Quality starting pitching depth is a problem at every level of baseball, and even if this may be Elliott Avent’s best NC State team to date, it’s a problem for the Wolfpack. Michael Bienlien managed just one out Sunday and NC State was pounded by the Duke Blue Devils, 11-2.
Bienlien got the first batter of the game on his very first pitch but proceeded to load the bases for Griffin Conine, who unloaded them with a no-doubter to stake the Devils to a 4-0 lead. Bienlien was chased when Kennie Taylor followed with a triple off the wall in centerfield.
Mathieu Gauthier did good work in relief, striking out the next two batters to keep the score at 4-0, and the Pack stranded Devils at third in each of the first three innings as they tried to climb back in it. A Brock Deatherage RBI single in the second made it 4-1, and Josh McLain doubled home Terrell Tatum in the fifth, but then the wheels came off.
The Duke 8-9 hitters struck the big blows in a six-run bottom of the fifth that blew the game open. Miller hit a two-out, bases-clearing double off Nolan Clenney, and Labosky followed with a two-run jack on an 0-2 slider that hung in the hit-me heart of the plate. The normally reliable Clenney just didn’t have it after a 45-pitch outing Friday. He was charged with four runs in an inning of work, pushing his ERA up to 3.72 on the season.
Evan Justice allowed two runs in two innings and David (or Davis, according to the ESPN graphic) Harrison gave up one in two frames in what was a bad day all around for Pack pitching. Gauthier (1.2 innings) and Nick Swiney (one inning) were the only two of six Pack pitchers to escape unscathed.
State hurlers allowed nine hits—the exact same number as Saturday’s game that saw them surrender just one run—but also coughed up eight free bases via the walk.
Offensively, State managed just two walks and five hits. McLain’s double was the lone extra-base knock.
Labosky pitched the final two frames for the Devils and struck out three without allowing a baserunner. Dude has a 0.00 ERA in 20 innings for a strong Duke pen. Though the home runs from Labosky and Conine were the bookend big blows for the Blue Devil offense, Chris Proctor deserves a mention as well. Proctor singled three times and scored three runs.
State won the series, of course, with a “W” Friday and another Saturday, which makes the pasting a bit easier to shrug off. The Pack went 3-1 on the week, including a win over UNC at DBAP. (Still, get well soon, Johnny Piedmonte’s back.) State returns home for a midweek tilt with highly ranked ECU before hosting UNC next weekend. Things are probably going to get a lot harder before they get easier.