With the quick hook of Cory Wilder in the series opener, NC State needed a long and strong start from Brian Brown in game two after just about everybody you would want to pitch in a high leverage situation was burned on day one. The Pack didn't get what it needed from Brown, the flotsam of the pen was exposed, and North Carolina evened the series in an ankle grabber. The Tar Heels touched Brown for three in the first and cruised to a 16-4 win.
Preston Palmeiro and Brett Kinneman hit two-run home runs off ACC strikeout leader J.B. Bukauskas to account for the lone bright spots on a rainy evening in Raleigh.
Brown, who appeared to be overthrowing a bit in the first, walked the second batter of the game and then hit Tyler Ramirez in the head with an 0-2 pitch. Ramirez was fine for an obvious reason: he chose to attend UNC and thus has no brain to protect. It also probably helped that he was wearing a helmet.
Brown was not fine. Three consecutive hits after the HBP staked the visitors to a 3-0 lead. The sophomore lefty was able to survive into the sixth but was charged with six runs, all earned, in 5.1 innings. He yielded seven of UNC's 18 hits and also walked three. With the exception of Chris Williams, who did allow an inherited runner to score but not one of his own, every Pack pitcher (and there were seven of them) allowed at least one earned run. Sean Adler posted the solid infinity ERA. All three batters he faced reached and scored.
Brian Miller, Logan Warmoth, and Ramirez, UNC's top three in the order, combined to go 7-for-13 with eight runs scored and nine driven in. Warmoth homered.
After not allowing a single earned run in five of six starts from March 29th to April 30th, Brown has now been touched for at least three earned runs in three straight. His ERA has risen from a low point of 1.98 after the Wake game to over three for the season.
Brown's slump, combined with Ryan Williamson's recent bout with injury and ineffectiveness and Wilder's inconsistency, makes a once stout rotation look like a big question mark heading into the postseason. However, Joe O'Donnell is back on the bump in practice, so help may be on the way.
Speaking of the postseason, Notre Dame and Boston College haven't managed a win this weekend, so it looks like the Heels will squeak in to the 10th and final seed for the ACC tournament (and could get to 9th with a win tomorrow and a Wake loss). But, a BC win coupled with a Carolina loss would leave the Heels at home.
Of greater concern for the Pack is their own seed. A couple of weeks ago avoiding the play-in round appeared to be a certainty, but not after limping home 2-7 down the stretch. It's possible that there could be a four-way tie for 5th-8th after Saturday's games. I have no clue how the tiebreaker works in such a scenario but I'm sure we'd get screwed somehow. So let's just win tomorrow, ok?