CHARLOTTE— With a chance to win its first ACC championship game since 1992, the No. 16 NC State baseball team fell to Duke in a pitcher's duel 1-0.
The Wolfpack could not quite figure out the Blue Devils pitching staff. Starting right-handed pitcher Cooper Stinson led the way for Duke, throwing six innings of scoreless baseball. As a team, NC State was held to just five hits.
“As much as we would have liked to have gotten this ACC Championship, there is a bigger prize out there,” said NC State head coach Elliott Avent “If we can reflect on this game, learn from not only this game, but this tournament and have a good week of practice, were looking forward to playing next week.”
The championship marked the first time all season that the Wolfpack bats were held scoreless and unfortunately for NC State, it happened during its biggest game of the season so far.
In the third inning, Duke tried to push across a run from first base on a double off the right field wall. To keep the Blue Devils off the board, junior right fielder Devonte Brown (0-3, 2 K) and junior second baseman J.T. Jarrett (1-3) ran a nice relay play to get the runner out at home.
However, in the fourth inning, Duke did get the run it was looking for. With a runner on third base, Peter Matt hit an RBI sacrifice fly to right field to give his team the lead. That one run would end up winning the ACC Championship for the Blue Devils.
With two runners on in the fifth inning, NC State went to its bullpen, bringing in freshman left-handed pitcher Chris Villaman (4.1 IP, BB, 6 K). Villaman was able to register a fly out to right field and get his team out of the jam.
NC State starting freshman right-handed pitcher Matt Willadsen (4.2 IP, 4 H, ER, 6 K) pitched well, but was starting to get hard contact off him towards the end of his start. The combined effort of Willadsen and Villaman was massive in giving NC State a chance to win the game in the late innings.
“I just wanted to throw strikes and get ahead in the count and let my defense work,” Villaman said. “Try to stay efficient.”
In the sixth inning, Duke gifted NC State a runner on third base and just one out with two infield errors. Junior left fielder Jonny Butler (1-4) appeared to then hit a fly ball deep enough to allow junior first baseman Austin Murr (1-4) to score on a sacrifice fly. However, miscommunication from Murr and associate head coach Chris Hart saw Murr leave early forcing him to retag and not advance.
“[Murr] may have misread the fly ball and wanted to get a better jump then he probably needed to get,” Avent said. “He realized he left early, went back to retag and knew he shouldn't chance it.”
The Wolfpack got another runner on base in the eighth inning via a one-out single from Jarrett. After the single, Duke closer Marcus Johnson, entered the game and got both Murr and McDonough to pop out to end the inning.
Butler tried to start a ninth inning rally with a leadoff single, but Johnson retired the next three batters in order to end the ballgame.
The Wolfpack will look to Selection Monday to find out where it will travel for the NCAA Regionals.
“We have a big week next week, so we just tried to keep our heads up and stay the task at hand,” Villaman said.