Pack Get By with a Little Help from Their Friends

USA TODAY Sports

A doubleheader sweep at Virginia Tech, coupled with a Pittsburgh loss, puts N.C. State in the ACC tournament field.

Things got dicey in both games, but N.C. State swept a doubleheader at Virginia Tech Friday and, thanks to some help from its friends, sewed up a spot in the ACC tournament, a feat that seemed unlikely after a 3-10 start to conference play.

An abnormally shaky Carlos Rodon spotted the Hokies a 2-0 lead in the twin bill opener, but the Pack rallied and eventually won going away, 9-4. Brett Austin had a huge day at the plate, going 3-for-4 with a walk, three runs scored, and an RBI. He drove himself in with a solo home run in the fifth that gave the Pack a lead they would not relinquish.

Rodon lasted just five frames, allowing eight hits and four earned runs, but the junior lefty and likely top three pick in the June MLB draft was bailed out by Eric Peterson, who earned his third save of the season by finishing the game off with four shutout innings.

Chance Shepard, who scored three times, Jake Armstrong, and light-hitting right fielder Garrett Suggs also had multiple hit games, as each player collected two hits. Suggs drove in a pair. The Pack nearly reached double digits despite an off game from Trea Turner, who doubled in a run but went just 1-for-5 and left six men on.

State carried the momentum into game two, hanging a five-spot in the fourth to lead 5-0. The Pack got RBI singles from Jake Fincher, Armstrong, Logan Ratledge, and Andrew Knizner, as well as a bunt RBI from Suggs, who had two more hits, in their big inning. Suggs entered the twin bill under the Mendoza line but raised his average to .220.

Unfortunately Logan Jernigan imploded in the bottom of the fourth inning, giving most of the lead back. Jernigan allowed a solo home run to Mark Zagunis to open the frame, and after a couple of singles and a couple of walks, Ryan Tufts doubled in a pair of runs to make it 5-3. Fortunately, amidst the rally, Suggs nailed a runner trying to go from first to third on a single to limit the damage.

It stayed 5-3 until the top of the ninth when Knizner sac flied Turner home for an all-important insurance run. Knizner's pair of runs batted in give him 47 RBI in 50 games.

Cody Beckman relieved the enigmatic Jernigan to start the fifth and contributed his longest career outing, working shutout innings in the fifth, sixth, seventh, and eighth innings before running into trouble in the ninth. The Hokies recorded three straight hits to start the frame, plating a run in the process, but Suggs once again limited the damage with a key outfield assist. Jon Olczak got one out in relief of Beckman but allowed an inherited runner to score, closing the gap to 6-5. Will Gilbert, who had thrown all of 8.1 innings on the season, came on with runners on the corners and two outs and struck out Sean Keselica on three pitches to nail down the win. Gilbert was credited with his second save of the season. I have no clue why the more experienced D.J. Thomas was not called upon; he probably had like three Tommy John surgeries or something. I need to get on twitter more to keep up with these matters.

The 6-5 final locked up an ACC tournament spot for the Pack because Pittsburgh dropped its second straight to Notre Dame. Thank you, Irish. I take this as a sign to drink more. The Panthers have yet to tally a run in the series, dropping 1-0 and 3-0 decisions to drop out of the hunt for postseason play.

Your sort of Pack-relevant ACC standings:

Team/Place

ACC W-L

Games Back of 6th

Clemson/6th

14-14

--

North Carolina/6th

14-14

--

Wake Forest/8th

14-15

½

Georgia Tech/9th

14-16

1

N.C. State/10th

13-16

1.5

Clemson only has one game remaining thanks to losing a game to inclement weather, and UNC is leading Miami by about a thousand runs as of this posting, so forget any dreams of finishing in the top 6. However, State can finish eighth with a win tomorrow and a Wake Forest loss to Virginia. The difference between eighth and 10th is pretty insignificant, as, either way, State will have to win a play-in game to get to the round robin portion of the ACC tournament. Elliott Avent may well hold back Patrick Peterson and go with some sort of Johnny Wholestaff effort in what will be a relatively meaningless season finale against the Hokies, thus allowing Peterson to start Tuesday's win-or-go-home game in the conference tournament.

Peterson has somehow managed just two decisions (1-1) in 13 appearances, including 10 starts, but has a sold 3.31 ERA over 54.1 innings pitched.

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