Pack Nine Streaking Again

Rob Foldy-US PRESSWIRE

N. C. State has won three in a row thanks to a gaggle of goose eggs.

N. C. State posted back-to-back shutouts in midweek matchups against Quinnipiac and Old Dominion, though runs were hard to come by in the absence of Trea Turner, who is out with a sprained ankle. Of course more than one run is simply a convenience when you don't allow any; Pack hurlers have combined for five shutouts this season and are working on a 24-inning streak without allowing a run.

The Pack (14-4) clawed past the Bobcats (4-3 after Tuesday's game and now 4-4 after losing to Duke Wednesday), winning their first midweek game deadball era style, 1-0. Freshman lefty Justin Thomas did not exactly dominate the Pack, yielding seven hits and issuing three free passes in five frames in his first career start, but wriggled out of trouble again and again to keep the game scoreless. State left 15 men on in the game. Kevin O'Connell relieved Thomas and promptly plunked Sam Morgan, the first man he faced. Morgan later scored on a Brett Austin double for the game's lone run. Austin was 3-for-5 for the game.

Austin stayed hot in the 5-0 shutout over the Monarchs (5-0), going 2-for-3 with a walk to raise his season average to .300 after a very slow start. No other Pack player recorded multiple hits, but Jake Fincher had a double, a walk, and scored a pair of runs. Fincher, who had a pair of hits in the first midweek game, has reached base in every game this season and, aside from the injured Turner (.522) and Brett Williams (.459), leads the Pack in on base percentage at .446.

Pack coach Elliot Avent is either not impressed with these newfangled statistics or pulls names out of a hat when creating his lineup, as Fincher batted sixth in both midweek games. Meanwhile, Logan Ratledge, who is recovering from a broken hand and sports a .125 average, batted second against ODU and led off against the Monarchs. With Turner out, it is a blessing to have Ratledge back to add depth to the middle infield, but he does not seem like the ideal candidate to try to replace Turner at the top of the order. Ratledge did have a double in four trips to the dish against the Monarchs after an 0-for-3 return against the Bobcats.

On the pitching side for the Pack, short stints from starting pitchers continued to be the norm. Logan Jernigan made it through four innings against the Bobcats, allowing just a pair of hits but issuing three free passes. The State staff has gone eight games in a row without the starting pitcher making it through five innings. Jon Olczak, Andrew Woeck, Grant Sasser, and Chris Overman combined for the shutout in relief of Jernigan, with Overman picking up his second save of the season by fanning the side in the ninth. The Pack staff totaled 16 punch outs for the game.

Travis Orwig took the bump first against the Monarchs as seven Pack hurlers contributed to the team's fifth shutout. Orwig lasted just seven pitches, getting two outs before leaving presumably due to injury, though GoPack.com's game story did not specify whether or not that was the case. Karl Keglovits was credited with the win; he went three innings and allowed a pair of hits while walking one and striking out two. Josh Easley, Sasser, Ethan Ogburn, Overman, and Ryan Wilkins finished the three hitter. Wilkins needed just six pitches to complete his scoreless frame and he and Sasser have both made seven appearances this season without allowing a run.

N. C. State returns to ACC play in Winston-Salem this weekend. With Florida State among a handful of remaining unbeaten teams in the nation and off to a 3-0 start in league play, the Pack desperately need to win at least two of three against Wake Forest if they want to remain in the Atlantic Division race. Friday's first pitch is slated for six p.m., followed by a four o'clock start Saturday and a one p.m. matinee on getaway day.

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