No. 13 NC State (33-18, 14-13 ACC) dropped its second game against UNC (34-20, 13-16 ACC) with a devastating loss Friday evening at Doak Field at Dail Park, 16 -4.
“It’s a 1-1 series now,” head coach Elliott Avent said. “It’d be more deflating if we’d lost Thursday. The winner tomorrow takes the series, and not having to play on Tuesday [in the ACC Tournament] if we lose is an incentive to win Saturday.”
Brian Brown (7-3, 3.35 ERA) picked up the loss for the Wolfpack after giving up six runs on seven hits and three walks in 5-1/3 innings on the mound. Brown struck out five Tar Heel batters in the loss.
J.B. Bukauskas (7-2, 3.10 ERA), the Tar Heels’ starter, earned the win with nine strikeouts in six innings of work. State scored all four of its runs on Bukauskas on seven hits and two walks.
“Bukauskas was outstanding, and ‘Brownie’ didn’t have his usual control,” Avent said. “When Brown came out, that’s when the wheels came off.”
Sean Adler, Chris Williams, Karl Keglovits, Christian Demby, Kyle Smith, and Tim Naughton finished the rest of the way for State on the mound. Keglovits gave up four runs while Adler and Smith surrendered two apiece. Demby and Naughton were each credited with an earned run. The longest tenure on the mound between the six pitchers was 1-1/3 inning by Naughton.
Brett Kinneman put State’s first runs on the scoreboard in the bottom of the fourth. Following a two-out bean ball to Brock Deatherage, he launched a 2-0 pitch over the right-center field wall for his fourth home run of the season.
“[Bukauskas] got down in the count 2-0, and in that situation, I was looking for that one pitch to drive,” Kinneman said. “I was seeing the ball pretty well all night, I got a good swing on it, and the rest is history.”
Kinneman finished 1-for-1 with the two-run bomb and two walks, and he is batting .286 on the year, .257 in conference play, with four home runs and 25 RBI.
“Coming into the season, I had a sneaky feeling about Brett,” Avent said. “Freshmen have to grow up, and he’s been really steady for us.”
Preston Palmeiro added two more runs toward the Pack’s cause in the sixth. After Evan Mendoza led off the inning with a double, he sent a 2-1 pitch over the wall in right field for his seventh homer on the year. Palmeiro ended Friday’s contest 1-for-4 at the plate.
The Pack will wrap up its regular season Saturday afternoon in the final game of its series with the Heels. First pitch is slated for 1 pm, and the team’s seniors will be honored prior to the start of the game.
“Seniors mean everything to a ball club,” Avent said. “Our leadership has been the best it’s ever been, and the seniors set the tone for that.”