NC State baseball week in review

Coming off its first conference series win, the Wolfpack baseball team brought a lot of momentum into the week. They kept it going with a win against UNC-Wilmington, but ran into a wall in Chapel Hill.

The Pack triumphed over yet another early week non-conference opponent. Seahawks pitcher Ronald Hill actually kept NC State scoreless for five innings before eventually losing control of the game in the sixth.  Hill was removed, and Colt Morton promptly hit a three-run homer (he has eight on the season) off the reliever.  The Pack saw a third UNC-W pitcher in the inning on their way to scoring three more runs.  Ryan Cretarolo pitched very well for the Pack, though he left when the game was tied and did not get credit for the victory.  State added a couple insurance runs in the eighth, and won by a score of 8-2.

Following that game came the trip to face the rival Tar Heels.  This series had the same characteristics as the other conference series against ranked opponents – the NC State offense disappeared, and the pitching staff was hammered.  Game one saw North Carolina get out to a quick 8-0 lead in the first three innings.  NC State starter Daniel Caldwell gave up ten hits to go with those runs.  UNC-CH managed 2 more runs off of relievers Nate Cretarolo and Daryl Minugh.  Scott Autrey pitched seven innings for Carolina, holding State to just four hits in that time.  North Carolina took game one by a margin of 10-2.

Game two began much better, with the Pack holding a 5-4 lead into the fourth.  Starter Derek McKee had a tough outing for NC State, giving up 7 runs in 5.2 innings.  The Heels took further advantage of the Wolfpack pitching by scoring a total of 5 runs in the seventh and eighth.  The Wolfpack offense, led by Justin Riley's 3-run homerun, could not score the runs to keep up.  Final score: 12-5.

NC State scored 3 runs in the first inning of game three, and with Mike Prochaska on the mound things were seemingly looking pretty good for the Pack.  Prochaska, who received his first loss of the season, did not have a good outing.  He was removed in the sixth inning after giving up Carolina's 6th run of the game.  The Wolfpack stayed within striking distance, down just two runs, until the Tar Heels scored 6 more runs in the eighth inning. The final was 12-4.

So the sweep by North Carolina leaves NC State (25-17, 4-11) clinging to seventh place in the ACC.  With their next conference series coming against Florida State, the situation does not look to improve.  On the bright side, FSU represents the last ranked opponent NC State will face in the regular season.  After the Noles, there is no game or series that the Wolfpack cannot reasonably expect to win.  It will be an opportunity to get hot going into the ACC tournament, which, once again, the Wolfpack will need to win in order to reach the NCAAs.

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