RALEIGH — The N.C. State Wolfpack staged a ninth-inning rally against Boston College on Sunday, but it only delayed a 9-7 loss that took 11 innings to decide.
N.C. State has lost 13 of its past 18 games.
“It’s easy for things to pile up,” N.C. State coach Elliot Avent said. “That’s what’s happening right now.”
The Wolfpack (21-17, 7-14) had hoped a home series vs. one of the worst teams in the ACC would help turn things around. After splitting the first two games with the Eagles (14-25, 5-16), the rubber-game loss cost N.C. State a conference series it needed badly to stay alive in the playoff hunt.
“It’s going to take something special to snap out of this,” Avent said.
With plenty of games left, including three ACC weekend series, the Wolfpack still can work its way back into the mix. The team must make up at least two games in the standings on either North Carolina or Maryland, which currently project as the final two seeds in the conference tournament.
Considering its current skid, are the Wolfpack’s playoff chances shot?
“No, not at all,” junior second baseman Logan Ratledge said. “I don’t see why. Anything can happen.”
Wolfpack starting pitcher Logan Jernigan only made it through 1 2/3 innings before he was replaced, as the Eagles put together a four-run flurry in the second inning.
Consistency on the mound was hard to come by. N.C. State used eight pitchers over the 11 innings. Only one, senior left-hander D.J. Thomas, lasted longer than two innings.
“We’re banged up a little in the pitching staff and that’s showing,” Avent said. “The pitching just can’t seem to find the strike zone.”
Thanks to some steady swinging from junior captain Brett Austin, who finished the day a home run shy of a cycle, the home team was able to tie the score at 4 by the end of the fourth inning.
N.C. State posted a respectable 12 hits in the game, but Boston College had 15.
“When we pitch well, we don’t hit well. When we hit well, we don’t pitch well,” Austin said. “I think, once we put all that together, we’ve got a chance to make a run.”
With two more runs in the fifth inning and another in the eighth, the Eagles had built what seemed a commanding, three-run lead heading into the ninth inning.
Facing near-certain elimination, the Wolfpack strung together a stretch of solid hitting – and a little luck – in the bottom of the ninth. Trea Turner scored on a fielding error and Andrew Knizner, who reached base on the error, followed with an unearned run on a single by Chance Shepard.
Boston College pitcher Tyler Hinchliffe walked in the tying run before ending the inning on a groundout with the bases loaded.
For a moment, Avent thought the rally would serve as a catalyst for his squad.
“You just need one,” Avent said. “One tiny spark can light up a whole thing for this ball club.”
Instead, N.C. State had no answer to the two runs Boston College added in the 11th inning.
“Hopefully, something clicks for us next game so we can turn this around,” Austin said.