The NC State softball team earned a 2-0 victory over the Pittsburgh Panthers at Dail Softball Stadium on Friday, April 9. The two squads only mustered three hits apiece in the close defensive battle, but it was redshirt sophomore right-handed pitcher Sydney Nester (7.0 IP, 0 ER, 3 H, 7 K) who secured the win with a complete-game shutout.
The first four innings were an interrupted pitcher’s duel between Nester for the Wolfpack (18-11, 11-11 ACC) and right-handed pitcher Abby Edwards for the Panthers (10-22, 5-17 ACC). The two adversaries surrendered only three hits and three walks combined. Nester had the advantage on strikeouts, however, notching five over the first four innings and seven total compared to Edwards’ zero and two, respectively.
“There were a few things that stuck with me and that I worked really hard on and so today was just very simple, locked in and aggressive,” Nester said.
The action came to a halt during the top of the fifth. As Nester prepared a no-out pay-off pitch to Pittsburgh first baseman Sarah Seamans, the umpires called the players off the field for a weather delay. The delay lasted about an hour due to lightning in the area.
The pitching showcase continued even after the pause in play, as both squads went down in order in the fourth and fifth innings. Upon returning to play, the infield defense contributed to the low-scoring affair as redshirt junior third baseman Logan Morris (0-2, BB) picked a line drive out of the air to save a base hit and helped Nester get back into a rhythm.
“It’s a little bit difficult coming in from a 45 minute delay, mentally and physically,” Nester said. “But knowing my defense is back there and Logan and the rest of the defense making big plays behind me is just a lot easier to know that when you’re on the mound, when they’re behind you.”
The sixth inning proved to be the most consequential as the Panthers threatened to pounce ahead with a two-out rally. Pittsburgh third baseman Kayla Lane singled to left, advancing to second base immediately after to give the Panthers a rare runner in scoring position. Nester ensured that they were unable to capitalize on the opportunity as she induced a chopper to third base that was snagged by Morris who applied to tag on Lane to end the frame.
The bottom half of the sixth was the first and only frame that produced any runs. Redshirt junior left fielder Sam Russ (1-3, R, SB) sparked the offense to life with a bunt single, immediately stealing second. Russ is no stranger to swiping bags, as she became the program’s all-time leader in stolen bases against North Carolina A&T on April 3.
“She’s unbelievable speed-wise,” said head coach Jennifer Patrick-Swift. “I would challenge her on the bases against any catcher in the country and just the ability right there, she didn’t have any hits going into her last at-bat, drops that bunt and gets things going for us and ends up being one of the ones to score.”
The Pack was just getting started, however, as Morris reached base on a walk and redshirt junior catcher Sam Sack (0-2, BB) reached on an error at shortstop to load the bases for redshirt junior shortstop Randi Farricker (1-3, 2 RBI) with no outs. Farricker made good on her chance to give NC State the lead, hitting a sharp ground ball up the middle for a two-RBI single and a 2-0 Wolfpack lead.
“There’s no easy part of our lineup, but when you’re at that part of the order and you’re pitching against it,” Patrick-Swift said. “You know we had a lot of home runs, everyone on our lineup except for two has an extra base hit, I’m sure all of those things they’ve talked about in our stat report and that’s in the back of their minds. So as we started to get through our lineup and the momentum kept building and building, it was just we felt really confident, it was just a matter of time and who was gonna be the one to get it done.”
There was still the seventh inning to play, but Nester made the final frame a quick one. Despite quickly falling behind in a 3-0 count to the leadoff batter, Nester battled back to secure her seventh and final strikeout of the evening. A groundout to third and a fly out to left later, the ballgame was over.
T7 | ICE IN HER VEINS. Nester works her way back from a 3-0 count for her seventh strikeout of the day! NC State 2, Pitt 0 pic.twitter.com/fQfRGRapLm— NC State Softball (@PackSoftball) April 10, 2021
“So that [first] at-bat, the energy was definitely running” Nester said. “Ready to shut them out, ready to get the game over with, but just once again, going back to keeping it very simple, seeing the pitch I want and then doing it. It just kind of brought me back down a bit, put me back in the zone to finish out the game on a high note.”
The Pack will again face off against the Pittsburgh Panthers on Saturday, April 10 in a doubleheader. The first game will begin at 1 p.m. and will be aired on regional sports networks.