by Matt Sefcovic (@MattSefcovic)
For the first time in school history, the Duke Blue Devils are ACC Tournament champions after beating North Carolina State 1-0 on Saturday afternoon behind a stellar performance from the pitching staff. In four games against teams seeded higher than them, the Blue Devils allowed just five runs.
In the championship game, Cooper Stinson (W, 3-3) kept the Wolfpack off the base paths for the majority of his six innings, allowing just three hits and striking out six. He did not surrender a walk during his outing.
Duke shortstop Ethan Murray led off the fourth inning with a double to left field and later advanced to third on sac fly, which brough Peter Matt to the plate. Matt drove a ball to right field that was deep enough for Murray to scamper home for the lone run of the game.
In the bottom of the sixth, the Wolfpack had a scoring opportunity, but a major baserunning blunder cost them the game tying run. Austin Murr reached base on an error by Duke and later advanced to third on the second error of the inning by the Blue Devils.
With Murr on third base and one out, the Wolfpack’s best hitter, Jonny Butler, came to the plate. Butler hit a ball to deep center field that had enough distance for Murr to tag from third and tie the game. Murr misjudged the catch and left the base early, causing him to return to third base without scoring. Terrell Tatum grounded out to strand Murr and end the threat.
Jimmy Loper entered in the seventh to relieve Stinson by throwing 1.1 innings of shutout ball, giving up one hit. Marcus Johnson (S, 7) recorded the save by picking up the last four outs for the Blue Devils. Duke combined for nine strikeouts on the day.
Duke skipper Chris Pollard has one of the deepest bullpens in the country and they were on full display during the ACC Tournament. The Blue Devils relievers tossed 13.2 innings in the four conference tournament games and did not allow a single run.
The Wolfpack pitchers were just as dominant, allowing just one run on four hits while striking out 12 batters in the championship game. Matt Willadsen (L, 4-3) gave up the lone Duke run while allowing four hits in 4.2 innings. From that point forward, Duke did not record a single hit.
Chris Villaman finished the final 4.1 innings for North Carolina State and allowed just one base runner, a walk, in the seventh inning.
The Blue Devils will take a 12 game winning streak into the NCAA Tournament while North Carolina State is 14-4 over their last 18 games.