Western Carolina shuts the door on NC State despite a late-inning surge from the Wolfpack

Daniel Wilson

RALEIGH, N.C. — No. 20 NC State (6-6) fell behind early and could not overcome Western Carolina (5-6) as the Wolfpack drops its fourth game in its last five contests Monday afternoon at Doak Field, 9-8.

“It was very similar to Saturday’s game against Maryland,” head coach Elliott Avent. “We got off to an impossible start, and we knew they could really swing the bat. I’m really proud of the way we battled back from down 9-4. They showed a lot of heart and fight.”

Freshman right-hander Mathieu Gauthier (1-1, 3.95 ERA) was State’s starting pitcher and picked up the loss after giving up two runs, one earned, on four hits and a walk. Freshman righty Michael Bienlien succeeded Gauthier and dug the Pack further into its hole, surrendering seven runs, four earned, on seven hits and three walks. The Chesapeake, Va. native also struck out four Catamount batters in his 3-2/3 innings on the mound.

State turned to redshirt senior Johnny Piedmonte to finish the game, and the Davidson, N.C. product shut out Western in 3-2/3 innings of work. Piedmonte held the Catamounts to only one hit while striking out two.

“It was nice to see Johnny Piedmonte back out there throwing strikes,” Avent said.

One of the Pack’s two multi-hit performers was Brad Debo, finishing the game with a 2-for-5 mark at the plate with a double and two RBI.

“He comes to play every day with a lot of energy,” Avent said. “That’s what we’ve got to have.”

State also saw offensive from two unlikely sources: pitchers Tommy DeJuneas and Christian Demby. DeJuneas, a junior starting in right field against Western, drilled a solo home run in the second inning, his first of 2017 and his second of his career. Demby, a sophomore filling the role of designated hitter, entered the game without a single collegiate at-bat and finished 2-for-3 at the plate with a double, two runs scored, an RBI, and his first career home run.

“Tommy had a tremendous fall [season] for us offensively,” Avent said. “He got off to a rough start that maybe broke his confidence, but he put himself in a good count to hit and made the most of it. Demby had very much the same thing. His approach is very good, he thinks he can hit, and he’s very aggressive when he gets a fastball.”

Following the Catamount offense plating two runs in the top of the first, State got its first run in the home half of the frame. After a leadoff walk to junior center fielder Brock Deatherage and a stolen base to move him into scoring position, junior third baseman Evan Mendoza singled to plate the speedy Burlington, N.C. native. DeJuneas would lead off the next inning to tie the game at two apiece.

After Western Carolina lit up the scoreboard with four runs in the third, the Pack trimmed the deficit in the home half of the third with two runs. Freshman second baseman Will Wilson and junior shortstop Joe Dunand reached bases on back-to-back one-out singles before coming home on Debo’s two-run double.

The Pack was silent for two more innings during which time the Catamounts padded its lead with three runs in the top of the fourth. Demby’s solo shot in the sixth helped boost State’s rally that it would continue in the seventh.

Wilson led off the home half of the seventh with a walk. After back-to-back groundouts that moved Wilson to third, the Kings Mountain, N.C. infielder scored on a wild pitch.

The rally caps came on in the bottom of the eighth when the Wolfpack was able to cut the deficit to one by scoring two runs. Demby led off with a walk followed by a double by Deatherage. Mendoza and Wilson plated Demby and Deatherage respectively with back-to-back RBI groundouts.

Junior second baseman Stephen Pitarra followed with a single before the Catamounts turned to Bryan Sammons, normally a Western Carolina weekend starter, who stamped out the rally with a nearly flawless 1-1/3 innings to secure his first save of the season.

“It shows how bad they wanted the game,” Avent said. “That’s what people do in non-conference against the ACC. The RPI is good in the ACC, and they take an opportunity to take advantage of it.”

The Wolfpack will return to action Wednesday as the team travels to UNCW for a 4 pm matchup before State opens up conference play at Wake Forest on Friday.

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