RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) — The North Carolina State University baseball team got up off the deck in game three of their series to beat Clemson, avoid the sweep and show off some of their clutch hitting in their 9-5 win.
“I thought that this game was really important to all of us as a whole collective group we really needed this win today,” said NC State outfielder Terrell Tatum. “Especially after the past two days where we felt like we were one pitch away from changing this whole series around, making sure we were able to respond and come back today was a big thing for all of us.”
It didn’t look good early. NC State took the lead in the first inning off a Jonny Butler fielder’s choice. The Tigers came right back with a pair of RBI singles in the second and a home run by Alex Urban in the third to take a commanding 4-1 lead.
“When Urban hit the home run to make it 4 to 1, and the way the last two games went, it would be very easy for this club to say here we go again,” said head coach Elliott Avent. “I did call them together one time and I just said hey we have a lot of game left here I know it started out rough but we are going to get to this guy.”
His guys took the message to heart starting with his man on the mound. Matt Willadsen settled in on the bump holding Clemson scoreless the next 3 2/3 innings. On the day he gave up four earned runs on nine hits and walked one all while striking out six. He gutted his way into the 7th inning and saved his bullpen.
Matt Willadsen has been unbelievable for us this year,” said coach Avent. “Especially today keeping his composure in a game I think felt like we really need it badly and I’m proud of Matt.”
At the plate, the Wolfpack started to smack around Clemson relievers Ron Hughes and Geoffrey Gilbert like they owed them money.
Tyler McDonough’s RBI double in the third inning cut the lead in half. Jose Torres RBI single later in the inning scored McDonough to make it a 1 run game. Terrell Tatum kept the hit parade going in the 4th inning with a sacrifice fly which tied the game at 4. In the 6th inning, the Wolfpack retook the lead on Austin Murr’s 5th home run of the year, a solo blast, as NC State showed they aren’t going down without a fight.
“When we made it 4-3 in about the fourth or fifth and then tied it up for four and kept fighting and I thought that was the bigger thing,” said coach Avent.
They weren’t done. The Tigers tied the game at 5 in the 8th inning on a Dylan Brewer fielder’s choice which scored Max Wagner. With 6 outs left NC State decided to take care of business sooner rather than later. Gilbert walked the bases full to get to Tatum.
“Coach (Avent) called me over and told me just to slow it down a little bit and try to take as many deep breaths as I could and relax a little more so I could take a nice easy swing and hit the ball to left field,” said Tatum. “During the at-bat I saw the guy seemed like he was trying to give us all sliders so I was looking for a slider when I got to two strikes.”
He got his slider and laced it into left-center for a clean 2 RBI single giving NC State the lead for good. Later in the inning, McDonough reached on a throwing error by the second baseman but plated 2 more runs in the process. It was more than enough as Evan Justice (2-2) coaxed a weak ground ball and struck out 2 more Tigers slamming the door on the 9-5 win over Clemson.
“I thought we put good at-bats today good focus and obviously played really good defense,” said coach Avent. “That’s the key for us when we play this kind of defense and get pitchers throwing strikes then it gives us a chance so once again big win for us today we are really proud of the guys.”
The win gives NC State a 10-11 overall record and a 5-10 mark in ACC play. The Wolfpack take the field again Tuesday at 6 against Appalachian State. First pitch is scheduled for 6 pm at Doak Field at Dail Park.