Boston College and North Carolina State met for the finale of their three-game series on a chilly Sunday afternoon at the Harrington Athletics Village. The Wolfpack took the game 7-0 to complete the sweep.
The cold temperatures came on the heels of the warmest day all year in Brighton, Massachusetts, and perhaps had an impact on both teams’ offensive output. The Eagles looked for senior graduate transfer Alex Stiegler to salvage the series while North Carolina State head coach Elliot Avent gave the ball to freshman Matt Willadsen to earn the Wolfpack their second ACC sweep of the season.
Both pitchers were coming off impressive performances and looking to keep the momentum going. Stiegler surrendered just 3 earned runs in a close loss last weekend against Virginia Tech pitching into the seventh inning for the first time all season. Meanwhile, Willadsen entered Sunday’s contest lasting at least six innings in each of his last three starts. After losing a late lead in yesterday’s matchup, the Eagles resiliency would be put to the test to avoid being swept for the third time in ACC play.
The story of the first two games of the series coming into Sunday was North Carolina States’ demoralizing late inning offense. Unfortunately for the Eagles pitching staff, the story continue. North Carolina State scored twelve runs in the final two innings of their blowout win on Friday and scored four runs yesterday to take the lead in the seventh inning. Today, the Wolfpack scored all seven of their runs in the seventh inning or later once more to help earn a series sweep. NC State was able to break throw a scoreless game in the top half of the seventh inning thanks in large part to a leadoff double by left fielder Jonny Butler. Butler’s double was just the third hit and fourth baserunner of the afternoon to reach off of Stiegler. The Wolfpack played some small ball to bring in Butler with a Vojtech Mensik sacrifice bunt.
In the top half of the eighth inning, two Stiegler strikeouts, sandwiched by a Luke Murr single, gave the Eagles a chance to get out of the inning without any damage. The strikeouts were K number 10 and 11 for Stiegler who matched a career high in that department dating back to his days at Yale prior to joining the Eagles. But the Wolfpack would not go quietly, and a Luca Tresh single extended the inning forcing Coach Gambino’s hand as well.
Freshman Charlie Coon came in to relieve Stiegler and, after walking the first batter he faced, surrendered a bases clearing double by shortstop Jose Torres to open the game wide open. North Carolina State added yet another bases clearing double with two outs of left hander Joey Walsh in the ninth frame to extend their advantage to nine runs. The RBIs were collected by Luca Tresh for the Wolfpack, but center fielder Tyler McDonough’s two out walk the at-bat prior, not only kept the inning alive, but also kept his on base streak intact, now reaching base in 42 consecutive games. That is an ACC best among active players.
Though the Wolfpack lineup supplied insurance, starter Matt Willadsen would have made due without any. The Eagles offense managed just one hit through eight innings off of Willadsen, who returned to the mound in the ninth looking for a complete game shutout. Prior to that final frame, the right hander had sat down 21 of the last 22 batters he faced.
Additionally, BC had only one hit all the way back in the first inning off the bat of Sal Frelick. Willadsen ran into trouble in the ninth, allowing three men to reach on one hit and two walks, however, he retired the final Eagle hitter by way of the K to earn the complete game shutout. The pitching staff was fantastic all weekend for the Wolfpack, and with Willadsen’s performance, he now is the 3rd North Carolina State pitcher to go the distance in the last 11 games.
The disappointing sweep which saw the Eagles fail to score a run in the last 14 innings of the series will leave Coach Gambino’s squad needing to regroup before a mid-week date with Northeastern on Tuesday. The Eagles will then travel to Tallahassee to take on Florida State for a weekend series. Meanwhile, North Carolina State, picked second in the preseason, are now living up to their billing winning ten of their last twelve games. The Eagles remain in the basement of the ACC, but with about a month and a half left in the season, there is time to turn things around and return to the form we saw early on.
Photo courtesy of BCEagles.com