The No. 9 NC State baseball rallied in the bottom of the ninth to overcome an overall poor performance for a 8-7 win over NC A&T.
The Wolfpack (14-3, 1-2 ACC) played a sloppy game, committing five errors and hitting three batters with pitches, but in the end, a ninth-inning rally highlighted by a walk-off from junior second baseman J.T. Jarrett (1 for 4, K, RBI) salvaged the win over the Aggies (7-9).
“I didn’t say anything to them,” said head coach Elliott Avent. “I actually was disappointed in the way we played. I didn’t think we played well, I didn’t think we played well yesterday… I was a little bit ticked, to be honest with you… We made so many mistakes it’s unbelievable. We’ve obviously got to play better. I have to figure out the lineup to put out there to make that happen.”
Sophomore center fielder Tyler McDonough (3 for 5, 3 H, RBI) started off the rally with a leadoff double to left-center field. Sophomore catcher Luca Tresh (2 for 5, RBI) brought him home with a single to left field, bringing the Pack within one. Junior third baseman Devonte Brown (1 for 4) kept it going with a one-out line drive to left field, putting Tresh on third.
Following Brown’s big hit, Avent brought junior Patrick Bailey (0 for 0, BB) into pinch hit but the Aggies wanted nothing to do with him and intentionally walked the switch hitter. With the bases loaded and his team down by one, Jarrett stepped up to the plate and crushed a double.
“To be honest, it’s something you draw up as a kid playing wiffle ball in your backyard — bases loaded, down one,” Jarrett said. “I was ready for the fastball away the whole time and that’s what I got eventually.”
After recording four perfect innings across his first two collegiate appearances on the mound, freshman right-handed pitcher Austin Pace (3.1 IP, 3 H, ER, 2 K) ran into some trouble against the Aggies. In the first inning, Pace allowed one run on after hitting a batter to lead off the game. Pace’s poor start continued in the second as he hit a batter to load the bases with two outs.
That prompted Avent to make a trip to the mound and talk to his freshman pitcher. Avent’s pep talk worked and Pace got the next batter to fly out, escaping the inning unscathed.
The Aggies’ early lead did not last long as the Pack managed to level things up in the bottom of the first behind an RBI single from junior right fielder Jonny Butler (1 for 4, BB, K, RBI), scoring junior first baseman Austin Murr (1 for 3, R, K, BB, RBI).
The Wolfpack continued its offense into the second inning as junior left fielder Terrell Tatum (0 for 2, 2 R, 2 K, BB) struck out, but the catcher dropped the ball and Tatum beat out the throw to first. A sacrifice bunt and a single advanced him to third before he took off for home following a wild pitch. There was a play at the plate but Tatum managed to avoid the tag from the pitcher.
The third inning saw both teams get blanked, but the Aggies got their offense revved back up in the fourth with the help of a pair of fielding errors from the Pack’s infield. The errors put runners on first and second with just one out and a double that snuck under the glove of a diving Butler allowed the runner on second to score and the other to advance to third.
With the game tied up at 2-2 Avent went to his bullpen, bringing in freshman left-handed pitcher Chris Villaman (3 IP, 3 H, 2 ER, 3 K). Villaman forced a groundout and a lineout to end the inning.
Tatum scored again in the bottom of the fourth but this time it wasn’t Tatum showing off his speed. After reaching third on a passed ball, Tatum made it home when Soles managed to beat out an infield hit, showing off his speed.
Soles had an exceptional day at the plate as the freshman went 4 for 4 with one RBI, The freshman was able to keep the Pack going when it was struggling throughout the game.
“He got here this summer and put a lot of weight on,” Avent said. “He’s done a great job in the weight room… He works really hard. He’s always in the cage. I think he was here at like 9:30 this morning and they weren’t supposed until 1 o’clock… We got to get him out there more.”
But as soon as the Pack took the lead, the Aggies came back with a run of their own to tie the game. A single, a double, and a sacrifice fly for NC A&T would be enough to tie the game in the fifth at 3-3. NC A&T continued its trend of one-and-done innings, plating a fourth run in the sixth and taking back the lead 4-3.
The Pack plated two in the sixth to retake the lead. Soles reached on a single and was advanced to second on a freshman shortstop Jose Torres single (1 for 3, R, BB). The pair were moved forward by a balk and Soles scored on a sacrifice fly from Murr before a McDonough single scored Torres.
For the fourth inning in a row, the Aggies managed to score one run, tying the game up at 5-5. Reaching base on another Wolfpack error, NC A&T capitalized, scoring its second unearned run of the day.
For the first time in five innings, the Pack stopped the Aggies’ consistent stream of one-run innings, but unfortunately, it came to the tune of a two-run eighth inning. The 7-5 scoreline made it the Aggies’ largest lead of the game.
The Wolfpack will be back in action over the weekend as it hosts Boston College in a three-game weekend series. First pitch at Doak Field is set for 6:30 on Friday, March 13th.