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NCSU Wolfpack back at home with big ACC series vs. Virginia

Posted Thursday, March 30, 2006

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Wolfpack looking to bounce back against 14th-ranked Cavaliers

Raleigh, NC - Only three Atlantic Coast Conference series remain on NC State's home baseball schedule, including two the next two weekends.

The 17th-ranked Wolfpack (22-8 overall, 5-4 in the ACC), swept a week ago at Clemson, hosts No. 14 Virginia (24-5, 6-3) this weekend at Doak Field at Dail Park. Game times will be 7 p.m. on Friday and Saturday, and 1 p.m. on Sunday.

All three games will be broadcast live on WKNC-FM (88.1) and online at through Yahoo's subscription service.

Virginia is a division rival for NC State, and the Cavaliers have the Wolfpack's attention.

"All we need to know is that they swept Clemson, and Clemson swept us," Wolfpack coach Elliott Avent said. "They have an excellent team with great pitching and hitting."

NC State will host Wake Forest next weekend, then will play four of its last five ACC series away from the familiar surroundings of Doak Field at Dail Park. After the team's first taste of life on the road last weekend at Clemson, a sweep at the hands of the Tigers, winning at home becomes that much more crucial.

"You have to make hay when the sun's shining, and the sun is shining for us right now with these next six games at home," Avent said. "I do believe that a team's hardest road series of the year is the first one, but life on the road in this conference is always difficult. We need to win at home."

THE STARTING PITCHERS: Sophomore righthander Andrew Brackman (0-2, 8.68) is scheduled to take the ball for the Wolfpack in the first game of the series with the Cavaliers. Brackman has seen limited time on the mound because of basketball season. He has made three appearances, all starts, and has allowed 12 runs, nine of them earned, on 20 hits in 9 1/3 innings. He has walked five and struck out nine. In his last start, March 26 at Clemson, he was charged with four runs, two earned, on eight hits in 4 2/3 innings. He walked two and struck out four. Sophomore lefthander Sean Doolittle (5-0, 1.42) will start on Friday for Virginia.

Freshman lefthander Eric Surkamp (2-1, 3.86) will start on Saturday for the Wolfpack. Surkamp has made eight appearances, four of them starts. He has allowed 13 runs on 26 hits in 30 1/3 innings, walking 11 and striking out 29. In his last outing, March 25 at Clemson, Surkamp worked 5 2/3 innings and allowed four runs on six hits in 5 2/3 innings. He walked three and struck out seven. Freshman righthander Jacob Thompson (5-1, 2.00) will start on Saturday for Virginia.

Redshirt-sophomore righthander Eryk McConnell (4-3, 3.95) will start the series finale for NC State. McConnell has made eight appearances, all starts, allowing 22 runs, 18 earned, on 40 hits in 41 innings. He has walked eight and struck out 34. McConnell is coming off his only poor performance of the season, March 24 at Clemson. He lasted just 1 1/3 innings and was charged with seven runs on nine hits. He struck out two and did not issue a walk. Senior lefthander Mike Ballard (4-1, 2.32) will start on Sunday for Virginia.

NC STATE VS. VIRGINIA: The Wolfpack holds a 98-55-1 lead over Virginia in the all-time series, including a split in four games a year ago. NC State won the regular-season series at the UVa Baseball Stadium, dropping the first game 2-0, then winning by scores of 6-0 and 1-0. Virginia then rocked the Wolfpack 12-2 in the second round of the Atlantic Coast Conference Baseball Tournament in Jacksonville, Fla.

NC State has won 14 of the last 18 meetings with Virginia, and is 24-12 against the Cavaliers since Elliott Avent became the Wolfpack's head coach in 1997. The Wolfpack under Avent has an 9-3 record against Virginia at Doak Field, 8-7 at the UVa Baseball Field, and 7-2 in the ACC Tournament.

WEDNESDAY NIGHT VS. ECU: NC State continued its recent late-inning thrill-ride Wednesday night, coming from a 4-0 deficit to defeat East Carolina 5-4 on an RBI-single by Matt Camp in the bottom of the ninth inning. Camp's single drove in Caleb Mangum, who led off the inning with a single down the left-field line and went to second on Jonathan Diaz's sacrifice bunt. Camp's heroics made a winner of reliever Sam Walls, who pitched 2 1/3 scoreless innings. The Wolfpack fell behind early, then rallied for three in the bottom of the sixth on an RBI-single by Ramon Corona, a sacrifice fly by Brian Aragon, and a run-scoring wild pitch. Aaron Cone came off the bench to deliver the tying run in the bottom of the eighth with a bloop double, scoring Aaron Bates from second base.

BIG-INNING WEEKEND: There is an old baseball adage that in most games, the winning team scores as many runs or more in one inning than the losing team scores in the entire game. That was certainly true for NC State this past weekend at Clemson. In the first two games of the series, Clemson scored in only three of 16 offensive innings, but those three innings produced five, four and four runs as the Tigers won by scores of 9-5 and 4-2. In the other 13 innings in those two games, NC State pitching allowed no runs on just three hits. Clemson got 11 of its 12 hits in the first two innings of the first game, and five of its seven hits in the fourth inning of the second game. And won both games.

NC STATE IN THE RANKINGS: NC State's up-and-down season continues to be reflected in the national polls this week. The Pack dropped competely out of three of the five national polls -- Baseball America, Collegiate Baseball and The Rosenblatt Report -- and fell in the other two, dropping from 14th to 21st in the National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association (NCBWA) poll, and from 12th to 17th in the USA Today coaches poll.

THE ACC IN THE RANKINGS: Currently, the Atlantic Coast Conference has at least five and as many as seven teams ranked in the five national polls. Florida State is No. 1 in four of the five polls, and FSU, Georgia Tech, North Carolina and Clemson are ranked in the top 10 of all five polls. Virginia is ranked in all five polls, anywhere from 14th to 23rd, and Miami is ranked in four of the five polls.

WALK-OFF WONDERS: The 2006 Wolfpack will have to go a ways to match its 2005 predecessors in last-inning dramatics, but the Pack is well ahead of last year's pace.

NC State won six home games in the ninth inning or later in 2005 (check out the back cover of the 2006 media guide), with five of those walk-offs coming against ACC foes.

The Wolfpack's first walk-off victory last season came on March 13 in a 6-5 win in 10 innings against Maryland.

Caleb Mangum's two-run homer March 12 gave NC State its first walk-off celebration of 2006, an 11-9 triumph over Boston College, one day ahead of 2005's first walk-off win. And Jon Still's 10th-inning RBI single March 18 vs. Georgia Tech gave NC State a 12-11 walk-off win over the Yellow Jackets, one week ahead of last year's 10-9 win March 25 vs. Lehigh.

NC State made it three walk-offs wins this season on March 29 when Matt Camp's one-out single in the ninth inning lifted the Wolfpack to a 5-4 comeback win against East Carolina. That's 26 days ahead of last year's third walk-off win, a 9-8 victory over Clemson on April 24, 2005.

The Wolfpack now has won three of its last nine games overall with walk-off hits, and three of the Pack's last five victories have been walk-off victories.

TABLESETTERS: The top two hitters in a lineup are crucial to an offense's success, and it should come as no surprise that the two hitters at the top of NC State's lineup, center fielder Matt Camp and Ramon Corona, are two of the team's hottest hitters.

Camp comes into action this weekend against Virginia with a .350 batting average with 10 doubles, one home run and 19 RBIs overall, but is hitting .406 (28-for-69) over the last 17 games. Camp had a recent 15-game hitting streak snapped March 25 at Clemson. He batted .433 (26-for-60) with eight doubles, 15 runs scored and 12 RBIs.

Corona, meanwhile, is hitting .344 with nine doubles, two triples, two home runs and 27 RBIs for the season. In his last nine games, Corona is hitting .381 (16-for-42) with three doubles, one homer and 11 RBIs. Corona currently is riding a modest five-game hitting streak (8-for-20), his longest of the season and the longest current streak on the team.

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