Sunday just didn’t feel like NC State’s day to win a baseball game. Heading into the bottom of the 6th inning, the Wolfpack found itself down 4-0 with very little evidence of offensive success on that day that would provide any confidence that a potential comeback was in the cards. It seemed almost an inevitability that the Pack Nine were going suffer their first loss of the season.
The Wolfpack strung together four consecutive singles in the bottom of the 6th to put two runs on the board, and then completed the comeback with a three-run bottom of the 9th, highlighted by an Evan Edwards double to tie the game and a Brad Debo single to win it.
SR 1B Edwards, SO C Patrick Bailey, FR CF/2B Tyler McDonough, and JR DH Debo tallied the 6th inning singles. Bailey’s hit scored Edwards, while Bailey scored on an RBI groundout by SO RF Terrell Tatum (1-for-4, RBI, SB) in the inning.
The 9th inning rally started with back-to-back walks to JR CF Lawson McArthur and JR LF Jonny Butler (0-for-2, 2 BB, SacB, R). Both runners moved up a base on a wild pitch, which set up an RBI sacrifice flyout by JR SS Will Wilson. Edwards followed with an RBI double into the right field corner to score Butler and tie the game. Minnesota intentionally walked Bailey (1-for-4, BB, R) and then induced a Infield Fly Rule popout by McDonough (2-for-5), which set up the walk-off two-out heroics by Debo...
Down by two in the bottom of the ninth? No problem for @NCStateBaseball!— NC State Athletics (@PackAthletics) March 3, 2019
The Pack walks off with a 5-4 win to secure the sweep over Minnesota and remain a perfect 11-0 on the season.#GoPack pic.twitter.com/j1E29mEGVo
Edwards (4-for-5, 2 2B, 2 R, RBI) has been killing it for the Pack so far this season. He’s now slashing .370/.453/.783 with 5 2B, 1 3B, 4 HR, 14 R, 15 RBI, and an even 7 BB and 7 K in 11 games. Edwards has also displayed a much improved defensive game, saving several would-be errors and potential runs with some fine flashes of leather at first base. Debo (2-for-5, RBI) has also re-found the groove that earned him Freshman All-America honors in 2017. He’s now slashing .333/.389/.467 with 4 R and 8 RBI across 11 games (7 starts).
This game may well have been won on Saturday. NC State’s six-run outburst in the 1st inning of the second game of the series chased Minnesota starter SO RHP Sam Thoresen from the game and forced the Golden Gophers to go with their ace reliever and closer SO RHP Max Meyer. Meyer, who had 16 saves last year, threw 74 pitches on Saturday, leaving him unavailable when the save opportunity came up for Minnesota in the 9th on Sunday.
With Meyer unavailable, Minnesota turned instead to Thoresen to start the final frame, which resulted in the McArthur and Butler lead-off walks. The NC State comeback spoiled what had been excellently pitched games by SO RHP Joshua Culliver (5.0 IP, 5 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 2 BB, 4 K) and RS-SR LHP Jeff Fasching (3.0 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 2 K).
JR RHP Michael Bienlien was credited with the win, despite recording the fewest outs of any NC State pitcher on the day. Bienlien was one of four Wolfpack pitchers who were able to quiet the Minnesota bats after starting pitcher SO RHP Reid Johnston (4.0 IP, 4 H, 3 R, 2 ER, 3 BB, 2 K) was not his usual lights-out self. SO LHP Evan Justice (2.0 IP, 2 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 0 BB, 1 K) and RS-SR RHP Nolan Clenney (2.0 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 1 BB, 3 K) combined for four innings of quality relief, while SO LHP Nick Swiney (0.2 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 2 K) and Bienlien (0.1 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 0 K) finished off the Golden Gophers in the 9th. Clenney and Swiney, in particular, were sharp on the day for the Pack.
This was a big series sweep for NC State, not only because Minnesota is the preseason favorite to win the Big Ten and is a team that will almost certainly make the NCAA Tournament, but also because the Wolfpack were able to get wins on Saturday and Sunday in games in which two of their best pitchers (Johnston and JR LHP Kent Klyman) were not on their A-game. The quality depth that the pitching staff has displayed to this point will only continue to build confidence throughout the team.
NC State returns to action on Wednesday at 6:00pm when they take on the NC Central Eagles at the Durham Athletic Park.