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Wake Forest implodes in 11-7 loss to NC State

It wasn't pretty, but the comeback win puts the Pack over .500 in ACC play.

NC State spotted Wake Forest five runs in Friday's series opener, but a generous Demon Deacon defense and Joe Dunand finally finding his power stroke was more than enough to erase the deficit and propel the Pack to an 11-7 win.

Elliott Avent wasn't around to see the comeback, as he was run from the game early for arguing balls and strikes with home plate umpire Jack Cox.

The Pack (21-9, 6-5) moved to over .500 in the ACC for the first time this season. The loss leaves Wake (19-13, 5-8) in a three-way tie with Duke and Pitt for the final spot in the ACC tournament.

Johnny Piedmonte was once again ineffective toeing the rubber for the Pack, coughing up four runs on four hits and two walks in just 1.2 innings. He managed to strike out reining ACC player of the year Will Craig on a check swing with a pitch that actually hit Wake's stud, but he couldn't get anyone else out. Piedmonte's ERA ballooned to 5.74, and with Cory Wilder coming off a dominant midweek start (and presumably the forgotten Joe O'Donnell looming somewhere), one would imagine that the 6-8 righty's weekend starting days are numbered.

Wake Forest's defense bailed Piedmonte out. The Deacons made five errors, including back-to-back miscues that included a dropped throw and a dropped popup by second baseman Nate Mondou to allow the Pack to tie the game at 5-5 in the bottom of the fifth. Xavier LeGrant doubled and Brock Deatherage homered to start the scoring in the frame, and then the comedy of errors ensued after a Preston Palmeiro sac fly had made it 5-3.

The Deacons got two quick outs in the sixth before a two-out rally, started with a Josh McLain double, loaded the sacks. Brett Kinneman's slow roller to first should've ended the frame, but Gavin Sheets bobbled it, allowing McLain to score the go-ahead run and Kinneman to reach on a close play at first. With the bases still drunk, Dunand belted a no-doubter into the night and suddenly a 5-0 deficit was a 10-5 Pack advantage. It was just the second homer of the season for Dunand, who had seven as a freshman and participated in the college home run derby in Omaha.

The 11th run came courtesy of two more Deacon errors. Dunand, who led off the frame with a single, moved up a base on an errant pickoff throw and wound up scoring later in the inning on a botched run down between third and home. Wake was charged with five errors on the night and State's last eight runs were all unearned.

But the Pack's runs weren't all thanks to defensive miscues, as they finished with 13 hits, led by Andrew Knizner's 3-for-4 day. Dunand, LeGrant, and McLain each had two hits.

The bullpen was fantastic after Piedmonte, allowing just one unearned run until Wake tallied two in the ninth when the game was pretty much out of reach. Austin Staley's effort stood out in particular, as he fanned four in 2.1 shutout innings. Tommy DeJuneas was charged with those ninth-inning runs but nonetheless got a three-inning save, fanning five in the process. It's his team-leading sixth save of the season.

DeJuneas threw 65 pitches (!) so expect any future save opportunities in the series to go to Will Gilbert.

NC State did not take the Barry Bonds (walk him at all costs) approach with Craig, and Craig made them pay, going 2-for-4 with two runs batted in to up his average to .476. The first RBI made it 5-0 and came with first base open. Do not pitch to Will Craig with first base open!

In the series preview, I noted that walks and hit batters would play an important role in the series, as State pitchers are prone to the free pass and Wake hitters are wont to take them as well as take one for the team. The Deacons did hit their season average by drawing five free passes, but Pack pitchers didn't hit anybody (except for Craig, who swung at the pitch). State drew four walks and Deatherage and Knizner both wore one, so State uncharacteristically won the battle of painful trips to first base.

The Wolfpack can take the series with ace Brian Brown (3-1, 2.31 ERA) on the mound today at 4 p.m.