Who: No. 6 N.C. State (31-20, 15-14) vs. No. 3 Notre Dame (35-19, 17-13)
What: ACC Tournament
Where: Durham Bulls Athletic Park; Durham, N.C.
When: Thursday, May 21, 11:00 a.m. ET
After missing out on the 10-team ACC tournament last year – its first year in the conference – Notre Dame (35-19, 17-13) ascended to the No. 3 spot in the conference by winning six-of-10 ACC series, including sweeps of No. 7 Florida State and No. 20 North Carolina.
The Irish – led by fifth-year head coach Mik Aoki -- begin pool play Thursday at 11:00 a.m. ET when they take on North Carolina State (31-20, 15-14), which finished No. 6 in the ACC pecking order. The Wolfpack, led by head coach Elliott Avent in his 19th season in Raleigh, finished fifth in the seven-team Atlantic Division of the ACC.
Other teams in Pool B with Notre Dame include No. 2 seed Miami and No. 7 seed Virginia, which advanced to pool play with an 11-0 victory over Georgia Tech Tuesday.
• Schedule: After taking on the Wolfpack Thursday, Notre Dame plays No. 7 seed Virginia Friday at 11:00 a.m. ET in second-day action of pool play, followed by a date with No. 2 seed Miami Saturday at 3:00 p.m. ET. The winner of Pool B advances to Sunday’s championship game against the winner of Pool A, which features No. 1 seed Louisville, No. 4 seed Florida State, No. 5 seed Clemson and No. 8 seed North Carolina, which advanced to pool play with a 5-3 victory over Virginia Tech Tuesday.
• Pitching match-up: The Irish send senior righthander/captain Scott Kerrigan (3-4, 3.57 ERA) to the mound against freshman left-hander Brian Brown (6-3, 1.87). Kerrigan did not pitch against the Wolfpack during the regular season while Brown – who had a 1.00 ERA over his last eight appearances – went six innings against the Irish, allowing just two hits and no runs.
• Season series: Notre Dame took two of three from the Wolfpack in a three-game series at Frank Eck Stadium on April 17-18. Behind sophomore righthander Ryan Smoyer’s five-hit shutout over seven innings, Notre Dame claimed a 2-0 victory in the series opener. N.C. State out-lasted the Irish in 14 innings in the first game of a doubleheader, 4-2. Joe O’Donnell (5 2/3 IP, 0 hits) picked up the victory in the 14-inning battle. The Irish took the rubber game of the series, 7-2, when they rapped out nine hits, equaling the output in the first 23 innings of the series.
• Season series notes: Notre Dame senior leftfielder Ryan Bull went 5-for-12 in the N.C. State series, including three hits and two RBI in the series-clinching third game. Sophomore catcher Ryan Lidge had two of Notre Dame’s three hits and both RBI in the 2-0 victory. Junior righthander Nick McCarty picked up the victory in the final game, throwing 5 2/3 innings, allowing four hits and two runs. Notre Dame hit just .178 in the series, including a 9-for-70 effort (.128) in the first two games.
Wolfpack second baseman Logan Ratledge had two hits and leftfielder Ryne Willard had three in the series opener. Cory Wilder was tagged with the loss despite allowing just one hit and one run in 3 1/3 innings.
• N.C. State standouts: Leadoff hitter/shortstop Logan Ratledge is hitting .335 with eight home runs and 34 RBI. He has 11 steals on 13 attempts. First baseman Preston Palmiero – the son of former MLB standout Rafael Palmiero – bats third in the lineup with a .330 average, seven home runs and a team-leading 48 RBI. Cleanup hitter/catcher Andrew Kinzer is hitting .321 with five home runs and 37 RBI.
• Notre Dame standouts: The Irish have run producers from top to bottom of their lineup. Sophomore third baseman Kyle Fiala is hitting .297 with four home runs and 26 RBI. His 43-game on-base streak is a Notre Dame single-season record. Senior rightfielder Robert Youngdahl leads the Irish in RBI with 40 to go along with six home runs and a .295 average. Sophomore catcher Ryan Lidge (.292, 2 HRs, 35 RBI), junior first baseman Zak Kutsulis (.274, 5 HRs, 32 RBI) and junior shortstop Lane Richards (.264, 5 HRs, 31 RBI) give the Irish lineup balance. Sophomore second baseman Cavan Biggio leads the Irish with eight home runs.
• Statistical comparison: The Irish finished last (14th) in the ACC in hitting with a .252 mark, but first in fielding percentage (.978), fourth in ERA (3.03) and sixth in home runs (38). Notre Dame leads the nation in double plays turned with 71. N.C. State hit a solid .278 with 47 home runs. The Wolfpack feature six hitters in their starting lineup with at least a .296 average. They are 21-0 when leading after three innings or later.