The Pack nine avoided total disaster by taking an extra-inning game it nearly gave away Saturday in South Bend, but, for the third straight weekend, State managed just one win on the weekend against a ranked ACC foe. Notre Dame (#25) opened the series Friday with a 4-2 win and took the rubber match 7-2 in the second half of Saturday's doubleheader. In between, State won a 14-inning affair 4-2.
The Pack entered the ninth of the middle game up 2-0 but were lucky to force extra frames. Will Gilbert, trying for a two-inning save, cruised through the eighth but allowed the bases to get drunk with Irish while recording just one out in the ninth. Tommy DeJuneas spelled Gilbert in the tough spot and was not up to the task, quickly falling behind his first batter 3-0 before eventually walking in Notre Dame's first run. Elliot Avent had seen enough and went to Joe O'Donnell, who surrendered the tying run on a groundout before stranding the winning run at third.
Though he failed to strand the tying run in the ninth, O'Donnell was masterful, working 5.2 hitless innings to earn his team-high fifth win of the season. Brock Deatherage, who had a nice game off the bench (2-for-3 with a run and two RBI), ignited the 14th-inning rally by getting hit by a pitch. He would eventually score on a sac fly off the bat of Andrew Knizner.
The blown save squandered another good start from freshman Brian Brown; he allowed just two hits in six shutout frames. Brown has posted a stellar 2.38 ERA so far in his freshman campaign.
NC State has just three ACC series remaining, including a short road trip to Winston-Salem to face slugging Wake Forest, and home series against Virginia and Louisville. The Pack need to finish strong to stay in the ACC tournament; they are currently tied for seventh in the league at 9-11 but that's just a half game ahead of three teams (including Virginia and Wake Forest). It's really high time the club traded one of three for two of three.
A promising start to the weekend quickly went sour for the NC State softball team, which dropped a doubleheader to rival UNC on senior day. The Pack did take the series opener 6-2. The Heels evened the series with a 3-2 win before taking the rubber match 6-2. The Pack's week also include a 2-0 loss on the road against top-10 Alabama.
Emily Weiman worked out of trouble in the opener to hold the Heels to two runs despite allowing nine hits and a pair of walks. She notched her 21st win of the season. Weiman started every game of the series and was arguably better in game two, when she allowed just five hits. The Heels solved her by the third start, chasing her after she allowed five runs on seven hits in 4.2 innings. Weiman would have loved to have picked up her 99th and 100th career victories over the weekend, but that will have to wait.
Weiman will have plenty more chances, as State has eight games remaining in addition to the ACC and hopefully NCAA tournaments, but the team will play just once more in Raleigh, a midweek game against North Carolina Central.
Maggie Hawkins and Tyler Ross homered in the UNC series; it was the 10th for Ross in her sophomore season.