NC State

'We’re in a good place right now.' NC State ready for ACC baseball tournament run.

Wolfpack players wait to take the field before N.C. State's game against North Carolina at Doak Field Friday, April 27, 2018.
Wolfpack players wait to take the field before N.C. State's game against North Carolina at Doak Field Friday, April 27, 2018. ehyman@newsobserver.com

Brett Kinneman doesn’t need to know all of the numbers to know where N.C. State’s baseball team is as it enters the postseason.

“We’re in a good place right now,” the All-ACC left fielder said.

The Wolfpack (40-14) is in good shape after a resilient bounce-back win at Florida State last Saturday to close out one of its best regular-season efforts in coach Elliott Avent’s 22 years.

As the No. 3 seed in the ACC tournament, N.C. State opens pool play on Thursday against Virginia (3 p.m.).

The Wolfpack will try to win its first ACC title since 1992. It already has hit a few milestones that only a few other teams in school history have.

A 5-3 win over the Seminoles, after losing each of the first two games of the series on a walk-off home run, gave this N.C. State team 40 regular-season wins for the first time since 2013 (the year the Wolfpack made the College World Series) and only second time in 24 years.

The 19 ACC wins equaled the most in school history (the conference schedule expanded to 30 games in 2005). The ’13 and ’12 teams also won 19 conference games and they both reached the Super Regional round in the NCAA tournament.

STATEDUKE03-042118-EDH.jpg
N.C. State's Brett Kinneman (6) makes the catch during N.C. State's 2-1 victory over Duke at Jack Coombs Field in Durham Saturday, April 21, 2018. Ethan Hyman ehyman@newsobserver.com

N.C. State also had senior Brian Brown named the ACC pitcher of the year on Monday and catcher Patrick Bailey as the freshman of the year. Brown, Kinneman, shortstop Will Wilson and center fielder Josh McLain were all named first-team All-ACC. The Wolfpack hasn’t had that many players on the first team since 1992 (there’s that year again).

“We’re in the position that we wanted to be,” said Kinneman, who leads the team in home runs (17) and RBIs (60). “We have the goals we set out to accomplish in the beginning of the year in front of us but we still have work to do.”

Avent gave his players two days off after the emotionally draining series at FSU. They had a light practice on Tuesday and will have another on Wednesday.

Avent is trying to line up his pitching for the week. Freshman Reid Johnston is expected to start on Thursday against Virginia. Brown, if necessary, can go against FSU on Friday.

The pool format, with the tiebreaker going to the best-seeded team in each group if there’s a three-way 1-1 tie after the round-robin, is set up in N.C. State’s favor.

Four games in the ACC tournament before the NCAA tournament next week might not be ideal for N.C. State’s thin pitching corps.

“Four games going into a regional can be taxing on everybody,” Avent said. “I just hope we get a chance to find out how taxing that is.”

In a regular-season full of wins, maybe it was a pair of losses, and how the team that responded that was the most encouraging sign as the postseason beckons.

“How they handle every game, after some of the things that have happened this year, is why we are where we are,” Avent said.

A deep, power-hitting lineup, with five different players with at least 10 home runs, has helped.So has Brown’s uncanny ability to deliver a weekend win. The Wolfpack has won eight of his 10 ACC starts. He takes a 6-1 record into the postseason with a 2.37 earned run average.

Brown was overwhelmed with the awards from the ACC on Monday.

“It’s special,” he said. “It really is.”

But Brown is after more than just an individual recognition or even regular-season success.

“We’re not done yet,” Brown said.

Related stories from Raleigh News & Observer

  Comments