Ryan Williamson wanted to get one win for N.C. State before leaving Chapel Hill.
The Wolfpack sophomore pitcher made sure North Carolina didn’t complete the series sweep on Sunday. N.C. State cobbled together a 6-3 win over the Tar Heels with the relief help of Williamson and some timely hitting at the top of the order.
“Everybody contributed in a certain way,” Williamson said. “It was a team win.”
Williamson gave up two hits and one run in four relief innings to pick up his third win for the Wolfpack (20-14, 8-9 ACC).
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N.C. State’s top three hitters — Jake Fincher (2-4, run), Logan Ratledge (2-4, RBI, run) and Preston Palmiero (1-4, two RBI) — did enough damage on offense to end a four-game losing streak to the Tar Heels (22-14, 9-9).
UNC won the first game 2-1 on Friday night and the second game 3-2 in 10 innings on Saturday behind a pair of strong starts. Zac Gallen went the distance on Friday and Saturday starter J.B. Bukauskas lasted 61/3 innings.
But on Sunday, starter Benton Moss, who took a 5-0 record into the game, didn’t make it out of the third inning. Moss walked the bases loaded then was pulled with a 2-0 count on Ratledge.
“Benton, it was good to see him leave early because he’s awfully tough,” N.C. State coach Elliott Avent said.
UNC coach Mike Fox went to junior closer Trent Thornton in the third inning. Thornton struck out 10 in six innings in relief but the Wolfpack was able to touch him up for a pair of runs in the fifth inning to take control of the game.
Fincher singled, followed by a Ratledge double to lead off the fifth. Fincher scored on Palmiero’s RBI single and then Ratledge scored on a fielder’s choice to give the Wolfpack a 4-2 lead.
UNC left fielder Landon Lassiter doubled home Brian Miller in the bottom of the seventh to cut N.C. State’s lead to 4-3.
An RBI double off the left field wall by shortstop Joel McKeithan chased Thornton in the ninth and Fincher followed with a single. McKeithan scored on a foul ball to right field to provide the final margin for N.C State.
UNC, one of five teams with a 9-9 ACC record, led 2-1 after chasing N.C. State starter Johnny Piedmonte.
Third baseman Zack Gahagan and first baseman Joe Dudek both had RBI singles in the third for the Tar Heels.
UNC threatened in the ninth, putting two runners on with two outs. Given the way this series has gone – five of the previous nine games had been decided by one run or in extra innings – there was some tension for the Wolfpack.
“It’s never comfortable,” Ratledge said.
But left-hander Will Gilbert came in and threw two pitches. Tyler Ramirez popped the second one out to left field to end the game.
Avent breathed a sigh of relief and exhaustion. The Wolfpack has played four straight games on the road and had a fifth, at UNC-Wilmington on Wednesday, rained out after the team made the trip.
N.C. State will play Charlotte at home on Wednesday before heading back on the road for a weekend series with Notre Dame.
Avent was glad to at least get Sunday’s win against the Tar Heels to show for its weary efforts. He said he thought his team was tired.
With the heart of the ACC schedule coming up, the Wolfpack can’t afford to stop for a rest or fret over some recent close losses.
“We just keep saying, ‘Tomorrow is a new day,’” Williamson said.
That was the case on Sunday for the Wolfpack a new day with a different result.