The NC State softball team finished a busy week on Saturday, Feb. 20, completing both series against Boston College and Louisville in a doubleheader. The Wolfpack offense ebbed and flowed at various points in both games, grabbing a 7-6 victory against Boston College and losing 5-4 to Louisville.
The action began in the morning with a quick game against Boston College, with freshman pitcher Estelle Czech earning her first start of the season. NC State went down early to the Eagles and found itself in an early 6-1 hole after the top of the fifth inning.
Redshirt junior first baseman Randi Farricker put some wind in the sails of the Wolfpack in the bottom of the fifth, hitting a much needed two-RBI double to trim the Boston College lead to 6-3. In the bottom of the sixth, redshirt senior center fielder Angie Rizzi’s sacrifice fly put another dent in the Boston College lead, this time making it a two-run game.
Despite the Wolfpack’s run of offense, it still found itself trailing going into the final out of the last inning, but with Farricker on base after being hit by a pitch, redshirt freshman second baseman Sam Gress sent one past the left-center field wall to tie the game at 6-6. The Wolfpack’s magic didn’t run out either, as in the next at-bat, redshirt junior left fielder Sam Russ followed up with a home run of her own, stealing victory from the jaws of defeat and giving the Pack a dramatic 7-6 win.
“Hitting home runs in general for our team is huge,” said redshirt senior designated player Bridgette Nordberg. “It really sets the tone for us. Hitting those back to back gives us a lot of energy and makes us want to hit more.”
The Pack got started early in the second game against Louisville, as a leadoff double from Russ and a walk from redshirt senior right fielder Tatyana Forbes was followed by a two-RBI single courtesy of redshirt junior third baseman Logan Morris.
The Cardinals cut NC State’s lead in half in the bottom part of the inning courtesy of a solo home run, but the Wolfpack’s starting pitcher, redshirt senior Abby Trahan, was able to limit the damage to that single run in the first inning, striking out the side.
As much offense as there was in the first inning, there was a notable lack of it in the second. All three Wolfpack batters popped out in the top of the second, and Trahan preserved the Pack’s lead with three strikeouts in a row.
Things looked promising for NC State after a single by Russ in the top of the third, but after Russ was called out leaving early on a stolen-base attempt, the batting order seemed to fall apart as Forbes and Rizzi struck out. However, the Trahan train kept rolling in the bottom part of the inning, forcing a groundout and two pop-outs to keep the Louisville offense at bay. Still, it was the start of the Wolfpack’s trouble with bringing in runners on base.
“It had more to do with our mindset,” Nordberg said. “We were hitting a lot of ground balls today, it’s not like us to leave runners on base, especially that many.”
After staying silent for two innings, the Wolfpack offense woke up from its slumber in the fourth. A single from Morris, a walk to Farricker and another single from Nordberg loaded the bases, but redshirt junior catcher Sam Sack hit into a double play and put an abrupt end to NC State’s chance to increase its advantage.
Then, the Louisville defense earned its stripes in the top of the fifth inning: a fielder’s choice and a throw down second base to catch Russ trying to steal was followed by a pop-up to put the Cardinals back up to bat. Finally, in the fifth inning the Cardinals’ good defense translated into good offense. Louisville earned its second and third runs on the day, breaking up Trahan’s stellar afternoon and taking the lead from the Wolfpack.
But as soon as the Cardinals took the lead, they gave it right back. Facing two outs in the top of the sixth inning, Farricker went yard to tie the game at 3 apiece, and Nordberg went back to back to give the Pack the 4-3 lead. Unfortunately for the Pack, in this proverbial game of hot potato, NC State lost the lead yet again, this time after an RBI single in the bottom of the sixth. The hit sent Trahan packing, getting replaced by redshirt sophomore pitcher Sydney Nester, who had pitched five innings earlier in the day against BC.
“It’s not always the fact that the pitcher that's out there is not doing the job,” said head coach Jennifer Patrick-Swift. “Sometimes you just have to change up the vibe for the defense or change the looks for the offense that they're seeing. It’s good to know that we have pitchers that we can bring in as starters, we can bring in as relievers and they just come in and they attack and that’s really the mindset: attack whenever it's your job to come in and do that.”
NC State tried its best to seize the lead again, getting crucial hits from Forbes and Gress in the seventh, but after a fielder’s choice, Forbes was stranded on base. The latent Wolfpack offense could only watch as Louisville hit a walk-off single to grab the 5-4 victory.
All in all, the Pack won both series two games to one, which is a great way to kick off the season. NC State softball’s next series will be against Gardner-Webb. The first game is set for Friday, Feb. 26 at 3 p.m. at Dail Softball Stadium.
“Generally, right now, we’re not playing mid-week games,” Patrick-Swift said. “So it will give us time to get used to playing a bunch on the weekend and having rest during the week. We could use a little bit of rest so we’ll get some off days and things like that, but at the same time, we need to go to work, because we need to be able to just field ball and play catch.”