The Wolfpack fell into a deep deficit early and not even a grand slam late in the game could make up the difference, as No. 2 seed College of Charleston sprayed hit after hit around the field on its way to a 9-6 victory Friday night in regional play of the NCAA Tournament at BB&T Coastal Field in Myrtle Beach.
"We got get up in the morning and go win, then we have to move on from there," Avent said. "It's very important how quickly we put this game behind us."
Advancing to next weekend will be an amazing feat for the No. 3 seeded Pack following the opening game loss. They will face off against No. 4 seed Stony Brook on Saturday afternoon and will need to win that game, then win twice on Sunday and again Monday to advance. It's a daunting task that will require eliminating all three of the other teams in the regional pool to move on to next weekend.
"This club just really finds a way to get things done," Avent said. "[The adversity] won't be a factor at all. It's just are we good enough tomorrow."
Pack starter Jake Buchanan was roughed up by the Cougars, giving up seven runs in just four-plus innings of work. The deficit proved too large for the potent Pack offense to overcome, despite a grand slame by Drew Poulk in the eighth that breifly cut the lead to just two runs. The Pack relievers were effective however, especially Nick Rice, who gave up just two runs over three and two thirds.
Buchanan fell into trouble from the very beginning, as two singles and a hit batter gave Charleston its first run before the Pack had its first out. Charleston tacked on its second run on a sacrifice fly, then hit back-to-back RBI singles with two outs to put the No. 2 seed up 3-0 after an inning of play.
"I don't think it bothered us so much falling behind but it seemed like it gave College of Charleston a bit of a boost," Avent said.
While the Charleston bats were roping singles all over the field, the Wolfpack kept finding ways to let starter Kyle Decker off the hook. Drew Poulk grounded into a double play to end the first and fourth innings to send the Pack back to the dugout while John Gianis ended the third inning by getting caught stealing. Thanks to those three plays, Decker faced the minimum 12 batters through the first four innings.
"I really didn't pick up his ball well and like he had great command," Poulk said. "I just swung at bad pitches."
Charleston turned the game into a route in the fourth as the Wolfpack defense fell apart behind Buchanan. Two errors gave the Cougars plenty of extra outs to work with, and they took advantage to the tune of a four run, four hit inning. Buchanan made it through the inning but the Pack found itself down 7-0 going into the top of the fifth.
Buchanan wouldn't make it through the fifth however, as Avent pulled his ace two batters into the inning. The righty finished with 13 hits, all singles, in four innings of work and gave up four earned runs but left with the Pack in a 7-0 hole. Rice relieved Buchanan, giving up a hit and a walk but not allowing a run.
"He just battled the way he always had, he just didn't have as good of pitches," Avent said. "It looked like he had the ball up, early he gave up a couple of a 0-2, 1-2 hits on breaking balls that they looked like maybe they were looking for – I don't know, that's just the way it goes."
The Pack finally got on the board in the sixth inning but needed some help from the Cougars. A single and a two-base error put runners on second and third with no outs, and the Pack got both of them home with two straight ground outs to second base. But the two ground outs also erased the Pack's hopes of a big inning, having to settle for a two-run sixth that cut the lead to five runs.
But Drew Poulk finally gave the Pack a big hit, as the younger Poulk belted a grand slam to left with one out in the eighth inning to make it an 8-6 game. But the Pack couldn't build on that hit, as Price gave up a run in the bottom of the eighth to extend the Cougar lead back out to three runs. The Pack made it interesting in the ninth, bringing the tying run to the plate twice but failing to plate a runner falling 9-6.
"We are known for hitting home runs and trying to slug it out but I thought we did more than that to try and get back in this ball game, especially the way Decker was pitching," Avent said.