After a 1-1 finish in pool C at the ACC Baseball Championship, NC State advanced to the second semifinal game on Saturday at 5 p.m. to take on second-seeded Georgia Tech out of pool B at Durham Bulls Athletic Park.
The Pack came into its first pool play game against Wake Forest on Thursday night knowing the winner was moving on because the Demon Deacons already beat Florida State on Tuesday. A four-run ninth inning for the Pack clinched the pool win and a spot in the semifinals on Saturday.
“You miss a lot of people during the season, but you get them in the tournament,” head coach Elliott Avent said. “We haven't seen them and we know they got a really good ball club, very good offensive explosive ball club. And we know that they're playing very, very well right now.”
With a chance to rest some guys on Friday, NC State was mercy ruled by Florida State 11-0 in seven innings. Since the game didn’t mean anything for seeding in Durham, sophomore catcher Patrick Bailey got the start as a DH and Avent stayed away from his normal pitching rotation.
Junior Alec Barger got the start for NC State and was followed on the mound by sophomore Canaan Silver and junior Michael Bienlien, leaving junior Jason Parker with the likely start in the semifinal game.
Georgia Tech didn’t have the same luck in pool play, needing to beat Duke on Friday morning to get to Saturday, which it did on a walk-off double in the bottom of the ninth to win 5-4. With both pool play games having meaning, the Yellow Jackets have used their top two starters.
Amos Willingham pitched six innings on 94 pitches against Notre Dame in the opening game of pool play while Connor Thomas threw six innings on 88 pitches in Friday morning’s walk-off win to get Georgia Tech to Saturday.
Next up on the mound for Georgia Tech could be Cort Roedig, who has started game three of the last two ACC series for the Yellow Jackets. Whether it is or not, it appears that Georgia Tech will be going deep into its pitching staff to find a starter.
On offense, Georgia Tech shows its strength with seven guys in the lineup that are hitting over .300 at the plate. Michael Guldberg leads the group with a .374 but doesn’t present a power threat with a .431 slugging percentage and no home runs. Behind him are Jackson Webb and Nick Wilhite, batting .333 and .314, respectively.
The power comes from Kyle McCann, Tristin English and Baron Radcliff, with 23, 16 and 12 home runs, respectively. Parker, or whomever Avent throws to start the game tomorrow, is going to have to be on his game to keep NC State in it, a very tall task.
The Pack offense will also have to be ready to go to keep up with the Yellow Jackets. This could be a high-scoring matchup with two of the best offenses in the ACC. NC State and Georgia Tech are both scoring 7.6 runs per game, good for top 20 in the country and just behind Wake Forest in the ACC.
“It’s just a game you got to wash off and get ready to play for the semifinals,” said junior shortstop Will Wilson on the Florida State game. “And we haven't played George Tech this year but we're looking forward to it. And they're a good team and so are we, so it's going to be a good game, a dogfight.”
The second ACC semifinal is set for 5 p.m. on Saturday at Durham Bulls Athletic Park and the winner will face the winner of UNC-Chapel Hill and Boston College in the championship game on Sunday.