College World Series preview: North Carolina State

 Chris Lee and Barry Allen   in Baseball

North Carolina State shocked top-ranked Arkansas last week, earning a trip to college baseball's World Series, where it beat Stanford in its first game.

Photo courtesy of North Carolina State athletics.

Stats have been updated to reflect the Wolfpack's win over Vanderbilt on Monday, June 21

North Carolina State Wolfpack (37-18)

RPI: 12 (No. 13 strength of schedule)

League finish: second in ACC Atlantic

Coach: Elliott Avant (1,150-762 in 33 seasons, 925-549 in 25 seasons at NC State)

CWS appearance: third

National titles: none

North Carolina State has taken the long road to Omaha, winning both the NCAA Regional and Super Regional on the road.

The Wolfpack won all three games against Alabama and Louisiana Tech (twice) in the Ruston Regional. Then last week, NC State knocked off top-seed Arkansas to capture the Fayetteville Super Regional.

The Wolfpack rebounded from a 21-2 drubbing in the series opener to become the only team to win a series against the Razorbacks this season.

In all, NC State has traveled 3,426 miles in the post season alone to reach the CWS for the first time since 2013. 

The journey seems longer for a team that started 1-8 in ACC play. NC State closed the season by winning its last four ACC series, going 10-2 against Virginia Tech, Wake Forest, Pittsburgh and Florida State.

NC State and fellow ACC member Virginia have both reached Omaha by winning both series away from home.

Michigan, Florida State and Auburn advanced to 2019 CWS after winning the Regional and Super Regional on the road.

The lineup: (Runs created per 27 outs, according to a Bill James formula. The Wolfpack will face Vanderbilt right-hander Kumar Rocker on Friday.)

1. Austin Murr (L), 1B (7.4) vs RHP: .351/.404/.561

2. Tyler McDonough (S), CF (10.2) vs. RHP: .294/.372/.542

3. Jonny Butler (L), LF (13.1) vs RHP: .443/.474/.799

4. Terrell Tatum (L), DH (9.6) vs. RHP: .336/.459/.613

5. Jose Torres (R), SS (7.1) vs. RHP: .278/.326/.489

6. Luca Tresh (R), C (5.6) vs. RHP: .253/.329/.520

7. Devonte Brown (R), RF (6.8) vs. RHP: .273/.374/.540

8. Voljtech Mensik (R), 3B (4.0) vs. RHP: .239/.318/.391

9. J.T. Jarrett (R), SS (4.7) vs. RHP: .222/.325/.311

Coming into the NCAAs, the Wolfpack led the ACC in batting average (.289) and slugging percentage (.501). Butler leads the ACC with a .385 batting average. 

NC State has 91 home runs; the second most in the ACC. Six players have 10 or more home runs this season, including Tresh (15), McDonough (15), Butler (14), Brown (13), Tatum (11) and Torres (10).

The home run ball has been a huge part of the post-season success. NC State has hit 15 home runs in seven games. Torres, Brown and Tresh have combined for 11 home runs in the tournament.

NC State hit six home runs in its Super Regional series win at Arkansas. Torres homered in all three games, including the game-winning homer in the ninth inning of game three off Kevin Kopps. The Wolfpack hit three home runs in one inning to secure the win in Game Two. NC State scored 11 runs in the series with eight runs coming off home runs.

In the Ruston Regional, NC State belted five home runs to account for eight runs in the 8-1 win over Alabama.

NC State has been one of the top defensive teams in the nation, with a .982 fielding percentage. Coming into the CWS, only Liberty (.984) has a higher fielding mark.

Pitchers

SP1 Reid Johnston 96.2 IP, 9-3, 1 sv, 4.47 ERA, 1.19 base runners/inning pitched, 8% free passes, 24% K  (threw 75 pitches on 6-19)

SP2 Sam Highfill 93.1 IP, 9-2, 3.66 ERA, 1.24 BRIP, 9% FP, 22% K (100 / 6-21)

SP3 Matt Willadsen 83.2 IP, 5-3, 4.73 ERA, 1.31 BRIP, 9% FP, 20% K

SP4 Chris Villaman 60 IP, 5-2, 2 sv, 4.35 ERA, 1.05 BRIP, 7% FP, 29% K

CL Evan Justice 59.2 IP, 5-2, 13 sv, 3.77 ERA, 1.21 BRIP, 13% FP, 30% K. (46 / 6-19, 28 / 6-21)

RP1 Cody Ingle 14 IP, 0-0, 2.57 ERA, 1.21 BRIP, 12% FP, 22% K

RP2 Dalton Feeney 13.1 IP, 1-1, 11.48 ERA, 1.35 BRIP, 20% FP, 19% K

RP3 Canaan Silver 12 IP, 0-2, 8.25 ERA, 1.50 BRIP, 6% FP, 15% K

RP4 Andrew Tillery 10.2 IP, 1-1, 13.50 ERA, 2.91 BRIP, 21% FP, 13% K

State has not announced whether Johnston or Highfill starts Game One; the two have taken turns in that role.

The Wolfpack have relied heavily on five arms to navigate the season.

Highfill, Justice, Villaman, Johnston and Willasden have accounted for 79.2 percent (374.2 of 473) of the total innings pitched. They have combined for combined for 31 wins and 14 saves over 88 appearances.

Willasden (4 IP, 2 H, 1 R, 4 BB, 4 K), Villaman (3 IP, 2 H, 1 R, 0 BB, 3 K) and Justice (2 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 2 K) held Arkansas to two runs and four hits in the final game of the Super Regional. Highfill (6.1 IP, 2 H, 4 R, 2 BB, 5 K) and Justice (2.2 IP, 2 H, 1 R, 0 BB, 4 K) were equally impressive in the 6-5 win to even the series on Saturday.

Justice is second in the ACC and 10th nationally with 11 saves.

The NC State staff ERA (5.10) ranks 10th in the ACC. The ERA (6.11) is one run per game higher in the NCAA tournament.