Pack Batter Blue Devils but Settle for Second

Aw, Tzam...you spoiled the shutout. - Rob Foldy-US PRESSWIRE

A 3-5 stretch in ACC play ultimately came back to bite the Pack in their quest for a division title, but the team appears to be putting all the pieces together in time for the ACC tournament.

As Akula noted earlier, N.C. State did its part, sweeping a three-game set at Duke to close the regular season, but Clemson did not cooperate. The Pack pounded Duke 9-1 on the strength of a 15-hit attack but had to settle for second place in the Atlantic Division after the Tigers fell to Florida State. The Noles took the division by the slimmest of margins, finishing ½ a game ahead of the Pack.

Über-hot Bryan Adametz had three more hits and set his career high in RBI by the third inning with a pair of two-run singles. The Pack left fielder has hit in 12 straight, raising his average to .317. Only Trea Turner (.383) and Jake Fincher (.326) have posted higher marks. Turner had three hits in the regular season finale and Fincher, who reached base in all but two regular season games, added a double and a single to the hit parade.

Grant Clyde pushed his average over .300 (.302) with a 2-for-4 afternoon and scored a career best three runs, but despite all of the offense it was the Pack pitching that may prove to be the lasting storyline. Five pitchers combined to scatter seven hits and limit the Blue Devils to one run, and that quintet was led by a strong outing from Logan Jernigan. The sophomore righty worked four and one third innings, yielding three hits and two walks while fanning flailing Duke batters six times.

Jernigan was supposed to be a weekend starter for the Pack but failed to seize the role due to a bout of wildness that saw him walk an average of a batter an inning early in the season. In his last handful of outings, he has cut the walks in half while continuing his hard to hit ways. Opponents are hitting just .182 off of Jernigan, and he has a miniscule 0.84 ERA despite the control issues.

The Pack will go into the ACC tournament swinging hot sticks--they plated 16 total runs in their last two games--and perhaps they also finally have an answer to the question of who can step up and provide solid starting pitching behind ace Carlos Rodon. The Pack have had two problems this year, the first of which, a lack of team power, is not likely to change overnight. San Diego's Kris Bryant has out-homered the Pack by himself so far this season, 30-25. But the second issue, the lack of starting pitching depth, may have been at least partially resolved by Jernigan's recent resurgence.

Of course nitpicking the Pack's shortcomings seems a bit unfair after a regular season that saw the club match its record for ACC wins while also winning 40 games prior to postseason play for the first time under Elliot Avent. The team will undoubtedly host a regional and likely finish the season ranked in the top 10 nationally. And, had Trea Turner not turned an ankle in the opening game of the Clemson series, precipitating a stretch that saw the Pack go just 3-5 in their next eight league games, Avent's club may well have run away with the division.

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