In preparation for the upcoming matchup this weekend between Boston College and the NC State Wolfpack, we sat down with Steven Muma of Backing the Pack, NC State's SB Nation site, and talked about the Pack Nine, their strengths, and what BC will need to do to pick up victories. For more, visit their site by clicking here.
BC Interruption: NC State returned to the NCAA Tournament last year after a one year hiatus. It was only the fourth time they missed the dance since 1986. What's been the secret to the Wolfpack sustaining the success they've had for so long?
Backing the Pack: Good roster management without headlining recruiting classes, and coaching continuity. Ray Tanner was immensely successful here before leaving because he wasn't getting the financial support he felt like he needed from the administration. (He would win two titles at South Carolina.)
Tanner's replacement in 1997 was Elliott Avent, who is still the head coach in Raleigh. It's nice when you can find quality coaches and get them to stick around for a while.
BCI: The pitching staff didn't miss a beat last year after the departure of Carlos Rodon. What can BC's hitters expect out of the Pack Nine this weekend?
BTP: NC State was fortunate enough to have Brian Brown emerge as the best starter in the weekend rotation as a true freshman last season, which really helped to compensate for the pain of losing Rodon. While the rest of the rotation was iffy at times, NC State also had a bunch of solid arms it could turn to out of the pen.
State's got a lot of options again this year, since most of those kids returned. But the rotation beyond Brown and Joe O'Donnell (who was a reliever last year) seems to be unsettled early on, with a couple of stalwarts from 2015 off to rough starts.
BCI: Who are some of the main hitters to watch in the lineup?
The middle of NC State's lineup is cookin' right now. First baseman Preston Palmeiro is hitting .358/.433/.642 with nine extra base hits in 13 games. Andrew Knizner is at .380/.475/.520, and after an up-and-down freshman year, Joe Dunand looks like's figuring out college pitching (.340/.400/.520). (Fun fact! Dunand is the second relative of Alex Rodriguez to play for Avent. Okay maybe it's not that fun.)
And Chance Shepard is off to a ridiculous start--he already has seven home runs and is slugging .769.
BCI: NC State was a much better home team last year, winning 21 games in Raleigh compared to just nine on the road. What makes them so tough to play against at home?
BTP: I'm not sure there's anything to that--when they got hot at the end of the season and reeled of a long winning streak, it happened to coincide with a homestand, so that's probably part of the reason the numbers are so skewed. But no doubt they need to be better on the road and avoid a couple of the bad losses they had in 2015.
BCI: What will BC have to do in order to come away from this weekend with a series victory?
BTP: NC State's pitching staff has some guys with great stuff who also tend to struggle with control. Boston College needs to be opportunistic and capitalize in innings where it gets a free pass or two. That along with quality starts from Mike King and Jacob Stevens can give the Eagles an opportunity to snag this series.