With a condensed 2020 season due to the COVID-19 outbreak, the NC State baseball team was only able to play 17 games and one ACC opponent. While this certainly wasn’t the season everyone was expecting, there are a few key takeaways from the Pack’s success.
Was the team able to start strong and stay consistent?
Once again the Wolfpack had an excellent start to its season but was showing signs of struggle just as the season was suspended. Last year, the Pack started strong with a 19-0 record but fell apart the second half going 23-19. Like 2019, the NC State baseball team had a great start. With a 12-0 run entering the first weekend series of March, the Wolfpack was consistently ranked in the top 25 and was making a name for itself again.
Similar to last year, the series against the Virginia Cavaliers proved to be a struggle for the Pack as that’s where it suffered its first and second losses of the season. NC State also struggled and lost to UNC-Charlotte two days later. The team was able to bounce back in the comeback win over North Carolina A&T the next day, but the series slated to be at Boston College the following weekend would have been a test to see if the Wolfpack were able to stay consistent or fall back into another slump.
How did Jose Torres adjust to ACC play at the plate?
Freshman infielder Jose Torres took over shortstop this season. And while most were confident with his defensive abilities transitioning to ACC play, some questions were posed as to how long it would take for him to adjust at the plate. Torres struggled a little early, going 11 for 39 with 14 strikeouts in his first 11 games, but the game against Coastal Carolina and the series against Virginia seemed to be breakout moments for him. In the smackdown of Coastal Carolina, Torres went 2 for 4 with two RBIs and in the second game of the series against Virginia, he went 3 for 4 with three RBIs and a home run. Torres continued his success against UNC-Charlotte, going 2 for 4 with three RBIs and another home run and he seemed to really be showing promise for an exciting rest of the season.
Was Tyler McDonough able to avoid the ‘sophomore slump?’
Another question posed before the start of the season was whether or not sophomore infielder/outfielder Tyler McDonough would fall into a ‘sophomore slump.’ Following last year’s impressive season, McDonough did not disappoint with a .354 average, 23 hits, 16 RBIs and three home runs in just 17 games. While he seemed to fall into a bit of a slump in the series against Virginia and the game against UNC-Charlotte, McDonough’s home run in the fifth inning in the lone win against Virginia was essential for giving the Pack the lead.
How did Patrick Bailey fare in his draft year season?
Entering his draft year, there was a lot of hype around junior catcher Patrick Bailey, who is an essential part of this NC State baseball team. Presumed to be a first-round pick in the 2020 draft prior to the start of the season, his performance in 2020 had a large part in determining how high he’d get picked. In just 17 games, Bailey posted a .296 batting average with 20 runs and 20 RBIs. Bailey also recorded a team-leading six home runs, including three grand slams in just 11 days. Named to the Buster Posey Award watch list for the second year in a row, Bailey certainly proved he deserves to be drafted early in the 2020 MLB draft.
How much did the pitching play a role in the Pack’s success?
With a team ERA of 3.56, the Wolfpack pitching staff was a large key to all of NC State’s success in 2020. Junior Nick Swiney led the team with 42 strikeouts while posing a 1.29 ERA in 28 innings pitched. Junior David Harrison also proved to be a solid starter with a 2.75 ERA in 19.2 innings pitched. Freshmen Chris Villaman and Austin Pace each had a few chances to start and proved they could be consistent starters in the future.
With such a deep pitching staff, the Wolfpack was able to rely on relievers like juniors Canaan Silver and Evan Justice as well as sophomore Baker Nelson to continue success throughout games. While there were a few hiccups in this condensed season, overall the Pack’s pitching staff proved how deep it truly is and how important of a part it plays in the team’s success.