The local stage in the ACC baseball tournament was all N.C. State’s on Friday night.
North Carolina was gone by Wednesday. Duke was knocked out early on Friday. The door was open at the Durham Bulls Athletic Park for the Wolfpack. Then Florida State slammed it shut.
FSU starter Drew Parrish squashed any championship dreams for the Wolfpack, the top seed in Pool C. Parrish struck out 14 and went the distance in a 5-2 win over the Wolfpack.
Parrish, and three RBIs from Cal Raleigh, pushed FSU into a semifinal matchup with Clemson on Saturday (5 p.m.). The Noles are two wins from their third ACC title in four years.
“Just tip your hat to Parrish,” N.C. State coach Elliott Avent said. “He was unbelievable.”
When the matchups were set on Sunday, it looked like the ACC could have had a dream scenario of the Tar Heels, Blue Devils and Wolfpack all in the semifinals.
Instead, 12th-seeded Pitt shocked No. 1 seed UNC on Wednesday and Louisville eliminated Duke on Friday.
N.C. State (40-16) ended up going 0-2 in pool play. It was a ready-made opportunity for the Wolfpack to win its first ACC title since 1992.
Those dreams died quickly by Parrish’s left arm and a pair of early big hits by Raleigh. The Noles (41-17) jumped out to an early 4-0 advantage and chased N.C. State starter Brian Brown before the end of the third inning.
The ACC pitcher of the year, Brown gave up an RBI double to Raleigh in the first inning and two-run home run to the FSU catcher in the third. Brown lasted 2 1/3 innings for his shortest outing of the season.
N.C. State got its first two runs in unusual fashion. Evan Edwards doubled and Jack Conley scored when FSU center fielder J.C. Flowers misplayed the ball off the wall.
Edwards gambled after Flowers’ error and stumbled rounding second. The throw beat Edwards to third by a mile but third baseman Drew Mendoza was slow with the tag.
Edwards was called out initially but it was overturned on replay. He scored to make it 5-2 on a two-out single by Josh McLain.
But Parrish was nearly unhittable. N.C. State’s two-three-four hitters went a combined 0 for 11. Brock Deatherage, who doubled in the ninth, struck out three times.
N.C. State will now wait until Monday for the NCAA Tournament selection show. The Wolfpack started Friday at No. 18 in the RPI. The top 16 teams (the RPI is a major factor) host for the regional round.
Avent was confident his team would be a regional host for the second time in three years.
“I think we’re hosting a regional,” Avent said. “I think there’s no question about that.”
The Wolfpack did win eight of its 10 conference series during the regular season. The series wins over Clemson and Louisville look better and better by the day.
But going 0-2 was a less than ideal showing in Durham. The Wolfpack didn’t even have to worry about UNC, its nemesis. There’s little time to lament the lost opportunity. Another one awaits next week.
“We’ve got to look ahead,” McLain said. “We’ve got regionals coming up and that’s what we’re focused on now.”