After a less-than-stellar weekend series against Clemson, the NC State baseball team came back in a big way at Doak Field on Tuesday, April 6 to post a 13-2 win against Appalachian State.
Highlighted by a nine-run sixth inning, the Wolfpack (11-11, 5-10 ACC) held its offensive and defensive game together as the Mountaineers (11-13) saw seven different pitchers over eight innings, seemingly plagued by similar bullpen woes that the Pack has faced this year.
Although freshman left-hander Chris Villaman (6.0 IP, 3 H, 1 ER, 7 K) started the game with a little accuracy issue, he quickly gained momentum and settled in by the second inning. Toward the end of the game, after NC State scored nine runs over the sixth inning, head coach Elliott Avent turned to freshman right-handed pitcher Coby Ingle (1.0 IP, 1 H), freshman righty Garrett Payne (1.0 IP, 2 H, 1 ER, 3 K) and junior righty Logan Bender (1.0 IP, 0 H, 0 R) to close out the game.
“We need some pitchers, we need some guys in the bullpen to step up and help us,” Avent said. “We can’t keep going six, seven innings like we’ve been doing… Payne hadn’t pitched all year, Bender hadn’t had many opportunities, so to see those guys go out. Hopefully, they’ll take that to Boston and the rest of April and May.”
For Avent’s 900th win as the head coach of Wolfpack baseball, it sure was a sweet game from the start. The first batter up for NC State in the first inning was junior second baseman J.T. Jarrett (2-4, 2 RBI, 2R, BB), who initially was called out trying to stretch a single into a double, but replayed reversed the call. Sophomore catcher Luca Tresh (1-4, 2 RBI, 1 R, BB) grounded out a few plays later and brought Jarrett home to plate the first run.
The second inning brought the first bomb of the game, this time off the bat of junior right fielder Devonte Brown (1-3, 2 RBI, 2 R, BB). With two outs and junior designated hitter Terrell Tatum (0-2, 2 R, 3 BB) on first, Brown smoked the ball toward the batter’s eye in center to increase the Wolfpack’s lead to 3-0. Villaman continued to pitch well throughout, striking out the second and third hitters up for App State at the top of the second.
NC State’s momentum stalled a bit for the next few innings. The Wolfpack and the Mountaineers alike were getting out batters in order and the score remained steady at 3-0 until the top of the fifth when an App State runner went first to home on a triple to right-center. That being said, by the end of the fifth inning, it was clear that App State was already undergoing some substantial pitching changes.
Sophomore center fielder Tyler McDonough (3-4, 2 RBI, 2 R, BB) took advantage of the pitching carrossel, hitting the Pack’s third home run of the game and re-extending its lead to three runs.
To say the game started to pick up at the end of the sixth inning would be an understatement. NC State expanded its lead by nine more runs and cycled through its lineup to put this midweek matchup in the bag.
With the bases loaded, Jarrett smashed a double by the first baseman and down the right field line, scoring Tatum and sophomore third baseman Vojtech Mensik (2-5, 2 RBI, 1 R). No player was able to hit the ever-exciting grand slam, but it wasn’t necessary. Jarrett, McDonough, Tresh, freshman shortstop Jose Torres (2-5, 2 RBI, 1 R) and Mensik all delivered hits to further establish the Pack’s dominance over the Mountaineers halfway through the game.
App State never recovered after the bottom of the sixth, instead running through more pitchers as the game progressed. At the top of the eighth, the Wolfpack brought in Payne to replace Ingle after one inning. In his first game of the season, Payne did the job, collecting three strikeouts, but App State did score one more run.
By the end of the eighth inning, it was clear that the Wolfpack had bounced back from a disappointing stretch of games in a big way, albeit against a nonconference team. However, its offensive and defensive strength spoke for itself, and the team ended the game with a nine-run lead to celebrate Avent’s 900th win with the Pack.
NC State baseball will return to the field in Newton, Massachusetts on Friday, April 9, where it will be playing against Boston College in a three-game series.