Wild comeback pushes NC State past Wake Forest in the ACC tournament

N.C. State and Wake Forest together on a Thursday night with postseason implications. What could go right?

For the Wolfpack, everything in the ninth inning. N.C. State rallied for a 6-5 win over the Demon Deacons on Thursday night in the ACC baseball tournament.

The Wolfpack (42-15) scored four runs in the ninth and got the game-winning run on an overturned call at home plate.

“This is a game that works out sometimes and sometimes it doesn’t,” N.C. State coach Elliott Avent said.

For N.C. State, after trailing all night and when it seemed most dire, it did. The Wolfpack, the No. 3 seed, clinched a spot in the semifinals with the win and will face either Duke or Georgia Tech on Saturday.

The Wolfpack will be back at the DBAP on Friday night to play Florida State to close out pool play but the result doesn’t matter since N.C. State holds the group tiebreaker.

The drama will be impossible to match from Thursday’s incredible comeback. You figured it would take something unusual for N.C. State to break the hex Wake Forest has over them. It did.

Terrell Tatum’s infield single turned out to provide the winning runs, even after pinch-runner David Harrison was initially called out at home. Yes, that David Harrison, the sophomore pitcher and sometime Sunday starter.

Harrison was used as a pinch-runner because, Avent said, “we had nobody left on the bench.” Harrison made Avent look smart.

With two outs and runners on second and third, Tatum chopped the ball to second base. He beat the throw to first, which easily scored Tyler McDonough from third base.

Harrison followed hard behind McDonough but the throw from Wake Forest first baseman Bobby Seymour beat Harrison to the plate. He was initially called out.

N.C. State’s Terrell Tatum (1) scrambles to first base to beat the throw in the ninth inning during N.C. State’s 6-5 victory over Wake Forest in the ACC Baseball Tournament at the Durham Bulls Athletic Park in Durham, N.C., Thursday, May 23, 2019. Ethan Hyman

Now flash back to the 2014 ACC tournament, N.C. State lost a play-in game to North Carolina when star Trea Turner was called out after he successfully stole home. UNC won the game and made the NCAA tournament. N.C. State did not. Replay was approved two years later by the NCAA and, in the ACC at least, the missed call on Turner was a main reason.

“I have actually always been against instant replay in all sports,” Avent said. ”I just think it slows the game down and I don’t think they get it right a lot.”

On Thursday night, N.C. State needed a call at the plate to advance and this time got one. The replay showed Harrison had slid under the tag of catcher Logan Harvey. The call was overturned and the Wolfpack had a 6-5 lead.

“(Replay) has actually worked a lot better than I ever thought it would work and it has saved me a lot of ejections,” Avent said. “So I’m real happy about that.”

N.C. State’s David Harrison (10) looks up at the umpire after sliding into home in the ninth inning during N.C. State’s 6-5 victory over Wake Forest in the ACC Baseball Tournament at the Durham Bulls Athletic Park in Durham, N.C., Thursday, May 23, 2019. After initially being called out, on replay, Harrison was ruled safe. Ethan Hyman

The Deacs (31-26) had vexed at nearly every turn this academic year. They took the regular-season series from the Wolfpack to go with a remarkable upset during the football season (on a Thursday night as a three-touchdown underdog to keep N.C. State out of a major bowl) and a split during the basketball season.

Wake was up 4-0 after the second inning and 5-2 going into the ninth. The Deacs were in control, basically the whole night.

“We had the game right where we wanted it,” Wake Forest coach Tom Walter said.

Then junior designated hitter Brad Debo singled in two runs to cut Wake’s lead to 5-4 in the top of the ninth. Debo, who is from Durham, finished 2 for 4 with a double and three RBIs.

Harrison came on to run for Debo. He reached second on a wild pitch but Luca Tresh struck out. With runners at second and third, Tatum delivered what turned out to be the game-winning hit with two outs.

Wake Forest got the tying run to third in the bottom of the ninth, after a leadoff double by Seymour, but Cameron Cotter got Bruce Steel to strike out to end the game.

It was N.C. State’s eighth win this season when trailing after into six innings.

“That was amazing,” Debo said.

The hometown kid was succinct. The veteran coach was more loquacious.

“Through life guys have got to know, if you keep grinding and you keep doing the right thing it might not work out today and it might not work out tomorrow but it’s the only thing you can do,” Avent said. “If you keep doing it, it will give you something like this once in a while and this is something you’ll never forget.”

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Joe Giglio has worked at The N&O since 1995 and has regularly reported on the ACC since 2005. He grew up in Ringwood, N.J. and graduated from N.C. State.
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