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Wolfpack secure 5-3 series opening victory over Duke

A four-run 7th inning propels Pack to victory

COLLEGE BASEBALL: APR 26 East Carolina at N.C. State Photo by Nicholas Faulkner/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

In a game that a lot of people likely missed with it being moved up to a noon start time, NC State topped Duke 5-3 to score a series opening win in Durham. The victory moves State up to a 31-16 overall record and 13-11 in the ACC, temporarily tying the Wolfpack with Florida State for 3rd in the Atlantic Division (FSU plays Miami tonight at 7:00pm). Duke falls to 20-28 and 9-16.

This game was a pitchers’ duel for the majority of it with State’s Logan Whitaker and Duke’s Marcus Johnson each pitching phenomenally well over the first six innings.

The Wolfpack struck first, only needing three pitches to push a run across. Devonte Brown doubled on the first pitch of the game and Gino Groover drove him in two pitches later with a single to centerfield. Unfortunately, State’s offense would fall silent as Johnson held the Pack to just four hits and no runs over the next five frames.

Meanwhile, Duke notched a four-hit 3rd inning that allowed them to take a 2-1 lead. Three of the four hits in the inning were soft hit and/or well-placed balls, which is just incredibly frustrating. Whitaker would keep the Blue Devils off-balance over the next three innings, although he would surrender another run in the 6th, allowing Duke to push their lead to a multiple run advantage. That 3rd run came courtesy of a Trevor Johnson leadoff infield single, a balk, sacrifice bunt, and a two-out single by Alex Mooney.

State’s bats finally came alive again in the 7th inning, posting a four-run frame which was all the team needed. J.T. Jarrett led off the inning with a two-strike single up the middle and was followed by a Dominic Pilolli double to the wall in right field. Payton Green walked to load the bases and end Johnson’s day on the mound.

Jacob Cozart greeted new Duke pitcher Jimmy Loper with an opposite field one-hop double to the wall in left field, tying the game. Brown followed with an RBI single to give State the lead back at 4-3. Another run crossed on a Groover GIDP.

Chris Villaman came on in relief in the bottom of the 7th and he was definitely Good Villaman today, allowing just one Blue Devils batter to reach base over his three inning save.

Whitaker (6.0 IP, 9 H, 3 R, 3 ER, 1 BB, 1 HBP, 8 K) earned the win on the mound and improved to 2-2 on the season. Villaman (3.0 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 5 K) picked up his 9th save of the year and his 6th in ACC play, tying him for the league lead.

Seven State batters notched hits on the day with Brown (3-for-5, 2B, R, RBI) and Cozart (3-for-4, 2B, R, 2 RBI) pacing the offense. Green (1-for-3, R, BB, SB) was the only other Pack player to reach base safely multiple times.

Also of impressive and significant note is that the Wolfpack defense played an error-free game today.

The series resumes (weather permitting) tomorrow at 1:00pm with the series finale scheduled for Sunday at 1:00pm. Both games are set to be broadcast on Bally Sports South, although they should also be carried online via the ACC Network Extra (WatchESPN app).