On Sunday NC State settled a score, avoided a nuisance and gave itself some leeway in its quest to host a Regional.
The 13th ranked Wolfpack scored in six of its eight turns at the plate to squash No. 17 North Carolina, 10-1, in front of 3,048 fans at Doak Field at Dail Park.
The victory hands NC State its first series win over the Tar Heels since the Wolfpack swept UNC during the 2011 season.
NC State also closed the regular season 34-18 overall and 15-13 in the ACC. By finishing in fifth place in the conference the Pack earns a berth directly into pool play in the ACC Tournament, which begins Tuesday in Durham.
“That feels good,” NC State head coach Elliott Avent said. “The loser of [the play-in game of the ACC Tournament] may very well not get into the NCAA Tournament and hasn’t yet…It feels good not to be in it.
After getting clobbered on Friday, NC State turned the tables on its rival to clinch the series win. The Wolfpack scored in six of its eight turns at bat. Preston Palmeiro finished 2-for-2 at the plate with three walks and blasted a third inning two-run homer over the wall in right-center as State never looked back.
Palmeiro was a freshman on the team that lost controversially to North Carolina in the 2014 ACC Tournament play-in game in Greensboro. Last season, the Wolfpack defeated eventual national champion Virginia en route to reaching the Championship Game.
“It is huge because when you go into that play-in game, now you will have to burn a pitcher and burn your bullpen that day,” the junior first baseman said. “It makes it harder to come back. It happens with Virginia last year. That had to play in the play-in game and by the time we got around to playing them on Saturday night you could tell they had pretty much threw everybody.”
The national scene is every bit as convoluted as the ACC. NC State has fluctuated in the national polls but has been ranked throughout the conference season despite the league being perhaps the toughest in the nation.
Entering Saturday’s game, the Wolfpack had dropped six of its past eight games but with a series win over its biggest rival
“I think we are hosting,” Avent said succinctly. “I think after two out of three against Carolina we are hosting.”
While the Wolfpack continues to battle injuries according to Avent, there has never been any wavering among the players despite the recent slide.
The head coach in his 20th season thinks the fans that make the trip to downtown Durham will be happy with the effort they see on the diamond.
“What I do want the fans to know is you have got a ball club that is banged up and they give you 100 percent every day and keep fighting through adversity and digging deep,” Avent said. “They are a little banged up but I am just really, really proud of them right now.”