NC State got the start it needed from Cory Wilder, but the bullpen couldn't hold it. Florida State, which has owned the Pack in ACC tournament play, rallied from a 3-1 deficit late and won 7-3.
John Sasone staked the Seminoles to a 1-0 lead with a solo homer in the bottom of the first, but that was all Wilder would allow until he ran into trouble in the bottom of the sixth. After walking the leadoff man, Wilder bounced one five feet in front of home plate to the next batter and his day was done. Austin Staley followed and allowed a single and sac bunt, putting the next Pack pitcher, Will Gilbert, in a tough spot with two in scoring position and one out.
Gilbert got Steven Wells to pop up into the ever-so-conventional 5-3 out when Evan Mendoza dropped the ball and Preston Palmeiro snagged it just before it hit the turf, but Dylan Busby followed with a two-out single to right that knotted the score.
Wilder was perhaps a bit fortunate to have lasted as long as he did; the righty went five innings and only allowed three hits and two runs, but he walked four, uncorked a pair of wild pitches, and hit a batter. Wilder also fanned four.
Gilbert struck out FSU's 1-2-3 hitters in order in the seventh, but the wheels came off in the eighth. After a Jackson Lueck leadoff double (that may have been snagged had Brock Deatherage taken a better route to the ball), Gilbert walked Nick Graganella despite Graganella's best intentions of giving himself up with the bunt. The next batter, Ben DeLuzio, who stayed in the game despite receiving stitches after losing a fight with the centerfield wall, bunted towards third. Third baseman Mendoza broke for it in case Gilbert couldn't get it. Gilbert got it and had all intentions of going to third. Nobody was at third. Bases loaded. Enter Tommy DeJuneas, who looked good with the exception of grooving an 0-2 pitch that turned into a two-run single off the tip of a diving Pitarra's glove. By the time the inning mercifully came to a close, FSU had plated four and it was Katy bar the door.
The Pack, as one broadcaster noted, went "for the small ball jugular." Ever since the snake bite, Elliott Avent has reverted to his old, rally-killing ways. A poorly executed bunt cost the Pack a lead runner in the second, though they did manage to scratch a single run on a double steal (with Deatherage taking home) later in the inning.
A leadoff double from Josh McLain turned into another manufacturing opportunity in the third. Stephen Pitarra gave FSU an out to move the speedy McLain up to even more scoring-y position. Mendoza ground-outed him home and somewhere Ty Cobb is smiling in his grave.
Avent employed not one but two bunts (and tried for a third with Chance Shepard) to push across another precious, singular run an inning later. We'll never know how many runs the Pack might've pushed across had they not sacrificed outs for the sake of the small inning.
Shepard, in addition to hitting the flyball that DeLuzio hauled in while trying to break his neck at the 395-foot mark in center, hit a scorching earth grounder to short that turned into a double play and a line drive down the leftfield line that Sasone miraculously speared, saving a couple of runs. Shep (with the exception of Sasone's bomb) hit the three hardest balls of the day and deserved better than an 0-for-4 afternoon.
It appears Sean Adler (7.08 ERA) will get the nod tomorrow in an obvious attempt by Avent to punt the rest of the tournament and focus on the regional. State would have to win out while FSU loses out, or hope for some sort of crazy three teams at 2-1 tiebreaker shenanigans, in order to advance, so whatever.