With NC State’s place in the ACC tournament semifinals guaranteed, its game against UNC on Friday night was bound to be a Johnny Wholestaff effort. UNC, on the flip side, is battling for its NCAA tournament life, and had one of its weekend guys on the mound.
On paper, this was an obviously slanted matchup in the Tar Heels’ favor, and the question was whether or not State’s non-essential bullpen guys could step up and throw a wrench at UNC. The answer was no.
Sophomore Andrew Tillery got the start and was bad from the outset, allowing UNC to build a six-run first inning that was ultimately decisive. Tillery was so bad that he was removed from the game before he recorded an out. He was replaced by freshman Garrett Payne, who had a learning experience of his own as he allowed three runs over the first three innings.
After that, State’s pen did an admirable job—freshman Coby Ingle pitched four innings of shutout ball, followed by two good innings from freshman John Miralia—and gave the Pack a chance to not only get back into the game but maybe steal it.
Alas, NC State was going to need some clutch hitting to turn good innings into great ones, and that didn’t happen. Still, the Pack rallied well after falling behind 8-0 and brought the tying run to the plate late in the proceedings. This lineup is too good not to give opponents headaches, no matter the hole into which they’ve been thrown.
State came up a couple hits short of a miraculous comeback, but hey, this team is going to be playing on Saturday, and UNC is headed home. We’ll just have to settle for beating the Tar Heels three out of four times.