BLACKSBURG, Va. — N.C. State and UNC haven’t faced each other this season. That’s about to change.
The Wolfpack and Tarheels will play Tuesday in Greensboro in a win-and-you’re-in game for a spot in the 10-team ACC tournament.
N.C. State (32-22, 13-17 ACC) needed a win to finish anywhere but tenth; however, the Pack dropped an 8-5 decision to Virginia Tech in the season finale in Blacksburg.
The Wolfpack knew they would be in one of the play-in games Tuesday; the only mystery was the opponent. A win would seed the Pack ninth, jumping Georgia Tech, but that possibility slipped away when the Hokies jumped to a 7-1 lead after five innings.
As scores from other ACC games came in, a table of standings started to take shape having North Carolina seeded sixth and Wake Forest as a likely opponent as a six seed, with Clemson seeded seventh. But Clemson plated five runs in the bottom of the ninth inning of its game with Boston College and won in the 13th inning to jump both the Heels and the Deacons and stay out of the play-in scenarios.
North Carolina and Wake tied with 15-15 records, but the Heels hold the first tiebreaker, winning the season series 2-1.
N.C. State coach Elliot Avent said a meeting with the Heels will be a good chance for the fans to see the teams face off against each other.
“I’m just glad we’re in the ACC tournament,” Avent said. “We had a game scheduled for Durham Bulls stadium that got rained out, so this will be a chance for the fans to see us hook up.”
The Pack will not go to ace left-hander Carlos Rodon, who threw 110 pitches in five innings of a win in the first game of the series at Virginia Tech.
A start on Tuesday would be on three days rest.
“He could be ready, but we won’t do that,” Avent said.
The hope is to get a solid effort from a still-to-be-determined pitcher, with all necessary help from the bullpen, advance past the play-in game and save Rodon for a game in the round robin portion of the tournament.
In Saturday’s loss, the Wolfpack used eight pitchers, three in the eighth inning.
Thirteen players came to the plate, including Rodon himself for the final out. A pitcher who is projected to be one of the first players taken in the June draft, Rodon is remarkable with the bat, hitting .302 in 43 at-bats this season.
Despite trailing by six runs going into the ninth, Rodon was the potential tying run when he came to the plate. State had rallied for three runs on five hits in the ninth. Bubby Riley led off the inning with a home run to left.
Virginia Tech reliever Tanner McIntyre didn’t fool anyone in the inning, but coaxed enough outs to close the game.
The Hokies (21-31-1, 9-21 ACC) scored two runs off Wolfpack starter Patrick Peterson in the first inning, then chased Peterson in the fourth with five straight hits that plated four more runs, all earned.
The parade of relievers commenced, but Virginia Tech scored two more runs.
N.C. State scored runs in the fourth when Kyle Cavanaugh hit an RBI single, and in the sixth when Riley grounded into a fielder’s choice with bases loaded. Trae Turner scored on a wild pitch and Chance Shepard closed the scoring with an RBI single in the ninth.
Avent said the loss could hurt the Pack’s chances at making the NCAA field of 64.
”We’re just trying to make the NCAA and if we had won today I think we’d be in, but we didn’t so now we have a little more work to do,” Avent said.