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The season gets real this weekend as ACC play begins. The Hoos get the benefit of starting their conference season at home. The gifts end there as UVA hosts 7th ranked, and undefeated, NC State in a three-game series beginning Friday.

Team Records

Virginia: 10-3 (Overall), 0-0 (ACC)

NC State: 12-0 (Overall), 0-0 (ACC)

Game Schedule

Friday, March 6: 4:00 PM

Saturday, March 7: 1:00 PM

Sunday, March 8: 3:00 PM

Stats Comparison

BATTING

Format will be raw stat and then D1 rank (of 298). Info is as of games played on March 5, 2020.

TEAMOBPSLGRUNS / GAME
NCSU.443 (5).618 (1)10.4 (4)
UVA.410 (26).494 (17)8.8 (14)

OBP = On Base Percentage

SLG = Slugging Percentage

If you add OBP & SLG, you get OPS.

PITCHING

TEAMERAK/9BB/9
NCSU2.63 (26)11.3 (22)2.38 (9)
UVA3.38 (79)11.7 (16)4.46 (166)

K/9 = Strikeouts Per 9 innings

BB/9 = Walks Per 9 innings

MISCELLANEOUS

TEAMFLD %RPISOS
NCSU.984 (19)330
UVA.957 (225)107177

FLD % = Fielding Percentage

SOS = Strength Of Schedule

Note that all stats are from NCAA.com. RPI data is from NCAA.com and is as of games played through March 5, 2020. Strength of schedule info is from Warrennolan.com.

ACC Baseball Update

Conference play kicks off this weekend, so we have no standings yet. But here are our opening weekend series.

Notre Dame (7-2) at North Carolina (10-4)

Pitt (10-2) at Miami (8-4)

Boston College (5-6) at Clemson (9-3)

Florida State (9-3) at Duke (10-2)

Louisville (9-3) at Wake Forest (8-5)

Virginia Tech (8-3) at Georgia Tech (8-4)

Projected Starting Pitchers

Friday - UVA: RHP Griff McGarry (3-0, 1.12 ERA, 16.0 IP, 11 walks, 26 strikeouts) vs NC State: RHP Reid Johnston (0-0, 3.48 ERA, 10.1 IP, 1 walk, 13 strikeouts)

The Pack will begin the weekend with the right-handed junior from Rocky Mount, NC. During Johnston's freshman season in 2018, he won a ton of honors: ACC All-Freshman, NCBWA Freshman All-American, and Collegiate Baseball Freshman All-American. During that season, he went 7-1 in 21 appearances. Johnston started 10 of those 21 appearances as he became the Friday starter during the season. He pitched 64.2 innings and posted a 3.06 ERA. As a freshman, Johnston walked only 15 while striking out 59.

Last season as a sophomore, Johnston made 17 appearances on the mound. Of those appearances, 14 were as the starting pitcher. He earned 6-2 record while his ERA increased to 3.71. Johnston pitched 77.2 innings in 2019 which led the way for NC State. His walks increased to 27 as did his strikeouts to 65. Johnston's strikeouts ranked third on the Wolfpack.

Johnston has made 3 starts for NC State this season (James Madison, Tennessee Tech, Iowa). He's increased his workload in each outing going from 2.0 IP to 3.1 IP to 5.0 IP last weekend in the ACC-Big 10 Challenge against Iowa. In the matchup against the Hawkeyes, Johnston gave up 2 hits and 1 run (earned). He walked none and struck out 6 in the 10-6 NC State victory.

This will be Johnston's third appearance against UVA in his career. As a freshman, Johnston started the only matchup between the programs in ACC Tournament pool play. UVA won that game 4-2. In the start, Johnston went 2.2 innings where he gave up 3 hits and 2 runs (both earned). He walked 3 and stuck out none.

Last season, Johnston started the Saturday game in the series at Raleigh. He dominated the Hoos in the 3-0 NC State win. Johnston pitched a nine-inning complete game where he allowed no runs and 6 hits. He walked just 1 and struck out 7. Johnston needed only 104 pitches to complete the game.

Expect Johnston, a 2019 Cape Cod League All Star with the Cotuit Kettleers, to be around 88 to 91 with his fastball. He also features a good slider that sits in the low 80s.

Saturday - UVA: RHP Mike Vasil (2-0, 2.25 ERA, 16.0 IP, 7 walks, 17 strikeouts) vs NC State: LHP Nick Swiney (3-0, 0.86 ERA, 21.0 IP, 4 walks, 37 strikeouts)

The lefty junior from Huntersville, NC is off to a blistering start in 2020.

As a sophomore in 2019, Swiney finished 7-1 but posted an ERA of 4.61. He made 26 appearances but only started 3 games for the Pack. Despite making only 3 starts, Swiney still led NC State in strikeouts with 95. He accomplished that in 56.2 innings pitched. Swiney's longest outing of the year was only 4.1 innings. He also walked 31 batters as a sophomore.

Swiney's last outing came in a start versus Purdue in last weekend's ACC-Big 10 Challenge. In a 6-0 Wolfpack victory, Swiney pitched 8.0 shutout innings. He was dominant against the Boilermakers giving up just 1 hit, no walks, and striking out 15.

Like Reid Johnston, Swiney pitched in UVA's 2018 ACC Tournament pool play victory. Swiney went 1.2 scoreless innings. He gave up 1 hit, walked none, and struck out 2. Last season, Swiney made a relief appearance in NC State's series clinching 8-7 Sunday win. He threw 0.2 innings where he gave up no runs, 2 hits, walked none, and struck out 1.

In their preview of the Wolfpack, D1 Baseball identified Swiney as a possible burgeoning ace. They indicated that he had the best three-pitch arsenal on the Wolfpack staff. Swiney features a low to mid 90s fastball, a plus changeup, and a quality breaking pitch.

Sunday - UVA: LHP Nate Savino (0-0, 4.05 ERA, 6.2 IP, 4 walks, 8 strikeouts) vs NC State: LHP David Harrison (2-0, 0.57 ERA, 15.2 IP, 3 walks, 19 strikeouts)

Harrison rounds out State's trio of in state juniors in the weekend rotation. Like Reid Johnston, Harrison is also from Rocky Mount.

And like his other starting counterparts, Harrison has made a mix of starts and relief appearances in his career prior to this season. As a freshman in 2018, Harrison made 9 starts and 5 relief appearances. In 2019, Harrison made 3 starts and 18 relief appearances during his sophomore season. During his sophomore campaign, Harrison posted just an 0-1 record but also had a nice 2.67 ERA. He pitched just 33.2 innings but also struck out 33 batters. He also walked only 7 batters.

Like his fellow starters, Harrison had a nice outing the last time out in the ACC-Big 10 Challenge. Harrison made the start against Minnesota. The Pack won that game 11-7. Harrison went 5.0 innings and gave up no runs. He surrendered just 1 hit, walked 1, hit 1, and struck out 6.

Also, like Johnston and Swiney, Harrison pitched in that UVA ACC Tournament pool play win in 2018. Harrison relieved Johnston and threw 2.1 innings. He gave up 1 run (unearned), 2 hits, walked none, and stuck out 2 before he was relieved by Swiney. He did not pitch in the series against the Hoos in 2019.

Harrison features a fastball that can be expected to sit around 88 to 91 mph. His secondary pitch is a quality changeup. And he's still working on developing a breaking ball.

Weather Watch

Expect partly cloudy skies with temps in the lower 50s at first pitch today. At start time, the chance of rain will be 10% and that will fall throughout the afternoon and evening. The wind and its impact on the game may be something to watch. You can expect winds around 15 to 20 mph at the start of the game but dying off in the second half of the contest.

For Saturday, sunny skies are on the menu. It will still be cool, however. At first pitch, temps are going to be in the lower 50s once again. Winds will be around 10 mph all afternoon.

Sunday's contest will once again see sunny skies. Temps should be about 5 to 10 degrees warmer throughout the afternoon. Winds should not be significant.

Media Coverage

All three games will have streaming available through ACC Network Xtra. If your provider has the ACC Network, you can get the streaming via your ESPN streaming platform of choice. 

The Sunday game will also be broadcast nationally on ACC Network.

Fans of the audio only broadcast will have three options. Those local to Charlottesville can listen to each game on WINA. WINA.com will also stream the audio call. VirginiaSports.com will also provide streaming of the audio broadcast (baseball section of the site, select the schedule, scroll down to individual game and click the LISTEN link).

Wolfpack To Watch

NC State has two high caliber players to follow this weekend.

Up first is junior catcher Patrick Bailey. State's backstop profiles as a possible top 15 pick in the 2020 MLB Draft. He's won a ton of accolades throughout his career. As a freshman in 2018, Bailey was ACC Freshman of the Year, Second Team All-ACC, All-ACC Academic, D1 Baseball First Team Freshman All-American, Collegiate Baseball Freshman All-American, NCBWA First Team Freshman All-American, and Perfect Game First Team Freshman All-American. As a sophomore in 2019, Bailey was First Team All-ACC, Collegiate Baseball Third Team All-American, a Buster Posey Award semifinalist, and a member of the USA Baseball Collegiate National Team.

Thus far in 2020, Bailey has a slash line of .308 / .472 / .744. That adds up to an OPS of 1.216 (anything over 1.000 is likely to contend for the league lead in MLB). Bailey is tied for the team lead with 5 homers and second on the team with 16 RBI. He also leads the Wolfpack with 13 walks and has the second highest number of strikeouts with 13.

The player tied with Bailey in homers and topping him in RBI? That would be junior 3B/RF Devonta Brown. Brown is in the midst of a major breakout season. Coming into the series, he boasts a slash line of .432 / .509 / .932. That translates to an OPS of 1.441. As mentioned, he's tied with Bailey for the team lead in homers with 5. He also leads the team with 18 RBI. Bailey is also 3 for 4 stealing bases.

Prediction

ACC coaches picked State to finish third in the Atlantic behind Louisville and Florida State. For the second consecutive season, State has caught fire to begin the year. Last season, the Wolfpack were 25-1, 8-1 and ranked as high as 4th in polls when they squared off with the Hoos in Raleigh. UVA took the series opener and lost a couple close games to drop the series (3-0 and 8-7).

This season, NC State arrives at The Dish sporting a 12-0 record and is ranked as high as 7th in the polls.

To me, State profiles as a similar challenge to Oklahoma. I'd give the Sooners a slight edge in pitching, but State has a decided advantage in offense. To date, they're one of the best nationally with the bat.

UVA will be considered an underdog by the national media in this series. And that's justified.

To win this series, UVA will need to be hitting on all cylinders across the entire roster. But that's always been the case in high level ACC baseball.

I'd feel better about our chances to win the series if the Hoos had a full roster available. The assumed continued absences of Alex Tappen and Brendan Rivoli will be felt here for the first time. It will impact the offense, outfield defense, and the ability to get Logan Michaels some relief behind the plate as Rivoli is also the top backup catcher when healthy.

I expect the team to rise to the challenge and compete for all 27 outs this weekend. It is conceivable that NC State could bring out the brooms for a sweep, but I doubt it, especially if the home crowd brings it. In that case, a series win for UVA could be on the table.

Ultimately, I see NC State having a little too much for UVA at this point in the season.

NC State wins, 2 to 1.

 

This article contains the tags:

Baseball, 2020, NC State