Elliott Avent's pitching-by-committee approach almost worked against Miami on Thursday night. Avent threw every serviceable southpaw he had against the lefty-heavy Hurricanes lineup and State led most of the game, but alas, calamity struck late, just as it did Wednesday. The Canes rallied in the ninth to win, 8-7.
Reliever Tommy DeJuneas surrendered a three-run bomb in the top of the ninth inning, flipping a 7-5 Pack lead into an 8-7 edge for Miami. The Pack bounced back in the bottom half and got the winning run on base, but that's where the rally ended.
After falling behind 2-0 early in the game, NC State put up a five-spot in the fourth, but Miami got two back in the fifth and tied the contest in the eighth. State seemingly had its game-deciding hit in the bottom of the eighth when Chance Shepard crushed a home run to left-center, but, well, y'all know how we do things.
It was overall a sloppy effort by NC State pitching, though it was aided by Miami's inability to hit with runners in scoring position. Wolfpack pitching issued nine walks and was responsible for five wild pitches. There were almost no easy innings, which is testament to Miami's lineup, but also speaks to the erratic nature of State's bullpen.
NC State had to work through jams in a lot of innings, and its early good fortune there was very rapidly erased by that ninth-inning shot. Play with fire long enough against a great team and it's likely gonna go bad at some point. It went bad at the worst possible time.
A win over Miami might have solidified a regional host slot for NC State, but now I think that opportunity is gone. The Pack's negative trend over the last few weeks is going to knock the team down to a two-seed somewhere, which means traveling to somebody else's place.
This team can do some damage still, but the degree of difficulty is going up with every loss. It's a good thing we like a challenge.