NC State’s ninth-inning rally stuns Wake Forest in ACC Baseball Tournament game

Durham, NC – Terrell Tatum’s two-run infield single keyed NC State’s four-run ninth inning that rallied the Wolfpack past Wake Forest 6-5 on Thursday night in the Atlantic Coast Conference Championship.

NC State baseball players line the dugout before the start of the ACC Baseball Tournament game against Wake Forest. (photo by Gene Galin)

NC State (42-15) trailed 5-2 entering the ninth before getting a two-run single from Brad Debo. David Harrison pinch ran for Debo and reached second on a wild pitch, and Tatum beat out a grounder to second that scored Tyler McDonough with the tying run. Harrison was initially called out on the throw home to the plate before review reversed the play to push the Wolfpack ahead in a wild inning.

Baker Nelson (2-0) pitched 1/3 of an inning in the eighth for the win while Cameron Cotter closed out the Demon Deacons (31-26) in the ninth for his third save.

Wake Forest appeared in control with a four-run fourth and another run in the seventh but didn’t hold up as NC State fought back with all its scoring over the final three innings. William Fleming (1-4) took the loss

NC State baseball players before start of ACC Baseball Tournament game against Wake Forest. (photo by Gene Galin)

THURSDAY GAME 3 NOTES

  • Regardless of the outcome of its Friday night game against Florida State, NC State has earned a spot in Saturday’s 5 p.m. semifinal game versus the winner of the first game of Friday’s session – No. 2 Georgia Tech (39-16) versus No. 7 Duke (31-24) … The Wolfpack did not play either team during the regular season.
NC State and Wake Forest baseball coaches meet with umpires before the start of the ACC Baseball Tournament Game. (photo by Gene Galin)
  • NC State took two of three from Florida State (35-21) when the Atlantic Division foes met in Raleigh on March 15-17.
  • NC State had been 2-12 when trailing after eight innings prior to Friday night … Wake Forest had been 29-1 when leading after eight.
  • Wake Forest and NC State have now split four meetings during the 2019 season … The Demon Deacons took two of three in the regular-season series at Winston-Salem on April 18-20.
  • NC State now holds an 8-7 edge over Wake Forest in all-time ACC Baseball Championship meetings and leads the all-time series 123-62.
NC State baseball coach Elliot Avent before start of the ACC Baseball Tournament game against Wake Forest. (photo by Gene Galin)

NC State post-game press conference with Wolfpack baseball coach Elliot Avent and players Cameron Cotter & Brad Debo

THE MODERATOR: We’re going to start introductions here. We’ve got NC State Coach Elliott Avent, as well as student-athletes Cameron Cotter and Brad Debo. Coach when you are ready, make an opening statement.

TOM WALTER: It’s hard to make an opening statement in a game like that. I’ll tell you what I told the team. Everybody’s going to go home tonight and they’re gonna remember like why was David Harrison running, and he scored on the play that got instant replay. They’re going to talk about that forever. Terrell Tatum putting him out on a close play, and Debo’s double on a 3-0 pitch, down 4-1.

So that’s what a lot of people are gonna talk about, and that’s why people love baseball. They get to talk about things on the way home. But even though the things I like to talk about with our club, the things that I told them I was most proud of that nobody will talk about is Baker Nelson went in and through strike 1 with a fastball and got a bleeder over shortstop, and then he came back with a fastball, fly ball to center field.

Evan Justice came in and threw two good fastballs to player of the year, ACC, I think he showed why, hitting that ball to left field wall. That’s what I will remember. We just gotta keep doing our job. This is a game that works out sometimes, sometimes it doesn’t. Proud of our club. They haven’t quit all year. They battled; they believe in one another, and obviously Cam Cotter came out in such a pressure situation after taking such an emotional lead, with so many crazy things happening in the ninth. For him to belive in himself and calm down, and to be able to do what he did, he will never forget it, and I will never forget it.

Q. Elliot, you talked about obviously what happened in the ninth and the pitchers in the ninth as well, but how about Nick Swiney and what he did to keep you guys in the game and get you to the ninth there?
TOM WALTER: Yeah, Nick Swiney has been like that — I could say all year, but it be hasn’t been all year, but it’s been close, special last half of the year. That’s who he’s been. He’s one of the top pitchers in this league. Johnston was throwing okay. I think he struck out two of the first four hitters and was throwing pretty good, but they got the one-out ball that — Dillon makes that play all the time.

We’re one of the top fielding teams in the country for a reason. You could see the play that Devonte made in right field, the scoop JT made, Evan Edwards at first base is unbelievable, and then Dillon Cooper made the barehanded — so we made big-time plays all night. But a couple plays there in the ninth inning — I mean in the second inning with Paddy throwing the ball down the line and Paddy not hanging on to the ball when Devonte threw the ball home, but that stuff probably kept me from taking Johnston out, but Swiney came in early, and I just thought we needed to change things, and he was unbelievable.

Q. Cam, did you feel any added pressure coming in with a runner on second, or did you have no problems treating it as business as usual?
CAMERON COTTER: I’ve come in in the ninth a few games now, and so I’m getting, I wouldn’t say comfortable in that position, because obviously there is going to be some pressure there, but just coming in with a man on second I just wanted to pound the zone with fastballs. That’s been our game plan in the past, playing Wake Forest, and I just wanted to do it again.

Q. Coach, why was David Harrison running?
TOM WALTER: Well, I told Ben Sanderson, who is our Director of Player Development, I said Ben — when Debo got on — if this thing goes extra inches, we got nobody left on the bench. We’re without David Vazquez right now, Marek Chlup, Thomas is at football. We had nobody left on the bench, and I said — when he got on, and that’s the winning run, I said Ben find me the fastest pitcher you got that you don’t think I’m going to use in this game. And he came back with David Harrison and Barger, who actually played outfield in junior college, and I thought Barger might get in this game, so I went with Harrison. Good choice. Life is all about good choices, ain’t it, Joe! (Laughter.)

Q. Brad, how surprised were you to get green lighted on 3-0 there? The other question is, is this kinda the team’s MO to come back like that? You have had some ridiculous comebacks. How does this rank?
BRAD DEBO: This is one of the greatest I’ve been a part of. Just the emotions going on in the dugout and how we strung it together in the end is unbelievable. We all bought in, we pulled for each other. We all wanted to do the same thing, and it was shaky in the beginning of the game. We were leaving guys on, but we didn’t quit. We kept going and going, and eventually it would work out. Couple of big hits, and we could do it.

Q. Were you surprised by the green lighting?
BRAD DEBO: I don’t know. I guess not.

Q. Coach, one of the pieces — missing pieces that you said following the Chapel Hill series was Vojtech Mensik, and today he comes in, in a pinch hit situation, finishes the game 3 for 4 with two doubles. How big has he been in this lineup over the course of the season, and do you think he catalyzed the rest of the bats in the order?
TOM WALTER: We’ve had like four guys that have rotated out between second and third. You don’t get that much in a season. You like to settle down. We did settle down at one time to Vojtech Mensik, and then we rotated second base with Jarrett and Vazquez.

But we know — of all those guys, Vojtech was the most offensive. And he was our starting third baseman when he got hurt and when Will got hurt, he went to short that’s when he got hurt at Wake, and this was his first at-bat. As a matter of fact, we were talking in the locker room when to bring him back. You don’t want to wait until the regional to pull that trigger, and we talked about it tonight. We were talking about, well, like in the Big Leagues, they need rehab at-bats, and they’re talking about you need to go down to the minor leagues and get 20 or 30 at-bats.

I said, come on, that’s way too many. We don’t have that kind of time, so I called Trea Turner, and he was on the bus going to play the Mets, and I said how many hits did you get in rehab, and he said nine. I said, good. So I knew if we got down tonight, we would go to Vojtech, and he responded.

Q. I believe the instant replay is the Trea Turner rule; right?
TOM WALTER: Yeah, without question.

Q. How vocal were you after that ACC tournament in getting the rule passed and was this a pay back for that?
TOM WALTER: I hadn’t thought about that, but I’ve actually always been against instant replay in all sports. I think it slows the game down a lot, and I don’t think they get it right a lot. I sit in my living room and me and my girlfriend get it right in ten seconds, and they go back there for five minutes in the NFL, and they come back with stuff, and I’m like, are you kiddin’ me?

So I’m kind of against it, but after the Trea Turner thing, I changed my mind. That kept us out of postseason, and it was devastating, so I changed my mind, and it’s actually worked a lot better than I ever thought it would work. It’s saved me a lot of ejections. (Laughter.) So I’m real happy about that.

Q. Something for Brad and for you, Coach. Brad, I know you’ve worked hard to get back to this point. In the last year plus. How has that kind of built to this moment and how gratifying is this moment?
BRAD DEBO: I don’t know how to describe it. It’s kind of just unbelievable, honestly. You just keep working and working and working and it finally just pays off, and it’s so cool.

Q. How about from your perspective to see the road he’s been on and to have a night like this in a special game like this?
TOM WALTER: It’s neat for him, come on. When Cam was answering the question a little while ago, I looked at Debo and said, “You will never forget this the rest of his life.” Everybody loves Debo. Everybody loves his dad. He’s at Durham playing at Durham Bull stadium, playing at NC State. It doesn’t get any better than that. You couldn’t write this story, but he will take it in stride like he takes everything else, and he’s a competitor, and everybody loves him, and like I said, just really happy for him.

Q. For Coach. I know you have a game tomorrow but what does it mean to move auto to the semifinals in this ACC baseball tournament?
TOM WALTER: I think it means a lot to our guys just to keep playing. We went through such a remarkable run at the beginning of the year, 29-3, I think they believed they were that good, they thought. We probably shouldn’t have lost those three, and they were buying into something that was fictitious a little bit, and then when we didn’t play as good and didn’t throw as many strikes out of the bullpen, and then we had all the injuries at one time.

All of the sudden they got slapped in the face and took us a while to rebound from that mentally, and then we had to obviously get the guys back on the field, and with Vojtech coming back tonight, obviously that’s a big piece.

But it’s just — just really happy for the guys because it shows NC State’s famous for a lot of things. One thing they’re famous for is “don’t give up, don’t ever give up,” and nobody will ever forget Jimmy V. and that famous speech which has taken on a life of its own. We’re teaching more than baseball here. Through life guys have to know if you keep grinding and do the right thing, it might not work out today, it might not work out tomorrow, but it’s the only thing you can do, and if you keep doing it, it will give you something like this once in a while, and this is something you’ll never forget.

THE MODERATOR: On that note, thank you all very much and congrats.