While most baseball teams are headed South for spring training or a spring break trip to warmer climates, three college teams from North Carolina went the other direction last weekend, traveling to snowy Minnesota to play in the Cambria College Classic.
The good news is that NC State, Duke and North Carolina didn’t have to brave the elements in Minneapolis. The games were held indoors at U.S. Bank Stadium, home of the NFL’s Minnesota Vikings.
While temperatures inside the building were maintained at a comfortable 72 degrees, two of the teams were able to build on the hot start to their seasons — including NC State, which went undefeated in the three-game round-robin against Big Ten opponents to win the event’s championship trophy.
Coach Elliott Avent’s Wolfpack extended its season record to a perfect 11-0 by beating Iowa 10-6 on Friday, Purdue 6-0 on Saturday behind the masterful pitching of ACC Pitcher of the Week Nick Swiney, and host Minnesota in a come-from-behind 11-7 thriller on Sunday.
The Blue Devils won two of three with a 5-1 victory against Purdue on Friday and a 7-3, 10-inning triumph against Minnesota on Saturday before dropping a 7-5 decision to Iowa in their final game on Sunday.
The Tar Heels, meanwhile, won only once. But the victory came with a flair for the dramatic, thanks to a 10th-inning, walk-off double by Clemente Inclan that salvaged a 6-5 win against Purdue.
While Inclan’s big hit provided a memorable moment, the most dominant performance of the weekend was turned in by the Wolfpack’s emerging ace, Swiney.
The junior left-hander allowed a leadoff single to Purdue’s Skyler Hunter and hit cleanup man Zac Fascia with a pitch later in the first. He then retired the next 22 batters he faced on the way to an eight-inning, 98-pitch masterpiece.
He struck out 15, bettering the career-high of 11 he had in each of his first two starts, becoming the first State pitcher to strike out 15 in a game since first-round draft pick Carlos Rodon did it to Georgia Tech on April 25, 2014.
The one-hitter was State’s third shutout of the season.
At the plate for the Wolfpack, preseason All-America catcher Patrick Bailey continued to break out of his early-season slump by going 5 for 13 with three walks in the three games. He broke a 5-all tie with a seventh-inning homer in the opener against Iowa, then busted the game open with a grand slam an inning later.
State also got a big offensive performance from junior college transfer first baseman Austin Murr — a native of Minnesota — and freshman Noah Soles, whose pinch-hit, two-run single in the eighth inning against Minnesota completed a comeback that saw State rally from a 7-3 deficit by scoring eight unanswered runs.
Duke’s win against Purdue featured a strong pitching performance by junior right-hander Bryce Jarvis. Coming off a perfect game earlier this season, Jarvis turned in seven strong innings against the Boilermakers, striking out 11 over seven innings, while getting offensive support from Wil Hoyle — who drove in a pair of runs — and seniors Chase Creek and Erikson Nichols, who had a pair of hits each.
The extra-inning win against the host Gophers saw the Blue Devils (9-2) get up off the deck after squandering a two-run lead in the eighth.
Junior Joey Loperfido broke the tie with a two-run, two-out single in the 10th before Creek and Michael Rothenberg also drove in runs to provide some insurance.
Coach Chris Pollard’s team appeared on its way to a weekend sweep, up 4-2 going into the sixth against Iowa. But the Hawkeyes scored one in the sixth, three in the seventh and another in the eighth to put the Blue Devils away.
The Tar Heels (8-4) also couldn’t hold a late lead against Iowa, wasting a one-hit pitching performance over seven innings from Joey Lancellotti by giving up four runs in the bottom of the ninth to force extra innings.
UNC then left the bases loaded in the top of the 10th before the Hawkeyes’ Nic Pryor won it in the bottom of the inning with a solo homer.
Coach Mike Fox’s team also got a strong pitching performance from Austin Sandy in its opening game against Minnesota but could only manage five hits and a single run.
All three teams return home to begin ACC play with the Wolfpack opening against Virginia, Duke playing Florida State and UNC taking on Notre Dame.