Even though I said on Friday that the weekend should be considered a success if the boys came away from Raleigh with a win, the way it played out makes me feel otherwise. The Hoos had a hard fought weekend after they fell easily on Friday.
Scott Silverstein and Austin Young combined to hold the Wolfpack to only five runs and three walks over the course of the game. The offense strung together five hits but was only able to muster a lone run in the third inning that tied the game up at the time. Unfortunately the Wolfpack prevailed 5-1, but I accept the loss as just one of those games. NC St was on their game on Friday and deserved to win the game. The Cavaliers didn't make any errors but also did not earn any walks. Sometimes you are the bug, sometimes you are the windshield. NC St won the game thanks to their own play. All you can do is tip your cap to them.
Saturday was the tale of two pitchers. Branden Kline and NC St's Freshman phenom Carlos Rodon combined to pitch a impressive six innings. Unfortunately, a lightning delay in the top half of the 7thinning cut both of their night's short. Even though their night's were shorter than hoped, they still impressed everyone watching (including the poor poor hitters). Kline gave UVa another quality outing giving up only two runs on three hits in six innings. What was even better were the ten strikeouts he compiled. If it wasn't for Rodon who had 12 Ks and only gave up two runs of his own, Kline would be up for Pitcher of the week again. It was very much a team effort from the offensive standpoint as only Nate Irving and Keith Werman notched multihit games. Derek Fisher continued his Rookie of the Year campaign with a game tying home run in the seventh just before the lightning delay. The boys took the lead for good in the 8th with a leadoff triple from Werman who scored on a Chris Taylor single.
For as many games as you tip your cap to the opposing team because they just played good baseball and beat you that day, you have games like the Hoos played on Sunday where you scratch your head and wonder "Why?" Second year Artie Lewicki turned in another good start and held the Wolfpack at bay and handed the lead to his bullpen in the sixthinning. Unfortunately, the bullpen did not have their A game on Sunday as they would give up five runs over the last three innings including two in the ninth to give NC St the win and the series victory.
Trailing 5-3 heading in to the 9th inning, the Cavaliers mustered three runs to take the lead thanks in large part to a two run game tying single from Stephen Bruno. Bruno would later score on a Fisher sacrifice fly to take the lead. The euphoria that began in the top half of the inning was quickly forgotten in the bottom half as NC St's leadoff hitter singled and the next batter walked. After a bunt and an intentional walk, NC St's Ratledgesingled to tie the game with one out. Bergquist followed with a high chopper to Nick Howard who threw home but pulled Werman off home and allowed the winning run to score.
Like I said to begin the article, a single win against the Wolfpack would have made me happy coming in to the weekend, but the way the Sunday game was lost is frustrating. The problems that the team was facing early in the season (hitting and errors), seemed to have been fixed. The team is playing great baseball and is on the right track to win a decent amount of games this season. If they want to contend with the top of the ACCthey are going to have to shore up the bullpen woes. Sure, there will always be games like Friday where the team just beats you, but having a lead disappear in the ninth due to walks can not happen. Luckily, this team and coaching staff knows that. Look for those things to be fixed soon and this team to click on all cylinders.
Monday and Tuesday are off days for the boys as they will kick off a nine game homestand on Wednesday against James Madison. Enjoy the Championship game tonight, get pumped for the Masters, vote for Three in the Bar Madness, and of course GO HOOS!