As ugly as Friday night became, I would have been surprised if this NC State team didn’t have a response on Saturday. The Pack is too good and has been through too much to simply roll over, and it didn’t. State found its offense, Sam Highfill delivered a solid performance, and Evan Justice pitched through trouble to shut the door and force a game three in this Super Regional round.
Arkansas got out to a 2-0 lead with a home run in the second, but Highfill posted zeroes over the next four innings, allowing NC State to take a breath and find its footing, The Pack pushed one across in the bottom of the third, then scored four runs on three home runs in the decisive fourth inning.
Jose Torres gave NC State the lead for good with a two-run shot.
Luca Tresh and Vojtech Mensik hit solo shots to extend the lead to 5-2 and the Pack manufactured another run in the sixth, which ended up being rather important as the Razorbacks pushed across three runs in the seventh.
But Justice did what he’s done all year, retiring the last seven batters of the game to seal it.
If there’s an upside to getting blown out, it’s that NC State didn’t have any major pitching decisions to make, and Avent never had to contemplate throwing Justice on Friday. So he was plenty fresh today, and he should be available again tomorrow, if it comes down to it. Matt Willadsen and Chris Villaman will be tasked with getting the ball to him in a position to win it.
Game three, for Omaha, is scheduled to begin at 6 p.m. ET Sunday. ESPNU/ESPN2 will have the coverage.