NC State generated plenty of chances Sunday afternoon at the Doak at Dail, but time and time again couldn’t come through in the clutch. The Pack left the bases cluttered to the tune of 14 men left on—including leaving them loaded in the bottom of the ninth—in a 5-4 loss to North Carolina. The win gave the Heels their first ever three-game sweep over the Wolfpack in Raleigh.
If there were any positives on Sunday, it was the return of Johnny Piedmonte and the performance of Brock Deatherage. Piedmonte didn’t pitch well in his return from back problems—he allowed three earned runs in 2.2 innings—but if the senior righty can return to anything resembling his form from his undefeated junior season, it will be a huge boon to the Pack down the stretch and into the postseason.
Deatherage homered twice and doubled to go with a walk; he accounted for all of State’s RBI with three. His three hits were half of the team’s total on the afternoon. The Pack’s other run was accounted for when Stephen Pitarra scampered home on a wild pitch.
Pitarra was hit by a pitch after entering the game as a pinch hitter for Dillon Cooper, and Pitarra doubled in his second plate appearance in the eighth, eventually scoring on a Ben Casparius wild pitch. He couldn’t make it three straight times reaching base in his third plate appearance with the game on the line. After Casparius got two quick outs in the ninth, he walked Deatherage and pinch hitters Brad Debo and Terrell Tatum to load the bases, but the normally patient Pitarra chased a 2-0 pitch and then flew harmlessly to right to end the game.
It’s not all on Pitarra, of course. State left two men on in the first, second, third, sixth, and seventh innings. Despite just six hits, State managed all those base runners by drawing nine walks and getting hit by three pitches.
A day after allowing two unearned runs in a two-run loss, State surrendered two more unearned runs thanks to a Cooper error, this time in a one-run loss.
The bullpen didn’t allow an earned run. Kent Klyman did give up five hits and a walk in 3.1 innings, but he struck out six and would have put up zeroes if not for Cooper’s airmailed throw to first. Joe O’Donnell struck out five in three shutout innings and hasn’t been scored on since March 4th.
After striking out 28 times in the first two games, State trimmed that number to nine in the finale, three of which belonged to the suddenly lost Brett Kinneman, who fanned a total of eight times on the weekend.
The benches cleared in the first inning when Michael Busch plowed a defenseless Jack Conley at the plate, jarring the ball loose by going high and hitting the head of the Pack backstop, which left Conley briefly dazed. Elliott Avent took quick action to get in between the clubs and order was restored with no punches thrown or ejections. Despite warnings to both teams, UNC starter Tyler Baum was not ejected when he appeared to throw at Will Wilson twice in the bottom of the inning, hitting him the second time.
Busch came home on a sacrifice fly that barely made it out of the infield. J.T. Jarrett caught it with his back to the plate, double clutched, and then made a throw 10 feet up the line to place Conley in harm’s way. The play never happens if Deatherage calls Jarrett off and makes the catch coming in from rightfield, but fundamental defense was not on display this weekend for a State club that was its own worst enemy at the plate (strikeouts) and in the field.
The Pack will have six straight non-conference games to get back on track—starting with Campbell Wednesday at 6 p.m.—before returning to ACC play against Wake Forest on May 11th. The next nine games are all at home.