RALEIGH — Duke played its ace Friday night. But N.C. State trumped it.
Wolfpack sophomore right-hander Anthony Tzamtzis pitched 7 2/3 shutout innings, outdueling Duke junior Marcus Stroman, the nations strikeout leader and a projected first-round pick in the June Major League Baseball entry draft, to lead N.C. State to a 4-0 victory in the opener of an ACC series at Doak Field.
We decided last weekend to put (Tzamtzis) back in the starting rotation, and he responded, N.C. State coach Elliott Avent said. He was pitching against one of the top pitchers in the country and he knows going into the game that he might not get much (offensive support) against Stroman because nobody has all year.
Fortunately, our guys came out ready to play and focused and were able to put some good at-bats together and gets some runs early. But he pitched the whole ballgame like it was a 0-0 game. He was just tremendous.
State improved to 28-12, 14-8 in the ACC. Duke dropped to 16-27, 7-15.
Tzamtzis (5-3), who has been used as a reliever most of the year, made his fifth start of the year. And he was sharp from the get-go. He allowed only three base runners in the first four innings and finished with a career-high nine strikeouts, giving up two hits and walking five.
Stroman is a great pitcher and all, but I was just worried about going out there and taking it one hitter at a time like I have done all year, said Tzamtzis, who had reconstructive elbow surgery in February of 2011. A lot of the credit goes to our defense, and our hitters came out ready to play. Four runs versus a pitcher like that is huge in a big game like this.
I felt great. I was just trying to make good pitches and let the defense make plays behind me.
Stroman (4-4), a right-hander who has a fastball in the mid-90s and a nasty slider, struck out 10 batters in a complete-game effort to push his season total to 112 strikeouts in 81 innings. He was getting his fastball up early in the game, and the Wolfpack took advantage scoring a run in the first and the second inning to go up 3-0.
I was up in the zone early, Stroman said. I was having trouble commanding my fastball early. If you cant command your fastball against a good hitting team like N.C. State, you are not going to be effective. I feel later on in the game, I was able to settle down and started locating.
After the first two innings, Stroman struck out seven batters over the next four. State scored again in the seventh when freshman Jake Fincher led off with his second triple of the game and scored on a single by Chris Diaz to make it 4-0.
Fincher, who was hitting .190 on March 18, raised his batting to .300 with a 2-for-3 night.
I was sitting fastball, Fincher said. "With such a good pitcher like him, that is pretty much all you can do. His off-speed is pretty much unhittable.
Fincher was pressed into duty in center field when senior Brett Williams suffered a season-ending knee injury. He played well defensively from the start, but has come around at the play in the past six weeks.
At beginning of the season, it was pretty tough, Fincher said. I realized that I was trying to do too much and I worked real hard. Now, Im just trying to see the pitch and hit it.
In the first inning, the Packs Trea Turner led off with a single to left field and immediately displayed the impact that his speed is having on opposing teams.
Turner, who leads the nation in steals and was 41-for-43 in stolen bases, drew a throw from Stroman. Then catcher Mike Rosenfeld tried to pick him off with a snap throw to first. Stroman threw over again, and it was wild, allowing Turner to advance all the way to third base.
Turner scored on a one-out, infield single by Canela.
The Pack tacked on a pair of runs in the second, getting three hits off of Stroman. Brett Austin led off with a double over the right fielders head. After a strikeout, Fincher smacked a triple off the wall in left-center to score Austin. Turner then lifted a sacrifice fly to right field that brought Fincher home and made it 3-0.