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Pack Nine Take Two of Three in Tiger Town

Wait a minute, this thing just might be doable after all.

My hand hurts!
My hand hurts!

N.C. State lost its two best position players, one to injury and one to ejection, had four players thrown out on the bases, including three at home, was on the wrong end of two blown calls,, of course. And in black jerseys. If not the sky, the rain was falling in Clemson all Monday evening as the Pack took the rubber match of the three-game set by a score of 7-1.

In winning the final two games of the series (the Pack won 9-4 Sunday), N.C. State (19-12, 5-10) used the formula that took it to Omaha a year ago: use a shutdown performance by the bullpen to methodically pull away from its opponent. D.J. Thomas hurled 5.2 shutout innings Sunday. In the series finale, freshman Joe O'Donnell and junior lefty Patrick Peterson did the honors, combining for seven shutout innings after Ryan Williamson couldn't find the plate in his first career start.

Williamson gave up three hits and walked four in two-plus innings but escaped with only one run on his ledger thanks to O'Donnell, who came on in the third with a 3-2 count on Chris Okey and blew a fastball by him. O'Donnell wound up working four innings for his first collegiate win. Patterson went the final three frames for his first save in a Wolfpack uniform, often overmatching a 14th-ranked Tiger team (20-11, 9-5) that came in averaging 6.8 runs per game in ACC play. The junior lefty fanned seven, including Clemson's best hitter, Steven Duggar, on a nasty hook to end the game.

The Pack won despite losing Trea Turner in the fourth after he slammed his bat down following a strikeout. Turner swung and missed at the pitch, so it appeared he was showing disappointment in himself rather than trying to show up home plate umpire Scott Kennedy. Nonetheless, Kennedy sent him from the showers to the showers.

Brett Austin dropped down to prevent a wild pitch and took it off his throwing hand; he gutted it out for a bit but was eventually forced to leave the game in the bottom of the sixth.

Nathan Hood replaced Turner in the top spot in the order, pushing Jake Armstrong from left to third and Andrew Knizner to short. Hood responded with a pair of hits, including a double, and scored twice. He had a shaky moment in the seventh with the bases juiced and two outs, taking a bad route to a flyball and having to spear it over his head at the last second. Hood wasn't sure he had it but the ball was there when he checked his mitt. Mangum, who went behind the dish, put down a couple of sacrifice bunts and obviously meshed well with his battery mate Patterson.

Despite the soggy conditions, the Pack flashed some leather, particularly at first base where Preston Palmeiro started a nice 3-6 double play and saved Knizner from an error on his first throw from short with a difficult scoop. Palmeiro also picked a bad throw from Mangum after a strikeout in the dirt, juggling it for an instant but securing it with the runner a full step from the bag. Despite a conference of umps, Steve Wilkerson was ruled safe.

Palmeiro was 1-for-3 with a run, RBI, and two walks but was twice a victim of wavin' Elliott Avent's third-base coaching. In Avent's defense, the sloppy field conditions -- Clemson made four errors -- called for aggressive base running, and Palmeiro was clearly under the tag at the plate on one occasion.

Jake Fincher and Logan Ratledge each had a pair of hits, with Fincher driving in a run. Knizner drove in a pair with an RBI single and a sac fly. Garrett Suggs was 1-for-3 with a walk, double, and two runs scored, and Armstrong reached base like Armstrong reaches base, drawing a walk and taking one for the team. He scored a run.

The win pulled the Pack even with Virginia Tech for 11th place in the conference standings. Only ten teams make the ACC tournament. State plays at Duke (17-16, 7-8) next; a sweep would suddenly put the Pack in the ACC's top 10 after all seemed lost following a 10-game conference losing streak. State has a nine-game ACC home stand following the Duke series, including three games against league lightweight Boston College (10-20, 2-13). First up is a Wednesday matchup with East Carolina in Greenville.