The lineup Elliot Avent pulled out of a hat struggled to put runs on the board, but N. C. State got just enough error-fueled offense to edge Boston College 3-2 and complete its second consecutive series sweep in conference play. Overall, the Pack (28-10, 11-7) have won 10 straight games. The Eagles (6-29, 0-17) remain winless in ACC play, though they held the lead in each of the three games this weekend.
The series finale remained scoreless into the seventh inning thanks in part to Avent's head-scratcher of a lineup, but mostly due to the dominance of freshman lefties Andrew Chin and Brad Stone. The latter had a no-hitter through six innings, and the former was not charged with a run until his defense let him down in the eighth. BC struck first, finally notching a pair of hits off Stone in the seventh to chase the young lefty and plate the game's first run. Stone ended up surrendering one run, two hits, and a walk in six and a third innings. He struck out eight.
Trailing 1-0 heading into the eighth, the Pack offense finally scratched. The BC defense, which was shaky all weekend, reared its ugly head again when Grant Clyde led off the inning by reaching on an error. Logan Ratledge ran for Clyde and moved to second when Matt Bergquist, making his first starter in weeks, drew a walk after falling behind 0-2 in the count against Chin. The walk chased Chin from the game and his replacement, John Gorman, promptly threw away Trea Turner's sacrifice bunt attempt, allowing Ratledge to score all the way from second to knot the score. Bergquist went to third on the play and Turner ended up at second.
Brett Austin, who was among the nation's leaders with 10 sacrifice flies last season and has five more this year, continued his solid situational hitting by lifting a fly ball deep enough to score Bergquist with the go-ahead run. Two batters later, Brett Williams singled home Turner for an important insurance run that was charged to Gorman.
According to the box score, Chin, who was a fifth round pick of the Toronto Blue Jays out of high school, was charged with two earned runs in seven innings. He allowed just a pair of hits and struck out seven. Since Clyde reached on an error, I have no idea how his run (eventually scored by the pinch runner Ratledge) was earned. It has to be an error by the official scorer. Regardless, both freshman lefties deserved a better fate, as Chin took the loss and Stone ended up with a no decision.
Andrew Woeck was credited with the win out of the Pack pen, his fourth of the season. He wriggled out of the seventh after relieving Stone, leaving two men on thanks to a well-placed line drive that Turner snared to end the inning. Woeck was touched for a leadoff double in the eighth and was yanked in favor of Chris Overman, who needed just 10 pitches to record three outs and strand the runner. Overman has yet to allow an earned run this season in 15.1 innings.
Even though he went three innings for a save on Saturday, Avent once again turned to Grant Sasser to finish a tight game. Sasser had a shaky ninth, hitting a batter and allowing a double to put runners on second and third with one out. After an RBI groundout, Sasser struck out Matt McGovern on a 3-2 pitch to end the game. Sasser and Overman now share the team lead with five saves.
Even though he had reached base in 36 of 37 games before Sunday, Avent dropped Jake Fincher back to fifth in the lineup rather than having him bat in the top three as he had been doing recently. Fincher responded by going 0-for-4 and grounding into a double play.
Even more curious was the inclusion of Brian Taylor as the starting leftfielder. Taylor, who is batting .097 on the season, struck out in his lone at bat before being jerked for normal starter Bryan Adametz, a .304 hitter. Perhaps Adametz missed curfew Saturday night, though I think Avent just picked names out of a hat to determine the lineup. That might explain why on base machine Jake Armstrong did not receive one single plate appearance all weekend. Armstrong and his .459 OBP sat in favor of Sam Morgan (.304 OBP) and Will Nance (.269 OBP) at DH. It was also weird to see Bergquist at second over Ratledge, but since both of them are batting under .200...whatever. This move did work out, as Bergquist worked an important walk in the eighth and had one of the Pack's measly three hits.
One interesting development in the series was seeing Ryan Wilkins as a weekend starter. The former late inning reliever turned in the Pack's longest start of the series, working seven innings to win the second half of Saturday's twin bill. Wilkins has only allowed two runs in 12 innings as a starter, so the conversion has been successful so far. I thought the change would leave Stone as the odd man out, but it was Ethan Ogburn who was skipped this weekend. Perhaps Ogburn will toe the rubber Tuesday when the Pack travel to UNC Charlotte.
Ogburn joins Logan Jernigan and Anthony Tzamtzis as pitchers who were key parts of the Pack's 2012 success who have fallen out of favor with Avent. Ogburn really hasn't pitched poorly, posting a 3.62 ERA and allowing opponents to hit just .230 against him. But Jernigan and Tzamtzis have struggled mightily with their command, walking an average of one batter per inning; the staff is simply too deep to continue to give them chances to figure it out. Still, one wonders what the clubhouse is like when veterans lose their jobs.
Florida State swept Duke this weekend and Clemson did the same against Wake Forest, so the Wolfpack failed to make up any ground in the Atlantic Division, and it gets tougher from here. The Pack play ranked ACC foes in each of the next three weekends, starting with a road trip to Atlanta to take on Georgia Tech (#19). The Pack host UNC (#1) and Florida State (#6) after that.