Written By Atlantic Coast Conference
DURHAM, N.C. - North Carolina's batters struck out 21 times and managed
just six hits in 18 innings, yet the top seeded Tar Heels outlasted NC
State, 2-1, Saturday in a historic ACC Baseball Tournament game at the
Durham Bulls Athletic Park to earn a place in Sunday's championship
It was the longest game in ACC Championship history and it was
played before the largest crowd in the history of the tournament - in
fact, the 11,392 fans packed the Durham ballpark were the largest crowd
to see a college baseball game in the state of North Carolina.
They got to see an incredible pitching duel that lasted long into
the night ... and into Sunday morning. Ten pitchers combined for 43
strikeouts. The game ended at 1:51 a.m. - barely 11 hours before North
Carolina (51-8) has to meet Virginia Tech at 1 p.m. Sunday in the title
game. NC State (44-14) will wait for an NCAA bid Monday.
It looked like it would last forever, but in the 18th inning, NC
State relief ace Chris Overman (L, 1-1) - who had not given up an earned
run all year - walked UNC designated hitter Landon Lassiter to open the
inning. He hit third baseman Colin Moran to put two runners on base.
After right fielder Skye Bolt bunted into a force play - NC State
throwing out Moran at second as Lassiter moved to third - first baseman
Cody Stubbs blooped an RBI single into center - driving Lassiter home
with the winning run.
But the drama wasn't over.
In the bottom of the 18th, NC State center fielder Brett Williams
led off with a double against UNC right-hander Chris Munnelly (W, 6-0),
originally scheduled to start Sunday. A wild pitch moved the speedy
Wolfpack runner to third with no outs.
But Munnelly forced both Bryan Adametz and Sam Morgan to hit
short pop-ups, then retired second baseman Logan Ratledge on a grounder
to third to preserve the victory.
For the first 10 innings, the dramatic game was dominated by
Carlos Rodon. NC State's 6-5, 239-pound left-hander, went 10 innings,
allowing one hit, while striking out 14 Tar Heels. But UNC starter Hobbs
Johnson and reliever Trent Thornton were almost equally effective,
limiting the Pack to one earned run over the same span.
In fact, Thornton gave UNC six and two-third innings of hitless relief, allowing just two walks and striking out six.
Rodon threw nine scoreless innings against the Tar Heels in last
year's ACC Tournament without getting a decision. He's now gone 19
innings against UNC in the tournament, allowing five hits, one unearned
run and recording 26 strikeouts - with two no-decisions. NC State lost
both games in extra innings.
The Wolfpack defense helped the Tar Heels tie the game in the top of the seventh inning, despite Rodon's dominance.
The Pack led 1-0 when the NC State ace struck out Brian Holberton
to open the seventh. He walked UNC second baseman Mike Zolk. Pinch
hitter Parks Jordan bounced a grounder to third, but Wolfpack third
baseman Grant Clyde booted it, putting runners at first and second.
Chaz Frank then bounced a ground ball that was fielded easily by
first baseman Tarran Senay. He looked at second, thinking of starting a
double play, but changed his mind and tossed it to Rodon covering to get
the out at first ... but Rodon missed the throw and the ball rolled
away - allowing Zolk to score and the other two runners to wind up on
second and third.
Rodon prevented any more scoring - striking out Lassiter and
getting Moran on a one-hopper to third - but the damage was done. UNC
scored the tying run without benefit of a hit.
UNC starter Hobbs Johnson matched Rodon early, striking out nine
in the first five innings without giving up a run. NC State kept
hammering at Johnson, loading the bases with just one out in the fifth.
But the Tar Heel lefty fanned Trea Turner, then got a called third
strike on right fielder Jake Fincher on a 3-2 pitch.
The Wolfpack mounted another threat in the sixth, breaking
through when Senay legged out a hustle double with one out. Clyde ripped
a double off the wall in left-center - scoring Senay with the game's
first run - and what proved to be N.C. State's only run.
The Pack had far more chances to get the go-ahead run, but UNC's
relief corps - which shut down Clemson in Friday night's 14-inning
marathon - kept the Pack at bay.
UNC has now played 32 innings of baseball since Virginia Tech clinched its spot in the ACC title game Friday afternoon.