The Wolfpack Nine will travel to Athens to take on the SEC regular season champion Georgia Bulldogs (18-6 winners over Georgia Tech in a decisive regional contest) in the Super Regional round of the NCAA baseball tournament, which opens at noon on Friday. Super Regional format has the host team “home” for the first and the guest team “home” for the second game. For that and more superfluous information that is a sure-fire cure for insomnia, I invite you to check out the NCAA Baseball Championship handbook. ESPN indicates we would be visitors in the third game, but I have no idea if the coin toss has in fact been conducted yet after looking into this (thanks for the heads up WolfpackCoach17). Yes, the Super Regionals are one step away from Omaha, home of the college world series.
After pitching its way through the Raleigh Regional, NC State will start to see some tangible benefits from their success in the form of exposure. The family of ESPN networks will cover the Super Regional Rounds and the State/Georgia matchups will be featured on the “big channels” with the opening and third games slated for ESPN and game two aired on ESPN2. Of the 16 remaining teams, 4 (25%) are from the ACC and SEC tournament champion LSU is the other remaining SEC squad. In regional competition, Georgia went 4-1 (with a loss to 4 seed Lipscomb in the opener) and outscored it’s opponents 56-27; the Wolfpack swept through Raleigh with a 3-0 mark, outscoring it’s opponents 13-7 (giving up 7 runs in three games with the aluminum bat is just ridiculous). Let’s meet the teams: RPIs are taken from Warrennolan.com. NC State’s regional performance hasn’t gone unnoticed in the polls; the Wolfpack jumped 10 spots in the latest Baseball America rankings.
|Team||RPI||Runs Scored||Runs Allowed||HR||SB/Att||ERA||Errors|
|NC State Wolfpack||6||414||243||61||54/76||3.36||76|
Offensively, the two teams put up about an equal number of runs. The biggest differences are in terms of star power and, well, power. Again State will face an opponent with some tremendous thumpers in the lineup, lead by SEC Player of the Year, and National POY candidate, Gordon Beckham (Shortstop). The Wolfpack will look to their arms again, as they gave up about 100 fewer runs over the course of the season than the Bulldogs. Georgia runs a bit more on the basepaths and at a slightly higher rate of success. Both teams are successful at swiping bags over 70% of the time, which is right around the threshold for making SB attempts worthwhile (at least according to a few analysts). I’ve mentioned Beckham, let’s go ahead and look at his numbers– and the numbers of other offensive leaders. I’ve expanded table composition to include some other numbers of interest/importance in an attempt to improve on my regional preview (better round, ought to be a better preview, eh??):
|Player||Team||Average||On Base %||Slugging %||HR||RBI||SB/Att|
Georgia is a little top-heavy when it comes to offensive production (but it’s a Pamela Anderson top). State appears to have a little more lineup depth than Georgia, which honestly shocked the crap out of me as I was going through the numbers. This means a couple of things: first, State should be able to effictively work the Georgia pitching staff and second, State absolutely cannot afford to issue free bases to the bottom half of the Bulldog order. State’s pitching has been a strength (in other breaking news, Yao Ming is tall) all season long; let’s hope that trend continues. Here’s a glance at some of the pitching leaders for both squads.
|Clayton Shunick||NCSU||7-5||2.16||95 2/3||108||23||.215|
|Eric Surkamp||NCSU||5-2||4.39||69 2/3||82||34||.280|
|Eryk McConnell||NCSU||4-2||5.07||49 2/3||25||18||.296|
|Joey Cutler||NCSU||5-0||2.68||40 1/3||43||8||.222|
|Stephen Dodson||UGa||5-4||4.41||87 2/3||46||12||.266|
|Trevor Holder||UGa||7-4||4.60||78 1/3||54||21||.300|
|Nathan Moreau||UGa||4-2||4.93||65 2/3||51||30||.268|
|Dean Weaver||UGa||5-1||2.91||43 1/3||45||15||.245|
|Nick Montgomery||UGa||3-2||4.01||51 2/3||53||14||.244|
Georgia doesn’t feature a lot of guys that issue walks; however, they also don’t feature a lot of strikeout pitchers. This bodes well for a team that thrives on putting balls in play as opposed to hacking for the occasional longball. We’ve spoken a lot in recent days about the strength of State’s pitching staff. To reflect just how good some of these guys are, I’ve added the opponent’s batting average column. The numbers under Shunick and Buchanan are just plain sick. On balls put in play (approximated, I haven’t taken double plays or sacrifices into consideration– that’d take a while longer than I have– but these are going to be pretty close), opponents are batting .301 against Shunick (put in perspective, this is about the average for your typical major league pitcher). Buchanan yields a .227 average on balls put in play- that isn’t just ridiculous, it’s ludicrous. I can’t underscore how difficult it is to allow only 22.7% of balls put into play to fall for hits with the aluminum bat in play; he’s either very good, or very lucky– but after watching him against Miami in the ACC tournament, I’d lean further to the side of “good.”
This should be an outstanding weekend of baseball for the Wolfpack. We’re in a regional that we have at least a reasonable chance of winning. Of course, other teams have been in the “reasonable” position before, and we all realize it comes down to execution. I definitely know I’ll be watching Saturday and Sunday; and yours truly is already hatching a plan to weasel out of a Friday afternoon meeting (gotta have my priorities in order, eh?). No matter what, this team has had a wonderful season and for the most part played well. I don’t doubt that the trend of good play will continue this weekend. It’s going to be a lot of fun, and of course– GO WOLFPACK!