DURHAM — N.C. State had timely hits, made all the big defensive plays and got just the pitching it needed Wednesday in the Wolfpack's opening game in the ACC Baseball Championship.
The ninth-ranked Pack topped Clemson 6-3 at Durham Bulls Athletic Park, igniting for four runs in the seventh inning as Jake Fincher delivered an RBI-single and Brett Austin a two-run double.
Freshman Brad Stone, a lefthander from Charlotte, started for the Pack and gave his team five tidy, efficient innings. When Stone began to falter in the sixth, the Tigers loading the bases with no outs, in came senior rightander Josh Easley to defuse the threat.
Tigers catcher Garrett Boulware, who would homer off Easley in the ninth, grounded into a double play in the sixth to score a run. But Easley (5-2) then struck out Shane Kennedy to end the inning and prevent any major damage.
"That was huge, one of the big turning points in the game," Fincher said. "Boulware was crushing the ball. That was huge, to get that groundball."
Stone allowed six hits and two runs, one earned, in his five innings. Easley's line: four innings, two hits, and the one run on Boulware's homer -- a towering shot to left -- in the top of the ninth.
The Pack (43-13) chased Clemson starter Daniel Gossett in the seventh. Bryan Adametz singled and Jake Armstrong was hit by a pitch as N.C. State fans in the crowd of 4,834 began to stir.
A wild pitch by Gossett later moved the runners to second and third, and Trea Turner walked to load the bases. Fincher singled in a run and a second run scored when Tigers third baseman Kennedy bobbled the throw from the outfield, the ball bouncing down the third-base line.
Austin then smacked the long double to left center, pushing the lead to 6-2.
"I thought we played really, really good tonight," NCSU coach Elliott Avent said. "Daniel Gossett is obviously one of the best pitchers in the country and I thought he was really good. For us, Brad Stone kept them at bay, but we also played tremendous defense .. and then Easley came in with very, very electric stuff."
Grant Clyde homered in the second for the Pack, which managed its six runs off six hits. N.C. State took a 2-1 lead in the third when Austin hustled to beat a throw to first -- Clemson second baseman Steve Wilkerson bobbling his grounder -- and Armstrong scored.
Good work out of the bullpen has been a strength all season for the Pack, which last won an ACC title in 1992. Easley, in fact, has allowed just two runs in his past 10 appearances, and his four innings was his longest stint since going four innings against Wagner on Feb. 24.
Austin, the Pack's catcher, had the best look at Stone and Easley. Asked what was working, Austin said, "Everything."
Stone stayed ahead in the count. So did Easley. Both had nasty sliders.
In the sixth, Maleeke Gibson and Wilkerson opened with singles off Stone and Steven Duggar beat out a bunt to load the bases. At the plate was Boulware, who homered twice against the Pack in a March 8 game.
But Boulware grounded to Turner, who turned the double play and Kennedy fanned.
"Bases loaded, you've got to do something," Boulware said. "I wanted to drive one but (Easley) got me off-balance and I was out in front of one."
The Tigers (39-18) took a 1-0 lead in the second when Kennedy hustled to first to thwart a double play, then stole both second and third. Kennedy scored on a passed ball by Austin.
But Clyde quickly answered in the bottom of the inning with his solo shot, the third baseman's fourth homer of the season.
The Wolfpack will have a day off before its second tournament game Friday against Miami. The Hurricanes face top-seeded North Carolina on Thursday. Clemson will face the Heels Friday at 7 p.m.