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NC State defeats Louisville in ACC Championship for ninth straight victory
BLACKSBURG, Va. (theACC.com) – NC State entered the 2015 Atlantic Coast Conference Softball Championship as one of the nation’s hottest teams.
That remains the case for the fifth-seeded Wolfpack, which slipped past fourth-seeded Louisville, 3-2, in Thursday’s quarterfinal game at Tech Stadium and earned a spot in Friday’s 1 p.m. semifinal contest opposite top-seeded Florida State.
Maggie Hawkins’ two-out RBI double in the top of the sixth inning snapped a 2-2 tie. NC State held on with from there thanks to a big defensive play from centerfielder Hannah Yeager and a solid complete-game effort from All-ACC pitcher Emily Weiman (28-14), who allowed four hits and struck out six batters while walking one.
The win was the ninth straight for the Wolfpack (35-19), which has outscored its opponents by an eye-opening 78-7 during that span. Despite falling short in its first-ever ACC Softball Championship game, Louisville (30-17) remains hopeful of receiving an NCAA berth when teams and pairings are announced Sunday night.
Thursday game featured a combined seven errors, and both sides were frustrated at times by missed opportunities.
Louisville scrapped for the game’s first run in the bottom of the first inning. Leadoff hitter Kelsi Jones singled to left, then took second base on a sacrifice bunt and third base on a groundout. She scored from there on a wild pitch.
The Cardinals missed out on a chance to make it 2-0 in the third inning. Jones singled with one out and moved up on a groundout. Maryssa Becker followed with a sharp grounder that Hawkins didn’t initially handle at first base. But the Wolfpack junior recovered and threw to the plate in time to nail Jones, who was attempting to score from second, for the third out.
The Wolfpack tied things up at 1-1 in the top of the fourth. Molly Hutchinson drew a one-out walk and wound up scoring from second on Morgan Tharrington’s base hit up the middle.
Back-to-back two-out errors by NC State third baseman Lana Van Dyken put Louisville runners on second and third in the bottom of the fourth. The Cardinals’ Kristina Dillard then hit a sharp grounder up the middle that appeared to have a chance of getting through, but Wolfpack shortstop Renada Davis made a nifty stop and strong throw to first to end the inning.
NC State then grabbed a 2-1 lead in the top of the fifth without the benefit of a hit. Yeager was hit by a pitch with one out, and an error by Cardinals first baseman Tiarra Sanabria put runners on second and third.
Becker then intentionally walked Davis – the ACC’s all-time leading home run hitter – to load the bases. That brought up Tyler Ross, whose infield grounder scored Yeager with the go-ahead run.
But the Wolfpack’s lead proved short-lived, as No. 9 hitter Hailey Smith led off Louisville’s half of the fifth by sending a 1-0 pitch from Weiman over the wall in left for her sixth home run of the season.
NC State regained a 3-2 edge in the top of the sixth. Van Dyken reached base on a fielder’s choice, stole second and took third on a throwing error by catcher Kristina Dillard, and then scored on Hawkins’ double to the warning track in center.
The error-filled game took an ironic twist in the bottom of the sixth, when the Wolfpack used a defensive gem to work out of a huge jam and preserve its one-run lead.
A leadoff single by Brittany Duncan and an error by NC State second baseman Alyssa Compton put Louisville runners on second and third. But they were forced to hold when Dillard hit a sharp grounder to second for the first out.
Smith followed with a fly ball to medium center field. Cardinals pinch-runner Morgan Meyer tagged and attempted to score from third, but the Wolfpack’s Yeager made a perfect throw home to complete the double play.
Becker (14-7) took the loss on the mound despite a solid seven-inning effort. The Louisville sophomore allowed just five hits and two earned runs while walking two and striking out four.
It marked the first game between Louisville and NC State as ACC opponents, since the teams did not meet during the regular season. The teams have met three times overall, with the Wolfpack recording its first win in the series on Thursday.
Florida State and NC State met in an ACC regular-season series Easter weekend in Raleigh, with the Seminoles sweeping a doubleheader on April 3, and NC State taking the finale on Saturday.