NC State waited out a two and a half hour rain delay and then shut out Notre Dame 3-0 in its ACC tournament pool play opener. The Pack evened their season record at 2-2 against the Irish, but, more importantly, got off to a 1-0 start in their quest to advance to Sunday's league championship game.
Freshman ace Brian Brown was the story of the game for the Pack, much as he has been all season. The lefty worked six shutout innings, fanning 10, to lower his ERA to 1.58. Pack fans wondered how the team would replace Carlos Rodon, but even Rodon, despite his superior stuff, was never this good. Rodon did work deep in games, which is not the case for Brown, who usually goes just five or six innings. Such was the case Thursday, but Curt Britt picked up right where he left off, working three innings and striking out four more Irish for the save.
There was not much offense to speak of from the Pack bats, but clutch back-to-back, two-out singles in the first gave Brown and Britt all the offense they would need. Joe Dunand singled home Preston Palmeiro and Ryne Willard followed with a hit that plated Andrew Knizner, and the Pack led 2-0 after their first ups.
Another two-out hit, this one from Knizner to score Jake Fincher, pushed the lead to 3-0 in the top of the second.
State could (should?) have blown it open in the sixth when Brock Deatherage and Fincher laid down perfect back-to-back bunts to load the bases for the team's best hitters with one out. But Logan Ratledge, who had a rough day at the plate (0-for-5 with two strikeouts), popped one straight up the chute for out two, and Palmeiro grounded weakly to second to end the threat.
The Pack began play at #40 in the most recent RPI rankings and now will presumably reenter the top 40. Playing RPI #1 Miami (available on your RSN and Watch ESPN) tomorrow night at 7 p.m. can't hurt, win or lose. (But we gon win.) State has won 11 of 13.