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Diamond Update: Walk it Off...Walk it Off

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Riley and Dunand reverse Pack fortunes in close games.

Bruce Thorson-USA TODAY Sports

The Pack Nine went deep and unplayable not once but twice in walk-off fashion to finally find a way to take two of three from a topnotch ACC foe. Bubby Riley did it as a pinch hitter in game one and Joe Denand did the trick in the second game of the doubleheader to give NC State the series win over #20 Virginia.

Elliot Avent went straight up Elliot Avent in game one of the doubleheader, putting freshman pitcher Evan Mendoza in the starting lineup at second base. Mendoza had 0 career at bats and predictably went 0-for-3 with two strikeouts, but the lineup shakeup seemed to inspire the club. The Pack jumped on Wahoo starter Brandon Waddell for three runs in the first thanks in large part to doubles from Logan Ratledge, Andrew Knizner, and Dunand.

A strike-em-out-throw-em-out double play with runners on the corners in the second kept it at 3-0. Mendoza took the throw from Knizner and gunned it to Preston Palmeiro when the Wahoo stealer stopped, and Palmeiro turned and threw back to Knizner to get the Wahoo who broke from third and tried to score on the play. Inning over.

As it is wont to do, Pack starter Cory Wilder's control deserted him in the fourth. He had a walk and a wild pitch in the inning but escaped when Jake Armstrong tracked down a warning track fly ball with two outs.

No such luck in the fifth, where Wilder was promptly lifted after walking the leadoff man on four pitches. Wilder walked five and hit one in his four innings pitched. Curt Britt came on and stoked the fire with gasoline in the form of a hit batter and a double, and the Wahoos plated a pair to get within 3-2.

Virginia would get the equalizer in the seventh after a leadoff double surrendered by Britt came home to roost, but, though he allowed the inherited runner to score, Will Gilbert was otherwise filthy, going three shutout frames.

Gilbert got the win when Riley left the yard to straightaway center with two outs in the ninth. Final: State 4, UVa 3.

If NC State jumping out to a lead only to blow it only to win in walk-off fashion is your thing, then this doubleheader was for you. The Pack took a 2-0 lead on Preston Palmeiro's blast in the third but found themselves trailing 3-2 heading into the bottom of the eighth. A couple of infield singles and a sac bunt brought Jake Fincher to the plate; he walked to load them up. BTP favorite Jake Armstrong coaxed yet another free pass to force in the tying run.

Meanwhile, Tommy DeJuneas was dealing. The freshman righty fanned seven Hoos in four innings to set the stage for Dunand, who unloaded on a spinning curveball to end the drama in the bottom of the 10th. Ryne Willard, who had singled to start the frame, scored ahead of the homer to make the final 5-3.

The Pack had lost five one-run decisions in ACC play, all against ranked foes, before Riley's walk-off but sit at a respectable 11-12 in league play without the benefit of playing league lightweights Duke and Virginia Tech in the unbalanced schedule. If the team can win its last two series against Wake Forest and Louisville (a tall task), one would think they're in the conversation for an at-large NCAA tournament bid. Regardless, this weekend's heroics at least position the Pack to likely make the ACC tournament field. The Pack sit a half game ahead of the Deacs in eighth place with a series in Winston-Salem looming May 8th-11th.

SOFTBALL

Emily Weiman pitched a four-hit shutout to lead NC State to a 4-0 at Virginia Tech Sunday afternoon in game one of a twinbill. Tyler Ross paced the offense with two hits and two RBI. The sophomore has driven home a team-high 46 runs. Weiman was even better in the second game, surrendering just one hit in the Pack's 2-0 win. Molly Hutchison provided the offense with a two-run homer, her team-leading 13th of the year. Weiman struck out 17 Hokies on the day as she notched her 24th and 25th wins of the season. State moved to 31-19 overall and 12-8 in ACC play with the doubleheader sweep.

The shutouts extend NC State's unscored upon streak to 32 straight innings (the Pack seriously beat up on some non-conference foes during three midweek games, outscoring Radford and NCCU 36-0).

You can catch the series finale Monday on ESPNU at 7 p.m.