CHAPEL HILL, N.C. — Brett Austin’s two-out, two-RBI single in the seventh propelled No. 26 NC State to a thrilling 3-1 victory against No. 5 North Carolina in Saturday’s series-opener at Boshamer Stadium.
Austin plated the game-winning runs from second and third on a first-pitch single into left. The freshman’s crucial hit was his only of the day to go 1-for-3 with two RBIs, and one of just six all afternoon for the Wolfpack. Andrew Ciencin finished 0-for-4, but pushed the Pack’s first run across from third on a one-out grounder in the sixth.
“It’s great to come here against tough competition and get a win to start the series,” Austin said. “I’ve had to work hard to transition, mentally, from high school to here, but I just need to remember to take the same focus into every game, whether it’s UNC or Little League.”
Jake Fincher represented the only State batter to go for multiple hits, finishing the day 2-for-4 with two runs and a stolen base. Logan Ratledge scored the Pack’s go-ahead run on a 1-for-3 performance. Matt Bergquist hit a lead-off double in the ninth, and Chris Diaz led off the fifth with a single to left.
D.J. Thomas (1-1) gutted out 3.1 innings of relief for the win, allowing two hits, striking out a pair, and shutting out UNC. Ethan Ogburn started the game and gave up the lone run, earned, on eight hits and one walk, while striking out three over the first 5 2/3.
UNC starter Kent Emanuel (5-1) ended up with the loss, breaking a string of 12 consecutive wins dating back to last season. Emanuel pitched flawlessly through five innings, allowing just two hits and retiring the first eight batters of the game in order. NC State finally started to hit Emanuel in the sixth, scoring the tying run, before chasing him from the game after 6.2 innings, three runs, none earned, on two walks and four strikeouts. Chris McCue relieved him, pitching the final 2.1 without allowing a run, surrendering one hit, and striking out three.
In the third, Ryan Mathews made a diving grab to preserve the scoreless tie. Parks Jordan hit a one-out double to right, and Chaz Frank was hit by a pitch to put runners on first and second. After a fly out to left, Colin Moran drove a scorcher into right that would have put the Heels on top early. Mathews tracked it down, leaping forward to nab the ball just above the turf and end the inning.
After three and a half scoreless innings, Cody Stubbs broke the tie with a two-out solo homer to right center. The following batter reached on a throwing error, but the Pack avoided any more damage as Fincher tracked down a deep fly to the right center gap to end the inning.
NC State evened the score in the sixth on Ciencin’s RBI. Fincher led off with a single through the right side. Trea Turner bunted behind him and reached when Emanuel fumbled the ball attempting to field it barehanded. Austin moved them to second and third on a sac bunt. Ciencin followed that with a one-out grounder to short to score the tying run.
Thomas relieved Ogburn with runners on the corners and two out. Thomas hit the first batter he faced to load the bases, but forced a chopper right at second to allow Diaz to make the third out unassisted.
The Pack took a 3-1 lead in the seventh on a two-out single by Austin. With one away, Bergquist reached on an error when a throw from third bounced away from the first baseman. Ratledge singled through the left side to put runners at first and second, but UNC got the lead runner on Fincher’s bunt back to the pitcher for the second out. Turner drew a two-out walk to load the bases. That set up Austin to pull the first pitch he saw into left for two RBIs, which held up as the game-winner.
North Carolina’s best chance came in the eighth when, after a Mike Zolk single up the middle with one out, Stubbs nearly tied the game with what would have been his second homer of the afternoon. Mathews tracked the fly down at the warning track in right, making the grab with one hand on the wall.