NC State took on No. 16 Louisiana Tech in the second day of the NCAA Regionals after defeating Alabama in the first round. The Pack had 14 hits and eight runs against the Bulldogs and was able to keep them scoreless for the first seven innings of the game in the 8-3 win.
The Wolfpack (32-17) offense started off strong with a double to center by junior first baseman Austin Murr (4-5, RBI, 2 2B) in the first inning. Murr then scored off a double by junior left fielder Jonny Butler (2-4, 3 RBI). The Bulldogs (41-19) were unable to respond and went scoreless for the first seven innings.
NC State scored again in the third with sophomore center-fielder Tyler McDonough (2-4, 2 RBI, 2 K) scoring on a single from Butler. The Pack continued to extend its lead in the fourth with junior right fielder Devonte Brown (2-4) scoring on a single from junior second baseman J.T. Jarrett (1-3, RBI).
Louisiana Tech’s defense was able to hold off the Wolfpack’s offense in the fifth and sixth innings, as the Pack went three up, three down in each.
“It’s just a confidence thing,” freshman right-handed pitcher Sam Highfill said. “First inning, maybe a little bit of jitters but after that, I had all the confidence in the world that if I could just make pitches, then I could get these guys out and the defense had my back.”
Highfill (5.1 IP, 5 H, BB, 4 K) pitched into the sixth inning of the game before being replaced by junior left-handed pitcher Evan Justice (3.2 IP, 3 ER, 3 H, 8 K).
“Those five guys that y’all know so well have probably pitched 80% of our innings,” said head coach Elliott Avent. “It’s uncanny that it’s worked out like this. It's almost like with those guys who are pitching right now, you have to take advantage of every game and win that game and so far they’ve done an unbelievable job.”
The seventh inning was the most exciting for the Pack as it scored three runs in the inning. Murr and Jarrett both scored on a double from McDonough, who then scored a couple batters later on a sacrifice fly from Butler. The Bulldogs switched pitchers twice in the seventh, which was its first pitcher substitution of the game.
“Team aspect, I mean we’ve got confidence in all our guys,” Murr said. “After the game on Sunday, we spent a lot of time working on getting the pitch you want and spitting on everything else and so obviously, the first two days, we’ve gotten great results from it. Trying not to get stuck in between two pitches I think, we’ve done a great job of that so far, we gotta keep doing that and keeping that patience at the plate.”
Louisiana Tech substituted another pitcher right at the beginning of the eighth inning but a fresh pitcher didn’t stop NC State’s offense from continuing to dominate. Brown scored on a single by Murr. On a wild pitch, Jarrett scored the second run of the inning for the Pack. The Bulldogs were finally able to get runs on the board in the bottom of the eighth, scoring three runs on two homers, bringing the score to 8-3.
To start off the ninth inning, Louisiana Tech once again subbed in a new pitcher. NC State did not score again, leaving the final score at 8-3 with another Pack win.
“They come out and play every game,” Avent said. “These guys have been remarkable and I’ve loved all 25 teams that I’ve had the privilege and the pleasure to coach here at NC State but this team reminds me so much of the team I had the first year I was here. Small group of guys, committed to one another and love the game, they play hard and play for the love of the game and the fun of it but they’ll come out and play hard tomorrow but they’ll have to play well because it’s two very very good teams.”
The Pack will play again tomorrow at 7 p.m. in Ruston, Louisiana for the NCAA Regional Final.