There was an unusual application of the infield fly rule that helped N.C. State on Sunday in the ACC baseball championship game.
The Wolfpack turned an even more unusual double play against Florida State during the eventful fourth inning.
There was a little bit of everything at the Durham Bulls Athletic Park on Sunday except N.C. State’s first ACC title in 23 years.
Boomer Biegalski and Florida State were too good for that. The Seminoles overcame the bizarreness to claim their sixth ACC title with a 6-2 win against N.C. State.
A crowd of 9,759 mostly red-clad N.C. State fans poured into the DBAP hoping to see the championship drought end. The Wolfpack has come up empty in its past six ACC title game appearances, five under coach Elliott Avent since 2001.
N.C. State (34-21) has been on a roll, winning 13 of its past 16 games and all three in pool play at the ACC tournament, but Florida State (41-19) was better on Sunday afternoon, Avent said.
“We played well, just a couple of opportunities we didn’t take advantage of and a couple of other things,” Avent said. “But you can’t mistake the way Florida State played. They were outstanding.”
Biegalski, pitching for the second time in the tournament, closed the door on any inkling of victory the Wolfpack had with 42/3 scoreless innings in relief.
The sophomore right-hander allowed only one hit and struck out five for his second win of the tournament.
“He did a great job just keeping us off balance,” N.C. State senior shortstop Logan Ratledge said.
The whole game was a bit off balance after the two strange sequences in the fourth inning. Both benefitted the Wolfpack, but it couldn’t turn either break into more.
Down 3-0 and with the bases loaded in the top half of the fourth, Biegalski came on to pitch to N.C. State senior Jake Fincher.
Fincher proceeded to harmlessly, it appeared, pop the ball up between the pitcher’s mound and first base. There was some confusion by the infielders and the ball fell to the ground. Fincher took first base, but N.C. State’s Joe Dunand was thrown out on a force at home.
FSU coach Mike Martin came out to question what happened. Two infield umpires signaled for the infield fly rule, according to the explanation Avent got, which meant that Fincher was out.
But since catcher Danny De La Calle didn’t tag Dunand, he was ruled safe and the Wolfpack was awarded its first run.
After the umpires, all six of them, huddled, the call was clarified.
“They got together and got it right,” Avent said. “Sometimes that’s hard to do.”
In the next at-bat, a wild pitch by Biegalski allowed Bubby Riley to score from third and N.C. State seemed to be in business. But those were the only two runs N.C. State could manufacture.
In the bottom of the fourth, the game continued with its strange turns. A two-run single by De La Calle pushed FSU’s margin to 5-2.
Josh Delph followed with a bouncer to N.C. State first baseman Preston Palmeiro, who started a 3-2-5-2-5 double play, claiming De La Calle in a run down between third base and home and getting Taylor Walls at third.
The replay showed Walls actually slid under the tag at third.
Florida State, which had entered the ACC tournament on a five-game losing streak, was too locked in for it to make a difference.
The Seminoles added an insurance run in the seventh, and N.C. State’s lineup was never able to catch up to Biegalski.
The Wolfpack had swept through Notre Dame, Miami and Virginia in pool play to get to the title game. The Miami win, 5-4 in 12 innings, was particularly improbable, but N.C. State couldn’t duplicate any of its magic.
“That’s baseball,” Ratledge said.
It was baseball, a unique variety of it. But it was not the long-awaited championship for N.C. State.
NCAA Selection Show
What: The 64-team NCAA tournament field is revealed.