The third day of the Atlantic Coast Conference Baseball Tournament was thrilling from start to finish as clubs fought for a spot in the championship game through hotly competitive pool play.
North Carolina State and the University of Miami kicked off the action in the Day 3 opener. The Wolfpack's 7-1 win eliminated Clemson from championship contention. The Tigers would then blow what looked to be an easy win in the nightcap, surrendering five runs in the ninth inning to top-seeded North Carolina before going on to lose 12-7 in 14 innings.
Durham hasn't disappointed thus far in this high-stakes display on the diamond, and it seems destined to continue the excitement on Saturday.
Let's take a look at how Friday's Day 3 action unfolded, first with a breakdown of what transpired between the Wolfpack and Hurricanes.
Note: All statistics and information, unless otherwise indicated, are courtesy of TheACC.com.
North Carolina State Dominates Miami, 7-1
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The Wolfpack got off to a fast start with a four-run second inning to hand the Hurricanes their second blowout loss in as many days.
It was a two-out rally that seemed so improbable, especially with the minimal contact NC State was getting off of Miami starting pitcher Chris Diaz.
After DH Jake Armstrong dove headfirst into first base for an RBI infield single and a throwing error allowed another run to come in, NC State baseball's official Twitter page documented what transpired:
Leadoff-hitting shortstop Trea Turner remarkably dove into first himself and was also called safe. That stretched the lead to a commanding 4-0 as the Wolfpack truly stuck together and played small ball to succeed.
CBS Sports' Will Brinson humorously commented on the ineffectiveness of the Hurricanes' jittery, indecisive infield:
Turner finished 3-for-5 with two runs knocked in, but left fielder Bryan Adametz provided key production from the No. 7 spot in the order.
Adametz had three hits of his own in five appearances, socking an RBI single in the seventh and a run-scoring double in the ninth. He also scored a run himself to lead the relatively weak but effective offensive charge for NC State.
The Hurricanes charged back with a run in the bottom of the third, but that was bested by NC State, who scored once in the fifth and sixth, thwarting any comeback chance.
Southpaw sophomore Diaz was truly a victim of a lot of bad breaks and a lack of run support. Though his outing didn't look pretty in the box score, it did take him a ridiculous amount of pitches due to the lackluster play of the defense behind him, per ACC Baseball:
Wolfpack starter Logan Jernigan had more significant control issues of his own, walking six hitters in just four innings of work—including Miami first baseman Brad Fieger with the bases loaded, which plated the Hurricanes' only run.
The next time Jernigan faced that type of jam with the sacks full, he struck out Fieger looking for the first out and emerged ultimately unscathed to keep NC State on top to stay.
With this latest triumph, the Wolfpack have now won 26 of their last 29 games to improve their record to 44-13 on the season. Meanwhile, Miami will have to feel empty with all the runners it left on base and producing just one run in two ACC contests.
North Carolina, who dominated the Hurricanes 10-0 in its last outing, will square off with the Wolfpack to determine one of the participants in the championship showdown.
Virginia Tech Outlasts Georgia Tech, 3-2
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Behind more dominant pitching, Virginia Tech won for the third time in as many days, and by the score of 3-2 for the second straight day.
The weather was nice as play began on Friday afternoon and both teams certainly had plenty to play for with Pool B on the line (via Jeff Gravley):
The action began a little after 3 p.m. ET and took a little while to get going before the defending champion Yellow Jackets took advantage of a throwing error from Virginia Tech in the top of the third inning to open up the scoring, moving ahead 1-0.
In the bottom of the fourth inning, Virginia Tech junior Chad Pinder smashed his third home run of the tournament to tie the game and give the Hokies some life after a slow start as pointed out by ACC Baseball on Twitter:
Georgia Tech would battle back in the fifth inning, pulling ahead for the second time in the game thanks to a walk that put the Yellow Jackets in scoring position. Thomas Smith would go on to score from third base to give his squad a narrow lead.
Soon after, though, the Hokies would come right back with some offense of their own. Sophomore Brendon Hayden ignited Virginia Tech with a double to left field. A few plays later Alex Perez singled to center and Hayden was crossing home plate to tie the game at 2-2.
Following a scoreless sixth inning, the Hokies' bats came to life in the seventh, as it was Chad Pinder making yet another pivotal play, hitting a fly ball to center that allowed Kyle Wernicki to tag up and score the go-ahead run for Virginia Tech (via ACC Baseball):
Junior pitcher Devin Burke was an absolute stud for the Hokies on Friday, striking out four and surrendered just one earned run in nearly eight innings of work. He was replaced by senior Clark Labitan, who picked up the final four outs needed for Virginia Tech.
Here's a look at Burke's final numbers on Friday (via ACC Baseball):
The victory moves Virginia Tech to 3-0 for the tournament and ensures the Hokies a berth in Sunday's championship game (via Georgia Tech Baseball):
Georgia Tech finishes 1-2 for the championship, which means the Yellow Jackets are eliminated and that there will be a new ACC champion crowned this weekend.
North Carolina Storms Back to Beat Clemson, 12-7
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North Carolina looked to be headed for its first loss of the tournament on Friday night, trailing 7-2 in the ninth inning before exploding for five runs, tying Clemson and going on to win by an impressive margin in 14 innings.
The Tar Heels took an early 1-0 lead after a pair of walks put junior Chaz Frank in scoring position. He would score a few plays later following a Cody Stubbs' single to center field.
After two scoreless innings, Clemson tied the game at one run apiece with Shane Kennedy hitting a single to get on base, stealing second and then advancing to third on a wild pitch before scoring off a Tyler Krieger single (via ACC Baseball):
In another pivotal moment in the bottom of the fifth inning, freshman Steven Duggar made a clutch play, tripling to center field with two outs to score two runners and give Clemson a 3-1 lead (via ACC Baseball):
Freshman Skye Bolt would help North Carolina narrow the gap in the top of the sixth inning when, doubling to right field and eventually scoring after two singles from Michael Russell and Brian Holberton.
Unfortunately, the Tigers came right back in the bottom of the inning, scoring two more runs to increase their lead to three runs.
Shane Kennedy was a key part of Clemson's run, singling to left field to ignite the Tigers' bats.
After a scoreless seventh inning, Clemson put North Carolina in a deep hole heading into the final inning, scoring two more runs thanks to a pair of errors from the Tar Heels.
But with their backs against the wall in the top of the ninth, the Tar Heels came to life, scoring five runs to tie the game 7-7. Brian Holberton was the key player, smashing a three-run homer with two outs to pull North Carolina even (via ACC Baseball):
Both teams' bats went cold in extra innings however, as neither side could break the deadlock as the clock approached 12 a.m. ET (via ACC Baseball):
As the game headed into the 14th inning it officially became the longest ever between the two teams (via Clemson Baseball):
In the top of the 14th inning, Cody Stubbs singled to center field and suddenly the floodgates opened for the Tar Heels, who went on to put up five runs in the inning.
Freshman Mason McCullough closed it out on the mound for the Tar Heels, who moved to 2-0 in Pool A with the win. Clemson remains winless in the Pool (via ACC Baseball):
Freshman pitcher Benton Moss went five and one-third innings for North Carolina to start the game before being replaced on the mound. The first-year right-hander struck out six but allowed eight hits and five earned runs. Despite his lackluster performance, North Carolina was able to get the win. But the Heels can't afford another poor start on Saturday if they hope to play for the title on Sunday.
Clemson will take on Miami Saturday afternoon at 3 p.m. ET while the top-seeded Tar Heels will take on in-state rival NC State in the day's final matchup with the winner earning a berth in Sunday's championship game.