With both squads sporting team ERAs in the low threes, Tuesday's midweek matchup between N. C. State and UNC-Charlotte figured to be a low scoring affair. Starters Ethan Ogburn and Jason Harris made sure of it. Ogburn, in particular, was dominant, working into the ninth after setting down the first 18 49ers in a row. The senior righty's efforts led the Pack to a 2-1 victory and season sweep of their two-game, non-conference set with the 49ers (22-14). N. C. State (29-10) has now won its last 11 games.
Ogburn, recently demoted from his spot as a weekend starter, responded with a season-long, eight-and-one-third inning outing. He was perfect until Tony Montalbano led off the bottom of the seventh with a single, and Ogburn left the game having allowed just two hits and no walks. He struck out five and Charlotte's lone run was unearned thanks to a dramatic two-out error from the normally sure handed Logan Ratledge at second base.
Justin Roland led off the ninth with a single and was erased one batter later on a fielder's choice. Then Chris Overman relieved Ogburn and yielded Montalbano's second hit of the evening, putting runners on the corners with one out. Overman fanned the next batter and then departed in favor of Grant Sasser, as Wolfpack Coach Elliot Avent opted for the lefty-lefty matchup against the 49ers' three hitter, Brad Elwood. The move worked, as Elwood bounced to Ratledge for what should have been the game's final out and the Pack's seventh shutout of the season. But Ratledge booted it, allowing a run to score.
Fortunately for the Pack, Jake Fincher hustled to retrieve the booted ball and threw it quickly to cut off man Terran Senay, who caught an adventuresome Montalbano in a pickle after he went from first to third and rounded third base a little too hard. Grant Clyde received the throw behind from Senay and threw home to Brett Austin, who tracked Montalbano down for the final out.
Sasser was credited with his third save in the last four Wolfpack contests and now has a team-high six on the season.
After allowing single runs in the first and second inning, Charlotte's Harris settled down to work six and one third innings, surrendering seven hits, one walk, and fanning two. Both runs charged to him were earned.
The Pack looked to be in business for a big first inning after Trea Turner and Fincher opened the frame with back-to-back singles, but Avent elected to give up the three hitter, having Austin put down a sacrifice bunt. With the slumping Brett Williams, a guy who came in hitting .209 on the season if you throw out one big doubleheader against woeful Wagner, inexplicably occupying the cleanup spot, the bunt made little sense. Williams did get Turner home with a sac fly, but the potential big inning yielded just one run. I'm all for small ball late in a close game, but I cannot understand bunting with your three hitter in the first inning.
Clyde led off the second with a single, moved to second on a Bryan Adametz sac bunt, and scored on Sam Morgan's single. Morgan once again got the start at DH despite the protests of some whacked out internet fanatic.
Senay, who had his 12-game hitting streak snapped Sunday, went 2-for-4 with a double.
The Pack won the first meeting of the season against Charlotte 5-0 way back on February 19th. Ogburn got the win in that game as well, allowing just one hit in five innings. His season line against the 49ers: 13.1 innings, three hits, one walk, no runs, and seven strikeouts.
The Pack return to action this weekend against Georgia Tech in Atlanta and will likely need to rediscover their offense to extend their winning streak against the heavy hitting Yellow Jackets. Georgia Tech is sixth in the nation with a .321 batting average, and it has a pair of fearsome power hitters in Daniel Palka and Zane Evans, both of whom have 11 home runs on the season. The Pack's entire roster has combined for just 20 round trippers.