The week started extremely well for the Wolfpack baseball team, as they swept a three game series from St. Joseph's and then defeated Davidson. The Wildcats were the final tune-up before the start of the conference season, which began at home against eighth-ranked Wake Forest University on Friday afternoon.
There were plenty of questions surrounding the team as they entered the match up. The Wolfpack cleaned up on cupcakes to earn a 17-5 record, but lost 3 of 4 games to the only ranked opponent it faced during that span (Richmond). How much did the record indicate? Could they keep up with a top ten team?
Game one saw a very good performance by the NC State pitching staff. Wolfpack starting pitcher Derek McKee got off to a difficult start against the Deacs, throwing seven consecutive balls at one point in the first inning. He settled down, however, and gave NC State seven strong innings of work. The game went into the bottom of the ninth tied at four, when David Hicks launched a double that would eventually be the winning run. The Wolfpack wins 5-4.
Game two was another tight one, with NC State holding a 6-5 lead into the eighth inning. Wake Forest victimized some poor NC State defense and took a lead it would not relinquish, winning 8-6. In the fifth inning, Wolfpack starting pitcher Michael Rogers took a line drive off his right leg and suffered a broken fibula. He will not be in playing shape for 6-8 weeks, so this is a devastating loss for a team that needs all the pitching help it can get. Rogers has the lowest ERA of NC State starters (3.63) and can take credit for both of NC State's shutouts this season.
The Wake Forest offense really broke out in game three, downing the Pack 13-7. NCSU starter Daniel Caldwell gave up nine runs in 4.1 innings. Nate Cretarolo pitched the rest of the way for the Pack.
The ACC schedule doesn't get any easier for NC State (18-7, 1-2). After out-of-conference games against UNC-Greensboro and Old Dominion, the Wolfpack meets Georgia Tech (18-3, 0-2) for a three game series beginning on March 29th. The Jackets are ranked 6th in the latest Collegiate Baseball Newspaper Poll*. Following that, NC State goes on the road for a series against Clemson (18-1, 0-0). The Tigers are ranked #1 in the latest Collegiate Baseball Newspaper Poll, making them the third straight top ten conference foe the Wolfpack will face.