NC State pitching about more than Rodon

calexander@newsobserver.comMarch 13, 2014 


N.C. State's Logan Jernigan pitches against Vanderbilt during the NCAA Baseball Raleigh Regional championship Monday, June 4, 2012, at N.C. State's Doak Field at Dail Park.


— Any discussion about N.C. State’s pitching always centers on Carlos Rodon, and understandably so.

The junior left-hander is an All-America, perhaps the best in college baseball.

But Logan Jernigan and Brad Stone are fast becoming a key part of the conversation. Both are off to strong starts this season and could team with Rodon to give the Pack a solid, dependable, three-man starting rotation for ACC competition.

“Carlos getting all the attention is well-deserved, being one of the best pitchers if not the best pitcher in the nation,” said Stone, a sophomore lefty from Charlotte. “But collectively I do think we’ve got good starting pitching on this team.”

N.C. State, ranked fifth nationally, will have Rodon on the mound Friday when it begins its ACC series against No. 2 Florida State. Jernigan will start Saturday for the Pack (14-2 overall, 3-0 ACC) and Stone on Sunday in the Atlantic Division matchup in Tallahassee, Fla.

“Logan probably has better stats than Carlos,” Pack shortstop Trea Turner said this week. “He’s made a big step forward this year.”

Turner is right. Rodon is 2-2 this season with a 2.40 earned run average while Jernigan has a 3-0 record and team-best 0.73 ERA. Stone is 3-0 with a 1.61 ERA.

In his last outing, against Notre Dame on Saturday, Jernigan tied his career best with 7 1-3 innings pitched and struck out eight as the Wolfpack won 1-0.

“That was the best I’ve seen him,” junior catcher Brett Austin said. “He’s pounding the zone better than I’ve ever seen him. He’s throwing his fastball for strikes and his off-speed is there, too. He’s basically unhittable right now.”

Jernigan, from Four Oaks, missed six weeks last season after allowing his temper to get the best of him. Pulled in the first inning against UNC-Greensboro, he slammed a fist into a wall in the Pack locker room, suffering a broken hand.

“It’s the dumbest thing I’ve ever done. Just stupid,” Jernigan said. “Looking back now, I almost think it was a blessing in disguise. It gave me a chance to get away from the game and get my thoughts together and make a plan for what I wanted to do when I came back.”

After the injury, Jernigan gave up just five earned runs in 24 2-3 innings and had a 1.82 ERA. He pitched the College World Series game against UCLA that the Bruins won 2-1 en route to the NCAA title.

“I’ve learned how to relax on the mound and take it one pitch at a time,” Jernigan said. “If I make a bad pitch, just go on to the next one. Forget about it and make quality pitches.”

Stone, who has a smooth, fluid delivery, pitched six shutout innings Sunday as the Pack topped the Irish 7-0 to sweep its first ACC series of the season. He allowed two hits and struck out five in a tidy outing.

“Compared to last year, I feel like a more complete pitcher,” Stone said. “At times last year I was kind of a fastball/slider guy. I feel like I’ve added a pretty good curveball and changeup to my arsenal.”

The Seminoles (14-2, 2-1 ACC) won two of three from Maryland in their first ACC series. FSU’s starters against the Terrapins were junior right-hander Luke Weaver, junior lefty Brandon Leibrandt and right-hander Mike Compton, a redshirt sophomore who had a two-hit shutout on Sunday with 10 strikeouts.

The Noles lead the ACC in hitting (.304) and runs scored (145) while the Pack has the league’s best ERA (1.89). Something has to give.

“They’re very disciplined at the plate and don’t make a lot of mistakes,” Turner said.

NCSU coach Elliott Avent said the Pack had a measuring-stick game this season against UCLA, losing to the Bruins 2-0 on March 1. But FSU is a measuring-stick series.

“Something you can always count on is Florida State being good, fundamentally sound, great talent and a tough place to play,” Avent said.

Alexander: 919-829-8945; Twitter: @ice_chip

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