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Comeback Pack even series at Louisville

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Brett Kinneman’s clutch double in the ninth ups his RBI total to 40 on the season.

NC State Athletics

NC State forced a rubber game to determine the winner of its series at Louisville with an improbable comeback off Cardinals’ closer Sam Bordner. The Pack plated four in the ninth to take game two of the series 9-6.

State had trailed by as many as three runs but entered the ninth down just one against the hard-throwing Bordner, who was looking for his ACC-leading ninth save of the season and averages over 12 K’s per nine innings. Stephen Pitarra, gimpy hamstring be damned, just beat out a squibber to short to start the inning, and Josh McLain followed with a fister to short that he beat easily. Will Wilson followed the fortunate infield hits with a rope to rightfield, loading the bases with nobody out.

Brett Kinneman unloaded them. Kinneman’s long fly to right one-hopped the wall. Pitarra and McLain tagged even though the blast was well over the head of Adam Elliott; meanwhile Wilson was running on the play. All three ended up between third and home with Pitarra jogging in easily, McLain diving in as the throw got by the catcher, and Wilson hustling home after the ball got away.

Kinneman, who had earlier staked the Pack to a short-lived 1-0 lead with an RBI single, came home on an Evan Edwards base hit to complete the scoring. Kinneman finished with a pair of hits, a pair of runs, a pair of walks, and four RBI (though Wilson’s run should not have been scored as an RBI for Kinneman, but rather an error, but RBI is what the box score says for now).

State was in position to win in large part due to the excellent work of Kent Klyman out of the pen, and Pitarra’s solid defense behind him. Klyman went 3.2 innings and surrendered just one earned run as the Pack clawed their way back in it. Pitarra made a huge play with runners on the corners and two out in the eighth, diving and getting the force at second on a sharply hit groundball. He leapt to snow-cone a liner for the all-important first out in the ninth.

For the second straight game, State failed to get a good outing from its senior starter, as Brian Brown was tagged for four runs in five innings a day after Johnny Piedmonte gave up four in four frames. Brown allowed seven hits, walked two, and hit a batter but avoided getting saddled with his first loss thanks to the rally.

State actually came back twice; down 3-1 in the sixth, Patrick Bailey sneaked an opposite field homer just inside the fair pole to tie the game. Louisville came right back with three runs to answer and go up 6-3 in the bottom half of the frame.

The Pack took advantage of some shoddy fielding in the seventh to get two back. McLain scored Terrell Tatum with a scorched one-hopper that ate up the third baseman (and was probably unfairly ruled an error). Wilson then lined one to right that Elliott booted, allowing McLain to score from first.

McLain, Wilson, and Edwards joined Kinneman with two hits on the afternoon. Josh Stowers had two hits, two walks, two runs, and three stolen bases to lead the Cards. Nick Bennett set the first nine Pack batters down in order but ended up allowing three runs in six innings and took a no decision.

State has yet to drop an ACC series all season and will try to preserve that streak Sunday afternoon at 1 p.m.