Red-hot Wolfpack Ready for Postseason

No. 1 NC State (44-14, 19-10 ACC, RPI 7)

After a midseason stumble with shortstop Trea Turner out with an ankle injury, NC State has been one of the hottest teams in the nation.  Since his return, the Wolfpack is 28-5, with four of those losses coming against national seeds North Carolina and Florida State.

However, that hot streak (and a 18-10 record against top 50 RPI teams) was not enough to usurp Oregon (6-10 against RPI top 50) for the eighth national seed. As a result, if the chalk advances – a large “if” in the postseason – NC State would have to travel to Eugene to face the Ducks in Super Regionals.  Before NCSU can worry about that, though, they have to take care of business in Raleigh.

NC State is one of 23 teams in the nation with 100 or more stolen bases.  Turner leads the way despite his missed time, stealing 24 bases for the Wolfpack on 30 attempts (along with a .376 average, six homers, and a .567 slugging percentage).  Brett Williams (17), Jake Fincher (14), Brett Austin (13), and Logan Ratledge (10) also have double digit steals, which make the Wolfpack a threat to run at any time.

The Wolfpack is also third in the nation in strikeouts, thanks in part to sophomore Carlos Rodon.  The first team All-ACC selection leads the nation with 151 batters retired on strikes, with 14 of those coming against North Carolina in ten innings of work.  While fellow starter Ethan Ogburn isn’t a high-strikeout guy (2.98 ERA, 31 Ks in 51 innings), relievers such as Chris Overman, Grant Sasser, and Logan Jernigan have dominated hitters out of the bullpen.  That was also on display in the 18-inning marathon with UNC, as the Tar Heels were held to six hits over the course of the game.

No. 4 Binghamton (30-23, 16-13 America East, RPI 171)

In the regular season, Binghamton was second in the America East, four games behind Maine.  The Bearcats defeated the Black Bears twice in their conference tournament to earn the America East automatic bid.

When Binghamton opens the Raleigh regional against NC State, it will be the first RPI top 50 team they have faced this season.  Their lone game against an RPI top 100 team was a 7-6 loss to Canisius, the No. 4 seed in the Chapel Hill Regional.

Sophomore Jake Thomas fronts the Binghamton offense.  Thomas led the America East in batting average, slugging percentage, and on base percentage.  Thomas’ .528 on base percentage is second-best in the nation, behind Virginia’s Mike Papi.

After Thomas and Daniel Nevares (.314, 19 doubles), the rest of the Bearcat offense has lagged behind. As a team, Binghamton is batting .266, good for 184th in the nation.  Binghamton is also 191st in slugging percentage (.353), so its not like the Bearcats are sacrificing average for power.

All three of Binghamton’s starting pitchers finished in the top seven of earned run average in the America East, with Jack Rogalla (5-4, 2.82), Jake Lambert (7-2, 2.95), and Jay Lynch (6-5, 2.98).  Lambert was also fourth in the conference in strikeouts (76).  How that pitching will translate to stiffer competition will be seen this weekend.

No. 3 William & Mary (37-22, 17-10 CAA, RPI 44)

A successful campaign in the Colonial Athletic Association (second in the regular season, a CAA championship loss to Towson) earned the Tribe an at-large bid in this year’s field. The William & Mary bats are hot of late, averaging 11.4 runs in their last seven games.

Michael Katz is the best hitter for William & Mary.  The sophomore infielder is batting (.365) with 22 doubles, five home runs and a .563 slugging percentage. The Tribe also have junior Ryan Lindemuth batting .363 and outfielder Ryan Brown with a .329 average and 21 stolen bases.

John Farrell is a first team All-CAA pitcher this season, leading the conference in wins with an 11-2 record. The senior has a 2.80 ERA, 86 strikeouts, and four complete games to his credit.  Sophomore Jason Ingrham has 96 strikeouts and owned a 2.53 ERA before allowing 11 earned runs in a slugfest with Towson during the CAA Tournament, a game the Tigers won 20-13.

As a staff, the Tribe has only allowed 131 walks this season, averaging 2.28 free passes per game. That is good for fourth in the nation, just ahead of Virginia.  However, William & Mary’s 9.89 hits allowed per nine innings is outside of the top 200 in the nation. Beyond the starters Farrell and Ingrham, the pitching is sketchy and could present problems over the course of the weekend.

No. 2 Ole Miss (37-22, 15-15 SEC, RPI 20)

Ole Miss has lost six of its last eight games. However, they have series wins over Arkansas, Alabama, and Mississippi State this season.  After a 19-1 start to the season, the Rebels hope they can finish as hot as they started.

Ole Miss boasts one of the best hitters in the Southeastern Conference in catcher Stuart Turner. The junior is batting .381 with 15 doubles, five home runs, and 27 walks to 33 strikeouts for a .452 on base percentage.

As a team, however, the Rebels are a bit light on hitting.  Ole Miss batted .276 (6th in the SEC) with a .366 slugging percentage (8th) and 23 home runs (12th). Their 5.3 runs per game is 134th in the nation.  With that said, they are disciplined hitters who limit unproductive outs (314 strikeouts).

They also make up for a lack of powerful offense with very good pitchers. Bobby Wahl leads the staff, with a 1.99 ERA and a 9-0 record. The junior limits opposing hitters to a .189 average, which places a lot of pressure on opposing teams to take advantage of every baserunner they can get.  Mike Mayers has a 2.98 ERA, and Sam Smith backs it up with a 3.11 mark.

Out of the bullpen, Brett Huber is now up to 38 saves in his career, with 12 this season.  There are also several other strong relief options, such as Matt Denny (2.14 ERA, .178 opposing batting average), Tanner Bailey (2.88 ERA, 37 strikeouts), and Aaron Greenwood (2.96 ERA, 41 strikeouts).

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