NC State’s Elliott Avent and Will Wilson talk about the positives after the loss to FSU
Nobody got hurt.
That was the primary goal for N.C. State on Friday night in the ACC baseball tournament.
The Wolfpack (42-16) wrapped up a spot in the semifinals on Thursday night with a dramatic 6-5 win over Wake Forest.
So, due to the tiebreaker rules, the Wolfpack as the No. 3 seed didn’t have to win on Friday against the Seminoles (36-21). It will face No. 2 seed Georgia Tech, 5-4 winners over Duke on Friday, in the semifinals at the DBAP on Saturday at 5 p.m.
The main objective on Friday was to avoid injury. On that front, N.C. State was fine — although centerfielder Tyler McDonough had brief scare in the fifth inning when he ran into the wall trying to make a catch.
On the actual competitive front, the Wolfpack lost 11-0 under the “mercy rule” in seven innings and only managed one hit. The Seminoles got three RBIs each from Drew Mendoza and J.C. Flowers (who homered and also pitched the seventh inning) in what was the final ACC tournament game for longtime coach Mike Martin, who is set to retire after the season.
The 10-run rule turned out to be a positive, N.C. State coach Elliott Avent joked.
“We saved two innings of pitching,” Avent said.
It was a low-key operation for the Wolfpack, with its spot in the semifinals already assured. Avent gave Patrick Bailey a break behind the plate. The sophomore All-ACC catcher was the designated hitter instead. With Saturday’s expected heat, that was a wise move.
Avent also used four pitchers, which keeps his bullpen relatively fresh for the Yellow Jackets (40-16).
N.C. State was still on an emotional high after scoring four runs in the ninth inning of Thursday’s comeback win over the Demon Deacons.
David Harrison, a pitcher used as a pinch-runner, scored the winning run on a Terrell Tatum infield single after he was initially ruled out at home. The call was overturned on replay and the Wolfpack was able to leave the DBAP in the early hours of Friday with a chance at its first ACC title since 1992.
With Louisville, the top seed, eliminated before N.C. State ever took the field and FSU out of title contention, there is a direct path to Avent’s first title.
Georgia Tech, which won the Coastal Division during the regular season, stands in the way. The two teams did not meet during the season. The Jackets beat Notre Dame 12-6 on Wednesday to go 2-0 in Pool B.
Wake Forest’s 7-4 win over FSU on Tuesday meant the Seminoles, the 2017 and ‘18 league champions, had been eliminated. With all three teams going 1-1 in Pool C, the tiebreaker goes to the top seed in the group.
Martin, in his 40th season, has led the Seminoles to eight ACC titles, including three of the past four years. Friday was his 81st and final ACC tournament win.
“He’s just an icon,” Avent said of Martin. “He’s a class act. He’s loved by so many and I’m just proud I can call him a friend.”
The Noles’ double-digit blitz of N.C. State was inconsequential but still their fourth straight win over the Wolfpack in the ACC tournament, going back to the 2015 championship game.
They got two runs each in the first, third and fourth innings and four in the fifth. C.J. Van Eyk (9-3, 3.74 ERA), their top starter, went six innings and struck out 11.
“It’s just a game you have to wash off and get ready for the semifinals,” N.C. State shortstop Will Wilson said.