The Wolfpack drops its first tournament game with semifinal hopes still intact

Third-seeded NC State (40-15) began ACC Championship Tournament play Thursday afternoon at the Durham Bulls Athletic Park against No. 10-seed Virginia (29-25), but the Wolfpack couldn’t overcome the Cavaliers as State took the loss, 4-2.

Freshman right-handed pitcher Reid Johnston got the call to start, but the Enfield, N.C. native left after only 2-2/3 innings. Johnston surrendered two runs on three hits and three walks before getting pulled in favor of freshman left-hander David Harrison (1-3, 5.40 ERA).

Harrison allowed an unearned run in the bottom of the fourth inning when Virginia took the lead for good. The Rocky Mount, N.C. product only allowed two hits and struck out two in 2-1/3 frames en route to the loss.

Freshman southpaw Nick Swiney, redshirt junior righty Nolan Clenney, freshman left-hander Evan Justice, and sophomore right-hander Mathieu Gauthier pitched the final three innings. Swiney struck out two batters while Justice and Gauthier recorded one strikeout each. The Cavaliers managed to hang one run on Justice while the other three pitchers were untouched on the scoreboard.

Freshman catcher Patrick Bailey put the Wolfpack on the board first with a solo home run in the top of the second inning. Senior designated hitter Shane Shepard scored the team’s second run in the top of the third.

After reaching on a leadoff single, the Wilmington, N.C. native advanced to second on a sacrifice bunt by freshman second baseman J.T. Jarrett and a groundout by senior third baseman Stephen Pitarra. Senior center fielder Josh McLain drove Shepard home with an infield single.

The Wahoos tied the game in the bottom of the third with two runs and managed to score the go-ahead run in the fourth off a Wolfpack throwing error. The Pack’s best chance to push more runs across came in the top of the eighth.

With two away in the inning, McLain drew a four-pitch walk. Sophomore shortstop Will Wilson followed with a double to chase Virginia starter Derek Casey (7-4, 3.48 ERA) out of the game. Cavalier reliever Bennett Sousa came in after Wilson’s two-bagger and retired all four Wolfpack batters he faced to secure his sixth save of the year.

The Wolfpack’s ACC Championship hopes are still alive as State will take on Florida State Friday evening at 7 p.m. to determine who advances from Pool C to the semifinal round against either Clemson or Miami.

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