CHARLOTTE, N.C (theACC.com) – Sixty years is a long time to wander through the baseball wilderness, but Duke’s pitching staff guided the Blue Devils home on Sunday.

Starting pitcher Cooper Stinson combined with relievers Jimmy Loper and Marcus Johnson to stifle third-seeded NC State, and the ninth-seeded Blue Devils’ lone fourth-inning run held up for a 1-0 win in the 2021 ACC Baseball Championship title game at Truist Field.

It marked the fourth ACC baseball championship in Duke history – but the first since 1961 and the first since the conference began deciding its champion via a tournament format in 1973.

The Blue Devils (32-20), written off by most observers when their record stood at .500 just three weeks ago, have now won 12 consecutive games. Duke earned the ACC’s automatic berth in the NCAA Tournament with Sunday’s win, but the Blue Devils’ remarkable stretch run all but assured they would have been selected as an at-large team even had they come up short against the Wolfpack.

NC State (30-17) will now await Monday’s NCAA baseball tournament selections (noon, ESPN2) in expectation of its 32nd all-time postseason bid.

Sunday marked the first time the ACC Baseball Championship title game has been decided by a 1-0 score. It was the fourth shutout in the tournament final overall and the first since Florida State blanked Clemson 10-0 at St. Petersburg, Florida, in 1997.

Stinson, who entered the game with an ERA of 5.87, checked the Wolfpack on three hits through six innings while striking out six and walking one. Loper followed, allowing one hit in 1 1/3 innings before Johnson came on with one out in the eighth and finished the game. Johnson yielded a leadoff single to Jonny Butler in bottom of the ninth, but retired the next three batters for his seventh save of the year.

In total, Duke’s pitching trio combined on a five-hitter, issued no walks and struck out nine batters. NC State fell short despite receiving a masterful pitching effort of its own from Matt Willadsen and Chris Villaman, who teamed up on a four-hitter while striking out 12 and walking just two.

The Blue Devils' pitching staff finished the tournament with an ERA of 1.00, allowing just four earned runs in 36 innings.

Duke missed its first chance to push a run across the plate in the top of the third inning when Graham Pauley attempted to score from first on a double by tournament MVP Joey Loperfido but was cut down at the plate on perfect relay throws from Wolfpack right fielder Devonte Brown and J.T. Jarrett.

The Blue Devils finally broke through in the fourth when Ethan Murray led off with a double, took third on RJ Schreck’s deep fly ball to center and scored on another long fly by Peter Matt to deep right.

NC State appeared set to at least tie the game in the bottom of the sixth after leadoff hitter Austin Murr reached third base as the result of a pair of Duke errors and Butler launched a high fly to relatively deep center with one out. Murr initially left early without tagging up, and then had to retreat and hold at third as Loperfido fired a strike to the plate.

The Wolfpack suffered its first loss in 67 games, dating back to an 11-0 loss to Florida State in the 2019 ACC Championship’s pool play round on May 24, 2019.

OF NOTE
A crowd of 7,162 attended Sunday’s finale, pushing total attendance for the 15-game tournament to 58,516. That ranks as the fifth-highest attendance in ACC Baseball Championship history and the highest since the 2015 tournament in Durham, North Carolina, drew 64,140.