NC State baseball falls to Miami in ACC Tournament pool play, must now await NCAA fate

·4 min read
Ethan Hyman/

N.C. State baseball coach Elliott Avent said earlier this week, after a win over Duke in the teams’ first pool game of the ACC Tournament, he believes the Wolfpack has done enough to earn an at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament.

“If we’re not in, I just don’t understand the whole concept,” Avent said Tuesday.

Last year, of course, he famously proclaimed, “I definitely think we’ve done enough,” after advancing to the tournament semifinals, only to watch helplessly as the NCAA selection committee passed over the Pack on selection day.

This year?

To be determined.

The Pack could have made a statement with a win Thursday in its second Pool D game against Miami. Instead, the Hurricanes further solidified their standing in the rankings with a 4-2 win over N.C. State on Goodmon Field at Durham Bulls Athletic Park.

After allowing two N.C. State runs in the first inning, Miami, known more for its outstanding offense, flexed its pitching might, shutting down the Pack the rest of the way. Four pitchers combined to scatter eight hits over nine innings, holding N.C. State off the board while the Canes scratched two runs across over the final seven innings to earn the win.

The Pack’s loss means just two of the four North Carolina-based teams in the ACC Tournament field will play in the semifinals — UNC, after its upset win over Virginia on Thursday, and Wake Forest, the top-ranked team in the country which won in Thursday’s early game.

Miami started things off with a bang — literally — and it looked as though the strong N.C. State fan contingent was in for a long night. After a leadoff walk to CJ Kayfus, Edgardo Villegas crushed a 1-2 pitch deep to right-center field and into the bleacher seats, putting the Hurricanes ahead 2-0 before most people had reached their seats.

Starter Sam Highfill settled down after that, getting a fly out, a walk and then a double play to stop the early bleeding.

In the bottom half of the first, the Pack responded. Two straight singles and, after a strikeout, a four pitch walk loaded the bases with two outs. Eli Serrano III then launched a single to left-center, plating LuJames Groover III from third, and Cannon Peebles from second to knot the game at 2-2.

Two straight scoreless innings followed, but the Hurricanes’ bats came alive again in the fourth. Dominic Pitelli raked the first pitch of the inning for a double to left-center. Five pitches later, Renzo Gonzalez sent a single into right-center, plating Pitelli. Gonzalez took second on the throw home, and the Canes led, 3-2.

With two outs in the fourth, Avent went to his bullpen, shelving Highfill in favor of lefty Rio Britton. But Britton struggled to locate his pitches, forcing Avent to burn another arm. Justin Lawson came on with the bases loaded and struck Yohandy Morales out to end the Miami threat.

Lawson dug himself a hole again in the fifth inning, allowing the first two batters to reach second and third, but he again pitched out of the jam and did not allow any more runs to keep the Pack within striking distance.

Both offenses remained dormant for three innings, though both threatened, racking up hits and scattered walks without plating runs.

Miami loaded the bases with nobody out against a pair of Pack pitchers in the eighth, and Avent brought in Carson Kelly, who struck out all three batters he faced, but not without a wild pitch that allowed a run to score, pushing the Hurricanes’ lead to 4-2.

In all, N.C. State used seven pitchers over nine innings, allowing nine total hits and dishing out 10 walks while striking out 13 batters.

As the highest seed in the pool, Miami will automatically advance to Saturday’s semifinal against Wake Forest, regardless of the outcome of the Hurricanes’ game with Duke on Friday. But, with the threat of inclement weather this weekend, finishing pool play at 2-0 is beneficial should some games need to be canceled.

According to the ACC, In the event pool play is not completed, the No. 1 seed will receive the conference’s automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament. If pool play is completed, the team with the best record in the ACC Championship would receive the bid. If teams in the semifinals or championship game have the same record, the highest seed gets the bid.