Johnny Piemonte left the mound at Doak Field with two outs in the ninth to a much-deserved standing ovation as the Wolfpack eliminated Navy, 17-1, Sunday afternoon.
State Attacks Early, Pummels Navy
"I'm not sure our fans, as much as they love this team, even understand what our players have gone through adversity-wise and health-wise to play the way they do," NC State head coach Elliott Avent said. "Johnny Piedmonte epitomizes everything we're about."
Backed by 10 State runs in the first four innings, Piedmonte hurled a career-high 8-2/3 innings and struck out seven Midshipmen, which ties a career-best, to claim the win in his first start since April 19. He surrendered one run on six hits and a walk.
"I had some momentum coming into this outing," Piedmonte said. "My outing against Georgia Tech, I had some of the stuff I had last year with my fastball location and my breaking ball."
Enduring a chorus of boos, pitching coach Scott Foxhall pulled Piedmonte in favor of Christian Demby who forced a pop-out to end the game.
"[Foxhall] said my pitch count was getting a little high," Piedmonte said. "I think I ended up around 136. He wanted me to enjoy the moment and walk slowly off the field. He took the hit on that, but I was happy I went out like that."
Joe Dunand, Andrew Knizner, and Chance Shepard each hit home runs against Navy. Dunand led the Pack's offense with a 4-for-6 performance and added a double, two runs driven in, and two runs scored. Knizner finished 2-for-3 with two RBI and two runs. Shepard drove in a game-high five runs while crossing the plate three times in a 3-for-4 effort.
"We had some good approaches today at the plate," Dunand said. "We didn't chase a lot of balls in the dirt, and everybody in the lineup had great at-bats."
After Stephen Pitarra led off the game by reaching on an error, Evan Mendoza followed with a single that moved Pitarra to third. Preston Palmeiro grounded out to first to drive Pitarra home. Dunand then doubled to bring Mendoza home to score.
In the second inning, Brett Kinneman led off with a single and moved to second on a walk to Shepard. The pair moved to second and third on a passed ball but stayed put on a chopper in front of the mound. Pitarra walked to load the bases for Mendoza who drove Kinneman and Shepard home on a double. Pittara scored on a sacrifice fly by Palmeiro.
The Pack tacked on three more runs in the third. After Brock Deatherage struck out to start the frame, Knizner and Kinneman reached base with a single and a walk respectively. Shepard launched an 0-1 pitch over the wall in center for his 15th homer of the season.
State added a pair of runs in the fourth thanks to solo shots from Dunand and Knizner. Dunand's four-bagger was his fourth on the year while Knizner hit his sixth of 2016. Another run crossed the plate in the sixth. Palmeiro and Dunand led off with back-to-back singles. The duo reached second and third on a groundout by Deatherage. Knizner flew out to right field, allowing Palmeiro to score on the sacrifice fly.
The final Wolfpack runs were scored in the top of the eighth as State tacked on six runs in the inning. After replacing Mendoza in the field, Ryne Willard started the frame off with a double. Two batters later, Dunand singled to move Willard to third. After Dunand moved to second on a wild pitch, Willard scored on a passed ball while Dunand scooted to third.
Deatherage walked to bring Jack Conley, Knizner's defensive replacement, to the plate. Conley singled to plate Dunand. Kinneman followed with a double, scoring Deatherage. Chance Shepard singled to plate Conley and scored on a double by his brother Shane Shepard, pinch-hitting for Josh McLain.
NC State will return to action to face Coastal Carolina Monday at 1 pm. Should the Wolfpack win, the teams will battle again in at 6 pm to decide who advances to the Super Regionals.
"It's going to be difficult, but these guys have persevered all year," Avent said. "If they've been anything, it's been tough and resilient. It's going to take every guy in that dugout to get this done."
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