The NC State baseball team faced another similar situation on Friday afternoon, trailing late in a game - and as they have done every time before, the Wolfpack mounted a comeback effort to secure the victory. Trailing 3-1 in the bottom of the 7th inning, the Pack 9 posted a three-run frame to win their ACC opener and improve to 13-0.
The 13-0 start marks the best start to a season in program history, topping the 12-0 start that the 1992 team posted.
NC State struck first on Friday, scratching a run in the bottom of the 1st inning. JR SS Will Wilson reached base on a one-out single, stole second base, moved to third on a passed ball, and scored on an RBI fielder’s choice groundball by FR CF Tyler McDonough.
The game remained scoreless until the 6th inning. NC State JR RHP Jason Parker put forth the best outing of his career in the start, going five scoreless innings while allowing just two hits, one walk, one hit-by-pitch, and striking out four batters. When Parker handed off the ball to start the sixth inning, Pittsburgh finally made their move, grabbing the lead with a two-run inning.
FR RHP Baker Nelson came on in relief of Parker in the 6th and recorded two outs around a double by Pitt SR DH Ron Washington Jr. Pitt JR RF Nico Popa hit a weak bleeder that dropped in for a hit to right field scoring Washington from second base to knot the game at 1-1. State went to the bullpen again to bring in SO LHP Evan Justice, but he promptly gave up a triple off the right-centerfield wall to Pitt FR LF Kyle Hess that give Pitt a 2-1 lead.
Pitt scored another run in the 7th on a two-out, bases-loaded wild pitch. The Panthers managed a walk, a single, and another walk (all with two outs) before the wild pitch pushed across the run and increased the Wolfpack deficit to 3-1.
The Pack 9 responded immediately in the bottom of the inning. JR RF Lawson McArthur came on to pinch hit and delivered with a double down the right field line, which FR Luca Tresh (also pinch hitting) followed with a walk. After a Pitt pitching change, leadoff hitter JR LF Jonny Butler was hit by a 1-1 pitch to load the bases with no outs. After a Wilson strikeout, SR 1B Evan Edwards hit a routine groundball to first base, but with Butler hustling towards second base, the Panthers shortstop had to try to avoid Butler while making the catch, and the ball caromed off his glove and rolled away in the infield towards third base. What looked to be a potential inning-ending double play resulted in two runs scoring, a tie game, and the Wolfpack having men on the corners and still one away. SO C Patrick Bailey followed that up with an RBI fielder’s choice to the shortstop that gave the Pack the lead, 4-3.
Pittsburgh never threatened in the 8th or 9th innings, thanks in large part to an incredible bare-handed play by FR 3B Vojtech Mensik to start off the top of the 9th, and Wolfpack secured a 1-0 start to ACC play.
JR RHP Michael Bienlien (1.0 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 2 K) got the win on the mound with a three-up, three-down 8th, while JR LHP Kent Klyman (1.0 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 0 K) earned the save by locking down the 9th without allowing a baserunner.
McArthur (2-for-2, 2 2B, R), Wilson (1-for-3, BB, R, SB), and Bailey (1-for-3, BB, RBI) were the only Pack hitters to reach base safely multiple times on the day. An 0-for-3 day broke a seven-game hitting streak by Edwards, but he still reached base on a walk and was credited with an RBI on his 7th inning fielder’s choice groundball.
NC State and Pittsburgh will play Game 2 of the series Saturday at 2:00pm with SO LHP Canaan Silver going up against Pitt JR RHP Dan Hammer (brace yourselves for the puns).