State breaks through with key hits to stop Duke at the DBAP

Apr. 12, 2014 @ 06:36 PM

Both Duke and N.C. State had runners all over the base paths early in Saturday’s ACC baseball game.

Finally, after a frustrating Friday and more missed opportunities in the early innings Saturday, the Wolfpack found some clutch hitting to get a much-needed win.

N.C. State scored two runs in the fifth inning and three more in the sixth in a 6-2 win over Duke at Durham Bulls Athletic Park.

After dropping Friday night’s series opener 2-0, the Wolfpack (20-14 overall, 6-11 in ACC) evened the series ahead of today’s 1 p.m. finale.

N.C. State had six base runners over the first three innings Saturday, collecting two hits, three walks and a hit batter. But N.C. State batters were 0 for 8 over the first three innings with runners on base, including 0 for 4 with runners in scoring position.

“It’s hard when you are not scoring in this game and you are scuffling offensively,” N.C. State coach Elliott Avent said. “You know how good you can be and it’s hard because you’re scuffling. You try to instill a good mindset but it’s hard sometimes.”

Making just his second appearance since missing five weeks with an elbow injury, Duke starting pitcher Trent Swart threw three scoreless innings. He issued four walks and allowed two hits but avoided trouble with six strikeouts.

N.C. State’s breakthrough came in the fifth inning against relief pitcher Andrew Istler. Trea Turner drew a lead-off walk, took second on a flyout to right field and moved to third on Duke catcher Mike Rosenfeld’s errant pick-off throw.

With Duke’s infield pulled in and one out, Andrew Kinzner’s hard-hit ground ball eluded Duke third baseman Jordan Betts for an RBI single. N.C. State loaded the bases on a single and a walk before Duke coach Chris Pollard replaced Istler with Dillon Haviland.

Preston Palmeiro lifted a fly ball to left field that was deep enough to score Knizner for a 2-0 N.C. State lead.

In the sixth inning, Logan Ratledge’s two-run single doubled the N.C. State lead before another run-scoring hit, Chance Shepard’s double, made it 5-0.

“Getting the first run after being shut out the last couple of games was huge,” Avent said. “I shouldn’t forget that. But the big hit seemed to be Ratledge’s hit up the middle to make it 4-0. I thought that was huge.”

Said Ratledge, “It’s a frustrating game sometimes. Sometimes you don’t get what you want. We knew we just had to stick with it and finally we got a few clutch hits when we needed them.”

Duke (19-17, 8-9 in ACC), was stuck on zero runs despite numerous opportunities. The Blue Devils had two runners on base in each of the first three innings and loaded the bases in the fourth but failed to score. Duke was 0 for 11 with runners in scoring position over the first seven innings.

After Ryan Williamson tossed the first three scoreless innings for N.C. State, Eric Peterson carried a 5-0 lead into the eighth inning.

“He was phenomenal,” Avent said of Peterson. “Probably went a little long today but that’s because of his guts. You don’t want to pull somebody who throws that many strikes and shows that kind of guys in a game where there were a lot of walks early.”

Doubles by Betts and Ryan Deitrich ended the shutout with two outs in the eighth inning. Trailing 5-1, Duke drew closer when Andy Perez hit what appeared to be a two-run home run over the Blue Monster in left field.

But the ball bounced off the smaller fence above the Blue Monster. Even though Perez circled the bases without being tagged out, Avent asked for clarification because the umpires made no definitive call.

The umpires gathered and sent Perez back to second base with a ground-rule double. Deitrich’s run counted and Duke trailed 5-2.

Duke coach Chris Pollard argued and was ejected. But Perez had collected the Blue Devils’ final hit as D.J. Thomas got the final four outs for N.C. State.