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NC State Baseball wins road series against Virginia

The Pack are back to .500 in ACC play, and, considering the quality of the competition, that's not a bad thing.

A year ago Virginia needed to win a play-in game to make the ACC baseball tournament. Upon doing so, the Cavs were rewarded by getting swept in pool play. ACC tournament included, Virginia entered the NCAA tournament with a losing record against conference foes, but it went on to win the bigger prize, bringing home a College World Series trophy from Omaha.

Let the Wahoos' national championship serve as a reminder of the ACC's quality depth in baseball. Entering the weekend, eight of the league's teams are ranked in D1Baseball's top 25. NC State (17th) is among them and should climb in the polls after taking the weekend series over the defending champs in Charlottesville.

The Pack (19-9, 5-5) were sparked by sophomore second baseman Stephen Pitarra in winning Sunday's series rubber match 5-2 over the Cavs (18-11, 6-6). Pitarra walked to open the game and eventually came around to score on a two-out knock from Andrew Knizner; Pitarra's two-out single an inning later plated Brett Kinneman with the game's second run. Pitarra, who had just three ABs as a freshman and started the year behind Xavier LeGrant and Ryne Willard on the depth chart, has become a formidable on-base machine at the top of the lineup. He had a couple hits and a walk in the finale to raise his OBP to .449. He's hitting a robust .388. Both marks lead the club by a wide margin.

Ryan Williamson was his normal dangerously dominant self on the mound in improving to 5-0. The junior lefty pitched in trouble all afternoon but dialed up a strikeout more often than not to escape. Williamson fanned 10 in six innings and surrendered a scant three hits, but he walked five, uncorked a wild pitch thrice, and hit a guy twice. He was on the hook for both Wahoo runs. Escaping trouble has not been an issue for Williamson, who boasts a 2.45 ERA despite allowing 55 baserunners in 33 innings pitched. It helps when you're striking out a hair over 13 batters per nine innings.

Will Gilbert was nails in a three-inning relief outing, adding three more Pack strikeouts to the ledger as he earned his third save. The third save matches the senior's total from a year ago, and the goose-egg performance drops his ERA to 2.67 in a team-high 13 appearances.

Sunday's win came a day after the Pack wasted a strong start from Brian Brown, who gave up a lone (unearned) run in 7.2 innings to take the tough-luck loss. Here's why putting too much weight on a pitcher's win-loss record is stupid: State lost the game 5-3; because Brown was down 1-0 when he left, he gets the loss even though the run was unearned and even though the guy who followed him had an infinitely worse performance. Cody Beckman allowed four runs without getting one single guy out.

Chris Williams got the last out of the frame after Beckman's implosion; Williams hasn't allowed a run all year in nine outings (spanning 15 innings).

Oh by the way, Pitarra reached base three times in the game on a hit and a pair of walks.

The Pack jumped to a lead in Friday's opener and held on to win 8-7. After a couple of unscathed innings out of the pen, Gilbert uncharacteristically ran into all sorts of trouble in the eighth, allowing three runs on three straight hits after two were out in the inning. Tommy DeJuneas bailed him out and worked through the ninth without issue to notch his fifth save.

A week after Joe O'Donnell struggled mightily on Friday night (five earned runs in just two-thirds of an inning), Johnny Piedmonte replaced him in the weekend rotation but didn't exactly make a case for a permanent gig. He allowed six hits, three walks, and three earned runs in three innings. O'Donnell has been much better in comparison save for that one outing, posting a 1.47 WHIP to Piedmonte's 1.86, and probably deserves another weekend turn when State hosts Wake Forest in its next ACC series.

Oh by the way, Pitarra reached base twice and scored twice in the opener.

The Pack look for their 20th win of the season Wednesday when they host Charlotte. They beat the 49ers 7-1 back on March 29th.