NC State, sporting its camo unis, hung nine runs on visiting Notre Dame Friday night in its series opener, but the story was Joe O'Donnell. The junior righty was one out from a complete game shutout when pinch-hitter James Nevant took one deep, but O'Donnell got the next batter to roll to third to finish the Irish off. It's the first complete game of his career and first for any Wolfpack hurler in 2016.
State got even (2-2) in ACC play with the 9-1 win while struggling Notre Dame remained winless (0-4) in league play.
O'Donnell allowed four hits and four walks in his 121-pitch effort. He struck out four en route to lowering his ERA to a team-best 2.27 for the season.
The Pack let Irish starter Ryan Smoyer off the hook in the early going, failing to fully capitalize on the five walks and hit batter he offered up over 4.1 frames. Smoyer escaped having allowed just two runs.
The Irish appeared to cut the lead in half when Cavan Biggio scored after Joe Dunand double clutched and threw wildly to first for what should've been (and wrongfully was) the third out of the sixth. But the first base umpire, focusing on the bag, lost sight of the ball when Preston Palmeiro knocked it down but never gloved it. The ump punched Zak Kutsulis out as Palmeiro dropped his head in disgust over having failed to scoop the errant throw. Despite a lengthy (and surprisingly reserved) protest from Irish skipper Mik Aoki, the official refused to conference with his mates and get the call right.
The call turned the momentum in the Pack Nine's favor, and Josh McLain doubled the lead in the bottom of the frame with a two-run bomb, his third homer of the season. McLain reached base every time up, adding a pair of walks and a hit by pitch. He also scored twice.
The Pack batted around to put it away in the seventh. Andrew Knizner (double), Chance Shepard (single), and Palmeiro (single) got the crooked number cooking with consecutive hits to open the five-run inning. Shane Shepard had a double in the frame and Brock Deatherage capped the carnage with a two-run triple after his routine foul pop was dropped to extend the inning.
Both Shepards and Evan Mendoza had two-hit performances at the plate. Stephen Pitarra went hitless but drew three free passes.
Brian Brown will try to give the Wolfpack the series win tomorrow evening at 6:30 p.m. Johnny Piedmonte gets the nod in Sunday's finale, a 12:30 start. It's too early to talk sweep, but State certainly needs all the wins it can get with road trips to Florida State and Virginia looming.