NC State beats Duke to end Blue Devils' hope of ACC baseball berth

calexander@newsobserver.comMay 16, 2013 

— N.C. State needs a sweep of Duke in their ACC series, and some help from Clemson, to win the Atlantic Division.

The Wolfpack did its part Thursday. So did the Tigers.

N.C. State topped the Blue Devils 5-2 at Durham Bulls Athletic Park, getting timely hits and effective relief pitching. Clemson, meanwhile, was beating Florida State in the opener of their ACC series.

"It's huge," Wolfpack centerfielder Brett Williams said. "Every game in an ACC series is just as important as the next one, whether it be against (North) Carolina or anybody else. And especially these games, because we have a chance to clinch our division."

The fifth-ranked Wolfpack picked up its 40th victory of the season. That's a regular-season first for N.C. State coach Elliott Avent, who is in his 17th year at NCSU.

At 17-10 in the ACC, the Pack is a half-game behind the Seminoles and Tigers, both 18-10. N.C. State must have at least two Clemson wins while sweeping the Devils to claim the divisional title.

"We're paying attention to that, but the most important thing for us is just trying to play the best baseball we can right now," Williams said.

Duke needed three wins over the Pack and three Georgia Tech victories over Miami to qualify for next week's ACC Championships at DBAP. The Blue Devils fell to 26-27 overall and 9-19 in the ACC.

Williams drove in a pair of runs with a first-inning triple, Grant Clyde scored twice and Jake Fincher had three hits for the Pack, which lost two of three to FSU in their series that ended Monday. Starting pitcher Ethan Ogburn struggled again, but relievers Ryan Wilkins and Brad Stone got the job done, combining to allow one run and five hits in 6 2/3 innings, with eight strikeouts.

"We came out ready to play, got great pitching from our bullpen and took the lead early which we haven't done lately," Avent said.

Stone, a freshman lefthander, started and was rocked early by FSU in Monday's loss. But he gave the Pack three innings of one-hit relief Thursday for his first career save.

"You've just got to learn from it and move on," Stone said of the FSU loss televised by ESPNU. "Having the opportunity to come out and pitch again tonight was a great way to move on."

The Pack bolted to a 3-0 lead in the first on Tarran Senay's RBI-single and Williams' two-run triple to right. N.C. State added single runs in the fourth, on Trea Turner's sacrifice fly, and in the seventh when Clyde scored on a groundout by pinch-hitter Carlos Rodon.

The Pack left 12 runners stranded and Duke nine.

Ogburn, roughed up Sunday by Florida State in his last start, allowed a run in the second and was pulled with one out and two Duke runners on in the third. Wilkins fanned Chris Marconcini, and catcher Brett Austin gunned down Jeff Kremer on an attempted steal of third to end the inning.

Duke scored its second run in the fourth on Reed Anthes' double high off the left-field wall. But another base-running error was costly for the Devils as Kenny Koplove was thrown out at third, and Andy Perez then fanned for the third out.

Duke starter Robert Huber was lifted in the fourth after giving up a leadoff walk to Bryan Adametz and double to Sam Morgan. Nick Hendrix, a freshman lefty, allowed a sac-fly to Turner that pushed the Pack's lead to 4-1.

"Duke's definitely a team you can't take lightly," Stone said.

Not with two more important games to be played -- in Durham and in Tallahassee, Fla.

Alexander: 919-829-8945

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