UNC clinches, State sweeps, Wake makes history in weekend baseball action

UNCW, ECU also posted series wins against conference opponents on the next-to-last weekend of the college baseball regular season

James Guillory
Johnny Piedmonte three 7 2/3 shutout innings for NC State at Pittsburghon Friday to improve his record to 6-0 this season

North Carolina clinched its division championship, Wake Forest made some history and NC State inched closer to an NCAA tournament bid during an eventful penultimate weekend of the ACC’s baseball regular season. The Tar Heels wrapped up their first Coastal Division title since 2013 and a top two seeding in the upcoming ACC tournament by taking two of three at Virginia Tech. The Deacons continued their quietly strong season by winning their first series at Florida State since 1993 while tying a school record with their 17th conference victory. The Wolfpack, meanwhile, continued its recent hot streak by posting its second straight ACC series sweep. Of all those results, State’s three straight victories at Pittsburgh were by far the most meaningful. Coach Elliott Avent’s team has shaken out of its early season doldrums by winning 11 of its last 12 games. In the process, it has finally found an ace both in the Friday night starting slot and out of the bullpen. Senior Johnny Piedmonte struck out a career-high eight in 7⅔ scoreless innings against the Panthers in a 7-4 win that got the weekend started. Freshman Will Wilson provided the offensive punch in the game with a three-run homer. On Saturday, Brian Debo had three hits — including a home run — and three RBI to key an 8-6 win highlighted by Joe O’Donnell’s second straight save. O’Donnell, a senior right hander coming back from an a shoulder injury, has recorded seven saves in seven tries since moving into the closer’s role only a few weeks ago. The Wolfpack (31-21, 14-13 ACC) finished off the sweep of Pitt on Sunday by tying a season high with 18 hits for a 14-6 victory that featured four hits each from Andy Cosgrove and Joe Dunand. Wake Forest (35-16, 17-10) didn’t score a run in 13 innings Saturday, but still managed to take two of three from Florida State. That’s because it built a 4-2 lead over five innings before Friday’s series opener was suspended by rain. Gavin Sheets hit his 18th homer of the season and Stuart Fairchild also went deep to stake the Deacons to a lead relievers Colin Peluse and Griffin Roberts were able to preserve over five innings after Saturday’s resumption for a 4-3 win. After the Seminoles bounced back to win the scheduled Saturday game 4-0, Wake got two homers from Bruce Steel and a 2⅔ inning save from Roberts to win 10-9 and clinch the series.Steel was named ACC Player of the week for a performance that saw him record five extra base hits and drive in nine runs on the weekend. The shortstop has also gone 24 games without committing an error.In Blacksburg, UNC improved to 41-10 overall (21-6 ACC) by splitting a Saturday doubleheader before putting on a record-setting exclamation point on its division clincher Sunday. The third-ranked Tar Heels worked around a rare subpar outing by ace J.B. Bukauskas in the Saturday opener, getting a two-run homer from Tyler Lynn in the sixth and a sterling 4⅔-inning relief outing from Rodney Hutchison for a 9-4 victory. Brandon Riley had a single, triple, homer and three RBI for UNC. The Hokies then gained a split by hitting three homers off freshman Gianluca Dalatri. But that only got the Tar Heels angry, apparently, as they got five hits from Brian Miller, and a homer and five RBI from Logan Warmoth to post a 20-0 whitewash of Tech. It was the most lopsided shutout win against an ACC opponent in school history. Duke (26-24, 11-16) also had a successful weekend by beating Georgia Tech 7-5 on Friday behind a three-hit performance from leadoff man Jimmy Herron and a homer from Kennie Taylor, then beating the Yellow Jackets 12-5 on Saturday on the strength of a five-run sixth inning rally. Zack Kone had three hits and three RBI while No. 9 hitter Chris Proctor had the game’s biggest hit with a three-run triple in the sixth that broke the game open. The Blue Devils weren’t able to finish off the sweep, though, as the Yellow Jackets won 5-3 on Sunday by scoring twice in the top of the ninth. Max Miller had a homer to lead Duke’s offense. Elsewhere around the state this weekend, East Carolina and UNC Wilmington both won two of their from their respective conference opponents. The resurgent Seahawks maintained a half-game lead in the CAA standings at 14-7 (26-25 overall) on the strength of a walkoff homer from Casey Golden on Friday and another strong pitching performance from freshman lefthander Zarion Sharpe on Saturday. Golden’s blast gave UNCW a 6-5 win and marked the sixth straight game in which he homered. Sharp then won his sixth straight decision by allowing only one earned run in 6⅔ innings of a 3-2 that featured a homer by Nick Feight. Elon salvaged the final game of the series Sunday with a 5-3 win, despite homers from the Seahawks’ Daniel Stack and Mason Berne. ECU, meanwhile, got a pair of homers from freshman Spencer Brickhouse and a three-run homer from Eric Tyler while scoring nine times in the sixth for an 11-4 victory against Memphis on Friday. The Pirates (27-25, 6-15 AAC) weren’t able to overcome an early 7-0 deficit in Saturday’s 8-3 loss. But they avoided another loss Sunday when sophomore Turner Brown singled home Charlie Yorgen in the bottom of the ninth for a 3-2 walkoff win. NC A&T (26-23, 15-9 MEAC) got swept in a Friday doubleheader by Florida A&M, losing 6-4 and 8-1, with the only run in the nightcap coming on a pinch-hit homer from Camden Williamson. The Eagles salvaged the series finale on Saturday by scoring seventh and four in the eighth for a 10-7 win that clinched the No. 2 seed from the South Division in next week’s MEAC tournament. Senior Tim Ravere keyed the late rally with a pair of hits. He drove home the tying run and scored the eventually game-winner while relievers Josh Bottenfield and Noah Dyals combined to hold the Rattlers scoreless for the final 3⅔ innings. Charlotte (28-22, 15-12 CUSA) lost two of three at home to conference rival Texas-San Antonio. Zach Jarrett was the hitting star of Saturday’s 8-3 win with a homer, two other hits and four RBI while T.J. Nichting hit his 66th career double and Josh Maciejewski recorded his first career save. Finally, Appalachian State’s woes continued with a sweep at the hands of South Alabama. The Mountaineers rallied to tie the game Friday by scoring five in the seventh, but still suffered an 8-6 defeat despite three hits each from Caleb Grubbs and Matt Vernon. Connor Leonard drove in three and Vernon hit a triple and homer on Saturday, but it made little difference in a 24-5 loss while leonard and Vernon both homered Sunday in an 11-6 setback that dropped their team to 19-31 overall (8-18 Sun Belt). App State closes out its regular season schedule next week against defending national champion Coastal Carolina.