The hard knocks keep coming for NC State baseball, dropping its midweek matchup on the road against UNC-Wilmington 13-11 after losing the previous weekend’s series two games to one against its crosstown rival – UNC-Chapel Hill.
Despite beating the Seahawks (26-21, 10-7 CAA) 7-6 in the only previous matchup between the two teams this season, NC State (30-16, 12-11 ACC) fell victim to sustained offensive pressure by UNC-Wilmington early on in the contest.
Out of the gates, one would’ve imagined a very different outcome for the game, with the Pack hanging five runs on the Seahawks in the top of the first inning. A leadoff home run from senior center fielder Devonte Brown set the tone for the top of the frame. Following suit with the solo shot from Brown was freshman designated hitter Tommy White, netting his 21st home run of the year. No. 21 puts White in a special position late in the season, placing him one home run behind the ACC freshman HR record, four away from the program record for home runs in a single season and five homers away from the NCAA’s freshman HR record.
#21 FOR TOMMY TANKS‼️ pic.twitter.com/4ZSQZ48WZU— #Pack9 ⚾️ (@NCStateBaseball) May 10, 2022
Rounding out NC State’s batting performance in the first was an RBI double from senior second baseman J.T. Jarrett and a two-RBI single for freshman catcher Jacob Cozart.
UNC-Wilmington was able to get on the board in the bottom of the inning with a solo shot of its own from Brooks Baldwin, but the 5-1 lead after the first put the Pack in a comfortable position.
That comfort was extremely short-lived, however, with the Seahawks putting up 10 unanswered runs, including the one from the first inning, on the Pack through three frames. The sudden explosion ruptured the Wolfpack defense, which clawed its way back to stop the bleeding later on in the game.
NC State had to get through a number of pitchers to cool the red-hot bats of UNC-Wilmington off, with redshirt junior righty Logan Adams getting pulled after 1.1 innings. In his brief time on the mound, Adams let up four earned runs on four hits with no strikeouts. Relieving him of his duties was freshman right-handed pitcher Carson Kelly, who gave up another four earned runs on two hits, amassing three walks, two wild pitches and two strikeouts in one inning pitched.
Next up to the mound for a brief period was junior righty Baker Nelson, who unfortunately couldn’t break the hot streak, letting up three earned runs on two hits and walking a batter in one inning played. Coming in during desperation hour was sophomore righty Garrett Payne, who played the game's final 4.2 innings. Payne proved to be the best of the bunch for NC State on the night, only letting up two earned runs on three hits and striking out six batters. The loss brings his record to 3-1 on the season.
The Pack managed to level the score in the top of the fourth, tying the game at 10-all after hanging another five-run inning on the Seahawks. From sacrifice flies to RBI doubles, the NC State batters were doing whatever they could to remedy the pitfalls of the pitching staff early on in the game.
Each team would earn themselves another run before the seventh inning, tying the game up at 11-11 in the dying moments of the contest. A Cozart solo shot in the top of the sixth canceled out UNC-Wilmington’s run from the bottom of the fourth inning, sending NC State into a do-or-die situation on both sides of the ball.
It was the Seahawks that made the most of the moment, however, putting up a pair of runs in the bottom of the eighth inning that NC State couldn't match in the final frame of the game.
The Pack still has a pair of series and a midweek matchup before the end of the regular season, and the six games remaining against conference opponents will prove crucial for NC State’s conference tournament seeding. The first opportunity to raise that ranking comes in game one of the away series against Duke, which is scheduled for Friday, May 13. The first pitch is set to be thrown at 6 p.m. and the game will be broadcast live on ACC Network Extra.