Joe Dunand, some horrid base running from Clemson, and a generous third strike call on Seth Beer to end the game likely punched NC State’s ticket to the NCAA tournament Thursday night. The Pack won their seventh straight ACC game and 12th in their last 13 overall with the 3-2 win over the Tigers, who dropped their eighth straight in league play after looking like a shoe-in for a national seed a couple of weeks ago.
Dunand’s hustle led to the go-ahead run in the eighth, when he ran hard out of the box on a looper to center and took second when Clemson’s Chase Pinder briefly bobbled the ball. The extra base helped Dunand get to third with two outs, and he scored when Will Wilson struck out on a wild pitch uncorked by Owen Griffith.
Austin Staley walked the leadoff man in the ninth, but Dunand made a pair of defensive gems in the inning to avert disaster. Logan Davidson tried to bunt the runner up a base but left it right in front of home plate, and Andy Cosgrove correctly tried to nail the lead runner, but his throw was a good 10 feet off the bag on the first base side. Dunand dove to handle the errant throw and swiped behind his body, all in one fluid motion, to put the tag on the Tiger runner for the first out of the ninth.
The next batter, Reed Rohlman, laced a single to right that should have sent Davidson to third, but the Clemson freshman inexplicably pumped the brakes halfway between the bags, and Dunand alertly cut the throw to third and made a lightning quick toss to Wilson, who ran down Davidson for the second out.
Beer narrowly missed a home run down the leftfield line before Sean Adler, who had come in to face Rohlman, fanned him on a 3-2 slider that was a good foot off the plate.
State got a shutout performance from the bullpen, with Cody Beckman striking out three in 3.1 scoreless innings in relief of Johnny Piedmonte, who gave up both Clemson runs while laboring through four frames. Staley got three outs and the win. Adler got the final two batters (with a little help from bad base running and a generous zone).
Clemson’s Charlie Barnes probably deserved a better fate. He tied his career high with 11 strikeouts in seven innings, compared to just one walk, and surrendered just two earned runs.
Andy Cosgrove, who had a pair of hits and drove in two, gave State the lead in the early going before Beer tied it with a homer. Dunand and Wilson also had two hits in the game.
With wins over Louisville, UNC, Wake Forest and now Clemson, not to mention a series win over FSU and a torrid hot streak down the stretch, the Pack are almost certainly an NCAA tournament team at this point, but winning the series would sure help erase what little doubt remains. The Pack will try to do just that Friday night at 6:30, and they still have the potent bullpen bullet of Joe O’Donnell in their chamber, as they managed to get through game one without using their closer.