State Now

NC State baseball hot, but UNC is even hotter

N.C. State head coach Elliott Avent and the team watch pregame activities before the Wolfpack's game against UNC at Doak Field on May 20, 2016.
N.C. State head coach Elliott Avent and the team watch pregame activities before the Wolfpack's game against UNC at Doak Field on May 20, 2016. ehyman@newsobserver.com

Elliott Avent felt pretty good about the way his N.C. State baseball team played on Tuesday. Then he got home and watched the end of North Carolina’s 20-5 win over South Carolina in Charlotte.

“I couldn’t believe the score when I turned it on,” Avent said.

It has been that kind of year for the Tar Heels (27-6). Shut out of the postseason a year ago after a series loss at N.C. State to close the regular season, the Heels have plowed through the first half of their ACC schedule. Mike Fox’s team has won all five of its ACC series and swept both Florida State and Boston College.

At 12-3 in the ACC, only Clemson (13-2) has a better mark in league play than the Heels. At No. 3, UNC does have a slight advantage over the Tigers (No. 4) in the RPI, according D1baseball.com.

Tuesday’s 15-run win over the Gamecocks, No. 14 in the RPI, was UNC’s ninth straight headed into its weekend series with the Wolfpack (19-15, 7-8 ACC).

N.C. State got six no-hit innings from senior pitcher Johnny Piedmonte and 15 hits in Tuesday’s 10-1 home win over UNC-Greensboro. The Wolfpack has won five of its past six games with its pitching starting to turn the corner after difficult stretch to begin the season.

“The pitching and the hitting have just kind of come together at the same time,” Avent said. “We’re playing as good as we’ve been playing all season.”

Freshman righthander Michael Bienlien has won his past three starts, all in ACC play, to give the pitching staff a boost.

The bats have come around at the right time, too, with 42 runs in the past five games. Junior centerfielder Josh McLain, who leads the team with 17 doubles, said there has been a mental shift in the lineup with the recent surge.

“Earlier in the season, we got down by a run or two runs, and we shut down a bit,” McLain said. “Now that we’ve got wins under our belt, we’ve got more confidence.”

The Wolfpack will need to be confident against a UNC team that has scored 71 runs in its past five games.

N.C. State won two of the three games last season in Raleigh but hasn’t won a series in Chapel Hill since 2004. The two teams have been remarkably close on the field since 2003 with UNC holding a 23-22 edge in wins and N.C. State with a 233-231 edge in runs scored.

“It’s always a good series no matter what their team looks like or what our team looks like,” McLain said. “I think both teams are playing really well right now.”

Joe Giglio: 919-829-8938, @jwgiglio

N.C. State at North Carolina

Where: Boshamer Stadium, Chapel Hill

When: Friday, 6:30 p.m.; Saturday, 4 p.m.; Sunday, 2 p.m.

Radio/online: WKNC 88.1, 97.9-WCHL, ACC Network Extra

Too close to call?

N.C. State and North Carolina have met on the baseball field 45 times since the start of the 2003 season. How close have the rivals been?

UNC NC State

Wins 23 22

Runs 231 233

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