LOUISVILLE, Ky. — N.C. State stayed hot and Duke pulled an upset on Tuesday in the opening round of the Atlantic Coast Conference baseball tournament.
The Wolfpack earned a 6-1 win over Boston College to set up a Friday matchup against North Carolina that will determine which team from Pool B advances to Saturday’s semifinal round.
Brett Kinneman’s three-run homer in the seventh inning broke the game open against the Eagles and right-hander Johnny Piedmonte stayed perfect on the season to help N.C. State (34-22) earn its 14th win in its last 16 games.
“I think before (the recent strech) we were playing pretty well and kind of everything sort of came together a little bit,” said Piedmonte, who allowed six hits with three strikeouts in five innings for his seventh victory.
“Got some quality starts with some guys. Our hitters are all putting up good (at-bats), and I think it’s more a comfortable thing — comfortable and confidence. Some things are going our way, so it’s just been really fun these last couple games.”
Kinneman drove in a run in the bottom of the first to set the tone and Will Wilson followed with a two-run bloop single to right field to give the Wolfpack some early momentum.
Jake Palomaki scored Boston College’s lone run in the sixth, but Kinneman delivered the knockout blast to right field to give reliever Sean Adler some breathing room. Adler allowed one hit in four innings and escaped a bases-loaded jam in the ninth for the save.
“I think with winning comes confidence and with winning comes looseness and a belief that you’re not going to lose,” Wolfpack coach Elliot Avent said. “That’s where this club’s at right now.”
Josh McLain and Brad Debo, younger brother of UNCP baseball player Nick Debo, each logged two hits for the Wolfpack.
In the nightcap, the Blue Devils rallied past Clemson to earn a 6-3 victory over the defending ACC Champions.
Duke, the No. 9 seed, scored five unanswered runs to overcome a 3-1 deficit and win the Pool D matchup. The Blue Devils (29-27) will face fourth-seeded Virginia on Thursday.
“It was essentially an elimination game,” Duke coach Chris Pollard said. “Because of the seeding factor, if we don’t win, we’re playing for pride on Thursday. And we knew that. We didn’t talk about it. We didn’t feel like we had to talk about it. We got smart kids. They’re a lot smarter than I am, so they know the bracket.”
Michael Smiciklas and Jalen Phillips led Duke with a pair of key hits in the top of the eighth inning as Smiciklas started the rally with an RBI single and Phillips followed with a two-out, two-run single to give the Blue Devils some cushion.
Smiciklas also doubled and scored on a fielding error in the fifth, with Jimmy Herron tying the game at 3-3 with an RBI single.
Reliever Nick Hendrix pitched 3 1/3 hitless innings to get the win for Duke, which tallied 12 hits. Herron led the Blue Devils with a trio of base knocks.
“We’ve really just been trying to play loose,” Herron said. “I think that’s something that’s helped us, and timely hitting wins games, and that’s what we did. We had a couple big two-out hits.”
Fifth-seeded Clemson built its lead on three solo homers, including lead-off bombs in the first and second innings by Chase Pinder and Andrew Cox. Logan Davidson went yard in the third to make it 3-1, but the Tigers were plagued by a pair of errors and Duke came back.
“We were opportunistic with our hits. We were fortunate in some ways,” Pollard said. “. … We’ll take it. We beat a really good baseball team.”
In the opening game of the tournament, Joe Gomez’s RBI single in the bottom of the 13th inning lifted Miami past Georgia Tech, 6-5.
The Hurricanes will play third-seeded Wake Forest on Thursday with the winner advancing to Saturday’s semifinal round.
Rodd Baxley can be reached at 910-416-5182. Follow him on Twitter @RoddBaxley. The Associated Press contributed to this report.