Fitt Bits: Takeaways From Virginia-NC StateColumns
RALEIGH, N.C. — It’s very clear that Virginia has found its stride in ACC play after a rocky start to the season, as I wrote Friday night. The Cavaliers knocked off NC State on Friday to extend their winning streak to seven games, putting the Wolfpack in the unfamiliar position of having to fight to win a series after losing the opener.
And Virginia continued to play well through the rest of the weekend, giving NC State a strong test — and the Wolfpack aced it again. The ’Pack evened up the series with a 3-0 win Saturday behind a complete-game shutout from Reid Johnston, and the two teams traded punches all day in Sunday’s rubber game. The Cavs scored four runs in the seventh inning to take a three-run lead – but no team in college baseball is harder to put away than the Wolfpack, as UVa. learned first-hand. NC State responded to that four-run seventh with four of its own in the bottom of the frame and held on for a hard-fought 8-7 win. It was the 13th comeback win of the year for the ’Pack, and the eighth win in a game it trailed in the final three innings. NC State is now 11-1 in one-run games this year.
“We had a nice three-run lead in the seventh, and we just couldn’t finish them off,” Virginia coach Brian O’Connor said. “That’s a credit to NC State. They’re just so competitive with the bat.
“It just seems to me that they have something special about them. It seems to me that they play real loose and real confident. Certainly it helps when you play such good infield defense. There were a number of times this weekend where their defense showed, even though they had a couple errors on the scoreboard, there are plays [shortstop Will] Wilson makes, there are plays their third baseman makes, that separate them from other clubs, the left side of the infield. And obviously [catcher Patrick] Bailey is difficult to do much against … I just think they don’t give away at-bats. They’ve got a lot of guys that are really, really competitive, and a lot of threats to hit the ball out of the ballpark.”
It was striking on Sunday that every time Virginia threw a punch, NC State responded immediately with a counterpunch.
“If you notice, they score two runs, we got one. Then they score one run, we got two. Then they score four runs, and we come in and get four,” NC State coach Elliott Avent said. “This team just doesn’t quit, I’m telling you. It’s just amazing what they have done. We pitched six guys today but walked one batter. And on a Sunday, that’s hard to do. If you can throw strikes on a Sunday and play defense, you’re gonna give your team a chance. I just think this team’s been very amazing, very resilient, and couldn’t be more proud of them.”
Here are some lingering observations on both teams after a competitive, entertaining weekend of baseball: