Baseball

NC State knocks off Miami in 12, will play for ACC baseball title

Miami's Ricky Eusebio (2) slides under the tag by N.C. State's Andrew Knizner (11) and scores on a sacrifice fly in the third inning  in the ACC Baseball Tournament at the Durham Bulls Athletic Park in Durham.
Miami's Ricky Eusebio (2) slides under the tag by N.C. State's Andrew Knizner (11) and scores on a sacrifice fly in the third inning in the ACC Baseball Tournament at the Durham Bulls Athletic Park in Durham. ehyman@newsobserver.com

N.C. State can win a late-night marathon game in the ACC tournament after all.

Two years after losing an 18-inning epic to North Carolina at the Durham Bulls Athletic Park, N.C. State knocked off Miami 5-4 in 12 innings to advance to the ACC tournament championship game.

"Seems like we have a knack for playing these kind of games over here," N.C. State coach Elliott Avent said. "I'm sure everybody is sitting out there saying what time they're going to get home tonight."

It wasn't too late, right around 11:08 p.m., and this time the N.C. State fans who made up most of the crowd of 6,806 got to go home happy.

Unlike the 2-1 loss to UNC in 2013, the Wolfpack found a way to outlast the Hurricanes on Friday at the DBAP. Every time Miami knocked N.C. State down, the Wolfpack had the answer and sophomore first baseman Preston Palmeiro provided the final one.

Palmeiro doubled to lead off the bottom half of the 12th inning for the Wolfpack, hitting a liner off the leftfield wall. When Miami's Carl Chester's air-mailed the throw over the second baseman's head, and into foul territory down the first base line, Palmeiro never stopped running.

"That was a Little League home run," Palmeiro joked. "I kept telling everybody I was going to end it. I guess that does the job, so I'll take it."

With Palmeiro's unconventional walk-off double with a two-base throwing error, N.C. State (33-20) will play for its first ACC title since 1992 against the winner of Saturday's game between Louisville and Florida State.

Miami (43-14), which had a 13-game winning streak snapped, looked like it was going to end N.C. State's tournament chances. With some reliable small ball — a bunt here, a single there — to go with the free passes from N.C. State's first two pitchers (eight walks between starter Cory Wilder and Will Gilbert), the Hurricanes led 2-0 and 4-2.

Miami starter Andrew Suarez was cruising through the middle of the N.C. State lineup — retiring hitters Nos. 3 through 9 the first 13 times he faced them — until junior second baseman Ryne Willard hit a solo home run to leftfield to cut Miami's lead to 4-3 in the sixth inning.

N.C. State, which has won 12 of its last 14 games, clung to its last hopes after Miami reliever Bryan Garcia struck out Brock Deatherage to open the ninth inning. But Garcia walked pinch-hitter Shane Shepard. Senior Jake Armstrong came on to run for Shepard and advanced to third on a single by senior Logan Ratledge, who also delivered a two-run single in the third inning.

Armstrong scored on a fielder's choice when catcher Andrew Knizner bounced to short to tie the game at 4. That set the stage for the late-inning heroics by Palmeiro, who had been hitless in his first four at-bats. The only time N.C. State led was the final score.

Star of the Game

Freshman Tommy DeJuneas was nearly flawless in extra innings for the Wolfpack. He came on in the 10th and struck out six of the 11 batters he faced and only allowed one hit.

Miami star David Thompson doubled to lead off the 12th but DeJuneas was able to work out of the jam, striking out Chester and Jacob Heyward with Thompson on third base.

What’s next

N.C. State faces Virginia in the last game of Pool B play at 7 p.m. The Wolfpack has already won the pool, so the game is little more than practice for N.C. State's title game on Sunday against the FSU-Louisville winner.

Observations

▪ As efficient as freshman left-hander Brian Brown has been for N.C. State lately, the Wolfpack can’t seem to find a reliable No. 2 pitching option behind him.

Sophomore Cory Wilder, the team's Friday start for much of the season, has now walked 54 batters — and hit nine more — in 58.1 innings this season. That's too many free passes. The Little League approach — "Just throw strikes" — would serve the Wolfpack well in regional play next week in the NCAA tournament.

▪ N.C. State has been to the ACC title game five times since Ray Tanner's team won it in 1992 and four times under Avent. Most recently, the Wolfpack lost to FSU in the title game, 8-3 in 2010 in Greensboro.

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