Heels Hold Off Pack, 2-1

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. -- In 2014, NC State and North Carolina avoided each other during the regular season for the first time since the ACC formed in 1953. The two schools resumed its rivalry on Friday in Chapel Hill and the bitter foes picked up right where they left off.

No. 22 North Carolina edged NC State, 2-1, at Boshamer Stadium on Friday in the first of a three-game set. The Tar Heels improved to 21-13 on the season and evened its conference record at 8-8. The Wolfpack lost for the fourth time in its last five games to drop to 19-13 on the campaign, 7-8 in the ACC.

Skye Bolt provided the game-winner with a two-out home run off reliever Joe O’Donnell with the scored tied in the bottom of the seventh inning. Bolt’s blast over the wall in right-centerfield was only the third hit of the game for North Carolina.

Zac Gallen hurled a complete game for the Tar Heels, allowing only one unearned run on six hits. The sophomore righty fanned and walked one to improve to 2-2 on the season. O’Donnell took the loss for NC State to drop to 4-2 on the campaign.

“Obviously not, he hit it out,” NC State head coach Elliott Avent said when asked if O’Donnell’s 2-1 offering to Bolt was a good pitch. “I thought that ball was in the ballpark. I guess the wind had got quiet and he hit it good enough to get it out.”

NC State starting pitcher Cory Wilder went 5.2 innings and allowed only one run on two hits. He struck out seven but also walked six batters. The Wolfpack pitchers issued eight free passes to North Carolina in the contest.

The Pack had its leadoff batter reach safely in four innings. NC State outhit North Carolina six-to-three but struggled to convert.

“We weren’t able to get a bunt down,” Avent lamented afterwards. “Obviously, we have got to get better. We missed some [chances] but they did too. We walked eight guys. They probably missed more opportunities than we did.”

“If you walk eight guys and hold them to two runs, that’s playing good defense and making pitches when you have to--but you can’t walk eight guys. That cannot happen.”

North Carolina struck first in the third inning when Tyler Ramirez laced a RBI-single to left field to drive in Raleigh-native (Millbrook High School) Brian Miller. NC State countered with an unearned run in the top of the sixth, keyed by a throwing error from Tar Heel third baseman Zack Gahagan with two outs when it appeared Carolina would escape a two on, no out jam.

“Another great game in the series, but obviously we have got to get better,” Avent said. “This series should have always been played. That was a huge mistake.”

NC State will battle the Tar Heels again in the second game of the set with first pitch scheduled for 6 p.m. on Saturday. The Wolfpack will send left-hander Brian Brown (3-2, 2.88 ERA) to the hill while North Carolina will counter with righty J.B. Bukauskas (3-1, 2.66 ERA) in a battle of terrific pitching freshmen.

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