THE STARTING PITCHERS: Freshman righthander Andrew Brackman (0-0, 0.00) will make his much-anticipated first college start on Wednesday vs. East Carolina. Brackman has made just two appearances, both in relief, and has allowed two unearned runs on three hits in five innings. He has walked three and struck out six. Brackman's last appearance was in relief April 6 against the Pirares at Doak Field, an 11-4 victory for the Pack. He worked a scoreless inning, walking two and striking out one. He did not give up a hit.
Brackman came to NC State as a heralded two-sport athlete, the high school pitcher of the year in Ohio after leading Moeller High School in Cincinnati to a 28-3 record and the state championship a year ago. Brackman led Moeller with a 7-0 record and a 0.60 ERA. His career ERA of 1.04 was the seventh best in the history of high school baseball in Ohio. Of course, Brackman had an excellent college debut on the hardwood, averaging 7.4 points and 3.5 rebounds per game. He shot 47.0 percent from the field and led the Wolfpack with 40 blocked shots.
East Carolina's starting pitcher will not be determined until after the Pirates play North Carolina on Tuesday night.
NC STATE VS. EAST CAROLINA: After splitting the first two games the two teams played this season, NC State holds a 54-35 advantage in the series with the Pirates. The recent history of the series, however, has gone ECU's way. Prior to this season, East Carolina had won seven of the previous 10 meetings with NC State. Wolfpack head coach Elliott Avent holds a 6-8 record against the Pirates.
East Carolina won the first meeting between the two 13-1 on February 26 at Riley Park in Charleston, S.C., at the Homewood Suites Shootout. Mark Minicozzi went 4-for-6 with a double and three RBIs to lead the Pirates, while Mike Flye worked 5 1/3 shutout innings to get the win. Flye and two other pitchers combined on a six-hitter. The Wolfpack evened the season series at a game apiece with an 11-4 victory April 6 at the Doak. Phillip Davidson worked seven innings of three-hit baseball to get his third win of the season, and Matt Camp and Ramon Corona had three hits each. Camp drove in three runs, and Matt Devine had a pair of RBIs.
SCOUTING EAST CAROLINA: Heading into their game Tuesday night vs. North Carolina, the Pirates had won five games in a row, including a three-game sweep on the road this past weekend against Conference USA opponent Louisville. The five-game winning streak is one shy of ECU's season-best six-game streak, set back in early March. Center fielder Brian Cavanaugh leads East Carolina with a .402 averrage. He has five doubles, two triples, two home runs and 19 RBIs. Infielder Ryan Piesel is hitting .388 with six doubles, two home runs and 19 RBIs. Designated hitter Mike Grace is batting .313 with 14 doubles, five home runs and 26 RBIs.
SCOUTING THE PACK: NC State comes into action against the Pirates having won 12 of its last 15 games. The Wolfpack has played well almost the entire season, aside from a rocky patch the first three weeks of March. Take away a 1-5 record against No. 9 Miami (1-2) and No. 4 Georgia Tech (0-3) and NC State is 26-6.
Redshirt-sophomore first baseman Aaron Bates, who had six hits and six RBIs in 10 at-bats over the weekend at Wake Forest, has surged into the lead in all three Triple Crown categories for the Wolfpack with a .388 average, five home runs and 38 RBIs. Bates, who also leads the team with 11 doubles, has hit safely in 12 of his last 13 games, batting .422 (19-for-45) during that time. Junior catcher Jake Muyco is hitting .377 with 10 doubles and 29 RBIs. Junior outfielder Brian Aragon is hitting .337 with 10 doubles, a triple, three home runs and 19 RBIs.
THIS PAST WEEKEND: NC State rallied for four runs in the top of the eighth inning Sunday to notch a come-from-behind 8-7 win at Wake Forest in the deciding game of a three-game Atlantic Coast Conference series. The Wolfpack won the opener 11-9 and dropped the middle game 9-5. The series win lifted NC State back to .500 in ACC play at 9-9. The Pack fell to 3-6 after being swept at Georgia Tech the weekend of March 18-20, and has gone 6-3 in the league since then to get back to the break-even mark.
ON DECK: Following this week's game at East Carolina, the Wolfpack will play three-game ACC series at Doak Field each of the next two weekends before taking eight days off for final exams. No midweek games are scheduled for April 25-28. Clemson will be in town this coming weekend, April 22-24, with game times set for 7 p.m. on Friday and Saturday, and 1 p.m. on Sunday. The official dedication of the renovated Doak Field will be held prior to the Saturday game of the Clemson series. North Carolina will be at the Doak the weekend of April 29-May 1. Game times will be at 7 p.m. on Friday, 2 p.m. on Saturday and 1 p.m. on Sunday. The Saturday games of both the Clemson and North Carolina series will be televised on the cable affiliate CSET. All remaining NC State baseball games will broadcast on WKNC-FM (88.1) and on the internet on gopack.com through Yahoo's subscription service.
SAVES LEADER: With saves in his first eight opportunities of 2005, Wolfpack closer Joey Devine now has 32 saves for his career. Devine, who became NC State's career saves leader last March 13 vs. Northeastern, currently ranks fourth in Atlantic Coast Conference history in career saves. He needs two more to tie former Clemson hurler Scott Winchester for third place. Former Wake Forest ace and current Toronto Blue Jays starter David Bush ranks second in ACC history with 38 saves, four behind Thad Chrismon, who saved 41 games for North Carolina from 1992-95.
MORE Joey Devine: So far in 2005, junior reliever Joey Devine has been money in the bank for the Wolfpack. Devine has made 16 appearances this season, 11 of them scoreless, and seven of his eight one-inning appearances have been scoreless. He has walked three and has struck out 43 in 30 1/3 innings, and is a perfect 8-for-8 in save situations. For his career, Devine has allowed 103 hits and struck out 177 in 133 innings. Devine has now faced 61 consecutive hitters and worked 16 consecutive innings without a walk.
DUNCAN'S DOUGHNUTS: Junior lefthander Jason Duncan has emerged as a legitimate stopper in the middle and late innings for the Wolfpack. Duncan currently is working on a string of 13 consecutive scoreless innings, during which he has allowed five hits, walked three and struck out 19. Duncan heads into action vs. East Carolina having fanned the last five men he has faced and 10 of the last 13. In his last 6 1/3 innings, he has allowed no runs on two hits, walked one and struck out 12.
Duncan is 4-0 with a 3.24 ERA, but take away a four-batter disaster March 20 at Georgia Tech and his ERA is 1.80 over 25 innings.
APRIL PITCHING: On March 30, NC State's ERA stood at a not-so-impressive 5.06. In 11 games since then, Wolfpack pitchers have allowed 47 runs, 31 earned runs, on 81 hits in 100 innings, a 2.79 ERA that has lowered the staff's season ERA to its current 4.39. NC State has thrown three shutouts in March, including back-to-back whitewashings of Virginia on April 9-10. The key to the turnaround? How about walks. Prior to April, NC State averaged 3.25 walks per nine innings. In 11 games in April, the Pack has averaged 3.18 walks per nine innings, but eight of the Wolfpack's 35 walks this month came in a span of two miserable innings April 15 at Wake Forest. Take those two innings out and the Pack is averaging 2.51 walks per nine innings for April.