In a matchup of freshman pitchers, Louisville’s Brendan McKay got most of the attention during the season. But it was Florida State’s Drew Carlton who turned heads in the ACC baseball tournament Saturday.
Carlton shut out the top-seeded Cardinals through seven innings on five hits and was the beneficiary of some timely small ball as the fourth-seeded Seminoles claimed a 6-0 victory in the final round of pool play at Durham Bulls Athletic Park.
Florida State (40-19) will play sixth-seeded N.C. State (33-20) at 1 p.m. Sunday for the ACC title and an automatic berth in the next week’s NCAA tournament.
Ben DeLuzio had three hits, including a solo home run, and two RBIs to spark the Seminoles on offense, but veteran FSU coach Mike Martin gave his pitcher the bulk of the credit for extending the coach’s streak of 40-win seasons to 36.
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“It was the Drew Carlton show, in my opinion,” Martin said. “The guy came out and pitched a beautiful baseball game – both sides of the plate, and and had the changeup and slider working.”
“It was definitely the fastball working for me today,” said Carlton (3-1), who logged his longest start of the season since blanking N.C. State on four hits over eight innings on April 3. “I was able to locate on both sides of the plate and get ground balls.”
The right-hander struck out four, walked three and had only one batter advance as far as third base all day, when Corey Ray led off the fourth with a double and moved up on a fly ball. After giving up a walk, Carlton got out of the jam with a pop fly and a groundout.
Dylan Silva and Billy Strode finished up FSU’s fourth shutout of the season with an inning apiece. It was only the third time all season Louisville (43-16) has been shut out.
For 51/2 innings Carlton and McKay (8-3) matched shutout efforts. McKay, a left-hander who doubles as a first baseman and hits cleanup even when he’s on the mound, was named to the ACC’s all-freshman team. But his control faltered in the sixth, when the Seminoles capitalized on two hit batters, two walks, an error and an infield single.
John Sansone, who leads the ACC in being hit by a pitch with 18 this season (49 all-time), was plunked by a 2-2 pitch to start things. D.J. Stewart walked on a full count, and Quincy Nieporte hit a high bouncer up the middle that was scored an error when second baseman Sutton Whiting couldn’t cut it off. Sansone scored on the play, and Stewart went to third.
“It was a tough play for Sutton,” Louisville coach Dan McDonnell said. “It hit that dirt and took off.”
That was all for McKay, but lefty reliever Drew Harrington walked Chris Marconcini on four pitches and hit Dylan Busby with a pitch to force in the second run. DeLuzio then hit a shot off Harrington’s hand that went for an infield hit and made it 3-0.
Marconcini, the Duke graduate transfer, extended the lead to 5-0 in the seventh with a two-run single to center, and DeLuzio hit his second homer of the season in the eighth off Kade McClure, the fifth Louisville pitcher.
Marconcini, who graduated in 2014, was a standout at Duke for three seasons before transferring to FSU for graduate school in business marketing and his final season of eligibility. He is playing in only his second ACC tournament.
“My thought process was I had to reassess and just looked around, and I’ve always been envious of playing in Florida State,” he said. “We were down there three times. I loved the coaching staff and atmosphere. Best choice I could have made.”
His big hit came after consecutive walks to Sansone and Stewart, who pulled off a double steal to get into scoring position.
“I’ll be honest, I thought they were going to come in with the lefty there,” Marconcini said. “I thought he was going to come in with a strike, and I put a good swing on it.”