For the third straight day NC State opened the scoring against North Carolina. This time the Pack did not allow a prompt response.
The Wolfpack held on to knock off the fourth-ranked Tar Heels 4-2 at Boshamer Stadium and avert a series sweep Sunday. NC State improves to 20-17 overall and 8-10 in ACC play. UNC drops to 29-7 for the season, 14-4 in the conference.
The victory was Elliott Avent’s 999th for his career. The head coach, in his 21st season at NC State, will have the chance to become only the fifth coach in ACC history with 1,000 wins when the Wolfpack returns to action Friday afternoon at Boston College.
“We played hard all three days,” NC State head coach Elliott Avent said. “It is hard to play after two tough losses like that.
Right-hander Johnny Piedmonte entered the game in relief of starting pitcher Michael Bienlien with the bases loaded, no outs in the bottom of the fifth inning and NC State leading 4-2. He induced a double play lineout off the bat of Logan Warmoth. Piedmonte then fanned Ashton McGee to end the frame.
UNC head coach Mike Fox was ejected for arguing the call of first base umpire Rick Darby on Warmoth’s double play.
North Carolina stranded three runners in its half of the sixth inning as Piedmonte once again wiggled out of a jam unscathed.
“I didn’t really have a feel for my change up today or, honestly, my breaking ball,” Piedmonte said. “My fastball was moving a lot. That kind of got me out of those jams.”
NC State opened the scoring in the top of the third when Brock Deatherage, a one-time UNC commit, blasted a solo homer over the wall in right-center. The Pack tacked on another run the following inning when Josh McLain scored after Zach Gahagan committed a throwing error on a botched double-steal attempt.
The Wolfpack scored twice after loading the bases with no outs in the top of the fifth on a RBI single from Will Wilson and a walk to McLain that forced Deatherage home.
“This is huge,” Deatherage said. “This is big time for us, not only in conference play but momentum-wise as a team. We can use this as momentum to go into next week in the series against Boston College and finish strong in the ACC.”
Piedmonte allowed four hits while striking out four and walking one in five innings of relief to improve to 3-0 on the season. The Wolfpack bullpen had allowed nine runs in 5.1 innings in the first two games of the series.
“It was a must-win game,” Piedmonte said. “I was just trying to go in there and not mess up what Bienlien did.
“We competed really well with our starters versus their starters. Their Friday guy is one of the best in the country. Sean Adler competed his tail off against him. I think if [the bullpen] is on, all of the games [in the series are really close.”
The five innings was the longest Piedmonte has pitched out of the bullpen this season.
“It is just unbelievable,’ Avent said of Piedmonte's effort. “They have got a good club, one-through-nine. That’s a good baseball team right there. [Piedmonte] just throws strikes. He just believes in himself and has tremendous confidence. He knows how to compete and throw strikes. Throwing strikes is the name of the game.”