Winners of four of their last five games, NC State is picking up momentum as the second half of the ACC season begins. The Wolfpack will look to continue its recent form over the weekend but it will not be easy.
NC State (19-15, 7-8) travels to Chapel Hill to take on No. 4 North Carolina (27-6, 12-3) for a three-game set beginning Friday at 6:30 p.m. at Boshamer Stadium. The Tar Heels are even hotter than the Wolfpack, entering the game winners of nine straight and coming off a 20-5 thumping of No. 8 South Carolina Tuesday in Charlotte.
With the Pack playing better of late and UNC seemingly incapable of losing, the series looks to be exciting, as most matchups between the rivals are.
Not that the recent form is always relevant in the rivalry.
“It is always a good series and good games,” NC State junior Josh McLain said. “We can be two of the worst teams or two of the best teams, it is always going to be a good game no matter what.”
Carolina has won 12 of its last 13 games and is 17-5 at home this season. The UNC pitching staff’s 2.62 ERA is sixth-best in the nation.
“It is always nice to play Carolina and it is always fun,” NC State head coach Elliott Avent said. “Rivalry games are fun, no matter what the sport, and they’re playing good. It is always a challenge. When they are playing like this it is fun to go over there and see how you stack up.”
The Tar Heels also do not take it easy on opponents when they are at the plate. Carolina is batting .278 this season and is averaging over seven runs per game.
“We are just going to try to keep them under 20 if that’s possible,” Avent quipped. “It doesn’t seem like they’re capable of scoring anything less.”
Avent enters the series with 998 career wins as a head coach. Two more victories will make him only the fifth coach in ACC history and 15th active head coach in Division I with 1,000 wins.
A win or two or even three would not only add to Avent’s career victory total, it also would be exactly the type of performance that would garner respect when the time to select schools to participate or perhaps host a regional.
“I think we are playing much better,” NC State junior Brian Brown said. “Our confidence is up a little bit and that helps big time. We are believing in one-another.
“That [series win] would definitely help our RPI. You don’t want to win just one but one would definitely help.”
SCHEDULED STARTING PITCHERS
Friday: LHP Sean Adler (NC State) vs. RHP J.B. Bukauskas (North Carolina)
Saturday: LHP Brian Brown (NC State) vs. RHP Luca Dalatri (North Carolina)
Sunday: RHP Michael Bienlien (NC State) vs. TBA (North Carolina)