The Tigers were coming off a tough 5-4 loss to Georgia but were playing much better baseball, winning their last 2 ACC series. The road series at NC State would be a big measuring stick to prove just how far the Tigers have come. State was coming off a sweep of FSU and won 2 of 3 against No.11 Louisville before that.
The Tigers got off to a great start on Friday with a 2-out, 3-run HR in the 1st by Billy Amick, who has been the hottest hitter in the country over the past 6 games. Ingle hit a 2-run HR to make it 5-1 in the 3rd, and the Tigers never looked back. Amick hit his 2nd HR of the game and his 4th in 6 games, and the Tigers cruised to a 10-2 win the opener. I thought I might have jinxed Amick with all the hype I gave him prior to the game, but it was just the opposite! He was 4-5 on Friday with 2 HR's and a double! Over the past 6 games, he was 14-25 with 7 doubles and 4 HR's. His average is up to .413 for the season, a guy who wasn't even a starter for the first month of the season!
On Saturday, the Tigers got off to another fast start with 4 runs in the 1st. However, Gordon gave up a leadoff HR in the 4th and then loaded the bases. Clayton came in from the pen and uncharacteristically walked in 2 runs to make it 4-3 before ending the inning. In the 6th, Garris came in from the pen and gave up a 2-out triple with bases loaded to give State its first lead of the series, 6-4. The Tigers quickly responded with a leadoff double by Ingle and a 2-out single by, who else, Billy Amick, to make it 6-5. In the 8th, Grice hit a 2-out grand slam to put the Tigers up 9-6! Ammons gave up a leadoff HR in the 9th but was able to close the books on the Pack for the 9-7 win.
On Sunday, the Tigers took an early lead for the 3rd straight game when Bertram scored on a wild pitch to make it 1-0 in the 2nd. They added 5 more runs in the 3rd to make it 6-0 with singles by Cannarella, Ingle, Amick, Wright and Blackwell plus back-to-back doubles by Taylor and Grice, who would give up a few runs to make it 6-3. Blackwell hit a 2-out single to make it 7-3 in the 5th, but State got the run back in the bottom half. Cannarella hit a leadoff HR to make it 8-4 in the 6th, but Grice gave up a leadoff HR to make it 8-5. Tallent, Hughes and Smith did a great job in relief to keep State off the board and preserve the 8-5 win for the sweep!
The Tigers are starting to put it all together at the right time! After their first ACC series sweep, they've won 9 of their last 11 games and have won 3 straight ACC series, including 2 on the road. The pitching staff is looking much better with Grice becoming a solid Sunday starter, Clayton emerging as a reliable middle-reliever along with improved relief work from Olenchuk. They also have Ammons and Tallent back from injury in the bullpen. The Tigers host Kennesaw State on Tuesday and then face another tough road series at No.11 Boston College next weekend.
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