The floodgates are already open for NC State, and it appears the waters might be getting murkier. Abdul-Malik Abu, who entered the 2016 NBA Draft without an agent, might transfer from the Wolfpack basketball program.
Abu’s plans are to depart from Raleigh whether he’s drafted or not, according to Jeff Goodman of ESPN.
NC State forward Abdul Malik-Abu told ESPN he is “seriously considering transferring or hiring an agent.”
Last season, Abu developed into a powerful big man who could score and defend in the post. He averaged 12.9 points, 8.8 rebounds and 49 percent shooting percentage in 28.3 minutes per game in 2015-16.
Presumed to be the best big man on the court for the Pack in 2016-17, Abu was predicted to carry the load offensively down low. With BeeJay Anya entering his name into the NBA draft, both were expected to see huge minutes next season with a solid backcourt in Maverick Rowan, Dennis Smith Jr., Terry Henderson and Torrin Dorn leading the rotation.
The reaction from Twitter, of course, was fantastic.
Abu was not invited to the NBA Combine — Cat Barber was the only NC State player invited — and has yet to hire an agent. Leaving the Pack would be a questionable move with the likely emphasis that would be placed on him in the paint next season, but not an outlandish one.
Dating back to the 2009 recruiting class, 11 of the 23 scholarship recruits have gone on to play for different colleges. That includes players like Rodney Purvis, Tyler Lewis and Jaqawn Raymond — all three playing in the NCAA Tournament this year.
Abu would just be the latest to leave Mark Gottfried’s program, but likely the most shocking given the opportunity he has to shine with NC State next year.
For the last two seasons, Jacoby Brissett has lined up alongside Joe Thuney in Carter-Finley Stadium. On Friday night, NC State’s offensive duo went their separate ways when Thuney was selected by the New England Patriots.
That lasted about 40 minutes.
Thuney was taken with the 78th overall pick in the third round at 10:17 p.m. Brissett, projected to go in the sixth round by CBS Sports, was nabbed by the Patriots with the 91st overall pick in the third round at 10:56 p.m.
“No way, that’s awesome!” Thuney told media following the news that Brissett was also picked by the Pats. “Couldn’t be happier for him.”
It couldn’t be a more perfect situation for Thuney. The versatile offensive lineman played any position the NC State coaching staff asked him to during his time in Raleigh. Thuney noted that he “embraced it” when coaches texted him about slotting at a different position each week.
Blessed with great athleticism, Thuney doesn’t quite possess the typical size to play on the outside. Also blessed with high intelligence – he graduated after his junior year at State – Thuney knows his worth. “I think I see myself more as an interior guy, more of a guard or center,” he said.
Thuney also became the first offensive lineman drafted in the first round from NC State since Chris Colmer in 2005. Colmer was taken 91st overall to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, playing two seasons in the NFL before being cut in 2007. He passed away on December 28, 2010.
Not only was Thuney the first player from NC State selected in the draft, he was also the first from a North Carolina school. Despite having a second-to-third round projection, Jeremy Cash was not selected in the first three rounds of the draft.
Thirteen picks later, Brissett became the second NC player selected.
Huge Pat’s fans here at the Doeren’s now! Brissett and Thuney in New England – Go Pack!!!
Similar to Thuney, Brissett carried a sixth-round projection, but was snatched by the Patriots just before the second night concluded. Brissett joins Philip Rivers, Russell Wilson and Mike Glennon as NC State quarterbacks currently on an NFL roster.
Brissett transferred from Florida to State, sitting out the 2013 season before winning the starting job in 2014. His first year in Raleigh opened eyes, but his second saw him set career-bests in 2015 with 237 completions and 2,662 passing yards.
“He’s a guy that’s hit or miss for me,” ESPN analyst Mel Kiper said about Brissett. “He’s got the size and he’s got the arm. But in some of those games that I watched, there’s something missing that bothered me a bit.”
IMO, Brissett is in line to be Brady’s backup of the future. Garoppolo’s deal expires in 2018, and #Patriots may have to trade him next year
The fit makes sense for both Thuney and Brissett with New England.
Sebastian Vollmer is a free agent after this season and Nate Solder after the 2017 season, making the need for a tackle very real in the near future. As for Brissett, he will have a chance to battle Jimmy Garoppolo for the starting nod in the season opener with Tom Brady suspended for the first four games.
As for the future, Brissett now knows he has at least one lineman he can rely on. According to Pro Football Focus, Thuney allowed just two sacks, one QB hit and four hurries last season. With his versatility and Brissett’s size, the Patriots have two Pack prospects at positions of need in the years to come.
The sports world continues to react to House Bill 2 in North Carolina, with the NCAA now asking each regional site to provide a discrimination-free zone for the NCAA Tournament and other championships. This directly affects Greensboro and Charlotte, which are set to be regional hosts in 2017 and 2018, respectively.
“The higher education community is a diverse mix of people from different racial, ethnic, religious and sexual orientation backgrounds,” NCAA board chairman and Kansas State president Kirk Schulz said in a statement. “So it is important that we assure that (the) community – including our student-athletes and fans – will always enjoy the experience of competing and watching at NCAA championships without concerns of discrimination.”
The announcement comes as a response not only to HB2 getting passed in North Carolina, but a Mississippi law that allows government workers, religious groups and some private businesses to deny services to gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people due to religious beliefs that takes effect on July 1.
Since 2001, the NCAA has banned cities that fly the Confederate battle flag or use “abusive or offensive” Native American imagery or mascots from hosting regionals.
Along with the statement from Schulz, the NCAA also said it will require sites to provide “an environment that is safe, healthy and free of discrimination.” The NCAA Board of Governors adopted an anti-discrimination measure earlier in the day at a meeting in Indianapolis.
North Carolina has hosted an NCAA Tournament game 13 times in the last 16 years, but HB2 might mar those numbers. If Greensboro and Charlotte are stripped of their chance to host March Madness, it would be just the latest major event to depart from NC.
National backlash is nothing new to North Carolina with businesses straying from the state and musicians from Nick Jonas to Bruce Springsteen canceling shows. The NBA has also said the 2017 All-Star Game could be removed from Charlotte, citing “problematic” aspects of HB2 .
Losing the NCAA Tournament would mean huge monetary losses for Greensboro. The 2014 tournament games in Raleigh brought in an estimated $4.2 million generated and 17,720 visitors. Formerly known as “Tournament Town” as ACC Tournament host five times from 2010-2015, the ACC will not return to Greensboro Coliseum again until 2020. If the NCAA Tournament leaves due to discrimination laws would be a huge blow to the city and state.
Given the fact that both Duke and North Carolina have typically played close to home during the opening rounds, not having a host site in the state would hurt both schools. UNC played at PNC Arena in Raleigh during the first and second rounds this year and Duke is expected to compete for a top-two seed, potentially landing in Greensboro, in 2017.
ZEBULON, N.C. — Dansby Swanson has yet to play a full professional baseball season, but has already been traded to a new organization. Months after being taken No. 1 overall by the Diamondbacks in the 2015 MLB draft, the Marietta, Ga. native landed with his hometown team in Atlanta.
Currently working his way through the system, Swanson landed in Zebulon with the Carolina Mudcats. We sat down to speak with Swanson at Five County Stadium about being traded, dealing with an injury after being hit in the face by a baseball in a simulated game and dealing with heightened expectations.
North State Journal: Take me back to the moment you heard you were going to the Braves’ system. What that experience was like?
Dansby Swanson: I was out to dinner with my girlfriend and three officials for Nike, who were in town for the Winter Meetings. We were having fun at dinner and my phone started blowing up.
NSJ: So everyone knew before you?
Swanson: (Laughs) Yeah! I couldn’t believe it. I didn’t really know what to think about it in the beginning. Mad isn’t the right word, but I was just shocked. For about a week and a half I tried to just ignore it and didn’t really respond to anyone but my family. I tried to take the emotions out of it because, as I’m sure you know, when something emotional happens your decisions aren’t the best. I just wanted to look at it from a holistic perspective instead.
NSJ: Growing up as a Braves fan in Marietta, Ga., how great of an opportunity is it to be home?
Swanson: Being home is a good thing, but there are ups and downs about it. People don’t always see the negatives of it. From a playing standpoint, though, it’s a great opportunity. Whenever I’m able to wear that Braves across your chest, it’s a pretty unique feeling. I can’t wait for that moment.
NSJ: Which player did you grow up idolizing?
Swanson: Honestly, the player I grew up on was Nomar Garciaparra. I had this video called “Superstar Shortstops” I’d watch when I was young and he stood out to me. I wanted to be like him. There was just something about how he played that made me want to be a shortstop.
NSJ: Was that a VHS?
Swanson: Yes it was. (Laughs) Oh, yeah. And it was awesome.
NSJ: What was the process like coming back from being hit in the face by a baseball before your pro career ever started?
Swanson: Well, I got hit and I don’t remember much after it. I remember standing in the box with blood streaming down my face after being knocked out. I figured, “Oh, that’s not good.” But I’m just a stubborn prick, I guess, and told everyone to get me out of here. They kept telling me to lay down and I said, “No, seriously. I’m leaving.” The worst part wasn’t being hit in the face. The concussion was awful.
NSJ: How much of a change is the partial facemask?
Swanson: You don’t even notice it really when you’re batting. Base running is actually kind of odd because there’s something in your face when you’re diving.
NSJ: What was the toughest part about getting back to the field?
Swanson: It was kind of how you expect as far as the physical aspect, but the mental part was different. There was really no fear factor for me, though, because I didn’t remember it. So that was probably a blessing in disguise because I know that’s tougher for other guys to get over.
NSJ: Being a basketball player in high school, when was the moment you decided to just play baseball?
Swanson: Going into my junior year [of high school], I was undecided whether or not I wanted to keep playing. Some people had convinced me that it was taking away from baseball, but I told my family that I had to play. Basketball is actually my favorite sport still to this day. I wish I was better at basketball like I am at baseball. But I guess that would have made the decision that much harder.
NSJ: What did you learn from being a multi-sport athlete?
Swanson: OK, this is going to be my moment to preach to all the young kids. (Laughs) So everybody thinks that if you specialize in a sport, you’re going to be so much better at it. That’s completely not true. Not in the least bit. Being able to compete in two different environments helped shape me.
I went to an all-black high school and learned so much about diversity and adversity. I was able to see different sides of the community because I played basketball. I know that I wouldn’t be who I am and where I’m at today because of basketball.
NSJ: You have the phrase “All Dai” stitched on your glove for Dai-Jon Parker. What was your relationship with him like in high school and college?
Swanson: I’ll never forget the first time we played together. He was by far better than everyone else. From that instance on, there was just an immediate respect factor between us. There was an unbreakable bond between us that was never really spoken of really.
He actually committed to play basketball at Vanderbilt before I committed to play baseball. So he kind of put Vandy on the radar for me. Then last year, right before the NCAA Tournament [baseball] started, he passed away in a boating accident. I just didn’t know how to react, but I’m grateful for the bond that we had.
NSJ: John Manuel of Baseball America called you “the best prospect for the Mudcats since Miguel Cabrera.” How big of an honor is that and what is it like to play with that type of pressure?
Swanson: Thanks, John. Really appreciate that. (Laughs) But seriously, that’s a tremendous honor. I don’t feel like I’m anywhere near Miguel Cabrera because of what he’s achieved. I mean, the man won the Triple Crown. That’s something that probably won’t be done again for a long time. He’s one of the best hitters of our generation, so that’s a huge honor.
Pressure? No, I think pressure to me is a self-created thing because you have doubt about your abilities. That pressure’s not there because I have confidence in myself and my teammates have confidence in me.
NSJ: How much talk was there in the offseason about a position change with Ozzie Albies [Braves’ No. 3 prospect] also battling for Atlanta’s starting shortstop position?
Swanson: There wasn’t really that much talk about it. Look, we’re both shortstops and we both want to play the position. All I can control is how I approach everything and my training. Every day I’m trying to prove myself and show that I deserve that role.
NSJ: What was the first purchase you made when you got that $6.5 million bonus on your rookie contract?
Swanson: Well, my first purchase was dinner at some really nice place in Arizona. Like, it was really nice. (Laughs) I don’t remember the name of it, though. My first substantial purchase, though, was a truck. A Ford Platinum.
NSJ: Your sister, Lindsey, gave you a Voodoo doll as a Christmas present at Vandy. Do you still have it here with you in Zebulon?
Swanson: No, I do not have it with me, unfortunately. It is somewhere in my house, but I forgot to bring it. It’s a little baby rhino with a message that said, “To keep you injury free and comfortable in your own skin.”
NSJ: What was the reasoning behind it?
Swanson: Well, first of all, my sister is like my best friend. Second of all, I had a rough freshman year at Vanderbilt as far as injuries go, so she got it for me kind of as a joke, but I kind of took it seriously.
NSJ: You haven’t always had the long locks. What made you start growing out the hair?
Swanson: Oh, God. (Laughs) So, my sophomore year I was rooming with Jared Miller, Adam Ravanelle and Carson Fulmer. They all had really long hair and they all kept telling me to grow it out. They said, “If you’re going to be in this room, you should grow out your hair.” It was just funny then, but it’s become a part of who I am now.
NSJ: So what’s the secret to it?
Swanson: People always think I do special stuff to my hair. I literally wake up, take a shower and put a hat on. That’s my life, man. I will not wash it with just Head & Shoulders or something like that. I can’t do that weak stuff.
NSJ: What was the biggest shock to the system being in the minors?
Swanson: I guess the biggest difference is that in college, every time we hit the field we expected to win. I went to a pretty successful college and we won a lot. Not that we don’t want to win here, but it’s obviously more about development at this level. You really have to get used to that.
NSJ: Tell me about your first Spring Training experience with the Braves.
Swanson: It was fun! Honestly, I think I stayed up there a lot longer than people thought. It was just good to be around older, veteran guys that have done all of this before. They were very unselfish and willing to help me be the best player I can be. It was cool to be able to pick their brains.
NSJ: So what are your overall expectations this season and moving forward?
Swanson: Honestly, just to be the best player I can be. I know it’s overused, but I take everything one day at a time and one moment at a time. Right now this interview is the most important thing to me. Then after that I prepare for the game, eat dinner and play baseball. That’s how I’ve learned to approach life. It seems to be working.
A controversial home run by Evan Mendoza gave NC State an early lead, but two late runs secured the victory in a 6-1 victory for the Wolfpack over East Carolina. The win came less than one week after a 15-3 drubbing for the Pirates in Greenville on Tuesday.
Mendoza finished the game 2-for-4 with a run and four RBI to lead the Pack to the win, but all anyone wanted to talk about after the game was the homer. Mendoza stroked the pitch to the left field foul pole, where it was initially called a foul ball by the third-base umpire. After both NC State’s third-base coach Chris Hart and head coach Elliott Avent argued the call, it was overturned.
The immediate reaction was elation for NC State and dismay for East Carolina. Pirate head coach Cliff Godwin argued his case before eventually being guided back to the dugout by the home plate umpire.
Meanwhile, Mendoza was honest about his initial thoughts on the hit.
“I thought it was foul,” Mendoza admitted. “And then I saw the first base umpire say it was foul. … I’m not the biggest power guy, so I don’t get ahold of balls too often. First thought was, ‘You gotta be kidding me. Foul ball?’
Funny, because that’s exactly what the third base umpire thought as well. But after a meeting with his two partners, the call was changed. It was a weird situation for Godwin, who had rarely seen a call changed, much less a home run.
“The explanation was they were trying to make the right call,” Godwin said. “It’s the third base umpire’s call. I’ve been involved in two situations where an umpire has flipped another umpire’s call and been on the losing situation both times. Their job is to make the right call. Was it the right call? I don’t know.”
The official who overturned the call was home plate umpire Greg Street, who has called College World Series games and serves as the MLB AAA evaluator. With countless college baseball games under his belt, Street was commended by Avent along with divulging some, let’s say unique, details.
“I think Greg Street is one of the best umpires in college baseball,” Avent said with a smile. “The third-base umpire admitted he didn’t see it. He just didn’t see it. I think he had the decency to let the home plate umpire know he didn’t see it. … That takes a lot of courage and respect for the game.”
Avent later revealed the third base umpire told Hart that nugget of information later in the game.
While the homer was the story of the game, Mendoza’s RBI single in the eighth put the Pirates to rest with six runs on six hits. Ryan Williamson, normally NC State’s Sunday starter, went 6 2/3 innings with one earned run while scattering six hits.
Six days after the Pack bullpen was shelled by the Pirates, Evan Brabrand, Travis Orwig and Tommy DeJuneas combined to allow just two hits and no runs over the final 2 1/3 innings. It was a night of redemption for NC State in a series that is equally as important as any ACC opponent on the schedule.
“Everyone knows we played them last week and they got the better of us,” Mendoza said. “We all were there. We knew how we lost. We told ourselves we weren’t going to lose like that again.
“I think this is probably as big of a series as Clemson or UNC. It’s almost a regional feel.”
Blake Snell was sent down to the Durham Bulls near the end of Spring Training, but the Tampa Bay Rays’ No. 1 prospect is already getting the call to the majors, according to Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times.
The 23-year-old southpaw has dominated yet again at the Triple-A level, going 1-1 with a 2.51 ERA, 21 strikeouts and seven walks in 14 1/3 innings during his first three starts with the Bulls. That comes just a year after he was named Minor League Player of the Year by both Baseball America and USA Today last season.
“I don’t see him repeating as Minor League Player of the Year again because he won’t be there long,” Baseball America editor John Manuel said. “I see him being too good for the Rays to ignore. Obviously we’re pretty high on him and can see him developing even further this year.
“The Rays have always been deliberate and slow-moving with their promotion of pitchers, but it seems to work.”
Snell has more than earned the call, but it might not be permanent. The Rays are currently in the midst of a nine-game stretch in consecutive days and have a need for a fifth starter. Erasmo Ramirez, normally fifth in the rotation, was used in relief Thursday against the Boston Red Sox.
Saturday will be a huge spot start for Snell, who will face the New York Yankees in New York. Oh, and the probable pitcher opposing him will be Masahiro Tanaka.
No pressure, right? Snell doesn’t seem nervous about the spot start.
“Can’t have dreamed of a better way,” Snell told Topkin. “It’s really such an amazing time for me. And I’m really fortunate to be in this situation.”
The Carolina Mudcats have lost six straight games, but the talent on the team is still evident. In particular, the Braves’ No. 1 prospect Dansby Swanson is still showing up and showing out each day.
On Thursday night, the smooth-hitting shortstop did something he has done only once in his career — hitting a homer. This one came in slightly different fashion, however, as Swanson turned a solid hit into an inside-the-park job with his speed.
By our count, Swanson rounded the bases 14 seconds after he poked the ball to centerfield. That’s 360 feet, or 120 yards — the equivalent of a football field while running in a massive circle. Yeah, that’s kind of fast.
John Manuel of Baseball America called Swanson “the best prospect for the Mudcats since Miguel Cabrera” prior to the season. The former No. 1 overall pick in the 2015 MLB draft spoke about the honor from Manuel.
“Thanks, John. Really appreciate that,” Swanson told the North State Journal. “But seriously, that’s a tremendous honor. I don’t feel like I’m anywhere near Miguel Cabrera because of what he’s achieved. I mean, the man won the Triple Crown. That’s something that probably won’t be done again for a long time. He’s one of the best hitters of our generation, so that’s a huge honor.”
Swanson is clearly proving his talent early on for the Mudcats .344/.420/.541 clip with a homer and four stolen bases to start the season. Read more about Swanson in an exclusive Q&A in this Sunday’s edition of the North State Journal.
GREENVILLE, N.C. — Every East Carolina starter reached base in a 15-2 blowout win over NC State on Tuesday night at Clark-LeClair Stadium. The victory marked the fourth straight midweek win over an in-state rival — but none more important than taking down the No. 8 Wolfpack.
The No. 20 Pirates (24-12, 5-4 AAC) used three huge innings in the second, fourth and sixth to put the game out of reach for NC State (26-11, 10-6 ACC). With a combined three home runs, 12 RBI and six runs by Zack Mozingo, Turner Brown and Bryce Harman, ECU’s hot hitting propeled the Pirates to their seventh win at home in the last 10 games.
“It’s nice to get a win over a huge in-state rival,” Brown said. “It helps the RPI, it helps everything. It’s just a huge win. … We didn’t like the feeling against UNC, so we weren’t going to let another in-state rival beat us.”
ECU opened the game with one run in the first as Parker Lamm advanced home on a wild pitch by Johnny Piedmonte. The Pirates chased Piedmonte in the second, who was on the hook for three earned runs on three hits over 1 1/3 innings after an RBI single by Turner Brown and sac bunt by Charlie Yorgen.
The Pirates’ five-run fourth was started by a Mozingo two-out grand slam. Chris Williams was nearly off the hook with two outs, but an error by Joe Dunand allowed Mozingo to break the game wide open.
Another error by Dunand in the fourth allowed Travis Watkins to reach second after the throw to first base went out of play. Harman made the Pack pay with an RBI double laced down the right-field line to give the Pirates an 8-0 lead after the fourth.
“That was my first [grand slam], so I finally got that out of the way,” Mozingo said with a smile. “I just knew it was big time because they just made an error. I needed to capitalize on the error they made, so I was just sitting curveball and put a good swing on it.”
While ECU’s pitching staff scattered six hits and gave up just two runs, NC State’s bullpen was a revolving door. Piedmonte’s early exit triggered a long night for the Pack that saw eight total pitchers toe the rubber.
The Pirates hitters peppered the Pack’s pen with 14 hits, but four errors by State infielders were key in the rout. On the night, State pitchers allowed nine earned runs of the 15 total with a shaky defense behind them.
After a disappointing 17-4 showing in a loss at home against North Carolina earlier this season, the blowout win in front of 4,734 fans was a welcomed sight for ECU coach Cliff Godwin.
“I’m just happy that we were able to play well in front of a packed house,” Godwin explained. “And just show Pirate Nation we can play in front of a packed house unlike UNC. … That’s what you sign up for when you come to ECU — to play in front of big crowds.
“I tell them, ‘Hey look, if you don’t like pressure, you shouldn’t play with East Carolina. You shouldn’t put the purple and gold on.”
Despite the loss, NC State has a chance to get right against NC A&T, which dropped to 9-31 on the season on Tuesday. ECU travels to High Point on Wednesday before hosting UConn in Greenville over the weekend.
The Pack will be looking for revenge next Tuesday night as the Pirates travel to Raleigh. After getting hosed by ECU on the road, a home win would be vindication for the Pack. A loss would mean the first two-game sweep for ECU since 2009 — giving the Pirates bragging rights for the next year.
Bobby Lutz, who’s been a member of the NC State coaching staff for the last five seasons, has been named Special Assistant to the Deputy Athletic Director for External Operations, Mark Gottfried announced Tuesday.
“My family and I have loved our five years at NC State and are very proud of what we have accomplished,” Lutz said in a release. “I look forward to aiding the program in my new role and will continue to give my very best effort.”
Earlier in the day, rumors swirled that Lutz may be headed to a position under new Georgia Tech head coach Josh Pastner, but with NC State’s release Tuesday, Lutz is most certainly staying in Raleigh.
Bobby Lutz to Josh Pastner’s staff at Georgia Tech could happen, but it’s not done yet, sources told ESPN.
Lutz’s new responsibilities will include “administrative duties” associated with the men’s basketball program. Those duties include development of players off the court, housing arrangements and logistics associated with the team’s future international trip.
“I’m grateful for all of Bobby’s contributions to our program and am pleased that he will continue to be of benefit to our student athletes,” Gottfried said in a release.
The move opens up an assistant coaching position on Gottfried’s staff and could explain earlier reports from Gary Parrish of CBS Sports that Florida Gulf Coast head coach Joe Dooley may wind up on N.C. State’s bench.
Nothing has been made official, but a decision could apparently be made by the end of the week. Parrish notes that a salary increase might play a huge role in Dooley’s decision.
“We don’t comment on jobs. I’m the coach here,” Dooley told The News-Press on Monday. Talking about it doesn’t really help me or help anything else. I think I’ve been pretty consistent that we’re going to not comment on any other jobs.”
Dooley has spent the last three years at Florida Gulf Coast, making the NCAA Tournament for the first time with the program in 2016. Despite being bounced by North Carolina at PNC Arena, he clearly made an impression on Mark Gottfried and the NC State staff.
During his first head coaching attempt, Dooley struggled with East Carolina from 1995-99. He led the Pirates to two winning seasons in four seasons before serving as an assistant at New Mexico, Wyoming and eventually finding a home for a decade at Kansas.
If Dooley does make the move, he would join Orlando Early and Butch Pierre as former head coaches serving on the Wolfpack’s staff. But he’s not making any promises about his future.
“I could get run over by a car on the way home,” Dooley said when asked if he could guarantee he’d be coach at FGCU next season. “You know the way people in Florida drive.”
NC State needed a decisive series win to sit alone in fourth place in the ACC. Wake Forest just wanted a win with a losing record in the conference.
The Wolfpack’s 6-1 victory Monday night sent the Demon Deacons home reeling after being swept for the first time all season. It gave the Pack a convincing win on ESPNU, showing the country what the No. 12 team in the country is capable of on both sides of the ball.
“It’s hard to sweep anybody in college baseball,” NC State coach Elliott Avent said. “It’s really hard to sweep a conference team as good as this conference is from top to bottom. … I’m just really proud of my ball club for battling all night.”
On the mound, Ryan Williamson gave up just four hits on the night – all four coming in the seventh inning. Williamson had a no-hitter going through six innings before Will Craig – the ACC’s leader in hitting (.466) and RBI (43) – broke through with a single in the seventh.
Despite giving up one run, Williamson earned the win with six strikeouts and five walks over 6 2/3 frames. With an offense that scored three runs off Wake starter Connor Johnstone, Williamson’s ability to escape jams on multiple occasions paid off for State.
“That breaking ball is one of the best that you’ll see at this level,” Wake coach Tom Walter said of Williamson. “He had two pitches really working for him and we just couldn’t figure him out. … I give him credit because I know what we can do offensively. He just shut us down.”
Craig’s single keyed the only offensive inning for the Deacs, registering just one run off the four hits.
Meanwhile, State tallied six runs behind a combined effort by the top of the lineup. The Pack’s first four hitters in Brock Deatherage, Josh McLain, Andrew Knizner and Preston Palmeiro for eight hits, four RBI and three runs.
Battling through a back injury, Deatherage reached base four times – twice on bunt singles – and stole a base after coming up empty on Saturday for the first time in 25 games.
“This is huge,” Deatherage said of the series sweep. “Hopefully we can carry that momentum over and keep picking up some ACC wins.”
Wake has two games against UNC Greensboro to get right before a home series against No. 4 Florida State. The Seminoles are 9-2 in the ACC and surging after a series win over Louisville, only the Cardinals’ third series loss of the year.
State has five straight road games starting with Elon on Tuesday before heading to Atlanta to take on No. 18 Georgia Tech. The final road trip has in-state rivalry implications with East Carolina hosting the Pack next Tuesday – a massive showdown any time the two teams clash.
“Any time you win, it breeds confidence,” Avent said. “We know we’ve got to get better. We know we’ve got to get healthy. … We’ll just see if we can keep playing good baseball.”