Duke had its chance in the fourth, loading the bases with nobody out, but NC State ace Brian Brown struck out Zack Kone and then induced an inning-ending double play off the bat of Chris Proctor to thwart the threat. The Pack, leading 1-0 at the time on an Evan Mendoza homer, seized the momentum from there with some help from numerous Duke defensive miscues and eventually ran away with a 12-2 triumph.
The Pack assured themselves of a series win, their fourth straight against ACC opponents. They will go for their second sweep of a league opponent tomorrow afternoon at 1 p.m.
Mendoza's homer continued a huge week that saw him hit a go-ahead bomb against East Carolina and a walk-off single in the series opener against Duke (24-20, 9-14). The sophomore converted pitcher for NC State (31-11, 12-6) had a hit and walk and scored three times in the series clincher.
A generous Duke defense opened the floodgates for a seven-run fifth that broke the game open. After Brett Kinneman led off with a single, consecutive errors on Elliott Avent bunt attempts (sigh...though I guess this time it worked out) packed the sacks with none out. Stephen Pitarra placed a double down the leftfield line for the first two runs. An infield single from Josh McLain plated another; Brock Deatherage's well-placed drag bunt hit made it 5-0. After McLain and Deatherage executed a double steal to each move up 90 feet, Preston Palmeiro followed with a two-run single. Kinneman's second hit of the inning, a double down the rightfield line, pushed Palmeiro plate-ward to put the Pack up 8-0.
An RBI groundout from Deatherage scored Mendoza with the team's ninth run an inning later. A third Duke error contributed to the pouring on of three more insurance runs in the eighth.
Brown, despite the shaky start to the fourth, surrendered just three hits over seven innings. He walked just one, fanned eight, and dropped his ERA to 2.29 in moving to 6-1 on the season. Brown has allowed two or fewer runs in nine of his 11 starts.
Though he's been charged with four unearned runs on the season, Chris Williams kept his ERA at zero in his 15th appearance, working a scoreless eighth. Christian Demby worked the ninth and failed to preserve State's first shutout since blanking Fairfield on March 9th. He allowed two runs on two hits and hit a batter. Nonetheless, since allowing 15 runs to ECU on April 19th, the Pack staff has surrendered just seven runs in five games.
Kinneman (2-for-4 to raise his average to .343) and Deatherage (2-for-5 to raise his average to .338) were the only Pack players to record a multi-hit game, but every starter save Chance Shepard had a hit, and little brother Shane Shepard came off the bench with a double.
Ryan Williamson will look for his eighth win, which would be just one shy of BYU national leader Michael Rucker's nine, in the series finale.