BLACKSBURG, Va. — The Wolfpack will play on in Greensboro.
Tied with Pittsburgh heading into the final weekend of the regular season and facing a complicated tie-breaker, the N.C. State baseball team earned the 10th and final berth in the ACC tournament the old-fashioned way, by finishing above Pittsburgh in the standings with a pair of wins against Virginia Tech on Friday.
N.C. State (32-21 13-16 ACC) has one conference game remaining against the Hokies Saturday, but by taking both wins in the doubleheader Friday, combined with a pair of losses by Pittsburgh to Notre Dame on Thursday and Friday, assured the Pack of 13 conference wins, a total unattainable by the Panthers.
Tournament seeds have yet to be determined.
The clincher came virtue of a 6-5 win in the nightcap. Cody Beckman was brilliant in 4 1/3 innings of relief, earning his first collegiate win in the first game all season where the freshman left-hander recorded more than four outs. The Hokies touched Beckman for two earned runs in the ninth, but the tying run was stranded at third when Will Gilbert came in to face the Hokies’ Sean Keselica with two outs in the ninth. Gilbert struck out Keselica on three pitches.
Sandwiched between Between Gilbert and Beckman, Jon Olczak faced three batters, walking one and allowing a hit before yielding to Gilbert, who earned his second save.
Wolfpack head coach Elliot Avent said he got more than expected out of his bullpen.
“We wanted to get two out of Beckman, but he was pitching great. In the ninth we could tell he was out of gas but he wanted to go back out there. When they got a hit down the right-field line, a chopper, it was time to take him out,” Avent said.
The Pack scored five runs in the fourth inning, keyed by a leadoff triple by catcher Brett Austin. Four more hits and two perfectly executed sacrifice bunts gave N.C. State a lead that looked insurmountable.
In the ninth, leading 5-3,, Trae Turner led off with a single, followed by a hit by Logan Ratledge that moved Turner to third. Andrew Knizner’s sacrifice fly to deep center provided an insurance run the Wolfpack ended up needing.
“It’s hard to take a doubleheader and it’s hard to win on the road,” Avent said. “I thought we played well in the first game, but we played with a little more intensity in the second game, more of a sense of urgency. We made some great plays.”
Ace left-hander Carlos Rodon (6-7) took the mound and got the win in the early tilt, but the story was the four-inning save earned by right-hander Eric Peterson.
Rodon gave up four earned runs and eight hits in five innings, nudging his ERA to 2.01. He struck out six.
“The offense was on point tonight,” Rodon said. “It wasn’t my best outing, but a win’s a win.”
Rodon came out after five innings with a 6-4 lead. He said his pitch count was at 110, which was as much as the coaches wanted him to throw.
Peterson didn’t allow a run in four complete innings, giving up only three hits and allowing no runners past second base.
Like the second game, Austin was the offensive spark for the Pack with a solo home run, one of three hits and a walk. He scored three times. The home run broke a 4-4 tie in the fifth.
In Rodon’s seven losses, the Pack has scored a total of two runs. That was not a problem Friday as the ace’s teammates scored nine runs and pounded 14 hits against the last-place Hokies (20-30-1, 8-20 ACC). While the Pack never erupted for more than two runs in an inning, they plated runners in five of nine frames.
Austin finished the day 5 for 9 with four runs scored. Logan Ratledge and Garrett Suggs each had four hits on the day.