When you hit bottom, you know it.
There’s no reason to point fingers, wallow or even discuss it. Just realize where you are and get to work. That’s where N.C. State’s baseball team found itself on April 23 after getting swept by Boston College.
“We didn’t have to have a meeting after that series,” said shortstop Joe Dunand, who leads the team with 16 home runs. “It was understood.”
A preseason top 10 team, the Wolfpack knew it was in trouble after getting swept by the Eagles, who doubled their ACC win total with the three wins over the Wolfpack.
N.C. State fell to 8-13 in ACC play, 20-20 overall and No. 62 in the RPI after the Boston College sweep. Since then, N.C. State has won 13 of 15 and enters the ACC tournament in Louisville, Ky., as the No. 7 seed and with a 33-22 record and 16-14 in the ACC.
The ACC record is significant. Since the NCAA tournament expanded to 48 teams in 1987, N.C. State has never missed the tournament with a winning ACC record.
And those losses to Boston College, while a “gut punch,” as Dunand described them, might have helped the Wolfpack in the long run.
“I think that was a good weekend for us, a good eye-opener,” said freshman designated hitter Brad Debo, who leads the Wolfpack in batting average (.344). “We kind of just realized, ‘Hey, if we don’t do it now, we’re done.’ ”
Two days after the Boston College debacle, the players recharged emotionally and picked up a 13-0 home win over N.C. Central.
The next day, the Wolfpack went to Greenville and shut out an equally desperate and struggling East Carolina team, 6-0. N.C. State followed those wins with an ACC series sweep of Virginia Tech at home.
Then came two wins against Delaware, a road sweep of Pittsburgh and two big wins at home over Clemson to close the regular season.
“Once things finally got going our way, everything kind of fell in place,” senior pitcher Johnny Piedmonte said.
While Triangle fans are looking forward to Friday’s ACC tournament matchup between the Wolfpack and second-seeded North Carolina (44-11, 23-7), the first game in pool play has the N.C. State players’ attention.
The Wolfpack’s first opponent on Tuesday is – who else? – Boston College (25-26, 11-19)
“I think we’re playing a lot better now than we were when we were in Boston,” said Piedmonte, who has a 1.88 earned run average and 6-0 record.
“I’m hoping we’ll get a little revenge, maybe, after getting swept by them. That Boston series was tough. I think we’ll have a chip on our shoulder coming into that game.”
N.C. State went a combined 1-5 against Boston College and UNC during the regular season. It will have to beat both teams to advance out of pool play. The Wolfpack cannot advance with a loss. The team with the best seed gets the tiebreaker if all three teams finish 1-1.
The format is tilted to reward the teams with the better regular-season performance. That’s fine with the Wolfpack players. They like their chances either way.
“I always knew we had the potential to make a run and get hot at any second,” Dunand said. “It’s a good feeling to know that we are playing to our potential right now, at the most important time of the year.”
Joe Giglio: 919-829-8938, @jwgiglio
NC State in the ACC tournament
The Wolfpack (33-22, 16-14 ACC) is the No. 7 seed in the ACC tournament, which starts Tuesday in Louisville, Ky. N.C. State is in Pool B with North Carolina and Boston College. The schedule for Pool B:
Tuesday: N.C. State vs. Boston College, 3 p.m.
Wednesday: UNC vs. Boston College, 3 p.m.
Friday: UNC vs. N.C. State, 7 p.m.
All games will be televised by Fox Sports Carolinas.