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NC State Baseball

MCLAMB'S MUSINGS: Talkin' Baseball

May 21, 2024
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Leaving the Deacs in their Wake

Obviously, a sweep of Wake Forest to end the regular season is impressive. It goes lockstep with what NC State has essentially been doing for most of the conference campaign, sans road trips to Georgia Tech and Louisville.

I thought the resiliency shown in the final game was impressive. Clemson had claimed the division title, so with that ship sailed the Wolfpack’s only path to earning a top-seed spot in its ACC Championship pod was a winner-take-all Saturday matchup – and NCSU trailed by as many as four runs. 

Games often have their own particular feel to them, but some of that is due to where the teams competing are going when they enter the contest. NC State was – and is – in a good place. The Wolfpack has fought all season and, of course, held its own against ranked opposition. With that in mind, the vibe was that NCSU would make a push despite trailing by four runs early in the regular season finale. And they did. 

With series wins in five of the six that they have faced against ranked teams and a tie in the other, there is no reason to think NC State will have fear in its heart during the postseason. Confidence is usually earned, and the Wolfpack has defeated all the best in the ACC. 

The play this season, along with the top-seed privileges that NCSU has in its ACC Championship pod, means the Wolfpack is a legitimate favorite to bring home a conference crown. 

What Sticks Out

The 2013 NC State team that won 50 games was a juggernaut, but my favorite Wolfpack team was the 2021 squad. 

What I liked best about the 2021 group was the balance in the batting order.

Think about baseball games of your favorite teams that you have watched over the years. In close games that are in the late innings, how many times have you thought, “If they can get the heart of the order back to bat one more time, they have a chance”.

In 2021, it did not matter where the NC State lineup was at late in close games. One through nine, the Wolfpack could hit for a high average, hit for power, steal bases, and make clutch plays. 

This season’s team reminds me of that. Dudes at the bottom of the order can rake. The Wolfpack offense is always a hop, skip, and jump away from exploding for runs. 

Personally, I think this season’s pitching might be better than 2021.  And while there will never be another Carlos Rodon, the Wolfpack has depth in its staff that can perhaps match the 2013 team. 

Sam Highfill and Logan Whitaker are veterans. Dominic Fritton is ready to blossom. Ryan Marohn, Cooper Consiglio, Jacob Dudan, and others provide stability and comfort that belies their age. Derrick Smith is a lockdown, conventional closer that NC State has not often had over the years. 

The bottom line is this -- if an NC State baseball team resembles the 2013 or 2021 squads, there is a chance it can go far. I think this one does. 

The Path To the ACC Championship Semifinals

Virginia Tech and Duke are two solid teams for Pod C, and NC State has dealt with the Blue Devils quite a bit in recent ACC Championships. 

For me, the better strategic scenario for the Wolfpack would be a Hokies win over the Blue Devils. I say this not to infer that Virginia Tech would be a pushover for NCSU. In fact, there will not be many more of those this season, if any at all. 

I feel the late game on Tuesday between the two will be competitive, and if NC State has to play Virginia Tech to advance on Wednesday night the Wolfpack can have all hands on deck – because should NCSU win it would not have to play meaningful baseball until Saturday at 5 p.m. (a break of almost three days). 

In that scenario, NC State then would likely have every pitcher used on Wednesday available for at least some work, and most ready for maximum usage. 

Should Duke beat VPI, it would mean NC State’s game to advance is one day later, and (should the Wolfpack win) the lull would be around 24 hours less. That is still ample time for NCSU to sort itself by Saturday and then make a push for the conference crown.

Looking Ahead

NC State will host a regional and will be in the mix to host Supers if they win the ACC title on Sunday. 

The lack of midweek success might be a concern in a regional scenario, especially if NC State loses early. I think the Wolfpack will fancy itself to pull through despite an early blip because they hit well, and they have enough relief pitching to navigate a four-game weekend. If the regional slogs on to Monday or Tuesday, those who took the mound on Friday can give some innings there. 

NC State is equipped to excel in a Super Regional. It, along with the finals of the College World Series, is college playoff baseball in its simplest form. It is a best-of-three series where two wins advance. The Wolfpack has been crushing weekend series all season and has done it against competition that is just as good as what it would likely face in the Supers – especially if NCSU is hosting. Once again, the body of work says the Pack should be taken seriously. 

Predictions 

ACC Championship: I list NC State as a favorite to win the 2024 ACC title and I predict they will win. 

Regional/Supers: The Wolfpack is equipped to compete well in both – perhaps better in Supers – and I think hosting the regional will give them the bounce to overcome any slippage. 

NC State’s weekend series record in ACC play tells me they can win a Supers setup anywhere, home or away. 

I predict the Wolfpack will reach the 2024 College World Series. 

As far as Omaha, I don’t like to pick a national champion until the eight teams that will be in Nebraska are finalized. I will say I think NC State can reach the Best-of-Three final and compete for the national crown, but a lot has to happen, including some aligning of the stars. 

Would it surprise me if NC State won the 2024 national title? No, not completely. 

I have not been this bullish for an NC State baseball team since 2021. That season I inaccurately predicted the Wolfpack would win the ACC and reach the finals of the College World Series. NCSU was just short on both, but I think the greater point is this version of the Pack is solid and has the potential to be the best squad in the program’s history.

There are titles out there for NC State. Let’s see if they can bring them home. 

MCLAMB'S MUSINGS: Talkin' Baseball

3,697 Views | 16 Replies | Last: 1 mo ago by ClePack
Pack31
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Welp, I'm officially fired up!! Good stuff Rob. 100% a balanced lineup is hell on a pitching staff. Love this team. Let's go!!!
Rob McLamb
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Pack31 said:

Welp, I'm officially fired up!! Good stuff Rob. 100% a balanced lineup is hell on a pitching staff. Love this team. Let's go!!!
This is NC State's ACC title to take. If it doesn't happen, it will sort of suck for NCSU but everything in the NCAA's will still be on the table.
Twitter: @RobMcLamb
pack2010
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not to be a downer, but still think we lack high end starting pitching to make a true run here. fritton has been up and (mostly) down all year. highfill has been good, not great. whitaker hasnt been good since coming back from illness and had a 5+ ERA before that.

best case- we get a good version of Dom and Sam that can go 5-6 good innings, and a better version of Whitaker that can keep up in games.

love what some of the young arms have done recently, and we will need them, but in a game 3, season on the line, do you trust logan whitaker? not sure i do.
CLTWolf
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pack2010 said:

not to be a downer, but still think we lack high end starting pitching to make a true run here. fritton has been up and (mostly) down all year. highfill has been good, not great. whitaker hasnt been good since coming back from illness and had a 5+ ERA before that.

best case- we get a good version of Dom and Sam that can go 5-6 good innings, and a better version of Whitaker that can keep up in games.

love what some of the young arms have done recently, and we will need them, but in a game 3, season on the line, do you trust logan whitaker? not sure i do.
Hell, he's one I do trust. He did it last year against duke and then did it again against Campbell. Dude is a gamer. He's won a state championship, been a state POY, battled back from a couple nasty arm injuries and he just steps up pretty much every time he's been needed.

Logan is a dude.
*Wolfpack Baseball - 2021 *NCAA COLLEGE WORLD SERIES CHAMPS!
*Congrats to the 10 win 2021 Wolfpack football team!
wilmwolf
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CLTWolf said:

pack2010 said:

not to be a downer, but still think we lack high end starting pitching to make a true run here. fritton has been up and (mostly) down all year. highfill has been good, not great. whitaker hasnt been good since coming back from illness and had a 5+ ERA before that.

best case- we get a good version of Dom and Sam that can go 5-6 good innings, and a better version of Whitaker that can keep up in games.

love what some of the young arms have done recently, and we will need them, but in a game 3, season on the line, do you trust logan whitaker? not sure i do.
Hell, he's one I do trust. He did it last year against duke and then did it again against Campbell. Dude is a gamer. He's won a state championship, been a state POY, battled back from a couple nasty arm injuries and he just steps up pretty much every time he's been needed.

Logan is a dude.
21 team rode three starters (including Highfill) and two.relievers to Omaha. This team is much deeper with quality arms. Having g high end starters, which we to still have, isn't as important when you have capable middle relief. And yeah, i trust Logan.
Just a guy on the sunshine squad.
The Gatekeeper.
flylike44
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Rob sayin' it with his chest. Let's do this.
CoachCase
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Great write-up! Love the optimism. One game at a time! Only thing that matters today is to beat Va Tech! Go Pack!
MoCoWolf
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pack2010 said:

not to be a downer, but still think we lack high end starting pitching to make a true run here. fritton has been up and (mostly) down all year. highfill has been good, not great. whitaker hasnt been good since coming back from illness and had a 5+ ERA before that.

best case- we get a good version of Dom and Sam that can go 5-6 good innings, and a better version of Whitaker that can keep up in games.

love what some of the young arms have done recently, and we will need them, but in a game 3, season on the line, do you trust logan whitaker? not sure i do.
But you'll be a downer anyway...
pack2010
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MoCoWolf said:

pack2010 said:

not to be a downer, but still think we lack high end starting pitching to make a true run here. fritton has been up and (mostly) down all year. highfill has been good, not great. whitaker hasnt been good since coming back from illness and had a 5+ ERA before that.

best case- we get a good version of Dom and Sam that can go 5-6 good innings, and a better version of Whitaker that can keep up in games.

love what some of the young arms have done recently, and we will need them, but in a game 3, season on the line, do you trust logan whitaker? not sure i do.
But you'll be a downer anyway...

for voicing an opinion/concerns? not at all. i love this team. this team has upside, and a lot of it. i'll watch every inning, too. just simply stating an opinion that i hope i am wrong about. there is a path to make a super regional very competitive. there is also a path where this team doesn't win a regional. both can be true, IMO.
Tomas93
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I agree with this take. I love the team too and am enjoying the hell out of this run. I am going to watch and support them 100% regardless the rest of the way. That said, it is ok for someone to offer a nuanced take that acknowledges this team isn't perfect. Give a minute or two to look at the ACC baseball season stats linked below and where we rank, particularly on offense but also pitching, and see if that leads to a more reserved optimism....it. does for me. I love the toughness of the team and the intangibles and the way they have gutted out so many close games, and they are certainly capable of winning the ACC tourney and making a run in the NCAA's, but I wouldn't call them a favorite to do so. I really hope we do pull it off though....it would make 2024 an even more epic Wolfpack year than it already is!

https://theacc.com/stats.aspx?path=baseball&year=2024
Alex Gee
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Tomas93 said:

I agree with this take. I love the team too and am enjoying the hell out of this run. I am going to watch and support them 100% regardless the rest of the way. That said, it is ok for someone to offer a nuanced take that acknowledges this team isn't perfect. Give a minute or two to look at the ACC baseball season stats linked below and where we rank, particularly on offense but also pitching, and see if that leads to a more reserved optimism....it. does for me. I love the toughness of the team and the intangibles and the way they have gutted out so many close games, and they are certainly capable of winning the ACC tourney and making a run in the NCAA's, but I wouldn't call them a favorite to do so. I really hope we do pull it off though....it would make 2024 an even more epic Wolfpack year than it already is!

https://theacc.com/stats.aspx?path=baseball&year=2024


I like the stat that says NC State is 10-2 in game 1 and 2s against ranked opponents
Tomas93
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That's my favorite one too, especially compared to a lot of the other ones. At the end of the day wins and losses are all that matters, but I think we would both agree that deeper level statistics do provide some insight on how likely trends are to continue in the future. We have won a lot of close ballgames. I hope it continues. When I look at the stats and the season as a whole I don't see much separation between the top 6 or 7 teams.
Rob McLamb
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ClePack
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Nothing wrong with some people voicing their opinions on the team.

Personally, I wouldn't put them up there with 2021 or 2013 yet. I think this team is... deeper but less talented, if that makes sense? I certainly do not think we should be favored to win the ACC title, but I'd probably put us in the top 3 favorites. Like others have mentioned, will require the Dom we got against wake, and a strong Whit to pull it off. Agree with rob saying that we will need some aligning of the stars to win not only the ACC title but to advance to the CWS. (bracket luck, anyone?)

What we do have is that we are playing our best RIGHT NOW. That's big.
Alex Gee
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ClePack said:

Nothing wrong with some people voicing their opinions on the team.

Personally, I wouldn't put them up there with 2021 or 2013 yet. I think this team is... deeper but less talented, if that makes sense? I certainly do not think we should be favored to win the ACC title, but I'd probably put us in the top 3 favorites. Like others have mentioned, will require the Dom we got against wake, and a strong Whit to pull it off. Agree with rob saying that we will need some aligning of the stars to win not only the ACC title but to advance to the CWS. (bracket luck, anyone?)

What we do have is that we are playing our best RIGHT NOW. That's big.


I'm not trying to be combative I promise, but I think we've been playing really damn good ball since March 22 with the only exception being the Louisville series when we didn't have Sam or Whit. You don't do what we did in this league otherwise.

The reason I think it feels "best" is because we have a 3rd starter for game 3s again.
ClePack
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Alex Gee said:

ClePack said:

Nothing wrong with some people voicing their opinions on the team.

Personally, I wouldn't put them up there with 2021 or 2013 yet. I think this team is... deeper but less talented, if that makes sense? I certainly do not think we should be favored to win the ACC title, but I'd probably put us in the top 3 favorites. Like others have mentioned, will require the Dom we got against wake, and a strong Whit to pull it off. Agree with rob saying that we will need some aligning of the stars to win not only the ACC title but to advance to the CWS. (bracket luck, anyone?)

What we do have is that we are playing our best RIGHT NOW. That's big.


I'm not trying to be combative I promise, but I think we've been playing really damn good ball since March 22 with the only exception being the Louisville series when we didn't have Sam or Whit. You don't do what we did in this league otherwise.

The reason I think it feels "best" is because we have a 3rd starter for game 3s again.


No problem. No combat detected. Your point is definitely a strong one. We don't end up the 3 seed in literally the best conference in college baseball without being really damn good. I just don't think our top end pitching matches what we had in 2013 and 2021. This team can still go as far as those 2 did. (I also loved our lineup in 2021. My fav lineup 1-9 ever. Not a weak link in there)
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