Wondering why NC State baseball is so good this season? Here are some reasons.
There is a simplicity to this college baseball season for N.C. State.
The Wolfpack keeps hitting and winning. There is more to it than that, of course, but the Wolfpack is keeping it simple.
The more it hits, the more it wins. The more it wins, the more fun it has. And N.C. State has had a lot of fun.
Behind the ACC's best offense, the Wolfpack (29-7) is ranked as high as No. 2 in one national poll and has the best ACC record (13-5) with a month left in the regular season.
"The way this season has gone so far," senior Brock Deatherage said. "It's unbelievable."
With Tuesday's 8-3 nonconference win over North Carolina win No. 29, has move into rarefied territory for the Wolfpack. With an offense that ranks in the top 20 nationally in batting average (.304), scoring (7.7 runs per game) and home runs (56), the Wolfpack has won each of its first six ACC series.
The ACC went three-game conference sets in 1990, N.C. State has only won its first six series one other time -- in 2003, also the last Wolfpack team to reach No. 2 in a national poll.
N.C. State holds a two-game lead in the Atlantic Division heading into a weekend series at Coastal Division leader Duke. N.C. State hasn't won a division title since the ACC adopted the format in 2006.
The Wolfpack hasn't finished the regular season with the best conference record in the ACC since 1986 (it did win the ACC title in 1992).
About last night ...— #Pack9 (@NCStateBaseball) April 18, 2018
Three times under coach Elliott Avent, the Wolfpack has finished second in the division (2008, '12 and '13). Avent's best team, which went to the College World Series in '13, finished a half-game behind Florida State for the division title.
That team was star-driven with future major-league stars in Trea Turner and Carlos Rodon. This Wolfpack team has been different. Junior left fielder Brett Kinneman leads the team (and the ACC) with 13 home runs and senior pitcher Brian Brown has one of the best earned run averages (1.09) in the country but there has been an across-the-board balance to this team.
"I think everybody just picks up for one another," said freshman catcher Patrick Bailey, the hitting star in Tuesday's win over UNC. "It's fun to hit when everyone else is hitting, too."
Seven regulars in the lineup are hitting .300 or better, led by senior center fielder Josh McLain (.347). Three players have hit at least 10 home runs, including newcomer Evan Edwards at first base.
"There's not one guy where you go, 'Dang, if this guy doesn't play well, we're going to lose,' " Kinneman said. "It always feels like it's somebody different coming through."
And it has been a mix of young and old. The core of Deatherage, Kinneman, Brown, McLain, second baseman Stephen Pitarra, starter Johnny Piedmonte and reliever Joe O'Donnell have been together for the past three years.
Bailey, Terrell Tatum and J.T. Jarrett are freshmen hitters who have helped. Edwards, a junior-college transfer, has been a big addition at first and as the cleanup hitter.
"We've done a good job of meshing young and old," Kinneman said.
The core group has lived through its share of NCAA heartbreak. It's trying to enjoy the view from the driver's seat but also keep it in perspective.
"You don't want to get too cocky," said Deatherage said. "You've never done enough."
This article is written by Joe Giglio from The News & Observer and was legally licensed via the Tribune Content Agency through the NewsCred publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.