DURHAM — When the Wolfpack arrived for batting practice at Doak Field at 9 a.m., the coaches and players never imagined that their day at the Durham Bulls Athletic Park wouldn’t conclude until just before 6 p.m. But after the trip across I-40, a two-hour rain delay and a slow-paced game (with only peanut butter sandwiches for sustenance in between), N.C. State beat Duke 9-1 to sweep the final series before the ACC tournament.
With Florida State’s win over Clemson, the Wolfpack (42-13, 19-10 ACC) finished second in the Atlantic Division behind the Seminoles. N.C. State will be the No. 4 seed in this week’s ACC tournament, sharing a pool with No. 1 UNC, No. 5 Clemson and No. 8 Miami.
“We’re in the same spot we were last year,” shortstop Trea Turner said. “It shouldn’t be too bad, and we should have as much confidence, if not more.”
After an early season marred by injuries, the Wolfpack tied the school record for ACC wins in a season, and, due to the rainout of the UNC series finale, set a new high for ACC winning percentage. The 42 total wins are also the second-most in program history (the Wolfpack won 43 in 1988).
When the day began, the Wolfpack had a chance to clinch the Atlantic Division title and No. 2 seed. N.C. State needed help from Clemson, but, more importantly, the Wolfpack needed to take care of business against the Blue Devils (26-29, 9-21).
Once the two-hour rain delay was over, the Wolfpack didn’t waste any time putting runs on the board. A Turner single, Jake Fincher double and Brett Austin walk loaded the bases with no outs. Grant Clyde drove in two runs with a single, and two batters later, Bryan Adametz drove in two more to give N.C. State a 4-0 lead in the first.
Adametz added two more runs in the third with another single to centerfield to put the Wolfpack up 6-0. The four RBIs were a new career-high for the senior.
Duke’s starter, freshman Michael Matuella, struggled through two innings, leaving the game with the bases loaded and no outs in the third. He threw 35 pitches in the opening frame and 62 total before Drew Van Orden came on in relief. All six early runs were charged to Matuella.
On the opposite side, N.C. State starter Logan Jernigan worked effectively through 4 1/3 innings, yielding just three hits, walking two and striking out six. Will Gilbert came on to record the second out of the fifth, and Josh Easley followed, picking up the win and working 2 1/3 innings of his own.
The Wolfpack added insurance runs in the eighth and ninth innings, as Turner drove in a run with a single to center and No. 9 hitter John Mangum drove in two on a single to right in the final frame. Duke’s run came in the eighth, when leadoff hitter Andy Perez hit a two-out single to left.
The Blue Devils had their chances, stranding 13 runners total and coming up empty twice with the bases loaded. For the series, Duke hit .121 (4-for-33) with runners in scoring position.
A few of the Wolfpack players received sporadic updates of the Florida State-Clemson match during the game. But the Seminoles had a 6-1 lead by the time the Wolfpack wrapped up their win, setting up another year as the second-highest seed in the pool for the beginning of postseason play.
“Whatever is thrown out them, it seems like they doge it and move on and focus on what they need to focus on,” coach Elliott Avent said. “That’s the mark of a good team and leadership, and that’s what our guys have given us.”
Keeley 919-829-4556; Twitter @laurakeeley