Elliott Avent says he doesn't believe in momentum, that in baseball the flighty shift of positive energy from one team to the next doesn't matter much. He might be right. He'll have to hope he is.
His N.C. State team was handled easily Sunday night against TCU, losing 8-2 Sunday night in the NCAA Fort Worth Regional at the Horned Frogs' Lupton Stadium.
The Wolfpack, who beat TCU 5-4 late Saturday night, will meet the Frogs again at 8 p.m. Monday for a berth in next week's Super Regionals.
N.C. State (36-22) could've clinched outright on Sunday if not for TCU (46-12) starter Tyler Alexander, a lanky left-hander who took a perfect game through the first six innings.
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As Avent and N.C. State expected, the sophomore loaded the strike zone. The problem for the Wolfpack was its inability to find a gap in the Frogs' defense.
Twelve of the first 18 outs of the game were flyouts. Alexander's command dictated N.C. State's approach, Avent said.
"When a guy fills the zone up as much as he does with three pitches he can throw for a strike," Avent said, "if you take, you're just going to get in a hole, and he's going to throw what he wants to throw."
Alexander stumbled slightly in the seventh, when Logan Ratledge reached base on a throwing error to start the inning. Andrew Knizner followed with a single for N.C. State's first hit, and Preston Palmeiro scored Ratledge on a flyout. Ratledge later hit a solo home run in the ninth.
"We gave it an effort," Avent said. "Gave it an effort and tried to battle back, but he was just too good tonight."
By the time N.C. State did score, the Frogs had already posted six runs. The first two came in the second inning and were sparked by flare singles -- Nolan Brown's over third base, just inside the foul line, and then Derek Odell's soft liner into right-center field.
After that, TCU added three more runs in the third against starter Ryan Williamson, who lasted 2 2/3 innings.
"Ryan Williamson had a great slider," Avent said, "but he just wasn't locating his fastball."
One positive for N.C state was what happened after Williamson was pulled. Despite giving up three runs, Cory Wilder pitched six innings of relief, providing crucial rest for the Wolfpack bullpen.
"I think probably everybody is available [Monday]," Avent said.
The winner Monday will have at least four days of rest before playing the Super Regionals. Ratledge, who started on the Wolfpack's College World Series team two years ago, knows it'll be an all-out effort to get through.
"Our attitude throughout the team is really good still," Ratledge said. "We knew it would be a good place to come in and win games, but we have a lot of confidence, too. One game tomorrow, and it's all knotted up. It's literally one game at a time."