Top-ranked U. Virginia baseball drops series to N.C. State U.

By Chelsa Messinger

The North Carolina State U. baseball team stepped onto Doak Field Friday night against the U. Virginia Cavaliers who were ranked No. 1 in the country by Baseball America and The Cavaliers were looking for their fourth-straight ACC series win against the unranked Wolfpack, but as any Butler basketball fan will tell you, rankings don’t win games.

The Wolfpack offense slugged four home runs in three games against the fourth best pitching staff in the ACC to win the series 2-1. Friday’s win gave Coach Elliott Avent 500 wins, making him only the second coach in program history behind Sam Esposito to reach the 500 mark.

“It feels even better to win two out of three against Virginia, the No. 1 team in the country,” Avent said. “We put ourselves into a little bit of a hole coming out of the Clemson series, so to win the series against Virginia is what we needed to do.”

The Cavaliers did everything they could Friday night to stave off win number 500. The first game started off as a pitcher’s duel between Virginia’s Danny Hultzen and State’s Jake Buchanan. The score was only 3-1 in the top of the eighth.

The Wolfpack began its comeback in the bottom of the eighth when sophomore pinch-hitter John Gianis led off with a double to the wall. Senior centerfielder Kyle Wilson then belted a 400-ft homerun to left-center to tie the game at three apiece.

Virginia retaliated with two runs in the ninth. But the Wolfpack made a repeat of the eighth inning with a double from freshman pinch-hitter Danny Canela and a homerun from senior second baseman Dallas Poulk to tie the game again, this time at 5-5. Canela was 2-for-3 that night, solidifying his status as one of the team’s most clutch pinch-hitters.

“I like pinch-hitting. I get into that mode and I focus even more when I come into the game,“ Canela said.

The game remained deadlocked until the bottom of the 11th inning. With two outs, two strikes, and the winning run on third, freshman shortstop Matt Bergquist crushed a line drive to right field to seal the game. After freshman pinch-runner Mike Clark crossed the plate, the Wolfpack celebrated its 6-5 win in its fourth walk-off win of the season.

However, the Cavaliers answered back on Saturday with a decisive 8-4 win over the Pack to even the series one-to-one. But on Sunday, the Pack edged Virginia 7-6 to clinch the series win.

Virginia was ahead 4-3 until the bottom of the 7th.  Dallas Poulk started the rally with a one-out infield single. Then sophomore first baseman Pratt Maynard and Danny Canela both drew walks to load the bases for sophomore third baseman Andrew Ciencin.

After going one-for-10 the first two games, some hitters may have withered under the pressure. Ciencin did just the opposite. With the series on the line he ripped a pitch over the left field wall for a grand slam to put his team ahead 7-3.

“You just have to stay with it the whole weekend,” Ciencin said. “They’re a good pitching staff, but I knew I could do it, so I did.”

The Cavaliers attempted to rally late in the ninth, but fell short. State won, 7-6. The Wolfpack improves to 18-10 overall and 5-7 in the ACC with the series win.

The Pack returns to action with a two-game series at home against Coppin State on Tuesday and Wednesday before facing UNC at Chapel Hill this weekend.

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