Off to its best start since 2003, the Wolfpack is off to the races with a dominating presence in the ACC.
To say NC State (23-5, 9-3 ACC) is doing very well would be an understatement. April Fools Day has come and gone, but glancing over the Wolfpack would be absolutely foolish.
Everything continues to fall right into place for head coach Elliott Avent’s ball club with the team winning every weekend series it’s played to start 2018. The batters get on base and drive runs in. The pitchers hold opposing teams at bay. The tides are moving in favor for State as the season continues onward.
Anchored by the nation’s best pitcher in terms of earned run average, the Pack’s pitching has helped elevate the team to one of its best season this early on in the year. Senior left-hander Brian Brown is a perfect 4-0 on the year in seven starts with a 0.41 ERA, 41 strikeouts, and 13 walks in 43-2/3 innings of work.
State’s other consistent weekend starter is graduate student right-handed pitcher Johnny Piedmonte who is also perfect on the year at 4-0 on six starts with a 2.93 ERA, 24 Ks, and 10 walks in 30-2/3 innings. His only missed weekend start came during State’s road sweep over Clemson.
Backing up the starters is a solid bullpen spearheaded by sophomore southpaw Kent Klyman and redshirt senior righty Joe O’Donnell. After a solid debut season for the Wolfpack, Klyman is already 2-0 on the year with three saves, a 1.25 ERA, and 23 punch-outs in 21-2/3 innings.
Not to be outdone, O’Donnell continues his success from a year ago after transitioning from a starting role. The Wilmington, N.C. native leads the team in saves with six and has a 1-1 record to go with an 0.84 ERA.
However, as good as the pitching staff is, the story of the team this year is its hitting. Junior outfielder Brett Kinneman continues to strike terror into the hearts of opposing pitchers as he leads the ACC, tied for fifth in the nation, in home runs with 12 while batting .336, second on the team, with three triples, 36 runs batted in, and 25 runs scored. Here’s a look at some of the team’s categorical leaders:
Other key contributors include sophomore infielder Will Wilson (.324, 7 HR, 24 RBI, 25 R), junior first baseman Evan Edwards (.318, 8 HR, 21 RBI, .438 OBP), and freshman catcher Patrick Bailey (.309, 3 HR, 13 RBI, 17 R).
Collectively, NC State leads the conference in runs (208), home runs (44), RBI (190), total bases (482), slugging percentage (.499), and on-base percentage (.402) while ranking second behind Georgia Tech in batting average (.310) and hits (299).
On the mound, the Wolfpack continues its ACC dominance with the conference lead in ERA (2.98), shutouts (4, tied with Miami), and saves (14) while second in the league in opponents’ batting average (.218).
NC State has the conference in the palm of its hand even with a rough stretch ahead. Though in-state rivals Duke and North Carolina will inevitably prove to be its toughest competition of the season, the Wolfpack is playing its best baseball in years and is showing no signs of slowing down.