Coach Elliott Avent's NC State baseball team got the new season off to a winning start with a three-game sweep of James Madison.
Although it's still way too early to say that any of the questions that surround the Wolfpack have been answered, the successful opening weekend did at least provide a glimpse of what might be in store for the team, which moved up one spot to No. 15 in the D1Baseball.com rankings.
Here is a look back at the three wins, along with some of the encouraging signs that came out of them:
Friday: Wolfpack 4, JMU 0 -- State is counting on Nick Swinney to make the transition from reliable reliever to weekend starter and the junior left-hander served notice that he is fully capable of handling the role.
Swinney was in complete command during his efficient, career-long seven-inning outing, He threw just 90 pitches, 61 of them for strikes, while fanning 11 and allowing only two hits and no runs.
Offensively, Devonte Brown and Jonny Butler did the bulk of the heavy lifting, with Butler hitting a two-run homer in the second at the end of a nine-pitch at bat to get the Wolfpack off to a fast start and Brown providing a pair of doubles, a run scored and one driven in.
The win was the 1,100th of Avent's career, becoming one of only eight active coaches to reach the milestone.
Saturday: Wolfpack 9, JMU 6: One of the trademarks of last year's Wolfpack team was its penchant for coming from behind to win games in the late innings -- sometimes with the most improbable of rallies.
This year's crew showed it might have the same flair for the dramatic by by scoring five times in the bottom of the eighth to pull out a gritty victory. Other than the late comeback, the most positive aspect of this game was the contribution of newcomer Austin Murr.
By far the most significant uncertainty heading into the season for the Wolfpack was how it would replace the offensive production lost with the departure of first round draft pick Will Wilson and veteran first baseman Evan Edwards.
Murr, a junior first baseman who hit over .400 in both of his junior college seasons, showed that he has the potential to take up at least some of the slack by pounding out three hits in the game -- including a leadoff homer in the first and a two-run double that tied the game in the eighth.
Butler then finished the eighth-inning uprising with a go-ahead two-run single for his third hit of the day.
On the mound, freshman Matt Willadsen got the start. But it was another rookie right-hander, Sam Highfill, that turned in the best performance -- allowing only one run over three innings to pick up his first career victory.
Sunday: Wolfpack 11, JMU 2 -- Brown and Butler were again front-and-center in a 14-hit attack that looked every bit as potent and balanced as the lineup that averaged better than seven runs per game in 2019.
The two juniors had three hits each in the win and appear comfortable with their newly expanded roles in the middle of the batting order. They did their part to answer the question of how State will compensate for the loss of Wilson and Edwards by combining to go 14 for 25 on the weekend with four runs scored, 11 driven in and five extra base hits.
Brown's performance is particularly encouraging, because it appears as though he's finally ready to realize the promise he had when he arrived as a highly-ranked prospect out of Georgia.
The hot starts of Brown and Butler, along with the contributions of Murr and infielder J.T. Jarrett, helped take some of the early pressure off preseason All-American catcher Patrick Bailey -- who was clearly being pitched around by the Dukes.
Bailey managed only one hit in the three games, but he still found a way to make an impact in the opening series by drawing six walks and scoring five runs.
The weekend sweep marked the 16th straight series win for the Wolfpack against nonconference opponents since 2020. It was also State's sixth straight series sweep against a nonconference foe since 2018.
The Wolfpack returns to the field on Tuesday for single game against Longwood (1-3). First pitch is scheduled for 3 p.m.