The NC State baseball team will kick off its season on Valentine’s Day, beginning the year with a series against James Madison. Last year, the Pack went 42-19 and began the year at 19-0 but sputtered the second half of the season, going 23-19 after that undefeated stretch.
Perhaps the toughest series of the season is an away series at Louisville, the preseason No. 1 in the rankings, according to D1Baseball.com. The Wolfpack lost all three games of the series last season, when Louisville was ranked No. 12, with the second game of the doubleheader between the two teams a 14-2 defeat.
The Pack plays the Virginia Cavaliers earlier than they did last season, which could go either way. The Cavaliers handed the Pack its second loss last season, and this loss seemed to pop the Wolfpack in the mouth, as it failed to sweep a season series again until early May when it played Radford. With the earlier series this year, the Pack has a chance to right history and not let the same team set it back.
Both Coastal Carolina and South Carolina, who are not ranked, defeated the Pack last season, and while the games were close, the Pack couldn’t put them away. While neither of those teams are ranked this year, and Coastal Carolina was ranked No. 24 when it defeated the Pack last season, both teams figure to play close games throughout the year.
Another tough nonconference opponent returning from last year is Campbell. Campbell defeated the Wolfpack once in the regular season after the Pack dominated the Camels 10-1 during its 19-game win streak. After getting revenge in the regular season, the Camels extended the favor by defeating the Pack 5-4 in the NCAA Regional in Greenville last year.
The Pack will take on Elon twice this year, a team the Wolfpack handled by a combined 26-2 last season. With both Elon games near each other on the schedule this year, these games could be used to spark a run by the Pack.
Inside the conference, the Pack has little luck, as the ACC looks to be a powerhouse once again for baseball. The team will get to take on No. 12 Florida State at the end of March in a three-game series in Tallahassee, Florida, the same team that handed the Pack its first loss of the season last year. While the Seminoles are not ranked at No. 1, as they were when they defeated the Pack last year, they will still prove to be a challenge for the Pack.
The team will also take on the No. 18 Wake Forest Demon Deacons, a team that took two of three games in the regular-season series last year. The series against the Demon Deacons this year is what kicks off five straight ranked ACC series for the Pack. After the Wake Forest series, the Pack will take on the Seminoles, followed by the No. 15 Duke Blue Devils, followed by No. 19 Georgia Tech, and followed up with No. 23 UNC-Chapel Hill, with games against Elon, Wofford, Campbell and UNC-Charlotte in between the series.
When the Pack takes on Georgia Tech, it will be looking for revenge. The Yellow Jackets are the team that knocked the Wolfpack out of the ACC Championship when Georgia Tech was ranked No. 6 in the nation. The two teams met in the ACC Championship Semifinal, with the Yellow Jackets stinging the Pack in a 9-2 victory.
The Wolfpack will end its season with a series against Notre Dame, who is not ranked, but took two of three in the series against the Pack last season.
The schedule for the Pack could be worse, but the five straight series against ACC teams that have begun the season with a ranking is brutal. If the Pack can look back to the mistakes that allowed it to skid in the second half of last season and learn from those mistakes, it should have no problem closing out games against teams that it is clearly better than, unlike last year.
The first pitch for the series opener against James Madison is set for 3 p.m. Friday, Feb. 14 in Doak Field at Dail Park. The game can be streamed on ACC Network Extra.