Wednesday’s afternoon tilt between NC State and Charlotte at the Doak at Dail started innocently enough, with just one run scored between the two clubs through the first five and a half innings, but then, as things will do in a midweek college baseball game, things got weird. After the Pack took a five-run lead in the bottom of the sixth, Elliott Avent decided to turn to an outfielder to hold the lead with predictable results. The 49ers put up a six-spot before the experiment mercifully came to an end. Alas, the Pack plated four in the eighth to win 9-6 and mutiny was, for now, quelled. (But I’ve got my eye on you, Avent.)
State is now 0-1 when scoring six runs in an inning (Sunday’s loss to Seton Hall) and 1-0 when an opponent does it. Overall, the Pack improved to 4-1 while the 49ers suffered their first loss and are 3-1.
State’s first run came courtesy of Brock Deatherage, who tripled and came home on a balk in the fourth. The Pack plated four runs after two were out in the bottom of the sixth, with Shane Shepard’s two-run double being the big blow. Dillon Cooper also looped a two-run single into leftfield on an 0-2 pitch.
Freshman Nick Swiney cruised through his first three innings of work in relief but couldn’t get an out in the top of the seventh after the long Pack half of the inning before. Enter Brett Kinneman and a jug of gasoline to pour on that fire. Kinneman was a successful high school pitcher, but the junior had never thrown a pitch in college. He threw 26 today to get two outs while walking a pair and allowing two hits. One of the outs he did get resulted in a sacrifice fly. I don’t know if the worst part was that it happened at all, or if it’s that no one was up in the bullpen even though it became readily apparent after a couple of pitches that this wasn’t a good idea. A tight situation against arguably State’s best non-conference opponent was simply not the time for this. I don’t want to talk about it anymore. Suffice it to say that State trailed 6-5 by the time Josh Pike came in to get the final out of the inning.
Of course Kinneman can claim to have a 0.00 ERA because all of the runs charged to him were unearned after Brad Debo dropped a throw to the plate that would’ve been the final out of the inning. It was a woeful scoring decision, though, as the ball and runner arrived at his glove nearly simultaneously, and the impact jarred the ball loose. That’s unfortunate for State, but it’s not an error.
Pinch hitter Steven Oakley got a one-out single in the eighth to start the rally that would yield a harder than necessary win for the Wolfpack. Shepard followed with a walk, and Cooper smashed a one-hop liner that beat the Charlotte shortstop like a rented mule, caroming into CF and allowing the tying run to score. That ball very well could’ve been an inning-ending double play. Kinneman (by now returned to the outfield where he belongs), hit an ironic sac fly, if that’s possible, that gave State the lead. Two more runs scored when Debo’s slow roller up the middle was played into a two-run single by the aforementioned defensively inept shortstop.
It took a dropped routine fly ball to beat North Carolina A&T and more defensive miscues to beat Charlotte, but I’m totally not concerned.
One thing not to worry about is Joe O’Donnell. He nailed down his third save in as many tries. Kent Klyman got the win after putting up a goose egg in the eighth. Lost in all the late insanity was a nice effort from Reid Johnston, who started and threw three shutout frames. He allowed two hits, didn’t walk a batter, and fanned two.
The Wolfpack host Furman this weekend, with the first game slated for 3 p.m. Friday.