The Raleigh Regional starts at 2 p.m. Friday with No. 2 seed Auburn vs. No. 3 seed Northeastern. Host, and top seed, N.C. State follows at 7 p.m. with its opening game against Army West Point.
Getting to know the four teams who'll be in Raleigh this weekend:
1. N.C. State Wolfpack
Record: 40-16 (19-11 ACC)
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NCAA history: 51-58, 30th appearance; Regional round* wins 4 (2003, ’08, ’12, ’13)
Top hitter: SS Will Wilson (.303, 14 HRs, 50 RBIs)
Top pitcher: LHP Brian Brown (6-2, 2.71 ERA)
Plus: The Wolfpack can hit with any team in the NCAA field. Four players are hitting better than .300 and five players have at least 10 home runs. As a team, N.C. State ranks No. 4 in the country in home runs (81) and No. 25 in scoring (7.0 runs per game). The Wolfpack has also been a tough out at home in NCAA. It has a 16-3 record as the regional host.
Minus: Injuries have left coach Elliott Avent with four reliable pitchers. The bullpen has been stretched thin without Austin Staley or Dalton Feeney. It has been a bit of a shell game by Avent and pitching coach Scott Foxhall to make it work as long as they have this season. The double-elimination format can be merciless on teams with a shallow pitching pool.
2. Auburn Tigers
Record: 39-21 (15-15 SEC)
NCAA history: 47-53, 21st appearance; Regional round* wins 1 (1999)
Top hitter: SS Will Holland (.315, 11 HRs, 46 RBIs)
Top pitcher: RHP Casey Mize (9-5, 3.07)
Plus: Mize, the projected top pick in the upcoming MLB draft, is a once-in-a-generation talent. The 6-3, 220-pound righthander struck out 140 batters this season, in 102.2 innings, with only 10 walks. Auburn coach Butch Thompson said he is saving Mize for Saturday. Northeastern is likely happiest about that. Mize already threw a no-hitter against the Huskies this season (on March 9). Holland and third baseman Brendan Venter lead an offense that ranks in the top 25 in scoring.
Minus: The Tigers have lost 7 of their past 11 games and even Mize has had his struggles down the stretch. Auburn hasn’t exactly been able to bring its show on the road this season. The Tigers are 10-15 away from home, including a 2-10 mark against teams in the NCAA field.
3. Northeastern Huskies
Record: 36-19 (17-6 Colonial Athletic)
NCAA history: 6-14, 8th appearance; Regional round* wins 0.
Top hitter: 1B Jake Farrell (.341, 11 HRs, 61 RBIs)
Top pitcher: LHP Sean Mellen (10-3, 2.28 ERA)
Plus: The Huskies, on the other hand like most Northern teams, have been to able win all over. The CAA regular-season champs won 22 of their 36 games away from home.
“They’ve done just about everything this year,” coach Mike Glavine said. “They’ve played night games. They’ve played morning games, afternoon, on the road, at home, in cold, warm weather, terrific rest. I think they’re prepared for any situation that’s thrown at them. This weekend will be no different.”
Minus: Walks are not a pitchers friend at any time of the year but especially the postseason. The Huskies have issued 260 free passes in 493 innings, which places them among the worst in that category in the country.
4. Army West Point Black Knights
Record: 35-22 (18-7 Patriot League)
NCAA history: 3-12, 7th appearance; Regional round* wins 0.
Top hitter: C Jon Rosoff (.351, 0 HRs, 45 RBIs)
Top pitcher: RHP Daniel Burggraaf (7-2, 2.34 ERA)
Plus: The Black Knights are unbeaten in the Triangle this season. The Patriot League champions beat Bryant, Niagara and Boston College at the USA Baseball Complex in Cary in March. Center fielder Jacob Hurtubise leads the country with 40 stolen bases.
Minus: Not surprisingly, for a team that ranks No. 293 (out of 300) teams in home runs (with nine), the Black Knights are among the best teams in the country in sacrifice bunts.
Note: *since the field expanded to 64 teams in 1999 and the Regional/Super regional format was adopted.