N.C. State 7, UNC Wilmington 2

NC State bullpen carries Pack to 7-2 win over UNC Wilmington

csmith@newsobserver.comMay 7, 2013 

CORRECTION: This game's winning pitcher was Travis Orwig. This article was corrected at 1:20 p.m., Wednesday, May 8, 2013.

RALEIGH -- When UNC Wilmington traveled to Doak Field on Tuesday to take on No. 5 N.C. State, the stage was set for another in-state upset.

Exactly two weeks after taking down the No. 1 Tar Heels, the Seahawks faced a similar situation against the Wolfpack. Both games started with UNC Wilmington (34-15) giving up a six spot through three innings, but on Tuesday the Seahawks were unable to recover as the Wolfpack (38-11) pulled out a 7-2 win.

The victory was the fifth straight for N.C. State heading into a crucial weekend showdown with Florida State that starts Saturday.

“They didn’t quit at Carolina, so I knew they weren’t going to quit here,” Avent said of the Seahawks ability to come back late in games. “I didn’t say anything to the players … but I thought it to myself as I was managing the game.

“That’s a quality ball club and an in-state rival … so it was a good game to win.”

As it has all year, the top of the lineup produced for N.C. State. Sophomores Trea Turner, Jake Fincher and Brett Austin combined to go 5-for-12 with five RBIs, three runs and three walks. Austin hit the only extra-base hit with his RBI double in the first inning to score Fincher.

The three have been a catalyst for the Wolfpack offensively over the last 22 games – 20 of which have been wins. The three have a combined batting average of .317 over that stretch.

While the numbers show that the top of the lineup has been important for the Pack, Turner believes they are benefiting from having a complete lineup.

“I feel like I need to set the pace by getting on base leading off,” Turner said. “We’ve been doing a pretty good job at the top of the order, but a lot of hits have been coming from the bottom of the order, too. They’ve picked it up and are starting to come around.”

The Wolfpack scored six runs on seven hits in the first three innings . Most of that success came against UNC Wilmington starter Blaze Tart, who lasted just 2 2/3 innings and was pulled after giving up six runs on six hits.

After giving up just one hit over four innings, Wolfpack starter Brad Stone was unable to retire a batter in the fifth inning and was pulled after giving up his first run. The freshman gave up just two hits and finished with five strikeouts and three walks.

With just six games remaining in the regular season, Stone knows he might play a crucial role in the Pack’s success in the ACC tournament and NCAA regionals.

“[These starts] are very important,” he said. “Confidence is everything. Especially gaining this confidence and momentum going into a playoff atmosphere can be huge. Not only for one pitcher, but for the whole team.”

Stone’s early departure set the stage for the Wolfpack’s dominant bullpen. Andrew Woeck, Travis Orwig, Ryan Wilkins and Grant Sasser combined for no runs over five innings with six strikeouts to just one walk. Orwig was credited with the win.

Heading into the weekend series, the bullpen now holds a combined 2.45 ERA over 238 1/3 innings pitched. Sasser, Wilkins and normal closer Chris Overman have a 9-2 record with 13 saves in 58 appearances.

“I thought our bullpen did a good job,” Avent said. “When our starters don’t give us the outings that they should, they’ve kept us in ball games. They’ve been our saving grace all year.”

The Pack will look to continue its winning streak at noon on Saturday when it starts a series against No. 7 Florida State in Raleigh with the Pack trailing the Seminoles by one game in the Atlantic division standings.

Smith: 919-829-4841; @RCorySmith

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