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NC State Baseball

Takeaways: Wolfpack baseball drops first two ACC games

February 27, 2021
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This has not been a banner week for NC State baseball. Following a 16-13 loss to UNC-Greensboro Tuesday, the Wolfpack dropped back-to-back games to Georgia Tech to open ACC play, losing by a combined score of 17-5. 

In Friday’s opener (which had to be finished Saturday due to rain), NC State was out of the game early and never back in it in a 9-2 loss. Saturday, the Pack wasted a strong start from Sam Highfill as the bullpen surrendered five runs in the seventh inning of an 8-3 loss. Here are some key takeaways from the pair of games.


Highfill impresses in game-two start

Freshman righty Sam Highfill got the nod for his second start of the season in this one, and turned in the Pack’s best outing by a starting pitcher this season. Highfill displayed excellent command with his fastball, allowing just three runs on six hits while striking out seven and walking just one.

Highfill’s first inning was an interesting one. On the one hand, he allowed the Jackets to do plenty of damage, allowing three hits, walking one and allowing two runs on a pair of RBI singles. However, all three of his outs came via the strikeout, which set the stage for the rest of his outing.

“I made a couple of mistakes early,” Highfill said. “I think it was good to switch up arm slots. I think that helped me out a lot in the next four innings. They have a good offense, and it was good to bounce back after the first inning.”

Striking out the last two batters in the first inning seemed to settle Highfill into a groove. While he was the beneficiary of some strong defensive plays in the field, particularly from third baseman Vojtech Mensik, he retired 12 straight between the first and fifth inning and only allowed four base runners after the opening inning. 

The Jackets threatened with a pair of one-out singles in the top of the fifth, but Highfill struck out back-to-back batters looking to get out of the jam and preserve NC State’s 3-2 lead. The Pack surrendered the tying run in the sixth in a bit of a tough break. 

Following a leadoff double, a called balk against Highfill that Avent was not pleased with wiped out the second out and moved the runner on second to third base. He then scored from third on a wild pitch to tie the game. 

“Sam was really good,” said head coach Elliott Avent. “That first inning was a little bit rocky for him. I think we walked the second hitter, which is uncharacteristic for him. But there was a time with about the thrid through the sixth that he just pounded strikes. There were a lot of quick innings there. He got that unfortunate call in the sixth inning and they were able to tie the game up. Then we decided that was it for Sam. He was in the 90-pitch range. That’s as much as they need to be this early in the season. … I thought Sam was really, really good.”

Bullpen woes continue

Following their collective disastrous game in high-leverage situations Tuesday, NC State’s bullpen continued to struggle mightily Saturday. Kent Klyman replaced Highfill to lead off the seventh, and his outing was a catastrophe. He allowed all four batters he faced to reach base. He put the first two on with a walk and hit batter, then allowed back-to-back homers to give the Yellow Jackets a 7-3 lead. Matt Willadsen turned that into back-to-back-to-back homers as he surrendered a long ball to his first batter. 

NC State has surrendered 33 runs over this three-game losing streak, 25 of which have come against the bullpen. In order for this team to compete at the level it wants, the Pack’s relief corps will have to be exponentially better going forward. 

“That’s obviously something that is a concern,” Avent said. “We don’t have the arms that some teams have when a lot of teams increased thier rosters with a lot of different guys due to the NCAA rules about roster changes. We chose not to go that route. It’s a situation where we have a few guys that are shut down right now. It’s still early in the season. We missed a week of preseason when we came back late for school. So they probably aren’t far along now as in we would have been in years past. With some guys out right and some young guys that probably need to grow up a little quicker than normal, then I think our bullpen is a little thin.”

Offense drops off

Coming into the first game, NC State’s bats had been red hot in three outings, as the Wolfpack had scored 32 runs on 45 hits. The Pack’s bats struggled against Georgia Tech’s pitchers Friday and Saturday, however, scoring just five runs on 13 hits and striking out a whopping 28 times over the first two games of the series. 

“I think there’s just some frustration,” Avent said. “The offense hasn’t been as good the last two days as we were early in the season. But it’s still early. Early is the key word here. It’s really, really early. We’ve got a good hitting team, a good offensive team. I think some guys are trying to do too much, which is a characteristic in baseball. I think we’re guilty of that. We're not utilizing all the things we have as an offense that we can do a better job of. … I think you’ve got to give a lot of credit to Georgia Tech, and then understand that we can be better as well.”

In Friday’s opener, the Wolfpack went hitless over the first 4.1 innings, and did not score a run off a hit until the seventh inning. Yellow Jackets Friday starter Brant Hurter dealt against NC State’s lineup, allowing just one run on two hits while striking out six and walking none in six innings. 

The Pack’s offense was at least more competitive early on Saturday, taking a 3-2 lead through four innings with three solo home runs, one by Austin Murr and two from Luca Tresh in his first two at-bats of the game. The Pack still struggled to string quality at-bats together, however, picking up just eight hits and striking out 18 times. Not getting production from the bottom half of the order was a major issue, with NC State’s five through nine hitters, pinch hitters excluded, going a combined 4 for 36 in the two games. 

Obviously there’s little reason to panic for an NC State offense that came into this season with plenty of promise and backed that up in its first three games, the Pack’s bats will need to be much better than they opened the series against Georgia Tech’s pitchers. 

“I think they have a good staff,” Tresh said. “I think we have a really good offense; I think we just need to figure some things out.”

Justice escapes early jam in game one, but struggles

Evan Justice got the team’s first Friday start of the year and  found himself in trouble to start the game, hitting the fist batter he faced, walking the second and moving them both into scoring position with a wild pitch. He recovered, striking out the side to keep things scoreless.

Overall, however, it was not a banner start for Justice, as he allowed five runs on six hits while striking out six and walking three through four innings. Justice’s command was all over the place,  as just 61 of his 94 pitches in four innings went for strikes. 

Overall, aside from three strong innings from Chris Villaman and Highfill’s start Saturday, it’s been a week to forget for NC State’s pitchers going into Sunday, which is likely to be another start for Villaman.






 

Takeaways: Wolfpack baseball drops first two ACC games

1,170 Views | 12 Replies | Last: 1 mo ago by Pack31
wolfpack1437
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EA: "It's a situation where we have a few guys that are shut down right now."

Who do we have shutdown in the bullpen? Injuries or COVID?
3rdGenPacker
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Willadsen gave up the HR when he first got in, but after that he was good, wound up pitching 3 innings and the only run was that initial one. That's a positive sign. He and Highfill together pitched well,
89_Grad
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Is EA really blaming " the rules" for his terrible bullpen? Can someone explain what he is talking about?
Pack31
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wolfpack1437 said:

EA: "It's a situation where we have a few guys that are shut down right now."

Who do we have shutdown in the bullpen? Injuries or COVID?


Pace and Cotter I know are out still
SexualChocolate
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This is a horrible start to the season. Need to recruit pitching better. I'm not a fan of Avent but he has been average to good here. How many CWS has he been to in how many years?


Answer:1 in 23 years
JCooke93
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Also EA and Chrysler need to stop with this Lefty Righty **** and stop keeping the Same lineup and change it up because it's not working
wolfpack1437
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89_Grad said:

Is EA really blaming " the rules" for his terrible bullpen? Can someone explain with he is talking about?
The NCAA chose to let teams have a limitless expansion of their roster this season. EA chose not to expand bc he said he didn't want to try to keep additional guys happy.
wolfpack1437
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Pack31 said:

wolfpack1437 said:

EA: "It's a situation where we have a few guys that are shut down right now."

Who do we have shutdown in the bullpen? Injuries or COVID?


Pace and Cotter I know are out still
Are these COVID or injuries?
SexualChocolate
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Exactly. I thought the same thing.
packard
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Not Surprised.
EthanBarry
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Staff
Pack31 said:

wolfpack1437 said:

EA: "It's a situation where we have a few guys that are shut down right now."

Who do we have shutdown in the bullpen? Injuries or COVID?


Pace and Cotter I know are out still


Cotter is still out? Sheesh
Pack31
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EthanBarry said:

Pack31 said:

wolfpack1437 said:

EA: "It's a situation where we have a few guys that are shut down right now."

Who do we have shutdown in the bullpen? Injuries or COVID?


Pace and Cotter I know are out still


Cotter is still out? Sheesh


I'm just assuming. I mean we are 5 games 8n amd no appearances. We could have used him at some point.
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