Wolfpack stages another come-from-behind baseball win over rival North Carolina

N.C. State did it to North Carolina again.

Trailing the No. 11 Tar Heels late in the game Friday at Doak Field, the Wolfpack used timely hitting and some clutch pitching and fielding for a 5-4 comeback victory that clinched the ACC baseball series between the two rivals.

“This team just keeps fighting,” Wolfpack coach Elliott Avent said. “We’ve been pretty good in finding a way to get a win.”

A night after shortstop Brandon Butterworth won it for the Pack with a walkoff homer in the bottom of the ninth, the Wolfpack closed out the Tar Heels in the ninth on Friday behind two freshmen: pitcher Jacob Dudan and second baseman Luke Nixon.

Dudan, a right-hander from Huntersville, took the mound in the ninth after the Pack got two strong innings in relief from Jaxon Lucas. Dudan retired Colby Wilkerson and Anthony Donofrio on groundouts, Nixon making sparkling stops and quick, accurate throws each time.

That left it up to Dudan versus the Heels’ Vance Honeycutt, power pitcher versus power hitter.

Honeycutt homered earlier in the game – one of three solo shots by UNC against Pack starter Dominic Fritton, who went the first six innings. It was the 16th of the season for the Tar Heels versatile center fielder, considered a potential first-round MLB draft pick.

With State fans on their feet and getting louder with each pitch in the ninth, Dudan first fell behind 2-0 in the count with two sliders. He then challenged and struck out Honeycutt with fastballs — one clocked at 98 mph.

“When I went in there it was like immediate adrenaline,” Dudan said. “Once I heard everyone clapping and screaming and I got the strikeout, I’ve never been that excited in my life.”

The third strike to Honeycutt was a fastball low and away, although Dudan didn’t quite wait for the umpire to punch Honeycutt out before celebrating.

“I had a feeling it was going to be a strike-three call, so I got started early jumping up and down,” Dudan said. “I’m happy we got the call, because if we didn’t get the call there I would have felt really dumb.”

Dudan got the call. The Pack improved to 22-14 overall and 12-8 in the ACC, while UNC fell to 29-10 and 15-5.

Trailing 4-1 after six innings, the Wolfpack got a run in the seventh on an RBI-single from Eli Serrano III, then took the lead with three in the eighth. Butterworth had an RBI-single, and the Pack added two runs on a wild pitch and then a passed ball by the Heels, Butterworth coming in to score the go-ahead run..

“We get going late,” said Pack first baseman Garrett Pennington, who had three hits and an RBI. “We don’t know what it is about it, but we get going late. We know we’re not out of the fight.”