Baseball: NC State is up next

Any time you are a team as talented as this Miami team, it is going to be disappointing to drop a conference series at home like Miami did last weekend against Virginia. It makes it even tougher when you take into account how close the losses on Sunday and Monday night were. Miami had leads in both games.

Then again, it's tough to feel too down about the way the team played. Virginia is on the short list of national title favorites and Miami was right there with them all weekend.

Looking to parlay their solid form into more wins, the Hurricanes will head up to Raleigh, North Carolina for a three-game set against North Carolina State this weekend.

The Wolfpack will come into the series licking their wounds. They have been swept in each of their last two ACC series. The first sweep came at the hands of Florida State. That has to be disappointing for them, but that's somewhat excusable. FSU is another of the ACC's national title contenders.

But last weekend, NC State was swept by Maryland. The Terrapins have been an early season surprise, but they are not a team you would expect to sweep a team the caliber of NC State.

Depending on your outlook, all of this is either great news or terrible news for the Hurricanes. Either NC State has been exposed or they have simply gone in a funk that they will inevitably snap out of this weekend.

In any event, you know what you are going to get with NC State. It starts with pitching.

On Friday night, the Wolfpack will throw Carlos Rodon. The much-ballyhooed junior hasn't been quite as good as many had hoped or expected, but he has still been pretty good. He will come into the weekend with a 2-4 record and a 2.18 ERA. In 41.1 innings pitched, he has struck out 50 and walked 15. Opposing batters are hitting .217 against him.

On Saturday, they will throw Andrew Woeck, who will be making his first start of the season. The junior from Brier, Washington has appeared in eight games, throwing 21.2 innings. He has struck out 31 and walked eight with a .184 batting average against.

The Sunday starter has yet to be announced, but there are a couple of obvious candidates.

Logan Jernigan, a veteran who has been one of their weekend starters all season, is 4-2 with a 2.97 ERA in seven appearances, all starts. He had a short start last Saturday and then had a short start this past Wednesday against UNC-Wilmington. Because of that, I wouldn't expect him to start, but it's not like he has been overworked in his last two outings, so you can't count him out. Brad Stone (3-1, 3.25), is a candidate as well, as he started last Sunday, but he threw 3.2 innings and 66 pitches on Wednesday. Patrick Peterson is another option as well. He has appeared in six games (four starts) and has a 1-0 record with a 4.50 ERA. Another alternative is the Johnny Wholestaff approach where we might see all three of these guys in some capacity, along with others from the bullpen.

In the bullpen, the Wolfpack are led by Jon Olczak (8.1 IP, 0.00 ERA, .148 BAA), Eric Peterson (18.1 IP, 2.45 ERA, 22/2 K/BB), and D.J. Thomas (10.2, 2.53 ERA, 16/3 K/BB).

Offensively, Trea Turner is probably a name you've heard, and while he has had a good season thus far, there are a couple of guys that have been better.

Third baseman Andrew Knizner is leading the way with a .382 batting average, two home runs, and 16 RBI. Brett Austin isn't far behind with a .376 batting average and a .465 on-base percentage. Turner will come into the weekend with a .315 batting average. His four home runs, 17 RBI, and seven steals lead the team. Jake Fincher (.286 BA, .404 OBP, 12 RBI) and Logan Ratledge (3 HR, 15 RBI) are among the other solid contributors. And as if he doesn't give the team enough on the mound, Rodon has seven hits in 17 at-bats this season.

This very well may be the most intriguing ACC series heading into this weekend. We know enough about these teams now to know that it's unlikely that either is going to challenge FSU or Virginia for ACC supremacy in the regular season, but these are two teams that are going to be in and around the rankings all season. And don't be shocked if they end up finishing the season with similar resumes. In the eyes of the selection committee when they are looking at seeding, this series may end up serving as a tiebreaker of sorts between these two clubs.

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