NC State got everything it needed to beat UNC on Tuesday night: solid pitching, some clutch defense, and power hitting from its deep, relentless lineup. The Wolfpack never trailed in the contest and picked up some late insurance runs to best the Tar Heels, 8-3.
The Wolfpack has a lot of guys capable of hitting a mistake pitch a very long way, and UNC got to witness this first-hand. Patrick Bailey got the scoring started for State in the second inning when he sent a cookie screaming into the right field stands.
UNC answered with a run in the bottom half of the frame, but the Pack’s bullpen was up to the challenge tonight and kept the Tar Heels offense in check for the majority of the game. The defense helped a bit there:
And the Wolfpack offense took advantage of another mistake in the fourth, this time of the fielding variety: A mis-handled ground ball turned a would-be double play for the Heels into a two-run scoring play for the Pack, pushing its lead to 4-1.
UNC finally strung together some clutch hits in the bottom of the eighth, scoring a pair on an Ashton McGee single that made it a 5-3 contest. State worked its way out of that jam and quickly threatened in the top half of the ninth—Josh McLain singled, Brett Kinneman walked, and two batters later, Evan Edwards brought them home with a three-run bomb. Joe O’Donnell closed out the contest in the bottom of the ninth without much difficulty.
McLain, Bailey, and Edwards each had multi-hit performances and State collected 12 hits as a team. The Pack ended up stranding seven runners, but pushing eight across was plenty.
Elliott Avent clearly had a plan for his pitching staff going into this one, as no pitcher threw more than two innings—everybody appeared to be on a schedule and guys were taken out whether they were running good or not. He rolled the dice early by starting the game off with freshmen Reid Johnston and Evan Justice, but that paid off as those guys threw well and were able to hand off a lead to the staff’s more talented relievers down the stretch.
NC State is 29-7 now, and while this win doesn’t count in the ACC standings, it does go down as State’s best win of the season in the eyes of the RPI. Another strong addition to the resume.
The Wolfpack returns to action with a big three-game weekend set at Duke that begins Friday.