But he appreciates a good thing when he sees it on a baseball diamond.
“It was a beautiful game of baseball,” he said. “We just happened to come up on the short end of it.”
The game between No. 3 seed N.C. State and No. 10 Pitt was a pitchers’ duel from start to finish. N.C. State starter Reid Johnston (7-2) worked eight innings, struck out 10, retired the final 13 batters he faced and allowed only five hits.
He stepped aside in the ninth when closer Evan Justice recorded his eighth save after starting the inning with a walk to David Yanni.
Pitt’s Matt Gilbertson (6-5) pitched all nine innings, threw 131 pitches, struck out a career-high 10 batters. surrendered only four hits and kept earning Bell’s trust with every pitch. He also retired the final 13 batters, striking out the side in the ninth.
“From about the seventh inning, he was on a short leash,” Bell said. “He just kept getting the next guy out and the next guy out and the next guy out.”
Bell said keeping Gilbertson in the game was a matter of “feel, trust and understanding your guy.”
“It’s not like he’s a lot of curveball, slider. If you understand what his repertoire is, it’s a lot of fastball, changeup. He’s not a power guy by any means at all,” he said.
“Honestly, I think the best stuff he threw was in the seventh through the ninth.”
Besides, Gilbertson had an intangible quality working for him, his coach said.
“It’s at the end of the year,” Bell said. “When you have competitors, they want the baseball. They want to win.”
Gilbertson said his pitches aren’t meant to overpower batters.
“So, if I start losing velocity, that’s not the end of the world,” he said. “I’m trying to get groundballs in the bottom of the zone and get weak contact and mess with rhythm and timing.”
Despite the heavy workload, Gilbertson said he was “doing pretty good” after the game.
“The body’s tired, the legs and lower back, but so far no pain from the arm,” he said.
His only problem was N.C. State’s three-run second inning when J.T. Jarrett, the son of acc Coach of the Year Link Jarrett of Notre Dame, drove in two runs with a triple and scored on a wild pitch.
“I overthrew it and it just popped out of the hand,” Gilbertson said of the curveball that got away.
Ron Washington Jr. drove in both Pitt runs with a double in the first inning and a groundball in the third.
N.C. State (29-15) advances to a semifinal Saturday against Georgia Tech. Pitt (23-20) comes home, hoping to get an at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament when the 64-team field is revealed at noon Monday on ESPN2.
Bell believes his team’s resume is good enough.
Pitt was ranked as high as No. 14 in the nation earlier this season before missing seven games due to covid-19 protocols. Before Thursday, the Panthers carried a No. 46 RPI rating and 17 victories — fourth in the nation — against top-50 teams.
“We put together a great resume against teams I know are going to be in the field,” Bell said.
The acc is one of the toughest conferences in the nation, and Pitt swept three-game series against No. 19 Miami and No. 47 Florida State. The Panthers also won two of three from No. 42 Virginia, No. 44 Georgia Tech and No. 37 Indiana State in a non-conference series.
“We’ve done our body of work,” Bell said.
“You don’t know (if you’re in) until the dust settles,” he said. “The one thing I do know and I’ll continue to say it, I think you can take 10, 14 teams in this league and they will make serious runs through (NCAA) regionals.
“If you want to get the best teams in the field of 64, they have to take a hard look at how many teams they’re taking from this league.”