Up by one and three outs away from an appearance in the ACC championship game, Virginia Tech turned to its second-team all-ACC reliever to finish off NC State. However, for the second straight day senior Ben Rowen was unable to close the door and this time it lead to the end of the Hokies' ACC tournament run.
Rowen came in to pitch in the top of the ninth with Virginia Tech ahead 9-8. However, things quickly turned south as the first two batters reached on a single and an error to put runners at second and third with no out. With the bases loaded after a strikeout and an intentional walk, Rowen hit pinch hitter Danny Canela to tie the game at nine.
He would get out of the inning without any damage, but gave up another run in the 10th and the Hokies could not answer in the bottom of the inning and lost to NC State, 10-9 in Greensboro, N.C.
It was a disappointing finish to a wild game saw Virginia Tech's ace struggle, the Hokies post seven runs with two out in an inning and a controversial play at the plate to preserve a one-run Hokie lead.
After a solid first inning of work, Virginia Tech starter Jesse Hahn lost velocity and command of his fastball and the Wolfpack took advantage by scoring seven runs, four earned, off seven hits against Hahn in his 4.0 IP. Hahn walked one and struck out six, four of which came in the first two innings.
The big inning for the Pack was the third, when they scored four runs thanks to two Virginia Tech errors. They added two more off Hahn in the fourth to take a 7-1 lead. That's when the Hokie bats came to life.
With runners and first and second and two out, Andrew Rash continued his hot streak with a three-run homer. Sean Ryan tripled after a Tony Balisteri walk and then scored on a single by Michael Seaborn. The scoring was capped by a monster two-run home run by Steve Domecus to give the Hokies an 8-7 lead.
It continued a trend of clutch hitting for the Hokies, who had 10 two-out RBIs during the tournament.
Both bullpens then went to work as Jake Buchanan came in for the Wolfpack and got them out of the inning. Marc Zecchino relieved Hahn to start the fifth. Both pitched well, though Zecchino gave up a home run to Marcus Riggins in the fifth to tie the game at eight. It was part of a big day at the plate for Riggins, who went 4-for-5 with two runs scored, a double, a home run and an RBI.
It would be the Pack's only run off Zecchino, who went 3.0 IP, gave up three hits, walked none and struck out two. As good as Zecchino and Tech's middle relievers were, Buchanan was better for the pack. He went 6.0 IP for NC State and gave up an unearned run on six hits with two walks and five strikeouts.
The run came in the seventh when Ronnie Shaban scored on a single by Rash to give the Hokies a 9-8 lead. That lead was preserved in the eighth when Austin Wates threw out Kyle Wilson at the plate to end the inning. NC State head coach Elliott Avent was ejected for arguing that Domecus failed to tag Wilson on the play.
Tech left two men on in the bottom of the eighth and took their one-run lead into the ninth when they called on Rowen.
With the loss, NC State advances to Sunday's ACC title game against FSU. The Seminoles will be well-rested after playing their last game at noon on Friday. Saturday night's game between the Hokies and Wolfpack ended well after 1 a.m. and the Pack had to play two games Saturday thanks to a rain delay in their game against Georgia Tech Friday night.
The Hokies have nothing to be ashamed of in their first trip to the ACC tournament since 2005. They knocked off two ranked opponents, Georgia Tech and Clemson, and were two outs away from sweeping through pool play. What has been a great season for the Hokies will continue in the NCAA tournament next week. They'll find out where they're heading for the regional at 12:30 p.m. Monday during the NCAA selection show.