Whether basketball or baseball, when it’s NC State vs. UNC, expect the unexpected

When it’s N.C. State playing North Carolina, in any sport and in any setting, it’s often wise to expect the unexpected.

Whether under the bright lights of the ACC basketball tournament in the nation’s capital, or in a small gym like Reynolds Coliseum, the competition is intense and the outcome can be dramatic.

That’s the way it was Thursday. The setting was the Pack’s Doak Field at Dail Park as the teams’ three-game ACC baseball series began. There were some big hits and some clutch pitching and a few errors, all before a packed and loud crowd.

And then the Wolfpack’s Brandon Butterworth stepped to the plate in the bottom of the ninth and promptly sent everyone home.

The shortstop took a fastball offering from UNC’s Matt Poston deep to left field for a walkoff home run that gave the Pack a 9-8 win over the No. 11 Tar Heels and had the transfer from Western Carolina being mobbed at home plate under the haze of red LED lighting.

It was the Wolfpack’s sixth walkoff win this season and a first in college for Butterworth, who later said he once was an N.C. State fan growing up in Monroe.

“It’s something you dream about your whole life,” Butterworth said. “Doing that, it was just a testament to what we did all game. Going out there, keeping grinding at-bats, keep getting runs and keep helping our pitchers, and then someone steps up and has a good moment, whether it’s me or anybody in the lineup.”

Wolfpack catcher Jacob Cozart had his good moments, driving in five runs. He had a two-out, two-run single in the first, then smoked a three-run homer to right field in the sixth inning for an 8-5 lead.

Cozart waited out a pitching change in the sixth before hammering the first pitch from reliever Kyle Percival.

The Tar Heels (29-9 overall, 14-5 ACC) showed off the long ball, too. UNC had five homers as outfielder Casey Cook delivered twice.

“Good offensive teams on both sides,” UNC coach Scott Forbes said.

The Pack (21-14,. 11-8) won its series at then-No. 2 Clemson last week, taking two of three from the Tigers, but Cozart said the UNC series has a “another level to it.”

“It’s for the ultimate bragging rights in North Carolina,” he said.

The series continues Friday night at Doak Field and concludes Saturday afternoon.

“It’s what I live for,” Cozart said. “It’s my third year of it and it never lets down.”