The N.C. State women's softball team has either been losing games or losing games to weather cancellation far too often in the early portion of the 2014 slate, but it righted the ship Sunday with a pair of shutouts over something called the IPFW Mastodons and Albany in the Citrus Classic at Disney's Wild World of Sports in Kissimmee, Florida.
Emily Weiman scattered 11 hits and fanned 14 in her 14 shutout innings for the Pack (4-6). Weiman, the 2013 ACC pitcher of the year and tournament MVP, dropped her season ERA to 4.14 with the back-to-back blankings. She has an impressive 61 strikeouts in 49 innings but has suffered through uncharacteristic wildness, walking 22 batters and hitting five so far. Since she tends to get hit a little (opponents are batting .281 against her), Weiman must cut down on the free baserunners to rekindle last year's success.
Renada Davis, who flirted with the NCAA lead in home runs last season, finally belted her first bomb against the odd conglomerate of Indiana schools known as Indiana University Purdue University Fort Wayne (7-5). Hanna Somer, who was hitless entering the game, also homered and doubled in the Pack's 5-0 win. Leah Jones and Nadia Kemp drove in the only two runs the Pack would need to topple Albany (2-2) in the bottom of the first in a 2-0 final.
The N.C. State softball team has lost five games due to weather cancellations and has only one more non-conference tune up before opening ACC play next weekend against Virgina.
Pack Nine Complete Sweep
Logan Jernigan and Brad Stone must have heard me when I said they better be looking over their shoulders at Patrick Peterson, the midweek starter who easily had the best outing of the three after their first turn through the rotation. Jernigan and Stone combined for 12 shutout innings as N.C. State swept Appalachian State over the weekend.
Jernigan went six innings and surrendered just two hits Saturday while striking out seven. He limited his walks to three and hit batters to one, totals that are high by most pitchers' standards but a big improvement for the wild thing. When he is throwing strikes, Jernigan makes for a nasty one-two weekend punch behind Carlos Rodon. Opponents are hitting just .152 off Jernigan in the early going.
John Olczak went three perfect innings, striking out four, to pick up the save in the Pack's 7-0 win. He needed just 25 pitches to get through the Mountaineers' order.
The Pack offense in the game was actually provided by an ASU defense which made five errors that led to five unearned runs. Jake Fincher was the lone Pack player to post two hits; he drove in three.
Sunday's series finale featured much more drama, as the teams headed to the bottom of the eighth tied at one run apiece. The inning started promisingly, with Trea Turner leading off with a single off Taylor Thurber, but Turner was promptly gunned down trying to swipe second. Bubby Riley followed with a walk and, after Logan Ratledge fanned, Jake Armstrong picked his teammate up in a big way with his second home run of the season. Armstrong, who doubled in the game's first run, finished 3-for-4 with three RBI. He's posted a robust 1.466 OPS in the early going (yet has inexplicably been out of the lineup twice).
Pack fans had to hold their breath a bit when Carlos Rodon pinch hit following Armstrong's dinger and was plunked. Big Los certainly has potential at the plate, but I cringe every time he takes a bat in his hands because we're one beaning or pulled hammy trying to leg out an infield hit away from seeing #ncstatestuff gain its crowning achievement.
Stone yielded just two hits in six incredibly efficient innings; he needed just 70 pitches to record 18 outs. Unfortunately, he got a tough-luck no decision when Eric Peterson coughed up the lead in the seventh. Peterson was greeted by back-to-back singles but nearly escaped unscathed; a two-out wild pitch brought home the tying tally. Peterson then struck out five of the next seven Mountaineers and secured the win thanks to Armstrong's heroics.
The N.C. State nine look for their seventh straight win Tuesday when they host the Davidson Wildcats. The sweep left ASU winless on the season (0-7).
A Tip of the Cap to...
Nick Gwiazdowski and Andrew Colley. Gwiazdowski scored a 5-3 overtime win over the weekend against Northwestern's Michael McMullen, the nation's top-ranked heavyweight. Colley won the 3,000 meters at the Alex Wilson Invitational with a career-best time of 7:58.87.