding itself in this position today.
Even with these losses, the team needs that energy from the top of the first to the bottom of the ninth. With that ferocity all game long, particularly with the upcoming conference series, it’s hard to foresee any game the Pack will lose.
No Love For Wilder
NC State has reliable arms for Friday and Saturday with senior left-handed pitcher Sean Adler (2-2, 3.81 ERA) and junior left-hander Brian Brown (0-0, 1.29 ERA) respectively. On Sunday, there’s not as much reliability.
Senior right-handed pitcher Cory Wilder is set to start on the hill in Sunday’s contest against No. 1 Louisville. When I heard of that decision, I immediately cringed.
This is a pitcher that is supposed to be one of the veteran leaders of the team. In theory, he should be one of the biggest arms the Wolfpack should rally behind in its pursuit for Omaha. In reality, his contributions should be as far from a starting role as possible. Maybe an inning in the middle innings, but even that may be too generous.
The native of Lima, Ohio sits 0-1 on the year with a 6.23 ERA. Living up to his surname, Wilder has already given up seven walks in 4-1/3 innings of work. That statistic is eye-popping in its own right, but consider the fact he’s lasted 1/3 inning in his last two starts.
Not in each of his last two starts. One putout in two combined starts. His line for those games together: three runs, one hit, one strikeout, six walks.
This isn’t the first time I’ve shown this much disdain for this particular pitcher. Others have mentioned that he’s a proven he can win games. He has five of them under his belt in his career at NC State. Plus, he can strike batters out. I can agree with the last point.
He has strong velocity, and when he finds his groove, he can be lethal with a fastball. However, if the argument is that he’s a proven winner, I merely have this to say: He may be a proven winner, but he’s most certainly a proven loser. He has five wins, yes, but put those against his 11 losses. Winning five of 16 decisions definitely doesn’t inspire much confidence.
And back to the point on strikeouts. He has 134 Ks in 134-2/3 innings in his time at State. He also has 107 walks, 18 hit batters, and 28 wild pitches. Again, with his last name and stats like that, the jokes write themselves. But the sad part is that the only real joke is the 6-foot-4 Ohioan still allowed to be a starting pitcher.
As much as I can continue onward with the previous tirade, I should probably mention who Wilder and company will be facing this weekend, especially since it’s the nation’s top team.
The Cardinals enter this weekend’s series 19-1 overall with a 6-0 mark in the ACC. Louisville is led by junior left-handed pitcher and first baseman Brendan McKay.
A first-team preseason All-American in every listing, McKay sports a .466 batting average, leading the ACC out of all qualified batters, with four home runs, 17 runs batted in, and 19 runs scored. Despite those impressive numbers, McKay’s strengths lie when he’s on the mound. He is 4-0 on the season with a 0.36 ERA, another ACC-best mark. McKay has struck 41 batters on the year with only six walks. McKay will be the Cardinals’ Friday starting pitcher.
Junior shortstop Devin Hairston and senior outfielder Logan Taylor also provide strong offensive numbers for Louisville. Hairston has driven in a team-high 22 runs with a .333 average, five doubles, one home run, and 18 runs scored. Taylor leads the team in runs with 24 and in stolen bases with 12 on 13 opportunities. He’s second on the team in batting average behind McKay with a .377 mark.
Louisville will send junior righty Kade McClure and freshman southpaw Nick Bennett to the mound on Saturday and Sunday respectively. McClure sits a 3-0 on the season with a 1.82 ERA, credited with 38 strikeouts and 10 walks in 29-2/3 innings. Bennett has a 2-0 record with a 0.86 ERA and an opposing batting average of .136. Bennett has 21 strikeouts and seven walks to his credit.
Friday’s contest is set for 6:30 pm from Doak Field. Saturday’s and Sunday’s games are set for 1 pm.