NC State needed a big rally late to avoid an upset loss to Radford on Wednesday afternoon in Raleigh, and thankfully the Wolfpack were up to the task, posting a 7-spot in the bottom of the 7th inning to overcome a five run deficit and take a 9-7 win over the Highlanders. With the win, NC State remains undefeated at 9-0. Radford, meanwhile, falls to 2-7 as what would have been a signature win slipped through their fingertips.
The Highlanders came into the game with a perfect underdog road team game plan, attacking NC State’s pitching early. State’s pitchers have been great at pounding the zone this year and Radford took advantage of that early. The visitors were able to plate three runs in the first inning despite only getting two balls out of the infield - one of which was the final out of the inning.
State was able to cut into the lead in the 3rd as Kalae Harrison led off the inning with a walk, moved to second on a bunt single by Trevor Candelaria, and scored on a Gino Groover single.
Radford immediately responded in the top of the 4th with three more runs, this time on a trio of singles, a walk, and an RBI groundout.
The Pack looked to have a rally mounting in the 5th as Harrison led off the inning with a triple to center field and scored on a Candelaria groundout. Groover notched a two-out double, but was unable to cross the plate.
Things began to look dire as State’s hitters went quickly and quietly in the 6th and the Highlanders plated another run in the top of the 7th on another trio of singles. Thankfully, Sam Highfill was able to work out of the jam without anymore damage and the Wolfpack bats were able to finally put together the big inning that had eluded them all game in the bottom half of the frame.
Harrison led off the inning with a walk - maybe this guy should get a chance in the leadoff spot, just saying - and Candelaria followed him with a walk of his own to trigger a pitching change. Payton Green welcomed the new pitcher with a 3-run shot to lef field to get State back into the game.
Groover and Eli Serrano each walked, sandwiched around another pitching change, and Dom Pilolli delivered a pinch-hit RBI single to cut Radford’s lead to a single run. Noah Soles was hit by a pitch to load the bases, leading to a Jacob Cozart 2-RBI double down the 1st base line to give the Wolfpack their first lead of the game.
Harrison capped off the inning (and the scoring for the day) with a sacrifice fly down the left field line.
Justin Lawson finished off the game with two scoreless frames to earn the save and secure the Wolfpack’s ninth win of the season.
Credit to Radford for coming in with a great game plan and executing it offensively and on the mound almost to perfection. Ultimately, the lack of bullpen depth caught up with the Highlanders and State was able to avoid what would have been an ugly loss.
Green (2-4, 2B, HR, R, 3 RBI, BB, SB) was the offensive star of the day for State while Groover (2-4, 2B, R, RBI, BB) also tallied a multi-hit game. Harrison (1-1, 3B, 3 R, RBI, 2 BB, SF) had a great showing as well, being the spark the Pack needed on multiple occasions.
Highfill (3.1 IP, 4 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 0 BB, 4 K) put together his longest outing of the season to earn his second win of the year. The save is the second of the year for Lawson (2.0 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 1 BB, 3 K).
Radford had four multi-hit players in the game, led by Zach Whitacre (2-4, 2B, 2 R, RBI, BB). Garrett Pancione (2-5, R), Peyton Henry (2-5, R, 2 RBI, SB), and Sully Tibbs (2-4, 2 RBI) were the others.
Next up for NC State is a three-game weekend series with another group of Highlanders (there can be more than one!), these ones hailing from NJIT (4-3). First pitch Friday is set for 3:00pm.