NC State

NC State takes baseball series from Duke

N.C. State sophomore Brian Brown prefers to pitch in close games.

Brown’s Wolfpack teammates wouldn’t let that happen on Saturday at home against Duke.

N.C. State scored seven runs in the fifth inning to cruise to a 12-2 win over the Blue Devils.

The Wolfpack (31-11, 12-6 ACC) has won nine of its past 11 ACC games and 15 of 18 overall.

Brown (6-1) did his part giving up only three hits in seven innings and striking out eight without allowing a run.

The close game that Brown wanted happened on Friday with the Wolfpack getting a walk-off single from third baseman Evan Mendoza for a 3-2 win.

Mendoza, who extended his hitting streak to 16 games, got N.C. State going again on Saturday with a solo home run in the third inning.

N.C. State’s big rally in the fifth actually started with a series of bunts. Duke misplayed the first two bunts, which cost starter Trent Swart (2-2) when Stephen Pitarra laced a two-run double.

A clean bunt single by Brock Deatherage scored Pitarra and then Preston Palmiero plated two more runs with a single to left.

A double by Brett Kinneman polished off the inning and put the Wolfpack in front 8-0.

Brown worked out of the only trouble spot in the top of the fourth.

Duke (24-20, 9-14) got a pair of singles, and a hit batter, to load the bases with no outs. But Brown struck out shortstop Zack Kone on three pitches and then got catcher Chris Proctor to bounce into a double play.

“That’s just typical Brian Brown,” N.C. State catcher Andrew Knizner said. “He had everything working. That’s why they only had three hits and scored zero runs.”

Brown, N.C. State’s best starter, said he’d rather pitch in close game because he pitches better.

“Although it’s nice to be nice and relaxed,” Brown said.

The Wolfpack needed a breather after Friday’s drama and a tense 6-1 win over East Carolina on Monday.

N.C. State has won just about every way since an 8-5 loss at Florida State on March 25. The Wolfpack has gone 15-3 since then and won ACC series over Virginia, Georgia Tech, Wake Forest and now Duke.

Since a 3-4 ACC start, the Wolfpack hasn’t lost a three-game conference series since the first in mid-March to Boston College.

On the other side, Duke had won ACC series from Georgia Tech, Clemson and Virginia Tech to put itself in position to make the ACC tournament.

After a close call on Friday, sometimes that’s just how baseball works. Brown will have just to wait his turn.

Giglio: 919-829-8938, @jwgiglio