RALEIGH, N.C. – Despite chasing N.C. State starting pitcher Cory Wilder in the first inning, North Carolina failed to generate enough offense in dropping its series opener, 6-4, at Doak Field on Thursday.
Wilder hit two batters, walked another and allowed a RBI single by Logan Warmoth before exiting with the bases loaded and two outs in the opening frame. Adam Pate struck out to end the inning, marking the first of 14 strikeouts for the Wolfpack. UNC’s second inning was a replica, complete with a Warmoth RBI single and a bases loaded strikeout, this time by Zack Gahagan.
Three singles, three HBP, two walks and a wild pitch were given up by the N.C. State pitching staff in the first two innings and yet UNC only led 2-0.
“We had a chance to be ahead more than 2-0,” head coach Mike Fox said after the loss. “I think it would have put a lot of pressure on them. When you look at how the game ended there, it was critical. I felt like the first two innings, they felt like they probably won the first two innings just giving up a run each inning. That came back to hurt us, for sure.”
N.C. State (33-17, 14-12 ACC) entered its final regular season series averaging 5.9 runs per ACC contest, highlighting the magnitude of escaping the early innings with minimal damage.
“That was a difference-maker,” said Warmoth, who finished 4-for-5 with three RBI. “I don’t know how many we left on, but it seemed like a lot.”
UNC (33-20, 12-16 ACC) left 10 on base and hit .250 with runners in scoring position (4-of-16). The Wolfpack used six relievers to hold the Tar Heels to seven hits and three earned runs over the final 8.1 innings.
“We’ve got to give a lot of credit to their relievers,” Fox said. “Their relievers were really good. We weren’t seeing the spin very well, it didn’t look like, racking up too many strikeouts.”
Zac Gallen (5-6) lost for the sixth time in eight outings despite allowing just one at-bat with a runner in scoring position through the first five innings. The junior right-hander gave up three consecutive RBI hits with two outs in the sixth inning as N.C. State took a 3-2 lead into the seventh.
The Wolfpack added three more runs in the seventh to force Gallen (6.1 IP, 7 H, 5 ER) to the dugout.
UNC staged a late rally in the ninth inning, pairing a walk with three singles to cut N.C. State’s deficit to 6-4 with two on and one out. A pair of groundouts ended the threat.
“We haven’t quit all year long,” Fox said. “That’s the silver lining. Just trying to get the tying run up there in the ninth inning and anything can happen. We just weren’t very good innings three through eight.”
UNC’s four runs match its scoring average over its last 22 ACC games.
The Tar Heels dropped to 10th in the ACC standings, benefitting from losses by Boston College and Notre Dame in league contests on Thursday. The top 10 teams in the league standings earn invitations to next week’s ACC Baseball Championship at the Durham Bulls Athletic Park.