NC State's Avent: 'It was as good as a 3-2 game as I have ever been in'
When you’re running hot, you’re running hot.
And with 12 wins in 13 games, after Thursday’s wild 3-2 home win over Clemson, there is a certain scorch in the way N.C. State is playing.
“We’re unbelievably hot right now,” catcher Andy Cosgrove said.
So hot, the Wolfpack got the game-winning run in the eighth inning on a wild pitch on what should have been an inning-ending strikeout.
The subsequent ninth inning was nearly as eventful with a couple of bounces going the right way for the Wolfpack (32-21, 15-13 ACC).
“Everything seems to go your way when you’re hot, and we’ll take it,” shortstop Joe Dunand said.
The win boosts N.C. State’s NCAA tournament resume. The Tigers started the day ranked No. 8 in the RPI. It also gives the Wolfpack, No. 36 in the RPI, a chance to catch the Tigers for the No. 4 seed in the ACC tournament next week in Louisville.
“Everyone has (the NCAA tournament) in the back of their mind,” said Cosgrove, who gave the Wolfpack a 2-1 lead with two-run single in the second inning. “We’re just trying to compete for the moment and everything will work out how it works out.”
It was Dunand who got the Wolfpack going in the eighth and scored the deciding run. He hit a one-out liner to center field that he turned into a double on a hustle play.
“I just hit a soft liner up the middle, and I knew it was going to take a weird hop, so I was just anticipating,” Dunand said. “Once I saw it get away, I just ran as hard as I could to second base.”
Designated hitter Brad Debo advanced Dunand over to third with a ground out to second baseman Jordan Greene. Clemson (38-16, 16-12) reliever Owen Griffith got N.C. State second baseman Will Wilson swinging for a third strike, but the pitch got away from catcher Kyle Wilkie, Wilson reached first safely and Dunand scored from third.
“The ball just got away from (Wilkie), and I don’t think he could find it,” Dunand said. “By that time, I had a good jump and was able to score.”
N.C. State, which has won seven straight ACC games, was able to get out of the ninth unscathed but not without some drama.
Chris Williams drew a leadoff walk, and Logan Davidson tried to bunt pinch-runner K.J. Bryant over to second, but Dunand tagged Bryant out, on a strong throw by Cosgrove, in a close play at second.
Reed Rohlman followed with a single to right field for the Tigers, but Davidson made a base-running error and was caught between second and third base and tagged out.
Designated hitter Seth Beer, who had homered in the fourth, nearly gave the Tigers a 4-3 lead, but his long fly sailed wide of the foul poll in left field. N.C. State pitcher Sean Adler got Beer on a called third strike for the game’s final out.
N.C. State starter Johnny Piedmonte only gave up four hits in four innings but two were home runs.
The Tigers got a solo home run from right fielder Weston Jackson with two outs in the top of the second inning for a 1-0 lead. Beer tied the score at 2 in the fourth with a solo home run to right center.
N.C. State’s bullpen did the job from there with Cody Beckman throwing 3 1/3 scoreless innings and Austin Staley working a scoreless inning for the win.
N.C. State coach Elliott Avent has been involved in more than a few memorable games in his 21 seasons with the Wolfpack. He mentioned the 18-inning ACC tournament game with North Carolina and the 17-inning game with Rice in the NCAA tournament, both in 2013.
“That’s probably as good of a 3-2 game as I’ve ever been in, and it was intense on both sides, a lot of emotion,” Avent said. “I thought both teams laid everything on the field, both teams are probably exhausted, and fortunately for us, we came out on top.”
Joe Giglio: 919-829-8938, @jwgiglio