Tech looks to get back on track after a rough series against the Hokies as the Jackets travel up I-85 and I-40 into the wolfpack's recently renovated lair. Winfield and myself e-mailed a couple of Packers to see what's up with the NC State baseball squad this season including star quarterback Russell Wilson. The first responder and only serious Packer baseball fan who responded was Backing the Pack's Steven. Winfield shot him some quick questions and Steven responded with some pretty heartfelt answers. Here is the exchange...
Winfield @ FTRS: The ACC is a pretty good baseball conference with good baseball fans. What's the atmosphere like at NCSU? Steven @ BTP: I couldn't begin to guess how it compares with the rest of the league, but I think the atmosphere is pretty good. I think we're averaging somewhere between 1000-1500 fans a night for the weekend games. It's gotten a lot better since they renovated the ballpark, that's for sure.
Winfield @ FTRS: Deck McGuire is our All American/ All ACC/ All Universe fireball pitcher. Who does NCSU have to match wits against Deck? What is the Wolfpack bullpen like? Steven @ BTP: Right hander Jake Buchanan will get the start on Friday, though he falls woefully short of McGuire in terms of both performance and the ease with which his name rolls off the tongue. Buchanan's walk rate is middle-of-the-road, but he is striking out almost 8 batters per 9 innings pitched in league play. He's certainly capable of a quality start this weekend.
As for the bullpen, well, that's been a disaster. There are some younger guys in the mix who have good stuff but haven't been able to find the strike zone; walks have been a theme all year long. The coaches have given opportunities to a ton of guys, and they even let Russell Wilson attempt to close some games, but as it turns out there are some problem that even Russell Wilson can't solve.
Grant Sasser's been pretty good in relief, and he's gotten the most work out of the pen. Felix Roque and Rob Chamra have had their moments. All three have good K-rates but are prone to issuing walks. Beyond that, there ain't much. Expect the Pack to stretch their Friday/Saturday starters as far as possible.
Winfield @ FTRS: Tell us about your team and its strengths. Pitching and defensiveness? Or offensive firepower? Steven @ BTP: By now you've probably guessed that it isn't the pitching staff carrying the team. Defense has been problematic as well, especially of late. The offense, on the other hand, has been a real surprise after a dreadful 2009. In conference play, NC State ranks 3rd in batting average, 2nd in OBP, 5th in slugging, and 4th in runs scored. Keep an eye on Chris Schaeffer (.328/.413/.642 in ACC games), Andrew Ciencin (.326/.404/.511) and the two Poulks.
Thanks goes out to Steven. He may not realize it but I consider NC State a top 5 rival for me personally just behind uga, Clemson, taxes, and athlete's foot. Hopefully, the Stateys are prepared for our wrath come football season. Also, his responses have led us to believe that if both teams can run up their opposing starting pitchers' pitch counts, we will see some fireworks. Check out Backing the Pack if you've ever got free time. Amongst the Carolinians, State fans provide an interesting break from elite Dookies, redneck Clemson/USC fans, and bandwagon Tar Heels. I've never met a Wake fan in person.
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