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State can’t complete sweep against Austin Peay

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The wheels came off for Johnny Piedmonte and the Pack in the eighth.

NC State battled back to tie Austin Peay twice but ultimately couldn’t muster a third rally to sweep the series against the Governors, who got a three-run homer in the eighth from Landon Kelly in their 7-3 win. The Pack have won both of their weekend series this season and stand at 4-2.

Evan Mendoza broke out of an early-season slump with a two-out, two-run single to tie the score at 2-2 in the bottom of the third. Will Wilson doubled to put runners at second and third with two outs. After falling behind Brett Kinneman in the count, Austin Peay starter Colin Powell ultimately put him on with an intentional free pass to face Mendoza, who came through with a sharp single to right field. It was the only hit for Mendoza; State managed just six as a team.

One of those hits left the yard, a solo shot from Joe Dunand in the bottom of the seventh to again knot the score, this time at 3-3. The home run was Dunand’s second in as many games.

The Pack had a chance to get out of the eighth unscathed, but Johnny Piedmonte and Shane Shepard miscommunicated on a comebacker off the bat of Alex Robles that drilled the lanky right-hander and caromed towards the bag. Piedmonte had time to recover and make the play at first for the inning’s final out, but he never called off Shepard, who came off the bag at the last minute to grab it, allowing Robles to beat everyone to first.

Robles finished with three hits, including a pair of doubles.

Piedmonte, possibly shaken after taking the line drive off the upper part of his pitching arm, walked the next batter, uncorked a wild pitch to score the go-ahead run, and then delivered a lifeless high fastball that Kelly deposited over the leftfield wall.

Chase Hamilton also homered for the Governors, his fourth of the season.

Kinneman had a hit, two walks, and a stolen base for State. Brock Deatherage had his second straight 0-for-4 after opening the series with a 4-for-4 afternoon that included a home run.

Until Piedmonte’s implosion, the Pack pen did fairly solid work in relief of Tommy DeJuneas, who was hooked after allowing two runs in two innings. Joe O’Donnell allowed a run in 2.2 innings, and Austin Staley was dominant over 2.1 scoreless innings. Michael Bienlien issued a free pass to start the 8th before getting one out. He was charged with the loss after Piedmonte allowed the inherited runner to score. Between Bienlien and Piedmonte, LOOGY Kent Klyman came in and got the only man he faced.

Piedmonte can be cut some slack, perhaps, since his struggles came after getting drilled by a line drive, but I have to think the notion of him being the team’s closer will not last long, especially given Staley’s great start to the season and comparative success in a relief role a year ago.

John Sparks yielded Dunand’s home run but struck out five in 2.2 innings of relief to get credit for the win.

The Pack won Saturday’s game 6-3. After a shaky first inning, Cory Wilder settled down to throw four scoreless innings. He walked just one and hit a batter, both in the first. Mathieu Gauthier got credit for the win after allowing a run in three innings. Combined, Wilder and Gauthier struck out eight Governors. Back-to-back-to-back doubles from DeJuneas, Shepard, and Jack Conley sparked a four-run fourth that helped the Pack to a 5-0 lead.

The Pack have a pair of midweek games, first at UNCG Tuesday afternoon at 4 p.m. Apparently this one can be streamed live on YouTube. State returns to the Doak at Dail to face Charlotte Wednesday at 3 p.m. That contest will stream via the ACC Network.