Neither team managed a hit until the sixth inning, but NC State poured it on late to eliminate Army from the Raleigh regional. State’s first hit was a loud one, a home run from Evan Edwards that made the score 3-0, and Edwards capped the scoring with a solo shot in the ninth that made the final 11-1 in favor of the Wolfpack.
Unfortunately, it wasn’t all good news for the regional hosts, as Johnny Piedmonte was forced to leave the game early despite twirling a gem, and fellow senior Josh McLain tweaked a hammy and came out as well.
Piedmonte didn’t allow a hit in his four plus innings but was lifted after going 3-0 on the leadoff hitter in the fifth, the third pitch bouncing in the dirt. The sixth-year senior, a survivor of both Tommy John surgery and a serious car accident, apparently aggravated the back injury that’s often kept him off the mound in his Pack career.
Losing Piedmonte meant Elliott Avent leaned on relievers Kent Klyman and Nolan Clenney, both of whom are unlikely to be available tonight as State squares off against Auburn. Klyman threw 44 pitches and Clenney threw 46. The trio combined to allow just three hits and the only Army run was unearned (on a passed ball).
The team that scored first has won every game in the regional. State took a 1-0 lead in the first when McLain was hit by a pitch, stole second, moved to third on Brett Kinneman’s groundout, and scored on a Will Wilson sacrifice fly.
It was still 1-0 in the sixth when Edwards went deep. It was 3-1 heading into the seventh when the Pack broke out with a five-spot ignited by J.T. Jarrett’s single in front of the top of the order. Jarrett scored from first on a McLain triple, Kinneman singled home McLain, Brock Deatherage plated Kinneman with a hit, and Stephen Pitarra punctuated the outburst with a two-run double off the top of the wall in right.
Wilson, who hit the ball hard all afternoon, hit a two-run, tape-measure blast in the eighth before Edwards closed the scoring with his second big fly in the ninth.
When the dust settled, the Pack had plated 10 runs on 11 hits over the game’s final four frames. Deatherage had three of those hits; McLain and Edwards finished with two apiece. Edwards also drew a couple of free passes, and, along with McLain, scored three times.
Michael Bienlien will get the ball against Auburn at 7 p.m. The Pack must win to force a decisive, winner take all finale on Monday night.