For the first time in three years, North Carolina and NC State didn’t require extra innings to settle an ACC Baseball Championship meeting. But Tuesday afternoon’s opening game at NewBridge Bank Park still took nearly four hours to complete and remained in doubt until the final out.
Seventh-seeded UNC pulled ahead with a three-run third inning and held off the 10th-seeded Wolfpack for a 4-3 win before a crowd of 5,822.
The defending champion Tar Heels (33-23) moved into the pool play section of the tournament and will face second-seeded Florida State in Wednesday’s 7 p.m. game. The loss eliminated NC State (32-23) from further ACC Championship play.
“We’re obviously very excited to have won and be able to stay here a little bit longer and play three more games,” UNC coach Mike Fox said. “It was an incredible game, I think what everybody expected when we get together. A lot happened in the last four hours. We did just enough to come out with a win.”
Zach Rice (2-2), the second of five Tar Heel pitchers, picked up the win on the mound. UNC ace Trevor Thornton made his first relief appearance of the season and worked final two innings. Thornton did not allow a hit and issued one intentional walk in earning his first save of the year and lowering his ERA for the season to 1.94.
“That was what I wanted,” Thornton said. “I told Coach after the game I missed that adrenaline. I was really prepared for that time of the game.”
Skye Bolt hit his third home run of the season and drove in two of UNC’s four runs. Wolfpack All-ACC catcher Brett Austin finished 3-for-4 at the plate, and Bubby Riley drove in a pair of runs.
Starting pitcher Eric Peterson (4-4) took the loss for NC State, which left 11 runners stranded on base, including bases loaded in the third and eighth innings.