N.C. State Baseball

Slumping NC State hoping for another CWS repeat

jgiglio@newsobserver.comMarch 27, 2014 

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    No. 25 N.C. State (15-8, 3-6 ACC) vs. Miami (14-12, 5-4 ACC)

    Where: Doak Field, Raleigh.

    When: Friday: 6 p.m.; Saturday: 1 p.m.; Sunday: 1 p.m.

If there’s any comfort in a 3-6 ACC start for N.C. State’s baseball team, it’s the same spot the Wolfpack was in last season.

N.C. State went on to win 16 of its next 20 conference games en route to a school-record 50 wins and a spot in the College World Series.

The Wolfpack is hoping it can duplicate last year’s turnaround, starting with this weekend’s home series with Miami, but it realizes it needs to get to work.

“We want to do it, sooner than later,” shortstop Trea Turner said Thursday. “Hopefully, that win last night was a turning point and we can build on it.”

Turner hit his fourth home run and drove in five runs as the Wolfpack (15-8, 3-6 ACC) beat UNC Wilmington 11-2 on the road on Wednesday night. Coincidentally, it was a road win last March against the Seahawks that kick-started the Wolfpack’s surge after a slow start.

Save for a 9-8 loss in the third game of the Florida State series, offense has been an issue in ACC play for coach Elliott Avent’s team, which dropped 10 spots to No. 25 in the Baseball America Top 25.

The Wolfpack scored six runs in three games and were swept at Maryland last weekend. The Wolfpack had three runs in the first two games at No. 1 FSU before suffering the 9-8 loss in 13 innings.

“We have to play better than we have been playing,” Avent said Thursday at his radio show.

Turner, who has moved out of the leadoff spot, has hit four home runs in the past five games. He had five RBIs in Wednesday’s win at UNCW.

Freshman third basemen Andrew Knizner leads the ACC in batting with a .382 average, and junior catcher Brett Austin, who’s hitting leadoff, is third in the ACC with a .376 average.

Austin’s average is up almost 125 points from last season but production has been limited to the top of the lineup.

Slugging first baseman Tarran Senay, who led the team with eight home runs and 59 RBI last season, has been difficult to replace.

Run support has been scarce especially for ace Carlos Rodon, who has started 2-4 after going 9-0 as a freshman and 10-3 last season. The Wolfpack scored one run for Rodon in a 6-1 loss at FSU and none in a 10-0 loss at Maryland.

Of the 23 runs Rodon has given up this season, only 10 have been earned.

“It has definitely been our fault,” Turner said. “We need to do a better job of scoring and playing defense behind him. It’s hard for him to be perfect.”

Rodon’s 2.18 ERA ranks seventh among ACC starters and he’s second in strikeouts with 50 in a 41 1/3 innings. But Rodon and teammate Logan Jernigan are tied for the ACC lead with nine hit batsmen.

Avent will make one pitching tweak against the Hurricanes (14-12, 5-4 ACC), who dropped out of the top 25 this week. Andrew Woeck, who leads the team with a 1.25 ERA, will start Saturday, with Brad Stone moving to the bullpen. Rodon will make his usual Friday start and Jernigan will start Sunday.

Rodon will continue to get more at-bats as the designated hitter when he doesn’t pitch, Avent said. Rodon’s hitting .412 (7 of 17) with three RBI and has started four games at DH.

Avent has tinkered with the lineup trying to find the right combinations. The ACC start doesn’t necessarily bother him as long as the team turns the corner quickly, he said.

“I’ve never minded losing early if the prize at the end can be greater,” Avent said.

Giglio: 919-829-8938

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