The NC State freshman set the school record for home runs in a season and national record for homers by a freshman with 26 after smacking three over the wall in the Wolfpack’s, 9-6, win over Miami on Wednesday night at Truist Field.
With the victory, NCSU (35-20) has advanced to the 2022 ACC Championship semifinals. It marks the third consecutive time that the Pack has won its pod in the conference tournament (There was no tournament held in 2020). The Hurricanes (39-17) have been eliminated from title contention with one game remaining.
“I am just really proud of this team,” NC State head coach Elliott Avent said. “Down 4-nothing last night to Wake Forest…and then we hadn’t seen Miami all year. That’s a really, really, really good ballclub.”
NC State started the slugfest in the bottom of the first when Tommy White smacked his 24th home run of the campaign over the wall in right field alley.
Miami answered in the top of the third inning. NC State starter Logan Whitaker walked the first two batters of the frame and C.J. Kayfus singled to center to tie the game. Two batters later, Yohandy Morales blasted a three-run homer to left and the Hurricanes led, 4-1.
Wolfpack starter Logan Whitaker was pulled after 2.1 innings and NC State handed the ball to Matt Willadsen (5-4). The righty would ultimately pitch six innings and allow two runs on four hits while fanning eight and walking two to pick up the victory. Chris Villaman came on in the ninth and got the final two outs for his 11th save of the season.
“I knew going into this game that I might be coming in at some point,” Willadsen said. “No matter what the score is, if we are up or we are down, I go out there and give it the best shot for us to win.”
Miami starter Carson Palmquist went 3.2 innings on the night and allowed six runs (five earned) on six hits. Palmquist walked four and struck out three to drop to 9-4 after being saddled with the loss.
White tied the school record for home runs in a season in the bottom of the third when he smacked a two-run shot over the wall in right field. LuJames Groover III scored on the play and the Wolfpack trailed a run.
NCSU took the lead once again in the bottom of the fourth inning when Groover doubled home a pair of runs. Josh Hood later singled and Groover then scored on a throwing error to push the Wolfpack’s advantage to 6-4.
In the fifth inning the two teams exchanged solo homers as Maxwell Romero Jr. and Noah Soles took pitches out of the park.
Soles also made several nice plays out in right field to help NC State.
“In my head, I am screaming,” Willadsen said. “[Soles] did a heck of a job out there in right field and it was very helpful.”
In the following inning, the Pack expanded its advantage to four when White smacked his third home run of the evening. The Canes had several chances to rally but NCSU withstood them all to advance to the semifinals.
“Getting down 4-to-1 tonight, I’m just so proud of our guys coming back,” Avent said. “It is just the belief they have in themselves and the belief they have in each other.”
NC State will face Pittsburgh on Saturday at 5 p.m. looking to advance to the ACC Championship Final for the second straight season. In the run to the 2021 final, the Wolfpack squeaked out a 3-2, win over the Panthers to claim its pod and advance to the semis.
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