Hokies eliminated in ACC baseball

ACC logoCHARLOTTE, N.C. (theACC.com) – No. 12 nationally ranked NC State scored six runs in both the third and eighth innings to pull away for a 19-9 win in eight innings over the No. 10-seeded Virginia Tech Hokies in the nightcap of day two of the 2024 Atlantic Coast Conference Baseball Championship at Truist Field in Charlotte, North Carolina.

The 19 runs are the most runs scored by an NC State team in the ACC Championship.

With the loss, Virginia Tech’s season ends with a 32-22 record.

The No. 3-seeded Wolfpack had six players with multiple hits throughout the game, while each of the top three hitters in the lineup in Eli Serrano III, Garrett Pennington, and Alec Makarewicz scored four times in the win. Serrano III, Brandon Butterworth and Alex Sosa all homered in the contest, while Pennington finished with three doubles.

The Hokies were led by three hits apiece from the middle of the order in Gehrig Ebel and Ben Watson, as Ebel was 3-for-4 with a home run, two doubles, a walk, three RBI and three runs scored, while Watson also had two doubles and three RBI. Catcher David McCann was 2-for-3 with a double, two RBI and a run scored.

Wolfpack pitcher P.J. Labriola (1-0) picked up his first win of the season, giving up four runs on six hits and six strikeouts over 2.2 innings of work out of the bullpen.

NC State broke the game open in the top of the third, pushing across six runs on five hits and a walk to take the early lead. After a lead-off walk and a fielder’s choice, the Wolfpack ran off five straight base hits with an RBI double from Pennington, back-to-back run-scoring singles from Makarewicz, and capped by a three-run home run from Sosa to put the visitors on top 6-0.

The Wolfpack continued swinging the hot bats in the next inning, as Pennington and Makarewicz posted back-to-back RBI doubles, with the latter driving in two runs to extend the lead to 8-0. Three batters later, Sosa added another run with an RBI single to center field to increase the lead to 9-0 midway through the fourth inning.

Virginia Tech spoiled the shutout bid for the Wolfpack with a solo home run to left field off the bat of Ebel to put the Hokies on the scoreboard at 9-1.

NC State loaded the bases in the sixth inning before tacking on two more insurance runs in an RBI single to third base by Butterworth and another RBI from Sosa on a ground ball out to put the run-rule into play at 12-1.

However, Virginia Tech would have none of it, as the Hokies’ bats came alive in the bottom half of the inning, plating six runs of their own on five hits and two walks. A bases-loaded walk to Eddie Eisert pushed the first run in the inning across, before a pitching change and a two-run double by McCann got the rally going to cut the score to 12-4.

NC State’s reliever struck out each of the next two VT hitters and looked to get out of the jam, only to have the Hokies answer with a two-run double down the left-field line by Ebel, followed by an RBI single to center field from Watson put the home team within five at 12-7 heading into the seventh inning.

The Wolfpack answered with a solo home run in the seventh from Serrano III and then posted another six spot in the bottom of the eighth inning on another solo home run by Butterworth, a pair of RBI singles from Serrano III and Makarewicz, a run-scoring double by Jacob Cozart and two runs on a pair of wild pitches to all but put the game away at 19-7.

Trying to stay alive, the Hokies pushed across two runs on a Watson two-run double, but it wouldn’t be enough to extend the game to the ninth inning.