Game two between No. 16 Pitt baseball and NC State on Saturday took a sharply different tone from game one’s pitchers duel. The two ACC foes combined for 16 runs — five of which came in the final frame — on 23 hits in a back-and-forth matinee at Charles L. Cost Field.
Pitt (22-15 overall, 16-13 ACC) held steady with the electric bats of NC State (24-14 overall, 15-13 ACC) for most of game two. But a three-run top of the ninth buried the Panthers, whose late rally fell just short. The 9-7 win clinched the series victory for the Wolfpack, who are playing some of the ACC’s best baseball.
The ‘Pack tagged Pitt starter Matt Gilbertson for four earned runs, one in each of the first four innings, but Pitt responded at each opportunity.
They scored two in the first to take a brief lead, which NC state quickly erased in the top of the second with an RBI groundout from sophomore Vojtech Mensik. In the third, NC State retook a one-run advantage on a run-scoring single from junior Jonny Butler.
Once again, the Panthers responded. Junior left fielder Kyle Hess drove in the tying run with a groundout in the third.
Both teams homered in the fourth. Freshman catcher Jackson Phinney’s two-run dinger in the bottom half of the inning gave Pitt a 5-4 lead.
E4: Pitt 5, NC State 4
🚀 🌑 @JacksonPhinney hits his FIRST career home run 430 feet to give the Panthers the lead‼️‼️‼️‼️‼️
— Pitt Baseball (@Pitt_BASE) May 15, 2021
But the Wolfpack proceeded to score the game’s next five runs, including three of insurance in the top of the ninth. The first came by way of a double steal with runners on first and third. As Pitt lefty Corey Sawyer was checking signs, Butler took off from third and slid into home without a play. Having seen enough, Bell turned to senior reliever Chris Gomez, who immediately surrendered a two-run homer to Mensik — the first batter he saw.
A spirited comeback fell short in the final inning. Trailing 9-5, the Panthers loaded the bases, scored one on a pinch-hit single from senior Matt Tarabek and added one more one batter later, when junior centerfielder Jordan Anderson grounded into a double play with the bases still loaded.
Closer Even Justice ended the game — and NC State’s third series win in the last four weeks — by catching the outer edge of the plate to strikeout sophomore leadoff hitter Sky Duff looking. Justice celebrated the series victory emphatically with the rest of his teammates after the final, upset-clinching out.
The Panthers and Wolfpack will conclude their three-game set on Sunday afternoon. Sophomore righty Billy Corcoran will start on the mound without a pitch limit, the first such start for him since returning from an injury three weeks ago. First pitch from Cost Field is scheduled for 1 p.m. and will be broadcast on ACC Network Extra.