The NC State baseball team fell to Georgia Tech 9-2 in the ACC Championship semifinal on Saturday night at Durham Bulls Athletic Park thanks to a three-run bomb by Tristin English in the fifth inning to break the 1-1 tie and a five-run eighth inning for insurance.
The Wolfpack (42-17) stranded 10 runners, went just 2 for 18 with runners on base and 0 for 9 with runners in scoring position while the Yellow Jackets (41-16) finally converted on their opportunities to blow the game open.
“Probably faced some of the best [arms] we have all year,” said sophomore catcher Patrick Bailey on the last two games. “And we had an opportunity both nights and didn't get it done. It's baseball. Gotta be better.”
NC State junior right-hander Jason Parker got the start and pitched well against one of the ACC’s top offenses through four innings before serving up a two-out, three-run blast. It was a stagnant day for the NC State bats, as Bailey drove in the Wolfpack’s first run and sophomore left fielder Jonny Butler picked up a team-high two base hits.
Georgia Tech’s trio of Keyton Gibson, Johnathan Hughes and Jake Lee combined for a stellar outing on the mound, holding the Pack to just six hits. Hughes tossed five frames of one-run ball and got the win, striking out four and walking three.
“Tonight I thought [Hughes] had command of the strike zone,” said head coach Elliott Avent. “And that's why if we could have got the lead by cashing those opportunities in early, things like that can change how he pitches. We didn't do our job tonight, and we paid for it.”
A day after some late-game heroics against Duke to push the Jackets into the semifinals, Georgia Tech first baseman Tristin English lifted a high-and-away fastball just over the right-field wall to give his team a 1-0 lead in the second.
It was a short-lived advantage for the Yellow Jackets. Working off a leadoff single from Butler, Bailey slashed a triple down the right-field line to even the score in the third frame.
Parker cruised through the next two innings but ran into trouble in the fifth. After retiring the first two batters, Parker allowed a base hit and a walk to put Michael Guldberg at the dish. None of his hits had left the yard all year, but Guldberg launched a go-ahead, three-run home run over the left-field wall to put the Jackets up 4-1 and essentially signaling the end of the day for Parker.
Through 4.2 innings of work, Parker surrendered four runs, all earned, while striking out five and walking four. Unfortunately for the Pack, NC State was forced to use six more pitchers to get through the rest of the game.
The Wolfpack squandered several scoring opportunities throughout, something Avent says needs to improve for regionals.
While NC State thought it would get one more shot to tie the game in the ninth, Georgia Tech had other ideas, putting up five runs in the bottom of the eighth on four hits and four free passes to put the game well out of hand for any Wolfpack comeback.
The Pack offense found a run off a junior Will Wilson double in the ninth to make it 9-2 but Georgia Tech took the victory and advances to the finals of the ACC Championship against UNC-Chapel Hill on Sunday.
Avent’s squad will now await the NCAA Regional host announcement on Sunday to find out if Doak Field will get one of those spots. The NCAA selection show will take place on Monday on ESPNU to determine the teams going to each host site.
“We should be hosting and I'm sure we are,” Avent said. “But if we don't play any better than we played tonight, in doing the little things, big things we're fine. The little things, if we don't get better than that you're not going to advance in a regional."