If you could get Coach O'Connor to tell you what team out of the ACC he thinks his team should beat more times than not but for some reason the Cavaliers lose to (and you got an actual honest answer), he would most definitely say the NC St. Wolfpack. For some reason, the Hoos have had their struggles against the Wolfpack over the years and nobody can explain why. In the last ten years, UVa has only taken the series against NC St only twice and has never swept the whole weekend series. Coach Oak himself only has an 11-17 record against Coach Avent, and according to my research, Raleigh is the only place Coach O'Connor has not won a road series in the ACC.
Recent history has been on UVa's side more often though. Last year in Charlottesville, the Hoos were able to win the series but did drop the initial game to the Wolfpack 2-6.
This year, the Wolfpack is one of the hottest teams in the country. So far, they have a combined 17-6 record with only one series loss, which was last weekend when they traveled to Chapel Hill to face the nationally ranked Tar Heels. In their other two ACC series', NC ST took care of business by sweeping Wake Forest and then shocked the whole conference opening weekend by taking the series from the Yellow Jackets on the road. Good news (or bad news) for the Cavaliers is the two teams that both team have played (Coastal and Wright St), NC St has a worse combined record (0-2) (UVa is 1-1).
NC St has come across most of their success this year in large part to their pitching staff. Two of their three weekend starters have an ERA below 2.00 and all three of them have combined for a 9-2 record. Their Saturday starter, Carlos Rodon, is a freshman left-hander who is an early favorite for ACC Freshman of the year. His 1.30 ERA and 4-0 record are tops on the NC St staff. Not only is he great at not allowing opposing teams to score but his strike out to walk ratio is impressive as well. With only twelve walks issued on the season, he has given up just as many walks as he has runs. Fortunately for his ERA, he has given up only six earned runs. All in all, the pitching staff for NC St has done a great job at striking opponents out and limiting their time on base. The staff is only issuing just over three walks a game and that is something this Cavalier team will have to change.
On the other side of the ball, the Wolfpack have been nearly as good. Although their .290 average pails in comparison to UVa's .324 average, it has been more than effective and has put them at 5th in the ACC in batting average rank. Thanks in large part to their junior infielder Chris Diaz, the Wolfpack have doubled their opponents run scored. Diaz leads NC St in RBIs and batting average while only striking out 11 times in his 94 ABs.
The biggest part of NC St's game appears to be their stolen bases. Similar to the Cavaliers, NC St loves to get on base and put pressure on their opponent's catcher to make a play. Fortunately for the Wolfpack they have Freshman Trea Turner on their team. Turner is a burner in the truest sense of the word. He is a mind-blowing 25-25 on the base paths this year and lit up UNC last weekend. If the Cavaliers and the staff are going to be successful this weekend they are going to have to limit NC St in walks but more importantly keep Turner off the basepaths. UVa's Nate Irving has struggled at times with throwing out runners but this weekend it is going to be a key to the game.
For the Hoos to come out on top this weekend I think they are going to have to get deep in counts. I know that is not Coach Mac's mantra because it goes against being aggressive, but they need to get NC St's pitchers well along in their pitch counts. Forcing the Wolfpack to throw more pitches will lead to the bullpen earlier and could possibly lead to more walks. I am sure this isn't how Coach Mac is approaching this weekend, but it makes sense to me.
For my official prediction, I think the Cavaliers keep it close. This team has proven a lot to me over the last two weeks and this six game winning streak. They have seemed to remember how to win and what it takes to win. Having said that, NC St just has Coach O'Connor and UVa's number. All in all, Hoos keep it close in all three games but only take one. If they only win one but are competitive in all three I will still consider it a fairly successful weekend.
All the games this weekend are broadcast on ESPN3 and I will do my best to make sure your twitter time line is full. Until gametime, Go HOOS!