The long ball was again a difference-maker for NC State on Saturday night; the Wolfpack hit three in the first inning during a five-run frame that proved decisive in an 8-3 win over Pittsburgh.
The Wolfpack got Pitt starter Logan Evans into trouble immediately, thanks to a Devonte Brown solo shot to lead off the contest. After Gino Groover grounded out, Tommy White cranked yet another opposite-field homer to make it 2-0. Josh Hood Walked, Noah Soles doubled and after JT Jarrett hit an RBI grounder, Dom Piloli crushed a pitch to right to score himself and Soles.
That was the early advantage that Canaan Silver needed to gut out 5-2/3rds; Silver was excellent the first time through the Pitt order but had to really work for everything else. But he did exactly what State needed him to do today, which was pitch deep into the game without surrendering too much damage.
Justin Lawson replaced Silver, and again State needed Lawson to do some distance work. He went 2-1/3 and worked around trouble to avoid putting the final result in doubt, which set up Chris Villaman’s exceptional ninth-inning appearance.
Villaman needed only 12 pitches to record the final three outs, all via the strikeout. So he’ll be available tomorrow for multiple innings, if necessary. If he had to play Saturday, what played out was the best-case scenario; he closed out the game, and he did so with little effort.
So it’s NC State and UNC tomorrow for the ACC tournament title. I for one am not worried.