If NC State is going to reach the postseason the Wolfpack will have to fight back in the face of adversity. There was plenty of practice for the team Saturday night.
NC State fought past Virginia Tech, 8-6, in front of 3,042 fans at Doak Field for its fourth straight win and to set itself up for a chance to complete a series sweep Sunday.
The Wolfpack (24-20, 10-13) held on for the victory despite seeing leads evaporate in three straight innings. The Hokies (20-25, 8-15) lost its eighth straight conference game on the road.
“It was an unbelievable baseball game,” NC State head coach Elliott Avent said. “Virginia Tech played their tails off and you give our guys a lot of credit. They battled their butts off.”
Dalton Feeney was the fifth of six pitchers used by NC State and he picked up the victory to improve to 3-1 on the season. The righty hurled two scoreless innings and fanned a couple of batters while allowing only a hit and a walk.
Joe O’Donnell closed out the contest for the second straight game with a perfect ninth inning to pick up his third save of the campaign.
“I put [Feeney] in a really tough situation,” Avent said. “I put [him] in a situation I shouldn’t put a freshman in that hasn’t pitched more than he has pitched. He responded beautifully. He was magnificent.”
Things started well for NC State. Brad Debo doubled home Stephen Pitarra in the bottom of the first inning to give the Wolfpack the lead. Joe Dunand then doubled home Debo and scored himself following a throwing error to increase State’s advantage to 3-0.
The Hokies would immediately answer with two runs in its half of the second to cut the deficit to one and send NC State starter Michael Bienlien to the showers. It also started a trend as the two teams seemed to be counter punching each other the entire evening.
Virginia Tech tied the game at 3 in the top of the fifth and scored in three straight innings. Each time the Wolfpack matched the Hokies in its half of the frame, including a critical two-run seventh after NC State trailed for the first time in the game. Both of the Pack’s runs in the seventh were unearned.
“You always want to answer back,” Avent said. “When you score you want to put up a zero. The fourth through seventh or eighth innings was like a boxing match...each one of them landing blows.”
After Feeney keep the Hokies off the scoreboard in the top of the eighth the Wolfpack added a valuable insurance run in its half of the inning when Evan Mendoza smashed a homer well over wall in left field. It was the third homer of the season for Mendoza, who also drove in a run with a triple in the bottom of the sixth.
"It feels pretty good and we are playing good baseball right now,” Mendoza said. “Obviously I knew I needed to put a good at bat together to get us an insurance run. Those are things you really can’t control. I just got a good pitch and hit it well.”
Brian Brown is the scheduled starter for NC State as the Wolfpack will attempt to pull off a much-needed sweep over the Hokies. First pitch at Doak is set for 1 p.m.