Wolfpack’s baseball coach gets 800th career win in dramatic fashion

No. 9 NC State certainly had to work for head coach Elliott Avent’s 800th career victory, prevailing 7-6 over Virginia with a wild walk-off finish after two Wolfpack comebacks to win the series Sunday at Doak Field at Dail Park.

State (19-7, 8-4 ACC) rallied from a 3-0 deficit to take a 5-3 lead into the ninth, only to have that evaporate before two runs in the bottom half sealed the win. The Pack loaded the bases in the bottom of the ninth with one out, tied the game on Logan Ratledge’s RBI single, then won it on the next at-bat when Virginia catcher Keith Werman was pulled off the plate by an errant throw home. See video highlights.

“Unbelievable game,” said NC State head coach Elliott Avent. “I’m so proud of the way these guys battled. The [800th] win is special, I didn’t know until after the game, but it makes me think of all the people that have come through this program, and all the former players that still keep in touch. It puts a smile on my face to think about that.”

Ratledge hit his first collegiate homer earlier in the ballgame to kickstart the Pack’s first comeback, and finished 2-for-3 with two RBIs and a run. Jake Fincher went 3-for-4 with a run and two stolen bases to improve to 12 for the season. Danny Canela came through with an RBI on a sac fly to give NC State the lead in the seventh, part of his 1-for-2, one RBI, one run, two walk effort. Chris Diaz went 2-for-5 with a run. Tarran Senay hit the Wolfpack’s lone double in a 2-for-4 day. Trea Turner, Brett Austin, and Andrew Ciencin each had an RBI.

Reliever Danny Healey (3-0) represented the last man standing out of the Wolfpack bullpen on a day that saw State use a season-high seven pitchers. Healey went 2/3 of an inning, holding Virginia hitless. Starter Logan Jernigan left after four innings, allowing three runs, all earned, on four hits, with one walk and three strikeouts. Vance Williams went 2 2/3 shutout innings as the third pitcher of the game, allowing one hit and striking out one.

Justin Thompson (2-1) took the loss for Virginia (18-10-1, 6-6 ACC) after pitching the final inning, surrendering two runs, one earned, on four hits and two walks. Starter Artie Lewicki lasted 5 1/3 innings, holding State to two runs, both earned, on five hits and one walk, while striking out four.

Virginia broke through for a 1-0 lead in the top of the fourth, scoring on a fielding error. Branden Cogswell led off the inning with a single to left. After a failed bunt attempt for the first out, Jared King singled through the right side on a perfectly executed hit and run to put runners on the corners. A one-out grounder to second fell out of Matt Bergquist’s glove as he tried to make the toss to second, plating Cogswell. Jernigan induced another double play ball from the next batter to end the inning.

The Cavs added a pair in the fifth. Nate Irving started the inning with a flare to right, then advanced to second on a wild pitch. Jernigan walked the next batter and left the game. Travis Orwig came in, walking one to load the bases for Williams. A sac fly scored one, and a squeeze play added the second to make it 3-0.

Ratledge led off the bottom of the fifth with his first collegiate homerun to cut the lead to 3-1. Fincher followed one out later with a single to right, went to second on a sac bunt, and stole third, but ended up stranded there.

State continued its comeback bid in the sixth, trimming the lead to 3-2. Canela scored the run after driving a one-out single to center. Senay pushed him to third with a double between the fielders in deep left center. Ciencin drove in the run on a foul ball to right, which Colin Harrington tracked down on a tremendous effort, flipping over the bullpen wall.

The Wolfpack leapt in front, 4-3, in the seventh. Fincher led off with a single, then stole second. Turner grounded out to move him to third. Austin fell behind 1-2, but fouled off five-straight before grooving a groundball under the diving third baseman’s glove for the game-tying RBI single. A hit and run helped Diaz single through the right side to put runners at the corners with one out. Kyle Crockett came in for Shane Halley, and gave up a sac fly to Canela to score the go-ahead run.

Virginia loaded the bases with one out in the eighth, but Chris Overman helped the Pack escape with the lead intact. A lead-off single, followed by a wicked hop on a grounder to third for an error put runners on first and second. D.J. Thomas relieved Ryan Wilkins there, striking out his first batter before giving up a single to load the bases. Overman came in after the single, and struck out his first batter, then popped up the next to end the threat.

The Pack stretched the lead to 5-3 in the eight. Ciencin led off the inning with a single to left. Ratledge bunted him over, and Bergquist made it runners at the corners with an infield single to first. A popped up bunt attempt gave Virginia the second out, but Turner chopped a ball over the third baseman’s head to score Ciencin.

The Cavaliers scored three runs in the ninth to retake the lead. Overman walked the first two batters of the inning, and a sac bunt moved them both into scoring position. Stephen Bruno came up with the game’s biggest hit to that point, a triple off the wall in right center to tie it up, 5-5, with one away. Healey entered the game, walking one and giving up a sac fly to score Bruno from third for the go-ahead run.

State had a few more bullets left in the chamber, though, scoring a pair in the bottom of the ninth for the win. Diaz rocketed a single up the middle, narrowly missing the grasp of Virginia’s shortstop. Canela walked behind him, and Bryan Adametz entered to pinch run. John Gianis bunted the pair into scoring position. Virginia intentionally walked Ciencin to load the bases with one out. Ratledge looped a single to right for the game-tying RBI. Bergquist finished the deal with a chopper to third, with Adametz scoring as the errant throw home pulled Virginia’s catcher off the plate.

– News release