NEXT UP, N.C. STATE
DURHAM — No. 1 seed North Carolina’s 14-inning comeback marathon win over Clemson Friday night was technically meaningless, but it was hard to tell as the Tigers and Heels battled into Saturday morning.
A win by N.C. State earlier Friday assured that the winner of tonight’s UNC-N.C. State showdown at Durham Bulls Athletic Park (7 p.m., Fox Sports South) would play in Sunday’s ACC Tournament championship game, regardless of the UNC-Clemson outcome.
Nevertheless, Brian Holberton hit a 3-run homer with two outs to cap a five-run ninth-inning rally that brought the 50-8 Tar Heels back from a 7-2 deficit and sent the game into extra innings.
Chaz Frank hit a three-run triple in the 14th to cap another five-run rally and send UNC off with a 12-7 victory in the second longest game in ACC Tournament history.
The longest game at the ACC Tournament was 15 innings, set here in 2011 when Georgia Tech beat N.C. State 6-5.
Cody Stubbs went 4 for 7 and reliever Reilly Hovis (3-0) allowed two hits in five scoreless innings.
Last year’s ACC Tournament game between North Carolina and N.C. State was a 12-inning thriller played in front of 10,229 fans, the largest crowd ever to watch a college baseball game in the state of North Carolina.
The rivals will meet in this year’s event in front of another sellout crowd, and this time there’s an added bonus – the winner is guaranteed that spot in the championship game.
N.C. State’s 7-1 win over No. 8 Miami Friday ensured that the winner of tonight’s showdown between the top-seeded Tar Heels and the fourth-seeded Wolfpack at the Durham Bulls Athletic Park will meet No. 6 Virginia Tech in the final Sunday at 1 p.m.
N.C. State (44-13) will start lefty Carlos Rodon (8-2, 3.86), who leads the nation with 137 strikeouts and threw nine shutout innings in last year’s tournament meeting at Greensboro’s NewBridge Bank Park. UNC (50-8) will go with No. 3 starter Hobbs Johnson (4-0, 2.18), who hasn’t lost in 13 starts. The game is scheduled to begin at 7 p.m. (Fox Sports South).
After outlasting Rodon, the Tar Heels won last year’s game 4-0, but they had already been eliminated from contention. That won’t be the case this time — both teams are 2-0 entering the final day of pool play.
The Wolfpack’s win on Friday afternoon meant UNC’s game last night against No. 5 Clemson would have no impact on who advanced in the tournament. Still, the Tar Heels went with their regular starters and showed no signs of giving in during the 14-inning, five-hour-plus marathon against the Tigers (39-19).
N.C. State and UNC split the regular-season series in Raleigh 1-1 last month after the final game was rained out. Rodon allowed two runs in 6.2 innings against the Tar Heels in a 7-3 win, while Johnson’s start was cancelled.
Now the teams will finally get their rubber match, and it could be in front of another record crowd.
The Durham Bulls Athletic Park seats 10,000, but the capacity expands to more than 11,000 after standing-room only tickets are factored in. The Bulls had a record crowd of 11,674 for an International League game against Gwinnett on July 4, 2010.
NOTES — Virginia Tech (3-0) won Pool B by beating No. 2 Florida State, No. 3 Virginia and No. 7 Georgia Tech. … The ACC is going to a 10-team modified double-elimination tournament beginning next season. That will eliminate situations like last night’s UNC-Clemson game, in which the outcome didn’t affect who will advance, and today’s FSU-Virginia game, in which both teams have already been eliminated.