Behind three hits from Jake Fincher and a shutdown relief outing from Brad Stone, N.C. State topped Duke 5-2 Thursday at the Durham Bulls Athletic Park to stay in the hunt for the ACC Atlantic Division title.
In Tallahassee, Clemson flattened Florida State 8-2 to forge a first place tie. The Tigers and Seminoles stand at 18-10; the Pack are half a game back at 17-10. If the Pack can sweep the Blue Devils and the remaining two games of the Clemson-FSU series are split, N.C. State would win the division.
Fincher helped get the Pack on the board first with a one-out, rally-starting single in the opening frame. After advancing on a wild pitch, Fincher came home on a two-out RBI single off the bat of Tarran Senay. After Grant Clyde added the Pack's third hit of the inning, Brett Williams tripled to triple the early advantage. Both Clyde and Williams had a pair of hits in the Pack's 12-hit attack.
The Pack loaded the bases with no outs in the fourth but managed just one run on a Trea Turner sacrifice fly. Carlos Rodon, appearing as a pinch hitter, drove in a run with a ground out in the seventh but the Pack left the bases juiced again. They left 12 on for the game.
All three of the Pack's sometimes weekend starters not named Rodon took the hill, with Ethan Ogburn going a shaky two and a third innings out of the gate. Ogburn escaped with only one run allowed despite giving up four hits and walking a pair in his short stint on the rubber. After back-to-back one-out singles in the third, Ryan Wilkins and the Pack defense bailed out Ogburn. Wilkins fanned Chris Marconcini on a 3-2 pitch and Brett Austin nailed Jeff Kremer trying to swipe third to end the inning.
Wilkins, who was credited with his sixth win of the season since Ogburn failed to make it through five innings, struck out five and allowed just one run over three and two thirds innings, but it was Stone who stood out. The freshman lefty allowed just two base runners, shutting down the Blue Devils over the final three innings to earn his first career save.
The loss eliminated Duke from the ACC tournament; the win was N.C. State's 40th of the season and marks the first time the club has reached 40 wins in the regular season with Elliot Avent at the helm.
The press release for the series tabbed "TBA" as the game-three starter for the Pack. Since Ogburn, Wilkins, and Stone all worked game one, Logan Jernigan, Josh Easley, or Anthony Tzamtzis are possible candidates to toe the rubber in the series finale. Regardless of who gets the nod, expect to see a lot of the Pack's deep bullpen.
The matchup for game two is set and will feature each program's ace, Rodon (7-2, 3.84 ERA) for the Pack and Trent Swart (4-4, 2.43) for the Blue Devils. Game two is set for 6 p.m. Friday and Saturday's finale will be a noon first pitch.