The Tar Heels capitalize on a 10-run first inning to send the Wolfpack home.
LOUISVILLE, KY — Seventh-seeded NC State (34-23) couldn’t escape a sloppy first inning as No. 2-seed UNC (46-11) dominated the Wolfpack Friday evening at the 2017 ACC Championship Tournament at Louisville Slugger Field, 12-4.
“It’s not every day you can start off against your arch rival in a game in the semifinals of the ACC Championship down 10-0,” head coach Elliott Avent said. “That’s tough for anybody to take. How our guys played from then on is something I’ll always remember because I thought we played extremely well.”
The Wolfpack put junior left-handed pitcher Brian Brown (4-2, 3.38 ERA) on the mound against Tar Heel right-hander J.B. Bukauskas (9-0, 2.02 ERA). Brown made it through 2/3 inning as the UNC offense pounded the Glenmoore, Pa. native for eight runs, only two of which were earned, on seven hits. Meanwhile, Bukauskas picked up the win after seven innings of work, surrendering only three runs on four hits while striking out five.
After freshman righty Michael Bienlien relieved Brown, redshirt sophomore right-hander Austin Staley took over after Bienlien gave up two unearned runs without recording an out. Staley held the Heels to two runs, one earned, in three innings while striking out two batters.
Senior southpaw Sean Adler picked up where Staley left off and retired all 10 batters he faced. The Northridge, Calif. product struck five Tar Heel batters in his 3-1/3 innings before redshirt junior righty Joe O’Donnell pitched a flawless eighth that included two strikeouts.
The Heels pounced on the scoreboard as soon as possible with a leadoff home run by center fielder Brian Miller. The first inning continued with UNC loading the bases two separate times, 10 runs crossing the plate, two State errors, and three different pitchers for the Wolfpack.
NC State refused to back down as the Pack chipped away at the deficit in the third. Junior catcher Andy Cosgrove and junior right fielder Brock Deatherage hit back-to-back doubles to start the frame with Deatherage’s two-bagger scoring Cosgrove. After advancing to third on a fly out, Deatherage scored on a sacrifice fly by junior center fielder Josh McLain.
“We just tried to continue to stick with our approach and see some pitches and get your timing down,” Deatherage said. “We both saw a good pitch to hit, and we both drove it in. “We’re playing our best ball right now, and something like that is what shows for it.”
UNC plated single runs in the third and fourth before McLain led off the fifth with a solo home run, his fifth of the season. The Pack tacked on one more run in the eighth with a sacrifice fly by sophomore left fielder Brett Kinneman, plating junior shortstop Joe Dunand who led off the inning with a triple.
The Wolfpack ends ACC Tournament pool play with a 1-1 record and will await its fate in the NCAA Tournament. The selection committee will announce the bracket Monday starting at noon on ESPN2.
“We’re in a great spot right now,” Adler said on NC State’s tournament hopes. “We’re getting ready for the postseason, and I’m looking forward to what we have to do.”