The Wolfpacker

January 2017

The Wolfpacker: An Independent Magazine Covering NC State Sports

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JANUARY 2017 ■ 75 base, while a small village battled for time behind the plate. Sophomore Jack Conley saw limited ac- tion as a freshman, but is the veteran of the group. Freshman Brad Debo of Durham, N.C., was one of the top catching recruits in the country and hit up a storm in the fall. Conley and Debo should be the frontrun- ners heading into preseason practice, but freshman Brady Gulakowski and junior college transfer Andrew Cosgrove also are in the picture. On the mound, there is so much depth that the coaches will likely wait until per- haps even after the season has started to decide who will start and who will relieve. Again, the Wolfpack brain trust finds itself with a multitude of options at its disposal, and most of those options are experienced, talented or both. "Right now, we're not sure where the pieces are going to fit, and it may be March before we know," Avent said. Junior lefty Brian Brown (7-3 record last season with 3.70 ERA), a two-year starter, returns as the anchor. Senior Cory Wilder (3-4, 4.61) was the Friday starter two years ago and has been in the rotation most of the last two seasons. Joe O'Donnell (3-2, 4.02), another senior, relieved for two years before emerging as last year's Friday starter. An injured shoulder ended his campaign after six starts, but he is back and healthy. Fifth-year senior Johnny Piedmonte (1-3, 5.56) suffered a spate of injuries early in his career, but has pitched in every role imaginable the last two years. He was espe- cially effective at the back end of the bull- pen last May and June, but also turned in a clutch start versus Navy in the regional. Brown, Wilder, O'Donnell and Pied- monte have combined to work nearly 500 career innings. The pitching staff starts with them. Sophomore Austin Staley (3-1, 3.16) made 26 appearances in middle relief a year ago. Redshirt junior Cody Beckman (2-0, 6.05) came back from elbow surgery last spring and worked 19 1 ⁄3 innings, strik- ing out 23. He was especially effective in the regional final against eventual national champion Coastal Carolina. The Mets took Beckman in the 25th round of the June draft, but he opted to return to school and should play a key role. Senior lefty Sean Adler (0-1, 6.94) and senior righty Evan Brabrand (1-1, 7.23) appear ready for expanded roles. Redshirt sophomore Tim Naughton has a plus arm and dials his fastball up to the mid-90s. Then there is DeJuneas (2-3, 6.37, six saves), who made 48 appearances out of the pen his first two seasons, saving 12 games and striking out 84 in 69 1 /3 innings. DeJuneas lights up the radar gun, but can find the strike zone elusive at times. Pitching coach Scott Foxhall tried DeJu- neas as a starter in the fall, and he pitched surprisingly well. Like the rest of the staff, though, DeJuneas's ultimate role won't be decided until the spring. He could be a big weapon. Several newcomers will push for in- nings. Incoming junior college right-hand- ers Nolan Clenney and Zach Usselman are ■ Key Games • Louisville, March 14-16 — NC State's schedule brings the Wolfpack's top three Atlantic Division rivals to Doak Field this season, beginning with Louisville. The Cardinals lost a host of core players from last year's powerhouse — seven players were drafted in the first four rounds last June — but Louisville head coach Dan McDonnell has built a deep program and returns plenty of talent, led by two-way All-America candidate Brendan McKay. • Florida State, April 7-9 — The Atlantic Divisional rival Florida State could be preseason No. 1 nationally. The Seminoles, who have made life most uncomfortable for the Wolfpack over the years, return a loaded team, led by shortstop Taylor Walls, outfielder Jackson Lueck, catcher Cal Raleigh and first baseman Quincy Nieporte, plus weekend starters Drew Carlton and Cole Sands. One of the nation's top recruiting classes only makes the Seminoles that much more formidable. • Clemson, May 18-20 — NC State has turned the tables on Clemson in recent years, winning the season series from the Tigers three of the last five seasons, but a year ago first-year CU head coach Monte Lee led a resurgence in Death Valley. The Tigers, who beat the Wolfpack twice in a late-season ACC series in Clemson, expect to return to the national stage in 2017. Seth Beer earned ACC Player of the Year and first-team All-America honors as a freshman, and the potent Tigers offense will be built around Beer and outfielders Chase Pinder and Weston Jackson. Charlie Barnes and Pat Krall will anchor a deep pitching staff. Junior shortstop Joe Dunand was listed as one of the top 10 prospects in the prestigious Cape Cod League over the summer. PHOTO BY LARRY BLANKENSHIP Key Players To Watch Junior left-hander Brian Brown On a pitching staff with lots of familiar faces but very few defined roles at the conclusion of fall practice, Brown is like a security blanket for the Wolfpack coaching staff. A weekend starter since arriving on campus as a freshman two years ago, Brown enters his junior season with 32 starts, 14 wins and a 2.90 career ERA to his credit. He's been the Saturday starter for two seasons, and there's no reason to believe that Brown will be anything other than a starter in 2017. Junior center fielder Josh McLain By mid-April last season, NC State was on an 11- game offensive rampage, scoring 8.7 runs per game and hitting .335 while winning 10 of the 11 games. Leading the charge was McLain, hitting .400 with a .471 on-base percentage while slugging .578 during the 11-game streak. On April 17 at Georgia Tech, McLain took a fastball off his right hand, breaking a bone. A .353 hitter prior to the injury, McLain played through the pain but batted just .205 the rest of the season and finished the year hitting .300. A plus runner and a peerless defender in center field, a healthy McLain would be a difference-maker for the Pack. Junior pitcher/infielder/ outfielder Tommy DeJuneas DeJuneas emerged as a national prospect as a freshman two years ago, making 24 appearances and posting a 3-3 record with a 1.82 ERA, six saves and 57 strikeouts in 39 2 ⁄3 innings. He saved six more games a year ago, but his ERA ballooned to 6.37 and his overall performance sagged accordingly. This fall, pitching coach Scott Foxhall used DeJuneas as a starter in scrimmages — mostly to give his fire- balling right-hander some extra work — but he pitched really well as a starter. His ultimate role for 2017 won't be determined until February, or even March, but a regular starting schedule would also afford head coach Elliott Avent a better opportunity to get DeJuneas's potent bat in the lineup.

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