RALEIGH — There’s something wrong with N.C. State’s baseball team?
Try and tell Georgia Tech that. The Wolfpack hammered the Yellow Jackets 7-1 on Sunday to win its first home ACC series since the first weekend in March.
Everything came up red for coach Elliott Avent’s team on Sunday, including a rejiggered batting lineup and a roulette of pitchers for the team’s third win in four games.
“These guys keep battling,” Avent said. “If they keep battling through these frustrating times, I think good things will happen in the end.”
Brett Austin, moved down to the five spot for the first time all season, came up in the first inning with the bases loaded, and delivered a three-run triple. The Pack scored four runs in the first inning and tacked on three in the second for its second straight win over the Jackets (26-19, 12-12).
The win moves N.C. State (24-19, 9-15 ACC) a half game behind Maryland (9-14 ACC) for the 10th and final spot in the ACC tournament next month in Greensboro. The Wolfpack won its first ACC home series on March 8-9 over Notre Dame, but hadn’t won another until this weekend.
The teams combined for two runs in the first two games in the series – a 1-0 Georgia Tech win on Friday and a 1-0 N.C. State win Saturday. The Wolfpack got its offense going right from the jump Sunday.
With Logan Ratledge hitting leadoff, Trea Turner second, and Saturday’s hero Chance Shepard up to fourth, the new lineup produced a big start, just like Wednesday’s 10-2 win over UNC-Wilmington.
“I was just trying to mix things up a little bit,” Avent said. “We’re better offensively than we’re showing right now.”
Turner walked and reached third on a hit-and-run with Andrew Knizner (2 for 4, two runs). Shepard, who homered for the game’s only run Saturday, then walked to set up Austin, who entered the game hitting .319.
The junior catcher, who usually hits leadoff or third, ripped a triple down the right-field line to clear the bases. Jake Fincher (2-3) added an RBI-single with two outs to score Austin and give starter Logan Jernigan a four-run cushion.
“I love leadoff,” Austin said, “but the fifth spot is fine with me. That worked out.”
Jernigan also started Wednesday’s win over UNCW when the Pack scored seven runs in the first inning. Jernigan didn’t make it through the third inning on Sunday, he didn’t give up a run but he threw 63 pitches after throwing 81 in five innings against UNCW.
Jernigan struck out five in the first two innings and worked out of trouble in the second. The Jackets loaded the bases with a single, a walk and hit batter but Jernigan struck out Mott Hyde.
Jernigan started the season as the No. 2 starter but has dealt with some arm and control issues. His last ACC start was March 30 against Miami but he’s starting to come back around.
“We need him to step up and keep doing what he’s doing,” Austin said.
Avent used five pitchers and got 10 outs from Joe O’Donnell (2-0), who picked up the win. Georgia Tech used three pitchers in the first three innings, and six for the game, starter Matthew Grimes (4-2) lasted only two-thirds of an inning.
N.C. State scored three runs in the second inning with a double off the left-field wall by Turner, an RBI single by Knizner and a sacrifice fly by Fincher.
Georgia Tech pushed a runner across in the fifth off O’Donnell after a throwing error by Turner, a wild pitch and a fielder’s choice. The Yellow Jackets, who took a series from then-No. 1 Florida State two weeks ago, left 14 runners on base.